Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blue Christmas/Longest Night Service


Call to Worship
Tonight, we gather here in this place of refuge,
for we are lost,
we are lonely,
we are afraid.
Tonight, we gather daring to wonder
of God has indeed come in Jesus,
discerning the rejection we have known,
intimate with our failed relationships,
holding our heartache in hands of tenderness.
Tonight, we gather with neighbors and strangers,
a family made one by our brokenness,
coming with our hearts full of hope,
and our pockets filled with doubts.
Tonight, we gather just as we are,
for God has promised to meet us here
and to welcome us for who we are.

Prayer of the Day
Holy God of Advent:
you became weak
so we could find strength
in moments of heartbreak;
you left the safety of heaven
to wander the wilderness of the world,
holding our hands when we feel so hopeless;
you set aside your glory
to hold our pain so we might be healed,
even when there seems to be no hope;
you became one of us,
so we could never be alone
in any moment,
in any circumstance.

So come now,
Child of Bethlehem,
to strengthen us in these days.
May we feel your presence
in a way we have never known,
not just as One born in a stable
long ago and far away,
but as One born in our hearts,
in our hopes, in our spirits,
in our weakness.
You have promised to go before us:
into our brokenness, into hospital rooms,
into empty houses, into graveyards,
into our future held by our God,
and your are here, even now,
waiting for each of us:
to serve us,
to hold us,
to comfort us,
to live in us, now and forever. Amen.

Carol (if music has the possibility of mending
our brokenness, then let the music work in you
as you listen)

Prayers of Intercession
All around us are the sights and sounds of
Christmas, Gentle God: the laughter of parties, the
songs of carolers, the shouts of children sledding
down hills, the music in every store. But deep within
us we carry our pain, our grief walks with us every
step we take, loneliness is a shawl we drape over
our shoulders on empty nights.
So, in this time when every night stretches into
eternity, we come to you, bringing our gifts: not
gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the grief that is
the empty space in the closet filled with memories,
the loss that is a sore which never heals, the bitterness
that tastes like two-day old coffee.
We have come from different backgrounds, from
different families, from other faith traditions. But
we have all lived in the far country of despair,
wandered the land of shame, built our lives in
those neighborhoods peopled by empty dreams.
We have stood on the side of every room we have
gone into, hoping against hope that someone would
ask us to dance, but find the wall is our only friend.
In a season when so many people don't have enough
hours in a day to get their lists checked off, their cards
mailed, their presents wrapped, we have all the time
in the world:
to remember the loss that has stolen the joy of the season;
to grieve over a job, a dream, a loved one we have lost;
to sit in the shadows of our homes, too weary to turn on
the lights; to wander the streets lit by decorations on all
the houses, but not by the Light of the world.
Our fear of the future, our remembrance of the past;
our pain which is difficult to bear and harder to release;
our emptiness which cannot be filled with platitudes;
our hands which cannot hold the ones we wish to embrace:
all make this a season of long nights.
So, be with us in our loneliness,
in our longing,
in our loss,
in our lives.
All: In Jesus Name, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of our acceptance by God


Hearing the Word of God, for our time, for our places(following each reading, you are invited to come forward
and light a candle. The bowl of salty water represents
God's tears: you may dip your fingers into to share in
them, or put some salt in to add your own)

A variety of readings follows.

Nourishment for enduring the longest night

Peace be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to God.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

When there was only chaos,
you whispered of your hopes,
God of every moment,
and light shattered the shadows,
water raced down the valleys,
creatures beyond imagination
grazed in the abundant fields.
You created all which is beautiful
for those shaped in your image,
but loneliness became our companion,
grief wrapped its arms around us,
fear sang its carols to us,
and our dreams turned to nightmares.
So that we would know you are with us
in these moments, these days, these lives,
you became one of us, Jesus walking among us,
reminding us of your promises to us,
not only in the songs of the angels,
but in the quiet whispers of hope
which are lullabied to us in the night.

P:   You are not only holy, God of hope,
          you know the pain we have felt,
          you have mingled your tears with ours,
          you have wept at the graveside of a loved One.

The angelic chorus told of your glory and wonder,
yet Jesus came to let us know of your compassion.
He could have remained safe in the cradle of grace,
but became as poor as we often feel.
He could have clothed himself in holiness,
but knew the humility of wondering
where his next meal might come from,
whether or not he had a place to sleep at night.
He could have trampled death and sin into the dust,
but let them have their way with him,
so that we might find the path
to life that is whole and complete,
where promises are fulfilled,
where hope is the bed
where we can rest our wearied souls.

P:  We believe we will find acceptance,
        because Jesus was rejected;
     we trust we know new life,
         because Jesus experienced our death;
     we look to that day when all weeping is done,
         when pain and loss is behind us and
         we are welcomed into that kingdom called eternity.

As your Spirit moved upon the waters of creation,
filling them with life beyond imagination,
may it move upon the gifts of this Table.
We hunger for hope in the midst of despair,
   for life when grief seems to never leave our side,
   for wonder where there are only shadows,
       and you feed us with that Life which
       will never depart from us, but be with us
       on this night and in all the moments to come.
Our souls are parched from the deserts of our lives,
    we thirst for joy in a world burgeoning with sorrow,
     the deep pools of love have gone dry,
         and you hand us that cup of grace
         which will never run empty
         but will continue to fill us
         the waters of life forever.

On this night, remind us that your morning of hope will come;
in our sorrow, wrap us in the swaddling cloths of healing;
in our loneliness, help us to find you as the Friend who never leaves us;
in our loss, whisper to us your promise that we will be fulfilled
   in the future you hold before us in the longest nights.
God in Community, Holy in One, be with us now and forever.  Amen.
     © 2011  Thom M. Shuman

You may come forward, as able, to be served





In your silence, may the Word dwell in your heart.
In your brokenness, may the Bread of Life heal you.
In your pain, may the One who can heal you touch your soul.

Go in peace and silence

(c) Thom M. Shuman

This service was originally published in Candles and Conifers