Worship Planning Notes “Blue Christmas” Service
Despite the bombardment of merry-making of the Christmas season, the holidays can present a real challenge for dealing with the sometimes hidden needs of our congregation and community. Many have lost loved ones, or are unable to spend the holiday season with those they love; are dealing with sickness or with divorce and separation; or may be stressed or depressed over family, finances, future, or any number of difficult situations.
As a response to this, some churches have devised a service for those who are dealing with physical or emotional pain, or who are in need of healing, commonly known as a “Blue Christmas” Service. These services, meditative in nature, provide a sacred space for individuals to acknowledge these “blue” feelings and to find comfort and hope. This service may be held several days before Christmas if necessary.
1. Invocation or Litany Processional Music
(a) Messiah Now Has Come. By Nolan Williams, Jr. For SSAATTBB and optional orchestra
(b) All the Ends of the Earth Have Seen the Saving Power of God. By Rawn Harbor
(c)Hearken, All! What Holy Singing. Old French Carol. Tune, (GLORIA). (Same tune as “Angels We Have Heard on High”)
Hearken, All! What Holy Singing
Hearken, all! What holy singing
Now is sounding from the sky!
‘Tis a hymn with grandeur ringing,
Sung by voices clear and high.
Refrain Gloria in excelsis Deo,Gloria in excelsis Deo.
On the plain, the simple shepherds
Watched their flocks the long night through;
From on high they heard the voices,
Sounding through the heavenly blue.
See, within the manger lowly,
Wide the Christ Child spreads His arms.
Raise to Him your joyful voices,
Sing we all Noel, Noel.
(d) Angels from the Realms of Glory. By James Montgomery. Tune, (REGENT SQUARE), by Henry T. Smart
Call to Worship (e) Call to Worship—“God Is Here.” By Stacey Cole Wilson
God Is Here
Many: God is here. God is healing.
One: God is speaking. God is comforting.
Many: God is redeeming. God is forgiving.
One: God is saving. God is empowering us.
Many: Hallelujah, God is here.
(f) Christmas Litany
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” This is the good news: the Anointed Messiah has come, and with him is the triumph of redeeming love. (Isaiah 9:2)
Thanks be to God, for the gift of your Son, Jesus, the light in darkness and hope of the world, whom you have sent to save humanity.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of
cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” His name shall be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” (Luke 2:7)
“Do not be afraid, for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
With all the angels, we praise your name, and tell the world the wondrous
story of your birth.
“Sweet little Jesus boy, born in a manger, Sweet little holy child, We didn’t know who you was.”
Quietly you came to us. You came with power that we may share your power, Humble, that the poor and lowly might see their greatness; destined for a cross that all might have life eternal.
God so loved the world that he have his only begotten Son. (John 3:16)
The work o Christmas is to find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry,
release the captive, rebuild the nations, bring peace among the people, and make music in the heart.
Come, celebrate, sing carols, decorate trees, and prepare a feast. Glory, glory to the new-born King! “O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.”
2. Hymns and Congregational Songs
(a) Messiah Now Has Come. By Nolan Williams, Jr.
(b) What Child Is This. By William C. Dix. Tune, (GREENSLEEVES), by John Stainer
(c) Hail, to the Lord’s Anointed. By James Montgomery. Tune, (ELLACOMBE), by Gesangbuch der Herzog
(d) All Hail, Immanuel! By D. R. Van Sickle. Tune by Charles H. Gabriel
(e) Jesus, the Light of the World. By Charles Wesley and George D. Elderkin. Tune by
George D. Elderkin
(f) It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. By Edmund H. Sears. Tune, (CAROL), by Richard S. Willis
3. Spirituals or Traditional Songs
(a) Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow. Spiritual
(b) Amen. Spiritual
(c) Wonderful Counselor. Spiritual
(d) Mary’s Boy Child. Traditional. The arrangement has an African rhythm, and is followed by a “Hallelujah” African chant.
(e) What ‘Cha Gonna Call the Pretty Little Baby. Traditional. Arr. By Ronald L. Stevens, Sr. For SATB
4. Gospel Songs for Choirs, Ensembles, or Praise Teams
(a) Jesus, the Light of the World. By Charles Wesley and George D. Elderkin. Tune by George D. Elderkin
(b) Hark the Herald Angels Sing. By Charles Wesley. Tune, (MENDELSSOHN), by Felix Mendelssohn
(c) Jesus, What a Wonderful Child. Traditional
(d) Come, and Let Us Worship. By Richard Smallwood
5. Liturgical Dance Music
(a) In the Presence of a King. By Donald Lawrence
(b) Emmanuel, God With Us/O Come, O Come Emmanuel. By Nathan and Christy Nockels. Arr. By Carl Marsh
(c) Born This Day. By L. Brown, S. Dandy, and S. Parker
(d) Just Remember. By Fred Hammond and Luther “Mano” Hanes
(a) Have You Heard About the Baby? By Shelton Becton
(b) The Hallelujah Chorus (Worthy Is the Lamb/Hallelujah). By George Frideric Handel. Traditional
(c) Good News, the Savior Is Born! By Glenn Jones
(d) Late One Night Mary Had a Baby. By Charles Garner. For SATB and bass solo
7. Modern Songs
(a) O Holy Night. By John S. Dwight. Tune, (CANTIQUE DE NOEL), by Adolphe Adam. Arr. By Joseph Joubert, Michael McElroy, and Buryl Red
(b) Happy Birthday Jesus. By Carol Cymbala, Mildred Hill, and Patty S. Hill. This is a favorite for children’s choirs!
