Churches across the United States and Canada are holding "Blue Christmas" services meant to minister to those who are experiencing suffering or loss during the holiday season.
Service times can vary, with some congregations scheduling their "Blue Christmas" worship service for the Winter Solstice, but all focus on a major theme: helping the saddened.
Pam Kensler, director of discipleship and outreach for Living in Faith Together Parish of Fremont, Ohio, told The Christian Post that their objective was to help "those who are experiencing loss to know they are not alone during this holiday season."
"Throughout the service we acknowledged various forms of loss from loved ones to job losses or relationships ending," explained Kensler.
"This service was an opportunity to allow reflection and prayer, allowing for strength to build as holiday gatherings fill our calendars."
With their service, Kensler noted that LIFT Parish wanted attendees to feel "safe in acknowledging their grief."
"Following the service, many in attendance shared that the service brought a sense of peace and that lighting a candle in remembrance of a loved one not present for the holiday season was a powerful symbol that we are joined together," continued Kensler.
LIFT Parish held its first-ever Blue Christmas service on Sunday afternoon, though it's their intention to make it an annual observance.
By contrast, Faith Lutheran Church of Saginaw, Michigan, recently held its 13th annual service, having continuously observed Blue Christmas since 2004.
The Rev. Kristina M. Truhan of Faith Lutheran Church told CP that their service also puts an emphasis on Michigan men and women "who have served their community and country and lost their lives in the line of duty this year."
"We hope that people take away from the service their sadness and grief is heard. Those who mourn do not mourn alone," said Truhan.
"This moment of remembrance and lamentation is particularly helpful this time of year when it may be shocking to see an empty chair where a loved one sat at the table, or need to buy one less gift when they do their holiday shopping."
Saint Christopher's Episcopal Church of Springfield, Virginia, will be holding their first Blue Christmas service this coming Saturday.
The Rev. Peter K. Ackerman, rector at Saint Christopher's, told CP that he decided to offer this service this year in response to the recent loss of two active, longtime members.
Before Ackerman joined Saint Christopher's, there had been a similar service offered called "An Advent Service of Light."
"It is similar enough to a 'Blue Christmas' but it does not carry elements that I believe are important to the service. Thus my choice is to offer something new, but not to dust off this service from years past," explained Ackerman.
"What happens too often this time of year is that people feel celebrated by a season but is calling them to be joyful and happy when they do not feel that way. The point of the service is to acknowledge how we feel and to bring the 'season' around us into our reality."