‘Blue Christmas’ service reaches out

Holidays not always a happy time for all

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For many people, the holidays are the happiest time of the year. For others, it is a time of wishing there was more to give, of loneliness, or of depression.

The folks at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch have two words for people who are feeling any of the latter: “It’s OK.”

The church will be hosting a special “Blue Christmas” service Dec. 16 that is open to all members of the community, whether they belong to the church or not. The service intends to be a peaceful one where those feeling the blues should feel right at home.

There will be a lighting of candles, music to fit the mood and Scripture that demonstrates the personal pain Jesus struggled with as he grieved.

“The spirit of Christmas is a multi-faceted spirit,” said Steve Starliper, a member at the church who will be helping deliver the service for the second straight year. “It’s a spirit of healing, a spirit of happiness and a spirit of acceptance.

“The Blue Christmas service is intended to help folks celebrate wherever they are at. It’s OK to not be blissful during the holidays, everyone has trauma at some time or another, and this service is to say it’s OK to have those times and to acknowledge that you don’t have to pretend to be happy during the holidays if you’re not.”

Starliper said the church has numerous support groups that cover a myriad of things from divorce to financial difficulties to alcoholism and sex addiction, and that they are there for those who need them. As for the service, people struggling with anything from family trauma to the loss of a job or dear friend can benefit.

“What we’ve found,” he said, “is the holidays, because it’s supposed to be happy, sort of exacerbates or magnifies the sensation of ‘I should be happy but I’m not.”

“We are all dealing with some form of loss, uncertainty, grief, lament, no matter what it is, personally or on a wider scale,” added Shani Jones, who will be helping Starliper with the service. “The service is a safe place to experience emotions.

“I think most people, when they hear about it, think it’s going to be about bereavement, but it’s so much more. … There’s a lot of pain and uncertainty in the Christmas story itself, and I think it’s worth acknowledging that.”

For those who wish to talk to someone at or after the service about what’s troubling them, there will be ministry volunteers on hand, but as Jones points out, that is entirely optional.

“No one will know your story unless you decide to share it,” she said, “and that’s entirely up to you. It’s OK to be anonymous, but people are there if you need to talk.”

The Blue Christmas service is at 5 p.m. Dec. 16 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, 9203 S. University Blvd. in Highlands Ranch. For more information, please contact 303-794-2683 or visit www.st-andrew-umc.com. Child care will be provided.

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