Blue Christmas Liturgy – Andrew Pratt & Marjorie Dobson

This material originally published in Nothing too religious

Material in this liturgy can be used locally freely with acknowledgement. Please include any hymns on your CCL or other licence return with these details – Words © 2018 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd

Leader: It is close to Christmas and for all of us this raises mixed emotions. It is a cliché to say that this time is difficult. But it is. It can be. Some of us have lost children or parents, sisters or brothers. Some of us have relationships that are crumbling or marriages or partnerships that have broken. And they say this is a time for families.

All around are signs of wealth and everyone seems to be spending, yet we have no money. Debt cripples us and we see no end to it, but others want us to ‘join in’. For some of us work is a memory, or we have been put out of work at just the wrong time, if ever there is a right time.

And how can we celebrate waiting for the results of medical tests, feeling unwell or knowing that we are terminally ill.

It is easy to feel very alone or depressed.

No one here will make light of this or deny the reality of another’s distress. We are here because we need to be here.

What I’m going to ask you to do is for no-one else to see unless you choose, for no-one else to know. Write on a piece of paper, draw if you prefer, something which expresses what you really feel. Swear if you like. Say what you dare not say outside. Let loose your feelings.

In the quiet give time for people to write or draw or simply to sit. When you judge that they are done continue.

Leader: As we think on what we have written or drawn let us quietly listen to some music.

Music This should be sensitively chosen, need not be religious and must not have words.

Leader: So what is this Christmas?

This time of tinsel

This time of tinsel hides a paradox.

Homeless and cold the unmarried mother, the uncertain father, wait. You’ve heard the story – unreal – shepherds and angels, wise men and imagined camels, an inn and a star. It all added up to a squalid birth in a dirty out-house. No-one to turn to, miles from home and soon to be refugees.

Two thousand years on we meet. And it’s all meant to be perfect. It never was, it never is, it never will be. That’s reality, not some imagined fairy-tale.

When they returned I suppose there were mundane moments, shopping, bartering, making ends meet. This carpenter (was he a master carpenter?) reliant on orders, rushed off his feet one minute, trying to make ends meet the next, make do and mend. Tongues wagging at their, sometimes strained, strange relationship. Those plaster saints make it all look so idyllic; not quite human; not human at all.

Jesus was nearly thirty when he took that ‘adolescent’ hike out into the wilderness after hearing his cousin’s preaching. If it wasn’t for his quiet demeanour you’d label him fanatical. He was out there forty days. I guess his parents worried, perhaps like they had when they’d lost him in the city, in Jerusalem, that time. It doesn’t matter how old they grow they’re still your children, they still matter.

And then he was going to set the world to rights. In the end they got him. Hung him out to dry. And she watched. That was real, blood and nails and that crass crown. Yes that was real to him, to his parents.

And again, here we are. Still this strange Christmas. We know more now about that story but they keep making it into some cartoon of unreality. Given a chance we can identify with the search for somewhere to stay, existing hand to mouth to try to get a living, the criticism of friends about the way we live our lives. Perhaps we know the grief of losing a child, of watching suffering and being unable to prevent it, of facing an uncertain future.

Yes, now it’s you and me. And our story is all too real too.

The tinsel, the baubles, the lights just heighten our sense of being outside of it all. Just pause for a moment and realise how unreal all that is. Then picture that first Christmas. We’re probably nearer the reality of it than any carolling crowd, any supermarket hype, any over-facing feast. For Mary and Joseph, for Jesus, the reality of Christmas and all that followed was grounded in human need, fear, uncertainty.

They believed, though, that God was there with them, not in the palaces with the fortunate, the undisturbed. That’s important. God is still here, with you and me. That’s the story, theirs and ours. Amen. So be it. Amen.


Leader: Now hear these words:

Reader: Remember, says God, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Your help comes from me, I will not let your foot be moved; I will not slumber. I will neither slumber nor sleep.

I will keep you from all evil, even that evil, that fear in which you rest at this moment. I will keep you safe.

Remember that this God will keep as you come or go.

God will keep you at Christmas and beyond.

From this time on, we can know in our hearts and our minds that nothing will ever be able to separate us from God’s love. (adapted from Psalm 121; Matthew 28, 20;  Romans 8, 39 NRSV)

Leader: If you feel that you can, then sing these words with me:

Awake again within the love

that lit the stars, that formed the earth,
that ransomed captive Israel
that met us in Messiah's birth:

we praise you God, our ground of hope,
our source of life and faith and grace.
We reach to you beyond this realm
yet greet you in each other's face.

You are the paradox of power
poured out till love is all that's left:
till ancient fears are met and quelled
and death itself is staunched, bereft.

So, as we face another day,
as hours unfold and hopes are honed,
enlarge our insight of your love,
until our faith is fully grown.
Andrew Pratt

Leader: And now let us mark this moment that we might remember this time.

