Our congregation has a small Blue Christmas service every year on an evening before Christmas itself. It's specifically for people who are mourning, or have other reasons for not feeling particularly joyful at Christmas. It's small, and quiet, and for that reason, we sometimes don't sing together - people feel more fragile when their voices feel small. But sometimes we do. And sometimes the musicians just play some music that might help. Here are some ideas that might work for small or large gatherings, and either sung by the congregation, or by a soloist or group of singers.
*AoV1-192 / NCH092 / VU433 / GA540 / PH544 / GC758 / GC(II)751 / RS 862 / CP020 / URW191 Day is done but love unfailing (Quinn) This is specific for evening services; I think the words for this are really beautiful, the tune very familiar (AR HYD NOS) and the image of unending Light in the midst of death and darkness is full of hope. Lyrics.
*StS121 / FFS50 Nothing is lost on the breath of God (Colin Gibson). A beautiful song and very easy to sing even if new. "Nothing is lost on the breath of God, nothing is lost for ever; God's breath is love, and that love will remain, holding the world for ever. No feather too light, no hair too fine, no flower too brief in its glory; no drop in the ocean, no dust in the air, but is counted and told in God's story." Words and full sheet music. Sound sample.
*Taizé / CH276 / VU22 / ELW262 / GA283 / G(II)256 / GC332 / GC(II)340 / CP094 / W&R166 / URW396 Wait for the Lord (Berthier) Very well known Taize chant. "Wait for the Lord, whose day is near, Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart!" Some sources have good cantor lines. Sound samples and sheet music.
*TiS 647 / AoV2-012 / ATN 25 Comfort, comfort all my people (Mann) Easy to sing, beautiful lyrics; largely a paraphrase of this passage. Chorus is “Comfort, comfort all my people, with the comfort of my word. Speak ye tender to my people, all your sins are taken away”. Lyrics, mp3 sample.
*ATW 475 / NCYC'01 / SP&P008 Come to the banquet there’s a place for you. An excellent song by Melbourne singer and songwriter Faye White. "Though you maybe have no money, though you maybe feel unworthy, in your strength and in your weakness you are welcome, come." If you are celebrating communion, this might be an appropriate choice - sung in a more meditative way.
*Iona (Heaven Shall not Wait) / VU19 Kindle a flame to lighten the dark and take all fear away. A good chant to use if you will include candle lighting in the service. Sometimes a bit tricky to sing - there's a strangely large jump at the start.
*Tune In: God's Mercy. A beautiful ballad of healing: "Like the sun upon my skin, I can smile and take it in, and my wounds begin to heal, that's God's mercy". Lyrics and sound sample.
Iona (Enemy of Apathy): Sing my soul when hope is sleeping. "Sing, my soul, when hope is sleeping. Sing when faith gives way to fears; Sing to melt the ice of sadness Making way for joy through tears." Simple to sing.
*AoV2-043 / ATFG520 / CoC40 / NCH538 / SFFS 2095 / GC(II)355 / SP&P174 / W&R223 / ZSS63 Star-Child (Murray) A lovely lovely carol. Very easy to sing. A big favourite. This might work well to end the service. Lyrics and sample sheet music.
*CoC28 I didn't hear the angels sing (McCoy) Lovely statement of faith despite not having witnessed the Christmas events. Simple tune.
*AA141 / CoC44 The wind blew keen (Gibson) A beautiful carol, with simple straightforward Celtic type tune. I hope this becomes popular, because it's really lovely, but also acknowledges pain and discomfort.
Recorded music Like Mary and Joseph (Coleman) A song about a man whose family is broken in a Summer Christmas. Worth a look, particularly if there has been a recent break-up in your congregation. Sound sample and lyrics.
Sometimes it also works to sing a standard carol, just slowly and quietly. Some good ones:
*TiS 321 / AHB 245 Coldly the night winds winging I think this is one of the most beautiful carols in existence.
*TiS 317 / AHB 243 / NCH165 / CH316 / UMH242 / HPP95 / CP131 / CP(E) 59 / W&R210 / 82Hml-084 Love came down at Christmas (Rossetti) Needs one small change in AHB to make it gender inclusive for people. NCH does this by replacing "all men" with "neighbour" in the last verse. I prefer the tune in TiS / AHB. Lyrics and odd-looking angels.
Longest Night / Winter songs
Recorded music Longest Night (Mayer) This is a lovely and very appropriate song, which you might like to play. Lyrics and source. Sound sample.
NCH128 / CH305 / UMH221 / VU055 / R044 / ELW294 / HPP115 / PH036 / CP122 / CP(E) 55 / W&R196 / Srce2-275 / 82Hml-112 / Lau144 In the bleak midwinter (Rossetti) Beautiful. Very Northern-hemispherific though. Lyrics and warbly sound sample.
TiS 321 / AHB 245 Coldly the night winds winging I think this is one of the most beautiful carols in existence.
HiOS139 Through winter cold (Murray) Lilting Celtic tune and lyrics of hope in the depths of Winter.