(c) His Name Is Jesus. By Fred Hammond and Tommie Walker
(d) Can You Hear the Angels. By Felix Mendelsshon, Tiffany Palmer, Reginald Reid, II, and Charles Wesley
8. Offertory Song or Instrumental
(a) Guitar for Christmas. By Michael Ripoll. This is a beautiful instrumental selection for guitar.
(b) Bethlehem (The World Is Gonna Hear About You). By Daryl Bennett, Andraé Crouch, Jim Guttridge, and Joshua Eden
(c) Thank You for Your Child. By Myron Butler and Stephanie Glynn
(d) All Over the World We Celebrate Jesus. By Raymond Wise. For children’s choir
9. Song or Instrumental for the Period of Prayer
(a) Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings. By Kenneth W. Louis
(b) Emmanuel. By Bob McGee
(c) Is There Any Room in Your Heart for Jesus? By Wyatt Tee Walker
(d) O Come, O Come Emmanuel. By Jason Mason Neale. Tune, (VENI EMMANUEL), by Thomas Helmore. Arr. By Richard Smallwood
10. Sermonic Selection
(a) Light of a Million Mornings. By Carol Cymbala
(b) He Sleeps. Lullaby of the Nativity. By Charles Garner. For SATB and soprano solo
(c) The Living Word. By Noel Hall and Fred Hammond
(d) Born to Set Me Free. By Patrick Lundy
(e) Special Gift. By Walter Hawkins
11. Invitational Song
(a) Now Behold the Lamb. By Kirk Franklin
(b) I Love the Lord. By Richard Smallwood
(c) Come Unto Jesus. By Charles Nicks
12. Benediction Song or Instrumental
(a) A Christmas Wish. By Joseph Joubert, Michael McElroy, and Buryl Red
(b) Singing Glory Be to Jesus. By Rawn Harbor. It can also be used as a choral prayer response.
(c) Joy to the World. By Isaac Watts. Tune, (ANTIOCH), by George F. Handel
(d) “God Is. So, Go With God.” By Michelle Riley Jones
God Is. So, Go with God
GOD IS Creator, our Maker, in whose image we are made.
GOD IS the Word made flesh, Emmanuel—
our dwelling place, through whom we have life more abundantly.
GOD IS the Lamb slain and risen—
our strong Redeemer, who will never leave us nor forsake us.
GOD IS the soon-coming King of Glory—
our Victorious Conqueror, with whom we shall reign forever and ever and ever!
GOD IS all that.
God is. God is. So, Go With God.
13. Audio Visual Suggestions
(a) Messiah Now Has Come. Video by NEWorks Productions.
(b) “Blue Christmas” Worship Service Powerpoint slide.
(c) “Blue Christmas” invitation.
14. Other Recommendations
(a) For Children
Incorporate a “story time” in your service for young children. Below are two book suggestions the stories of which, against a holiday season backdrop, provide wonderful lessons for children and can be appropriately adapted within a worship setting. Both are appropriate for ages 4–10.
The Black Snowman. By Phil Mendez. This particular Christmas book shows that the greatest gift a child can receive is an understanding and celebration of his or her identity.
Hold Christmas in Your Heart. African-American Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holidays. By Cheryl Hudson. This book celebrates the Christmas season through a collection of older and contemporary traditional African American songs, stories, and poems by African American authors, including Langston Hughes, Paul Dunbar, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Nikki Grimes (just to name a few).
(b) God Has a Plan for All of Us
Have your Drama Ministry develop a monologue around “The Legend of the Three Trees.” You can place three trees, strung with white lights, at the front of the room (or in different locations in the front). Place a reader at each tree. As each tree is highlighted, the lights are turned on, and a brief monologue is read explaining how each tree was used in Jesus’ life (as a manger, a fishing boat, and a cross). The monologues can emphasize that God can use us just as we are—ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. Even when we are unsure that God has a plan for us, by placing our faith and trust in him, we can become all he desires us to be.
