Put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. Betrothed to a young virgin, only to find out that she is pregnant, he places her on a donkey and leads her on a week-long 80-mile trip through mountainous terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The sky was a deep blue, illuminated by a massive canopy of stars and a full moon. A few candle lanterns and torches in the distance revealed an outline of rooftops, indicating they were finally approaching their final destination. Time was of the essence. During the last 1000 meters, her abdominal pain grew increasingly intense, and riding on a donkey made her condition nearly unbearable. He heard her groans and encouraged her to be strong. It was all he could do until he found a place for them to lodge and bring her baby into the world.

The first inn they came upon had posted a “no vacancy” sign. Disappointed, they passed the second and then the third . . . no vacancy. The last inn at the end of Main Street was their only hope to find adequate lodging but to no avail. Desperate, despite the no vacancy sign, he pounded on the locked door of the inn until the little window in the cedar door slid open, and the person inside angrily shouted, “What do you want?”

“My wife is in labor, and we need a place to stay,” Joseph replied.

“Well, I can’t help you. Can’t you read the sign? I am full. Why don’t you try one of the other inns?”

“They are also full. Isn’t there anywhere in this town where we can stay for the night? She might give birth tonight. We can’t stay on the street. Please, please help me. I have nowhere else to turn, especially at this hour of the night.”

The innkeeper paused for a moment. “Young man, the only thing I can offer you is to stay in the stable with the animals. It is not a place for a woman, much less for a very pregnant one, but I have nothing else to offer you.”

“Show me the way. At least our donkey will feel comfortable, and we will have shelter from the elements.” Tired and worn with Mary in labor, it was not the honeymoon suite he envisioned for his young bride. Having left the comforts of home behind, he was exhausted, unprepared, and ill-equipped to bring a baby into the world. Adding to his distress, he felt terrible for his wife, who deserved better than he could provide. He felt his apologies were insufficient given their dire circumstances, but she was gracious, knowing it was beyond his control.

Joseph was heavy-hearted over what would become known as the celebration of Christmas. Instead of parties, gift exchanges, twinkling lights, and festive red, green, and gold decorations, he felt blue—down, inadequate, and powerless.

The Christmas season celebrates love, joy, peace, and hope. But for those who have suffered a recent loss—the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, etc.—the color of Christmas is blue, lacking joy and peace. Those situations bring grief, making it difficult to fully participate in celebrating Christmas.

Churches are becoming increasingly aware of the needs of those hurting during the Christmas season and are offering Blue Christmas services—quiet and contemplative alternatives that provide a space to reflect on grief and loss during what would otherwise be celebratory. God’s comfort is offered through Scripture and words of empathy and encouragement, apart from festive, high-energy celebrations.

If this is a season of a Blue Christmas for youtake heart. Seasons change. I recently met a widow who lost her husband of 50 years to cancer only five weeks ago. She was on her way to spread his ashes at Pa’ia Bay on the island of Maui. I resonated with her having spread Jasmine’s ashes two years ago at similar locations in Hawaii. The recent widow asked me through tears, “Does it get better after two years?” I replied, “Yes, absolutely!” If this season is one of a Blue Christmas for you, next season promises to be a Christmas of red, green, and gold. God heals and restores!