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Not everyone is happy in December, and holiday depression can lead to end-of-year shame and guilt.
“Christmas can be overwhelming with the ‘ho ho ho,’ and family gatherings,” said Maggie Schwarzentraub, one of five Stephen Ministers at the First Presbyterian Church of Monticello.
For those suffering this time of year, the church is offering a Blue Christmas service at 7 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 20) in the chapel of the church, located at 214 S. Charter St.
Interim Pastor Dr. Katie Hopper said grief can come in many ways – death of a family member or loss of a job – and that the special service is aimed at showing Jesus shares that pain.
“For whatever reason Christmas is not joyous to some, and this service helps them understand that Jesus understands that,” said Hopper.
The 45-minute gathering will include scripture readings that are designed to comfort, as well as Biblical stories that focus on Jesus and his experience with grief. Those present will be able to light a candle in memory of someone or to release grief over other issues, and can take that candle with them after the service.
“He (Jesus) knows grief,” added Hopper, who will focus on the story of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb during her sermon.
Hopper has seen melancholy moods during the holidays due to the fact her deceased father was born in December. Her wedding anniversary is the day before his birthday, so she always remembers him around the holidays.
“Everyone around you is happy, and you feel guilty, and angry and frustrated because you don’t feel happy,” she said. “Sometimes you just can’t pull it off.”
That’s where the St. Louis-based Stephen Ministries comes in. The non-denominational agency helps train lay leaders to help people through crisis. Hopper is a Stephen Ministry trainer, and can conduct the 50-hour training course that certifies people as Stephen Ministers.
Hopper also likes to hold such services close to the first day of winter, since days with less light can lead to darker moods.
But most of all, she wants people to know that Jesus was more than a child born in a manger.
“The baby born in a manger wasn’t born just for Christmas. He was born because God wanted us to know he relates to every part of our lives. So a Blue Christmas service helps people with that, and who feel that,” said Hopper.
December depression isn’t something Schwarzentraub usually deals with, but she was glad for the Stephen Ministry when she lost her mother last spring.
“It was her time to go, but I still miss her,” she said. “This is my first Christmas without her, and the other Stephen Ministers have been a rock for me. Just realizing God is with us through everything is a big help.”
For more information on the Blue Christmas service, call the church at 217-762-7861.