Summary: What happens when Christmas doesn’t go according to plan? How do we handle it when circumstances rob us of the joy of the season? How do we respond to a "blue Christmas?"

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OPEN: John Simmons tells about a grade 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 little boy who wanted so very much to be Joseph. But when the parts were handed out, his biggest rival was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn keeper instead.

He was really bitter about this, so during all the rehearsals he began to plot how to get even with his rival.

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

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

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

Now, that wasn’t in the script and for a few seconds poor little kid didn’t know what to do.

But finally the young Joseph had an idea. He stepped up to the innkeeper, and looked beyond him through the door that represented the inn. He made a big production of looking right and left. He stepped back out beside his “wife” and said, "No wife of mine is going to stay in dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn."

APPLY: There are times when Christmas doesn’t go according to plan.

There are times when you know what the script ought to be but somebody or something changes the lines on us.

There are times when Christmas doesn’t seem as cheerful and upbeat as we had hoped it would be:

• A loved one dies

• Friends/family move away

• We struggle with divorce

• We lose our jobs

• We may face cancer or some other overwhelming disease.

What had promised to be a Christmas filled with fun and pleasure suddenly becomes a “Blue Christmas”. It’s the emotion reflected in the old Elvis hit:

“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.”

ILLUS: In fact, there are some churches that have a “Blue Christmas” service. Richard Spencer of Trinity Church in Ossining, New York, said the world tells people "if you buy this present, you’ll be happy and it will be all ho-ho-ho and joy to the world. Well, what if there’s no joy in my world?"

And so, Mr. Spencer, and other preachers have a “Longest Night” or Blue Christmas service, usually on December 21st (the longest night of the year).

The music is somber.

The sanctuary is dark, often lit mostly with candles.

And there are readings out of the Psalms and other parts of Scripture.

This is not a cheerful atmosphere.

They don’t sing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” or “Joy to the World”.

Instead they tend to sing more solemn and slower hymns.

ILLUS: Referring to these services, one man wrote that “some churches held a blue Christmas service for those who suffered loss complete with melancholy piano music and dead branches laid on a table covered with blue cloth to represent the winter of our souls.

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