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story.lead_photo.caption The Rev. Sarah Kingsbery lights an Advent Wreath candle during Sunday's Blue Christmas service. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

About 30 people attended a First Christian Church service Sunday evening to help those struggling emotionally during the holidays.

The church is among others that have started acknowledging the holidays can be a difficult time of year, with issues such as high expectations, low budgets and remembering loved ones are no longer here to share the season.

It was the second year for the service, which was titled "Blue Christmas: For when Christmas hurts."

"In a season of hope and joy, we come together to acknowledge that for many of us, it is also a season of sorrow, grief and pain," said the Rev. Sarah Kingsbery, who led the service.

She told attendees that whatever brought them to the service, "know that you are welcome in this place." She welcomed them to sit, stand, kneel, pace, cry, sing or stay silent.

She thanked them for coming, saying there is courage and vulnerability in acknowledging life isn't always what we wish it to be.

In an interview before the service, she said society's pressures weigh on people, and they need to know they're not alone, and God is still with them.

The 70-minute service featured readings, hymns and the lighting of Advent candles.

Melanie Markway attended with her husband and mother-in-law. They came to the service because they lost her father-in-law earlier this year.

She said it gave her family a sense of peace to be with everyone else at the service and feel their support.

"It was beautiful," she said. "It's really awesome that they do this."

Toward the end of the service, attendees took pieces of paper shaped like stars on teardrops and wrote on them words describing what made their heart heavy. Then, during Communion, they clipped the pieces of paper to strings attached to a board.

The papers, in a few months, will be burned along with palm branches and will become part of the ashes used on Ash Wednesday "to remind us that we were not created to live forever," Kingsbery told attendees.

Attendees also were invited to light candles placed around the church during the service.

"We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past," Kingbery said in the benediction. "We ask these things in the name of Christ, who shares of life of joy and sorrow, death and new birth, despair and promise. Amen."

Kingsbery told those attending that if they wished for prayer or blessing at the end of the service, she and a pair of church leaders would be available. As attendees left the chapel, she hugged them, and some of the attendees hugged each other.

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