(c) Good Will Toward All
Encourage congregants to do something special for the sick and shut-in, or for individuals who have to work on the holidays (hospital staff, firefighters, police officers/security guards, personnel for homeless shelters, nursing homes, etc.). For example, members can assemble small gift bags of fruit, nuts, and baked treats and take them to someone who has to work on Christmas. The package can include a special postcard that explains that the gift bags are a free gift, just as Jesus’ love is a free gift. Include a CD/DVD of a church worship service (maybe the prior year’s Christmas worship service) in the gift bag.
Plan a Community “Messiah-Sing-A-Long.” Provide scores to attendees to encourage all to join in the singing, guided along in the worship experience by professional musicians. No formal choir -- instead have all be a part of the congregational choir. Musicians can include a pianist or organist, a 5-piece string ensemble, along with four (4) lead singers.
(d) Gifts to Jesus
As congregants arrive, distribute gift cards that say “Happy Birthday, Jesus! My gift to you this year is (fill in the blank).” Ask the congregation to write in (or children can even draw) the gift they will give Jesus for his birthday (no names should be added to the card!). These “gifts” should be something they wish to surrender to Jesus. The cards can be placed in envelopes, which the congregants can seal and self-address, and can then be collected during a special call at offering time. The goal would be to mail these cards to the congregants during the Easter Season as a reminder of their commitment to Jesus. Or, instead of mailing the cards, they can be posted on a special board to remind all of their commitment. No names should be included on cards that are to be placed on bulletin boards.
(e) "Blue Christmas" Service Flyer/Invitation
Develop a flyer/invitation and distribute it to the congregation and community. (See sample flyer below). See 14 (f) for a sample “Blue Christmas” Order of Worship which is also attached as a Powerpoint slide. To inform the congregation and community about this service, churches can distribute invitations to:
The Church congregation and provide additional invitations for church members to give to family/friends/co-workers and other churches
All those who have had funerals/memorial services at the church in the past two years
Residents of the neighborhood where the church is located
Local coffee shops and retail shops
Local hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters
The invitation should include information about the service and service times; and information on grief and other support and counseling services should someone be unable to attend the service.
The church may also choose to develop a special announcement for radio and Internet sites and should place the announcement on their church website.
"Blue Christmas" Service Flyer/Invitation sample text
Christmas can be a painful time for some. It may be the first Christmas without a loved family member who has recently died, or it may be a time that has always been difficult.
The constant refrain on the radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost or have never had. The anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation -- all these can make us feel very alone in the midst of the celebrating and spending. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness and concerns; we need to know that we are not alone.
Our spirits sink as the days grow shorter. We feel the darkness growing deeper around us. We need encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
For these reasons and more, (Name of Church) will host a special “Blue Christmas: A Service of Tidings of Comfort and Hope” service on (Date) at (Time).
Come out, and join us for prayers, Scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn and for those who struggle -- and that God’s Word comes to shine light into our darkness. Everyone is welcome.
The short service will be followed light refreshments and fellowship.
All are welcomed! For more information, contact: _______(phone) or ________email
OPTIONAL: If you cannot attend the service, please feel free to contact us to access our grief and other counseling support services.
(f) "Blue Christmas": A Service of Tidings of Comfort and Hope sample outline
"Blue Christmas": A Service of Tidings of Comfort and Hope
Prayers of Praise to God and Recounting Who God Is (10 minutes total)
(for his coming, for his attributes, for his redeeming love,
for this time of year when we remember the gift of God’s son)
Prayers of Confession and Remembrances(15 minutes)
(i.e., sickness, loss, separation, divorce, etc.)
This would be a good time to divide congregants into small groups.
Read Psalm 51
Candle lighting(3–5 minutes)
Moments of quite reflection and meditative instrumental music. Individuals
can be invited to light a candle in remembrance or concern, in memory of someone, or to mark an event in their lives; then return to their seats.
Song of Remembrance
Prayers of Thanks(10 minutes)
Prayers of Intercession (10 minutes)
Have 5 individuals pray, each taking one of the following areas:
God our El-Shaddai (Lord who is all-sufficient for our needs)
God our Jehovah-Jireh (Provider for now and the future)
God our Jehovah-Rophe (Healer of our body, soul, and spirit)
God our Jehovah-Shalom (Peace Giver; reconciler)
God our Jehovah-Nissi (Victorious in life and in death; lifts us up)
Closing Congregational Song
Benediction Litany—“First Coming”*
God did not wait till the world was ready, till...nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great. God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt. To a world like ours, of anguished shame, God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh; to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh, the maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: *We rejoice, and we thank God for coming to us all in our time of need. Amen.
Cites and Additional Information for Music and Material Listed
1. Invocation or Litany Processional Music
(a) Messiah Now Has Come. By Nolan Williams, Jr. For SSAATTBB and optional orchestra
P.O. Box 4599
Washington, DC 20017