Quiet prayers. Lighting candles. Scripture. Silence. Tears.
In recent years, “Blue Christmas” services are on the rise. Often held in Protestant churches around the winter solstice—the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—these services are meant to give time and space to acknowledge that the holiday season isn’t all sparkling tinsel and blissful delight.
Quite the contrary: the countdown to Christmas can be a difficult and depressing time of year for those who are grieving or suffering. The creation of “Blue Christmas” services was meant to provide a place to lament while the rest of the world celebrates.
While the impulse behind these prayer services is caring and compassionate, it makes me grateful to be Catholic when I reflect on our deep theology on suffering. More than a single service, ours is a strong thread woven throughout our Faith. Suffering shows up in every season of the Church year.
Today’s readings speak of hope and healing for those who hurt:
“No more will you weep” (Isaiah 30:19).
“He heals up the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
“His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned” (Matthew 9:36).
If you are sad or suffering, the Church acknowledges your pain, even in a season of gathering joy. You are part of a people who know suffering but also know God’s mercy and care.
You are seen. Your cry will be heard. Your wounds will be healed.
Your sorrow and grief are part of Advent, too. You do not need to hide the truth of who or where you are today. This is the season of light burning through darkness.
What relief, to belong to a Church that understands suffering. While the rest of the world is already belting out Christmas carols, we gather in a season of waiting, grateful for Advent’s slower pace, quieter hymns, and growing hope.
Even as the darkness gathers around us, Christ’s light burns strong and steady. Whether we suffer or rejoice, He is on the way, for all of us.
This Advent playlist can help you slow into this rhythm of this liturgical season.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and director of a theological project on vocation. She and her husband are raising four sons and wrote a book together on grieving the loss of children, Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage. She is the author of seven books including Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting and Living Your Discipleship: 7 Ways to Express Your Deepest Calling. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of the Blessed Conversations Mystery: Behold study found here.