Let those who wish to let go of the paper on which they wrote or drew. (a receptacle or a shredder can be available for the paper) Then light a candle as a sign that we hope for light even in our darkness, that we trust that in Jesus light has come into the world and that the darkness has never, will never put out that light.

While this takes place music can again be played. This should be sensitively chosen, need not be religious and must not have words.

And our prayers:

For those who grieve


Part of your memory
will be rooted in this place –
the time of sorrow
that you thought would never end.
Part of your life
will always be linked
to this pilgrimage –
this remembrance.
Yet now you know
that she is carried with you
in the joy of living.
you live she dances alongside you
and in her freedom
you can breathe in that remembrance
any time,
Love lives!
© Marjorie Dobson

Leader: For those living with broken love, abused or let down by those they trusted:


You are alone
but you will not be alone.
You have been let down,
abused, hurt.

Yet God will ease your pain,
and wait with you in sorrow.

Tomorrow, whenever tomorrow comes,
God will build with you again.
You are more precious to God than you can imagine
for God loves you
even when you cannot love yourself.

There will be a new tomorrow.
And the pain of today will gradually fade.
The guilt of today will pass.

The light of hope will dawn again
bringing colour back to your life.

Love lives!

Leader: For those in debt


The ends will never meet
and there are so many ‘needs’
and still more ‘wants’.

Everyone around seems to have all that they need, and more.
And you feel despair for you enter this season of plenty empty.
All seems hopeless.

Festivity is passing you by.
words don’t take away the debt.
The experience of others is not yours.

But you are more valuable to God
than you might anticipate.
Even in your depression and hopelessness
you are worth more
than if you were not here.

God will not leave you.
You will live through this time.
Hold fast to the love that will never let you go
and when your grasp is feeble
remember you are held.
Remember, Love lives!

Leader: For those who are sick or dying

Anxiety never helped

Anxiety never helped
but anxiety is your watchword.
It must be.
Well that’s how it seems.

All this talk of birth and children;
the noise of play disturbs
and thoughts are of young lives
that you will never see grown.

is cruel, very cruel.
It all seems hopeless
and pointless.
It’s not that tomorrow never comes,
it comes to soon
and is filled with dread.

This spiral of depression seems to go
all the way down.
Is there no way up? T
hose words come back again...
nothing in all creation,
nothing in life or death, St Paul says,
that can separate us from God’s love...

May you be assured of the truth of these words,
at this very moment,
and in all that the future brings.
Remember, Love lives!

Leader: And if you can a hymn to end our time together:

When fear of what might lie ahead

When fear of what might lie ahead
is racing through your mind,
you're held within a greater love,
for God is calm and kind.

When clouds obscure both joy and faith
and hope is coarsely scorned,
a hidden grace of stronger power ,
that God has forged, is formed.

Around you there is human love,
and human hands to touch,
a person holds you as you weep,
God knows you need as much.

The love in which you're framed and held
will hold when hope has gone,
together in companionship
there's strength to carry on.

And when you come again beyond
the darkness to the light,
that love that held you will not wane
for God will make things right.
Andrew Pratt

Leader: As we depart greet each other if you can. Know that others are bound to you by the time we have shared, will pray with you and for you in the coming days.
This time will pass.
We will come through it together.
God’s steadfast loving kindness and faithfulness can be mirrored in our concern,
in genuine love for each other.
Then let us go in peace. Amen. Amen.

Full Service Resources for the Three Year Lectionary

If you need worship resources for services, complete service outlines with hymns, prayers and sermon ideas are available by going to This link and then enter ‘Full Service Pratt’ into the search. This will bring up resources by myself and Majorie Dobson

Maundy Thursday – Passover Agape / Lovefeast

Passover Agape / Lovefeast for Maundy Thursday (From the book Nothing Too Religious by Marjorie Dobson and Andrew Pratt - click to see)

Explanation: An Agape or Love Feast is a meal celebrated in some traditions which is similar to communion, but which has the potential to be more inclusive. Bread and water are used rather than bread and wine. The atmosphere is informal, more like an ordinary meal.
The order of service which follows uses this idea, but is also inspired in part by the Jewish Passover. It is based on a service for ecumenical worship which was held during Holy Week which, because of its informal nature, attracted some people from the fringe of the church, who came out of curiosity.

The following hymn or ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’

This is the point of our faith for the future

This is the point of our faith for the future,
pooling our knowledge of love and of life,
bringing together the world and its people,
working for freedom, an ending of strife.

This is the God that we share, that we worship,
source of all cultures, the ground of all peace,
God in a unity dwelling within us,
growing between us and bringing release.

