The Longest Night

WELCOME

PRELUDE                      Still, Still, Still                                                                STILL, STILL, STILL

OPENING LITANY

One:     Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  And so we invite each other to this time of peaceful worship.  Flee for a while from your tasks;

All:      Hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts.

One:     Come, cast aside your burdensome cares and put aside your laborious pursuits.

All:      Give your time to God, and rest in God for a little while.

HYMN                          Nothing Can Trouble     #820                                         NADA TE TURBE

Noth-ing can trou-ble; noth-ing can fright-en.
Those who seek God shall nev-er go want-ing.
Noth-ing can trou-ble; noth-ing can fright-en.
God a-lone fills us.        (3x)

PRAYER OF LAMENT

Psalm 13, 74 and 79

One:     Do not remember against us the sins of our ancestors; 
let your compassion come quickly to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive us, for your name’s sake.
Why should the world say, “Where is their God?”

All:      Sometimes our world seems dark and we feel alone.
We grasp for help, 
often seeking solutions that end up hurting us even more.
Hear our cry, O God of mercy.

One:     How long, O Holy One? Will you always forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I scheme just to survive, my mind in anguish every day?
How long will my enemy rise against me?

All:      Sometimes things fall apart; we are hurt and confused.
We look for guidance and turn to those who lead us astray.
See our dilemma, O Holy One of hope!

One:     Respect your covenant; for the dark places of the land are full of violence.
Do not let the humble be disgraced; let the poor and needy praise your
name. Arise, O God, plead my cause; remember how fools scoff at you all day! 
Do not forget the cry of your foes, in constant uproar, rebelling against you.

All:      We are tempted to trust only ourselves; we are angry and fearful.
We call on you, even demand that you hear our prayers.
For you are the one who created us.

ASSURANCE 

Psalm 46:1–5

One:   God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
            Therefore we will not fear if the earth should change,
            though the mountains shake in the middle of the sea;
            Though its waves roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its chaos. 
            There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the Holy home of the
Most High. 
            God is in the middle of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her quickly.

 SCRIPTURE       John 1: 1-5, 10-14, 16-18   

HYMN                          Wait for the Lord          #90                              WAIT FOR THE LORD

            Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
            Wait for the Lord; be strong; take heart.  (3x)

LIGHTING OF ADVENT CANDLES AND LITANY OF REMEMBRANCE

One:     We light this Advent candle to remember those persons who have been loved and lost. We pause to remember their name, their face, their voice. We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us this season which anticipates Christmas.

All:      May God’s eternal love surround them.

Sing:    O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,

            That mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear.

            Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Silent Reflection and Prayer

One:     We light this second candle to redeem the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. As we gather up the pain of the past, we offer it to You, O God, asking that into our open hands, You will place the gift of peace.

All:      Refresh, restore, renew us, O God, and lead us into your future.

Sing:    O come, strong branch of Jesse, free your own from Satan’s tyranny;

            From depths of hell your people save and give them victory o’er the grave.

            Rejoice!  Rejoice!   Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Silent Reflection and Prayer

One:     We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmas time. We pause and remember the past weeks, months and for some of us, years of down times. We remember the poignancy of memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurts, the pain of reflecting on our own mortality.

All:      Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness.

Sing:    O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here;
            Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
            Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Silent Reflection and Prayer

One:     This fourth candle is lit to remember our faith and the gift of hope which God offers to us in the Christmas story. We remember that God who shares our life, promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering.

All:      Let us remember the one who shows the way and who goes with us into our tomorrows.

Sing:    O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind;
            Bid envy, strife, and discord cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
            Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

PRAYERS OF THE COMMUNITY

HYMN              O Lord, Hear My Prayer             #471                 HEAR MY PRAYER

            O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer.
            When I call, an-swer me.
O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer.           
Come and lis-ten to me.

THE BLESSING AND AFFIRMATION OF HOPE  

“First Coming” by Madeline L’Engle 

 One:     God did not wait until the world was ready, ‘til…nations were at peace.

All:      God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release.

One:     God did not wait for the perfect time.

All:      God came when the need was deep and great.  God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine.

One:     God did not wait till hearts were pure.

All:      In joy, God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.  To a world like ours, of anguished shame, God came and God’s light would not go out.

One:     God came to a world which did not mesh; to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.

All:      In the mystery of the Word made flesh, the maker of the stars was born.

One:     We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain.

All:      God came with love: Rejoice!  Rejoice!

HYMN              Goodness is Stronger than Evil   #750                 GOODNESS IS STRONGER

BENEDICTION

Beloved, the Holy One approaches.
God will lead us out of this present wilderness.
God will lead us out of this momentary desert, where we feel alone and afraid.
God will lead us up out of the valleys and beyond the rough places.
Be strong. Take heart.
Until that time, may our darkness serve as only the backdrop of the approaching promise.
On this winter solstice, be reminded that the light now grows a little warmer.
Go knowing that God is with us, leading us on, leading us home, leading us to light.

Amen.

*Parts of this service have been adapted from the work of Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell at http://rev-o-lution.org and Trinity Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN.

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