By Ashley Davis

Advent is a time of anticipation.  We wait and prepare for Christmas Day when we can—as the Christmas carol proclaims—go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. We know this good news is coming.  The excitement is palpable.

Advent is also a time of longing. The days get shorter and darker and colder. There is a deep desire for—as another Christmas carol suggests—tidings of comfort and joy.  Surely, Mary and Joseph knew this longing, as they searched for a place to stay in Bethlehem and were turned away from the inn. What must this young couple have felt during such a vulnerable time in their lives?

I feel both anticipation and longing during Advent. The anticipation is easy to see and embrace.  Together, we heap gifts in a manger, light candles on a wreath, and sing those familiar carols.  The longing, however, is much harder to hold.

Last year my heart was heavy with complicated losses and much uncertainty.  Like Mary and Joseph, I felt alone and tired, and was far away from any real sense of home.  The grief was isolating and, at times, seemed unbearable.

For me, the Blue Christmas service was a place to bring my longing.  There was no need to share why I was there or what was weighing on me.  It was enough to simply come and seek comfort.  For those who gathered that night, our longing was welcomed and acknowledged in all of its forms: sorrow, despair, confusion, brokenness.  For this, too, is Advent.