CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A Blue Christmas is more than a bad dream


HONG KONG (SE): While dreaming of a White Christmas may conjure up happy memories that can be looked forward to again in the future, the thought of facing a Blue Christmas is not even a bad dream, but a frightening reality for many people.

At a Eucharist offered at St. John’s Cathedral on the evening of December 16, people facing a Blue Christmas were invited to express their sorrow and pray for healing from the darkness they are facing during this time of constantly being told, “Its the season to be merry.”

The dean of the Anglican cathedral in Hong Kong, Very Reverend Matthias Der, told the candlelit church in his welcoming remarks, “Joy to the world is the message of Christmas,” but for many people it may be a purple time with little or no joy, only the memory of loss or sadness.

“It could be the death of a loved one, a disrupted relationship or the loss of a job, anything that can mean that the happy memories of Christmases past will not happen again,” he said.

He invited the 100 or so predominately young to middle-aged men present to offer their grief and heavy hearts to the prince of peace, concluding his welcome with the words, “May God’s peace be among all of us.”

He then lit the Paschal candle with the proclamation, “Jesus the light of the world,” which invited the response, “a light no darkness can extinguish.”

The prayers for the Eucharist were taken from the liturgy for All Souls and the congregation was invited to call to mind the person they wanted to pray for and to give thanks to God for blessings received from that person in the past.

Taking place on the third Sunday of Advent, or Gaudate (joy) Sunday, the occasional homilist for the evening, the cathedral chaplain, Reverend Catherine Graham, pointed out that the liturgy of the day points to a different story; a rough journey to Bethlehem, a birth in poverty and in tough circumstances.

Nevertheless, she said that in society, Christmas is joy and celebration, but for many people joy and hope have both gone out the window. “Tonight I invite you to offer your own despair to God,” she said, “who will hear our cry and bring hope in the darkness.”

She stressed that Christmas is a time of God coming into the world in a new form, as the world needs his word to bring it back into a loving relationship.

“The world’s darkness will never be able to overcome the light of Christ,” the Reverend Graham pointed out, “no matter how dark our space is now, this darkness cannot extinguish the light of Christ.”

A statement from the cathedral says, “But each year, some people—the grieving, the lonely, those without hope—dread the approach of the holiday season. They have no heart for the cheer and the bustle, the anticipation and the excitement.”

Reverend Graham said that Blue Christmas speaks to these people and they do have permission to be blue.

People were invited to come forward one by one in the darkened church and light a candle before the high altar while offering a prayer for whatever it is that lies at the bottom of their despair.

As the period of quiet prayer in the candlelight came to an end, Reverend Graham reminded people that it is Jesus who will bring us out of this pain. “There is healing without forgetting,” she said. “The promise of the scriptures is that these things will come with time.”


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