Blue Christmas

27 Dec 2020 by Richie Dulin in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Hymn: Come as you are

Call to worship

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

We continue today to celebrate the birth of our saviour, praising God and listening for his word to us.

As we begin, let us open our hearts to God in prayer:

God of light, in this time of worship and reflection, shine light into the shadows of our lives and our world, renew our hope, and fill us with the peace of Christ, in whose name we pray.


Whoever you are, however you feel, whatever you’ve done, wherever you are in your own spiritual journey, God reaches out to you and invites you to come to him as you are.

Let us pray:
Our God and Heavenly Father,
We come before you this morning to praise you and adore you.

How awesome is your power, that you can allow the waters to rise and the mountains to crumble, yet you reveal your salvation in a helpless baby born in a stable. 

How great is your wisdom, that you can lead us and guide us, close a door and open another, give us trials as well as blessings, and shepherd us all our lives until we are safe and finally home. 

How deep is your love and how boundless your mercy, that no matter how grave our problems, how terrible our mistakes, how shameful our secrets, and how often we stumble and fall, we can find your salvation in that child born in Bethlehem.

We offer you our praise and give you the glory!


And we continue in a prayer of confession.

Compassionate God,
In a dark and disfigured world we have not held out the light of life
Have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy.

In a hungry and despairing world we have failed to share our bread
Have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy.

In a cold and loveless world we have kept the love of God to ourselves:
Have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy. 

We have opened our hearts to God in confession;

            may they remain open now and always

            to receive God’s forgiveness and peace!


If any one sins,
we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous;
and he is the perfect offering for our sins,
and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1-2)

Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’    (Mark 2:5)

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: Sing unto the Lord a new song

Bible readings:  Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Luke 2:25-35

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.

Zion’s New Name

62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
    and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Luke 2:25-35

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Blue Christmas

You may have heard the story of the primary school class that was putting on a Christmas play which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn. In that class was one boy who desperately wanted the part of Joseph. But when the roles were handed out, his biggest rival was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn keeper instead.

Finally, on the night of the play, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the innkeeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted.

Joseph answered, "We’d like to have a room for the night."

Suddenly the innkeeper threw the door wide open and said, "Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house."

And there was deathly silence for a few moments.

But then Joseph stepped up to the innkeeper and looked beyond him through the door that represented the inn. He made a big show of looking around the place. He stepped back out beside Mary and said, "No wife of mine is going to stay in dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go stay in the barn."

We’ve all known times when Christmas doesn’t go according to plan, we all know how it should go, but sometimes, somebody or something changes the script for us.

There are times when our Christmas isn’t as joyful as we expect, when people die, when we’re separated from friends and family, when families are broken up, when we’re unemployed, when we’re sick or those we love are sick.

What had promised to be a Christmas filled with joy becomes a “Blue Christmas”. The Christmas that Elvis sang of:

“I’ll have a blue Christmas, that’s certain

And when that blue heartache starts hurting

You’ll be doing all right with your Christmas of white

But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.”

In our gospel reading today, we have a prophecy that seems much like a Blue Christmas – a message that might not quite match with the Christmas message ‘Peace on earth among those whom he favours’ that we know so well. Simeon is an old man who’s righteous and devout - and God had promised him he would not die until he had seen the Messiah (Luke 2:26)

Tradition has Simeon as 113 years old – although there’s no indication in our scriptures of his precise age. But we do know that Simeon was old and had been waiting and watching with Anna for the saviour to come.

It was the Jewish Law for every newborn male to be circumcised on the eighth day - it was considered the sign and seal of the covenant God had made with Abraham (Gen. 17). The Jewish people were proud to be God’s covenant people – God’s chosen people – and both Joseph and Mary were part of that covenant people.

This ritual, his circumcision, would mark the start of Jesus’ entry into traditional Jewish life.

When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon took the eight-day old Jesus into his arms, and Simeon praised God.

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon could rest easy. The saviour he had waited so long for had arrived, but what Simeon declared that day went beyond what the people of Israel had come to expect: He said that the salvation would be for the gentiles and well as the people of Israel.

We read that both Joseph and Mary were amazed at what was being said about their child. That might be surprising, because they’d both been visited by angels, and they’d been visited by the shepherds who’d told them what the angels had said. But even so… Jesus was just a baby.

But Simeon didn’t stop there… He blessed them and then prophesied. And things get a bit dark – far from simply rejoicing because he’s met the saviour, Simeon makes a declaration that’s just filled with bad news: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (2:34b-35)

This saviour, this baby Jesus, is destined for the falling and rising of many… and to be a sign that will be opposed… inner thoughts will be revealed. And finally, and very personally, a sword will pierce the soul of his parents.

It’s bad news – at least for some if not most. The news of God’s plan had so far been good news for Mary and Joseph - but now Simeon was revealing that there was bad news too.

He told them "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel”

And sure enough, as we read through the gospel accounts, we know that Jesus would cause some to be lifted up & encouraged… but others to be destroyed. The poor and the outcast would be lifted up and encouraged – leprosy would be healed, unfair judgements revoked (ie the woman caught in adultery), the lame would walk, the blind would see. On the other hand – there was the rich young man too caught up in his wealth the follow Jesus and there were the scribes and the pharisees too caught up in their power and privelege.

