AMHERST – It’s called the ‘hard to be merry’ service, the ‘longest night’ service or Blue Christmas.
“To give people a space to express their emotions,” said Rev. Susan Estabrooks when asked the reason for today’s 3 p.m. service at Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church.
The quiet, candlelit service attracted about 10 people last year, but it’s not about numbers, according to Estabrooks. Whether someone is struggling with a family illness or missing a loved one, upset in the wake of the Connecticut shootings or depressed at the state of global affairs – examples offered by the minister – “it provides a chance to be together with some others.”
And the message isn’t a somber one, but one of hope, according to Estabrooks. She said Jesus Christ entered a world not dissimilar to our own, with oppression, poverty and injustice. Dec. 21, today, is the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. The minister said each day moving forward sees more light. She talked about light piercing the darkness.
The service is an expression of solidarity, she said: we’re not alone.
In a humorous moment, Estabrooks responded to the question whether she anticipated a few people showing up because they feared the end of the world (as per a supposed ancient Mayan prediction).
“That thought did occur,” said the minister.