Longest Night Service a Time of Solace for Those Grieving

The Blue Christmas Service

By Karen Haave

December’s festive holidays can bring a joy that really does make it the most wonderful time of the year.

Or not.

For many, the holidays actually can compound a sense of sadness and isolation that make them wish it all would just go away.

Peace Lutheran Church in New Lenox wants to make it a little easier, and for the past 14 years has offered a special liturgy with emphasis that the season is not merry for everyone.

Known in some congregations as the Blue Christmas Service, Peace Lutheran’s Shortest Day/Longest Night worship offers support for those who are suffering for whatever reason, with a loving reminder that there is hope for happiness in the future.

The liturgy is part of the congregation’s Saturday evening service nearest the winter solstice, where, In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year, as the sun appears at its most southerly spot.

This year, the service will be held on the Saturday before Christmas.

“Our Longest Night worship service is very special,” said Deacon Shari Simon. “The date is December 23 this year, because it is the Saturday that falls closest to the Winter Solstice at which we will have the most hours of night time. The date changes based on that each year.

This year, they will gather for a time of worship and reflection. Visitors can expect special prayers and attention to the fact that the Christmas season is hard for some. Winter can come with loss, depression, and even illness.

There will be time for individual prayers with the pastor and deacon, as well as a sermon and communion, Simon added.

“Our congregation would like for people to know that they are welcomed here, just as they are,” she said. “However you are feeling during this holiday and winter season, you are seen by God, and the promise of the Christ child is for you.

“Please come and find a space to be reminded that you are loved and worship with us.”

Peace Lutheran’s Worship Chairs Deb Howell and Jan Bentley were the team inspired to offer the Blue Christmas service.

“As co-chairs for the Worship Committee, Jan and I are always on the lookout for new ideas to try,” Howell said.

“We had both seen the same newspaper article about such a service and thought it was something very worthwhile for Peace to offer.

“We don’t all live in a Norman Rockwell painting of a happy holiday, and we wanted people to know that we understand that.

“We all have sadness, grief, loss, unrealized expectations, etc. during what is supposed to be such a happy time. We wanted to bring comfort and hope to those experiencing these feelings and let them know that they are not alone.

“Our first service was in 2009, and we have done it every year since.”

Peace Lutheran Church is located at 1900 E Lincoln Highway in New Lenox, across from Lincoln-Way Central High School.

The Shortest Day/Longest Night service will begin at 5 p.m.

More information about the church is available on Facebook, online at [email protected], or by calling (815) 485-5327.

Worship services are available anytime on Facebook and YouTube channels, and 8:30 a.m. Sunday services are livestreamed.

Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

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