This is the way we will walk with each other,
walk hand in hand to the end of the way,
sharing each moment, each hope for the future,
bringing to being this dawning new day.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2007 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Introduction: This is the season of Passover, Pesach. Today we meet as Christians, but we remember our heritage and shared inheritance with the Jewish people. As we share this Agape, this Love Feast, this communion, it is appropriate that we identify with them and so our words are formed from our own scriptures, but also as an echo of the liturgy for the Passover. For Jews, memory is all important. In memory they are united with those who suffered and lived, loved and rejoiced before them. We echo this as we ‘do this in remembrance’ of Jesus. And so we share:

We remember tonight that long ago, on a night like this, the people with whom we share our tradition set out on a journey.
They knew enslavement and oppression, but they remembered a happier past.
God called them from slavery and offered them the courage to seek freedom.
Boldly they left Egypt, crossed the Sea, and headed into a desert. They believed that God would bring them to a far off Promised Land.
The memory of this journey they recounted and we share. It has been passed down from generation to generation. The story was told to children and to children’s children, reiterated and re-enacted from year to year.
We, too, give thanks for our freedom; we, too, imagine or remember what it means to be a slave.
And so we pray for all who are still in slavery, still denied their human rights.
As we meet at this table, we affirm that there is a place at God’s table for all people of all ages and all nations.
Here we share a cup of blessing, which speaks of deliverance, here we eat the bread of life, which speaks of freedom and unity.
May we be united with our neighbours of whatever race or creed.
May all people be free from bondage
and from oppression,
from hunger
and from want,
from hatred
and from fear;
may we all be free to think
and to speak,
to learn
and to love;
may God give us hope
and the reason to rejoice;
soon, in our days.

This is the story that they recounted:

Exodus 12.21–27

The following hymn or ‘Sanna, sannanina’

The sacramental waiting Hymn

The sacramental waiting
for love that is to come
is like God's constant heart beat,
the thrumming of a drum.

The things that really matter,
that keep us safe or sane,
are like God's bread that's broken,
like rainbows after rain.

The hope that holds us captive,
the grace that seals our worth,
are God's firm confirmation
that love is ours on earth.

We watch the sunbeams scatter.
The shadows flicker fast.
Yet God's love is a constant,
we know that love will last.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2007 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Those people continued their reflection. Whether or not this is our experience, we continue to identify with the Jews as we pray:

Our ancestors were wandering Arameans;
they went down into Egypt and lived there as aliens,
few in number.
In time they became a great nation.
The Egyptians treated them harshly and afflicted them,
by imposing hard labour on them,
they cried to God and God heard their voice and saw their oppression.
God brought them out of Egypt with a terrifying display of power,
and with signs and wonders.
He brought them to freedom and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. (based on Deuteronomy 26.5–9)

Since then our parents in faith have been wanderers, without a home. Again and again, they have been fugitives and refugees.
Through them we share the pain of the outsider, the hopelessness of the oppressed, the distress of the homeless, the dislocation of the refugee.
They have experienced the fear that we see in those around us who come to our shores for refuge.
They were used and abused.
And now we pray to God to help us to remember our own heritage as we meet our neighbours in the strangers on our streets.
We pray for courage to trade fairly and to work for freedom.
Help us to be trustworthy and just in all our relationships and dealings with every person.
Fire our hearts with your love, that we might always strive for freedom and justice.
We make our prayer for the sake of our neighbours and in memory of all who have suffered. Amen.

The following hymn or ‘Be known to us in breaking bread’

I vow to love my neighbour, whatever race or creed

I vow to love my neighbour, whatever race or creed,
to join her in her suffering, to plead with him in need.
This love will always question, will search out right and wrong,
will give itself for justice, for those who don't belong.
This love will never falter, till every soul is free,
till nations held in bondage can sing of liberty.

Through scenes of devastation, through famine, drought and war,
we'll work in ways of gentleness, work hard till we restore
the vision of the people, the hope of human grace,
till nations dwell in peacefulness together in this place;
till all the world together can sing in joyful praise
till all have found communion together in our days.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

And we now move to our remembrance:

Mark 14.10–25

The following hymn or ‘Author of life divine’

Bread of life and cup of blessing

Bread of life and cup of blessing,
taken in humility,
help us stand in need together,
strengthened by humanity.

Here the bread is taken, broken,
while our broken lives display
need of love from one another,
need of comfort in this day.

As the wine is poured in blessing,
common cup to pass and share;
equally, we offer gladly
patient love, attentive care.

Held by bonds that can't be broken,
strong in solidarity;
bread of life and cup of blessing,
symbolize our unity.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2009 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

The sharing – Bread and water are shared with people serving one another.

The following hymn or ‘Because thou hast said’

The stranger is welcomed, the enemy blessed

The stranger is welcomed, the enemy blessed,
a scandalous gospel that Jesus professed;
but can we adopt such a dangerous stance,
forgetful forgiveness, love caught in a glance?

We harbour resentment and hatred is rife;
the past shades the present and fractures each life;
we love to be certain, to cage or constrain,
the people who challenge we view with disdain.

God let us be Christ to the ones that we meet,
as willing to serve as to sit at your feet.
God give us the courage to see in each face,
the Christ who has shown how to live with your grace.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2009 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

May God who has led his people through the ages lead us on the paths of peace out into the world to serve and to work in his name. Amen

After the blessing an ordinary informal meal may be shared while conversation continues.