Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Let me greet those of you who came here tonight with heavy hearts, heavy with deeply held feelings of loss and sadness this Christmas. I want you to know that this Mass is especially designed for you. Only you can feel exactly what you feel, but I am here to simply recognize the fact that you are hurting and to offer you an atmosphere of compassion. The very word “compassion” means “to suffer with.”  Tonight, you are surrounded and embraced by “compassionate” people, people who are here to “suffer with” you.

I started offering Blue Christmas Masses nine years ago, after I woke up and started to notice that not everyone in the church was “merry” at Christmas time. I was hearing that some people even dreaded the Christmas holidays because they reminded them of all they had lost. It is such a painful time for them that they even dreaded the very thought of going to Christmas Mass and having to be reminded of all they had lost.  

When I started preparing to preach that very first Blue Christmas Mass, I began not only to notice how broken-hearted and grief-stricken some people are at this time of year, but I began to notice also how truly sad many of the details of the Christmas story really are! Before looking at the story through the eyes of the grieving, I was always more affected by Christmas hymns, which are so often filled with cute sentimentally and, of course, great joy. However, I realized that if you really look at the details of Christmas story itself in Scripture, you realize that it is literally filled with confusion, disappointment, fear, pain, hardship and even terror. You need to read between the lines to find any “joy to the world” in this story.

The Christmas story, if you really pay close attention, is filled with fear and dread. “Do not be afraid,” the angel tells Mary when he announces that she is to conceive the child Jesus. “Do not be afraid,” the angel says to Joseph when he hesitates before taking the pregnant Mary as his wife. About to go into labor, in fear Mary and Joseph make a scary donkey-back trip to Bethlehem where, in desperation for a place to stay, they find out that they must deliver their baby boy in a smelly animal stall. “Do not be afraid” the angels say to the shepherds of that region who were struck with great fear at the news of Jesus’ birth. Terrorized in fear, the crazy child-killer Herod drives Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape with their lives and flee to Egypt in the middle of the night.  Cute? Sentimental and sweet? I don’t think so! Over-flowing with joy? Hardly! The whole story is quite sad and desperate, really!

Have you ever been confronted with a surprise pregnancy not knowing what to do or where to turn? If so, Mary in this Christmas story has been there too!

Have you ever been the victim of vicious gossip and character assassination? If so, Mary in this Christmas story understands. She could have been stoned to death if Joseph had not covered for her!

Have you ever had to painfully give birth to a baby at a most inconvenient time and in a public situation? If so, Mary in this Christmas story has been there too! 

Have you ever had anyone predict a painful road ahead for someone you love? If so, Joseph has been there. When Jesus was presented in the Temple, Simeon predicted that Mary would be pierced by a “sword” of sadness and pain throughout her life.

Have you been raised by a foster parent? If so, Jesus in this Christmas story has been there too! Joseph was the foster father of Jesus.

Have you ever been a refugee who has been driven into a strange country to escape a possible violent death? If so, Mary and Joseph have been there too! They had to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night to escape the child-killer Herod! Maybe you have had a child who was murdered or was killed in a violent auto accident.

Have you ever been homeless and had to roam around for somewhere to lay your head? If so, Mary and Joseph, can identify. According to tradition, they lived in 26 different locations in their 3 ½ years of exile in Egypt!

Have you ever had a child on the Amber Alert List? If so, Mary and Joseph have been there too.  Their young son was missing for three days on a trip to Jerusalem! Maybe you have had a child who has been kidnapped or is still missing. Maybe you have had a child who has committed suicide or died of an overdose.

Have you ever lost a spouse suddenly, leaving you a widow or widower? If so, Mary understands tonight. Joseph died long before her and she had to be taken in by John after Jesus’ death. Maybe your spouse died suddenly of a heart attack or a car wreck, leaving you lost and dependent.

Have you ever had to watch someone in your family being gossiped about, stalked, falsely arrested and publicly humiliated? If so, Mary has been there too!

Have you ever watched a child or a loved die a slow and painful death right in front of you? If so, Mary has been there too! Maybe you have watched a loved one struggle with drug addiction until it was too late. Maybe they died after a long, long battle with cancer.

The whole story of Jesus’ birth and life is quite sad and desperate, but you know what? God was right there, doing his thing, right in the middle of it just like he is in the middle of your situation! Maybe you came here tonight looking for answers. Well, I am doing my best to support you, but I must tell you there are no answers. One of the great mysteries of our faith is that we are called to “walk by faith, not by sight.” In other words, God does not give us easy answers to our deepest questions, but he does walk with us in our pain and fear. Hebrews 4:15 is so right when it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” One of the names given to Jesus at his birth is one foretold by Isaiah, “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us!” As Pope Francis mentioned recently, God may not give us answers, but he has given us a “companion” in the person of Jesus, someone who has “walked the talk,” someone to walk beside us through our doubts, fears and suffering! He "sits with" us. He "accompanies" us. 

To remind you of this great truth, that answers are few and far between, we will offer you a small statue of Mary who said in faith “let it be done to me according to your will.” (You can see a photo of the statue on the cover of your program.) She is presented as obviously pregnant. Kneeling, she is looking down at her swollen abdomen and, with outstretched hands, she wraps her hands around the mystery of all the pain that is to come in her life. 

The good news, that we leave here tonight with, is this. Because of her “yeses” to God, we can still have a wonderful Christmas because we know that we have a Savior in Jesus Christ and our loved ones are safely with him in peace! Maybe our minds and hearts have not caught up with this truth, maybe we have some more grieving to do, but our faith tells us that we will eventually get there! 


Loving God, we ask you to bless these images of Mary that we distribute tonight. Let them be a reminder to those who treasure and display them of Mary’s openness to God even in times of great disappointment, fear and confusion.

She kneels, heavy with child, and embraces its mystery with outstretched hands.  Let her famous words, “let it be done to me according to your word,” become our words as we try to wrap our minds around our losses and disappointments.  When we look at her image in the days and weeks ahead, we ask for her help and assistance in coming to terms with our own losses.

Loving God, the first Christmas was a mixture of light and darkness, great joy and deep sorrow. This Christmas is no different for many of us. Help us keep our eyes on the big picture! Help us look beyond our present situation. Help us wait in joyful hope to that great day when we will be reunited with all those we have loved in this life! We ask this in the name of the Christ Child, Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen! 

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