Sometimes the Christmas season brings the unwanted gift of sadness.
Emotional struggles often feel amplified this time of year, which is why local spiritual leaders are offering the community a reminder that Christmas really is the season of light — and hope.
Three Yuma churches plan to offer their first Blue Christmas worship service this year. Organizers say are reaching out to anyone grieving a loss, feeling especially burdened or struggling “to feel God's presence amidst the hustle and bustle.”
“This can be a challenging time of year, not only because of what is happening around us, but also because of what is happening within us,” said Pastor Neil Leftwich with Gila Mountain United Methodist Church. “Christmas is a time of great hope, yet many lose sight of that in the midst of the cacophony of voices telling them that they need to do, plan and buy in order to experience the season.”
The Blue Christmas service will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Gila Mountain United Methodist Church, 12716 North Frontage Road.
Also hosting the special event are Foothills Assembly of God and Gloria de Cristo churches. To contact organizers, call 342-0345.
“The worship service itself will focus on the scriptural promise of hope in God,” Leftwich explained. “Appropriate music will be part of worship, and there will not be a sermon.”
The service will open with this passage: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; one those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.”
Candles will be lighted between inspirational readings for a Liturgy of Remembering, reminding attendees about “the light of God's presence in the world.”
Ministers, counselors and hospice chaplains will be available after the service to visit or pray with people seeking that connection.
“This will be a relaxed and welcoming environment. There will be a time of fellowship with refreshments afterwards,” Leftwich said.
The pastor first saw Blue Christmas services offered when he lived in Pennsylvania. Those events were organized by a hospital.
“The pastoral care staff from that hospital felt a need to support the families of patients who died in the previous year with a time of hope and encouragement,” Leftwich said. “I carried that memory with me to the desert and continued to feel the need to help create the same nurturing, hope-filled environment for those feeling loss of any kind.”
The Blue Christmas service will end Sunday with a reading of the Irish blessing: “... may the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields; and until we meet again, may you be held in the warmth of God's hand.”