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Blue Christmas: Offering Hope and Comfort
By Mario A. Munoz
Although Christmas is commonly a time of joy and celebration, for the many individuals who have experienced loss and pain throughout the year, the holiday is an especially painful time. Members of the Corona church provided an opportunity for such people to experience peace, comfort and hope.

“What makes the celebration of Christmas difficult for many who have experienced a significant loss recently or whose loss occurred during this time of year is dealing with the pain of that loss while  everyone else is celebrating,” said Gary Taber, the church’s senior pastor.

This last December 12, the church held a “Blue Christmas” service to reach out to people who had recently experienced loss, whether through death, divorce, illness, depression or any other painful life challenge.

Once they decided to go ahead with it, they spread the word by placing an ad in the local paper and sending out mailings to friends and members who had experienced loss during the year. They also gave stamped envelopes to three local mortuaries so they could send invitations to people they had served during the year.

The program was held at the church’s fellowship hall in order to provide a warmer, more welcoming environment than the sanctuary, especially for guests. As people were greeted at the door, they were invited to write the name of their loved one or their specific loss and place it on one of the luminaries at the entrance.

The service began with a meditative Christmas carol, followed by readings of prose and Scripture. The pastor also gave a brief message of hope and healing.

He went on to retell the story of Jesus’ birth and Mary and Joseph’s pain and loss during that time.  Joseph may have lost respect from his family and community by staying with his pregnant wife. They both must have lost touch with family when Herod’s decree led them to flee to Egypt. But just as Christ was wrapped in swaddling clothes, all can have the hope of being wrapped up with God’s love and peace, even in dire situations.

The program ended with a candle-lighting ceremony to remember loved ones. Those who attended were also given suggestions to help them celebrate the holiday in the face of recent loss. Each participant received a warm throw blanket, and the booklet Life After Loss, by Larry Yeagley.

Elders were available to talk and pray with those in attendance after the service while refreshments were served.
While many in attendance were church members, family and friends, a few of them were non-members attending a service at the church for the first time.

“My spirit was very low, and I could not get through the sadness and the brokenness that one feels when a loved one is no longer in this world and Christmas is here. All you want to do is hide from the holidays and cry,” said Lucy Roybal.

That night, as Roybal said “goodbye” to her loved one, she knelt down to pray. “I thanked God for the great feeling of peace I had in my heart and for the Corona church, which helped me arrive at that great feeling. That feeling enabled me to get through the holidays and give love to others.”

“We saw God at work in small, quiet ways and in huge, miraculous ways,” said Taber.

Reprinted with permission from the April 2015 Pacific Union Recorder