Simeon tells them that their child will “be a sign that will be opposed”

From his birth, Jesus would be opposed. From Herod sending soldiers to kill him – along with all the male children in Bethlehem – through to the people in his home town wanting to throw him off a cliff, to the Pharisees and the Sadducees who tried to entrap him, to Judas who betrayed him, to the Jewish leaders who condemned him, to the Romans who crucified him.

The opposition didn’t end there, though – after his resurrection, the opposition to him and his followers continued – we read about it in the book of Acts, we read about it throughout history, and we see it – and sometimes experience it – today.

Simeon says “the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.” And as we read the gospel accounts of Jesus ministry, we learn it’s not just actions, but our motivations, our thoughts that are the problem.  Jesus taught “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment;” (Matt 5:21-22)

And finally he says “and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

We don’t know Joseph’s fate, but we do know that Mary would watch as her son was terribly beaten and as he died on the cross. HeR soul was certainly pierced.

These are strange things to prophesy about the coming of the saviour – and they’re strange things to reflect on at Christmas: For most people, Christmas is a fun and exciting time of year – in most years, anyway.

But we need to see the whole story of Christmas. Jesus didn’t enter this world just to be a cute little baby, and give us all warm and fuzzy feelings each Christmas. He entered the world to suffer and die on a cross so that our sins might be forgiven and so that we might be saved

And, if you think about it, that first Christmas wasn’t all joy. It was a young couple, far away from home, the woman pregnant and giving birth in an animal stall.

Far, far removed from the conditions of a modern birth – but even far removed from the ideal conditions of the time.

It is the story of innocent boys being killed by King Herod because Herod feared one of them might be the rival king.

It is the story of someone - sent into the world in peace and love - who was condemned to death.

It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, and that light being temporarily snuffed out.

It was in many ways, as Elvis would later sing, a blue Christmas.

But I don’t think Simeon looked at it that way.

Yes, his words of prophecy were definitely filled with “bad news”, but these weren’t the only words Simeon had to say about the saviour. When he first saw Jesus, he declared:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

He’s been allowed to SEE God’s salvation.

He’s seen the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.

Yes, there were going to be dark moments surrounding this young baby but they all pale in comparison to what this child was going to accomplish. Jesus had come to give light and bring hope and salvation. Light into darkness. Hope to the hopeless. Salvation to the fallen.

Christmas is a time to take the words of Jesus to heart “God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son.”

The world is harsh. Bad things happen all the time. To people. To families. To entire nations.

These are hardships and tragedies wherever we look.

But the most common message from the story of Jesus’ birth is this:

“Don’t be afraid!”

When the angel told Zechariah he was to be the father of John the Baptist, he declared:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” Luke 1:13

When the angel visited Joseph he told him:

Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

When the angel told Mary he started with the same four words:

"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31)

 And when the angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields, they told them:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Again and again and again, God told people – “don’t be afraid.”

But why shouldn’t we be afraid? This life is often unpleasant and frustrating. There’s lots to be afraid of.

But we needn’t be afraid because we have received “Good news that shall be for all people”.

And Simeon said the same thing. When he saw Jesus, the Christ child, he declared He would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." Luke 2: 32

The world is filled with darkness, and we so often know it so well in our own lives that it’s hard to see what lies ahead.

But Simeon reminds us that Jesus brings light into our lives.

We just need to open our hearts to him. To let his light shine in our lives.

No matter how dark things may be for us and the people we love. God’s love is there for us. God loves us so much that he sent his son into this dark, fallen world to bring light and hope.

Society, the world, and indeed the church so often says that Christmas should be a time filled with joy and happiness. And often there is, but so often there is also sadness and emptiness and loneliness and despair.

Just watching television news this week, there are so many people, who are despairing and angry at the circumstances they face. Cut off from their loved ones. Their plans for a family Christmas in tatters.

People often expect that Christmas will be filled with joy and happiness.  But the essence of Christmas, is of light shining in a dark place, the essence of Christmas is hope.

The hope that the infant Jesus brought into a fallen world.

The hope that Jesus brings into all our lives.


Hymn: Mine eyes have seen the glory


<Prayers of Intercession> 

Offering prayer

Lord of Peace and Hope,

However we give, we thankfully give our gifts as an expression of all that you have given us.  As the prophets foretold, your son was born for the redemption of our sins.  We humbly acknowledge that of all the gifts we have received, your gift of a child born in Bethlehem in a manger, is the greatest of them all.  We ask you to empower us to help others discover the greatest Christmas gift ever, and come to know the promise of Jesus Christ, so they, like us will see your salvation in him.

In his name, we pray. 



Let us go in peace, to love and serve the Lord,
For we have seen God’s salvation prepared in the presence of all peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to his people Israel.

And  may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, today, this Christmas, and forever more.


Hymn: O Come O come Emmanuel