1062 Autumnwood Dr, Winnipeg, MB R2J 1C7  (204) 256-8792

Longest Night/Blue Christmas Service – December 19, 2018

A quiet service of contemplation and candlelight. 

*We have included the service in its entirety for those who are unable to be with us tonight.

Opening Words

Stay close to the cracks, to the broken places, where people struggle with the chaos and confusion of this time of the year, where people weep and cry out in pain.

Stay close to the cracks, where God’s tears fall, and God’s wounds bleed for love of us.

Stay close to the cracks where the light shines in, and grass pushes up through concrete.

Stay close to the cracks where wounds open doorways to healing and wholeness and life.

There is a winter in all of our lives, a chill and darkness that makes us yearn for days that have gone or put our hope in days yet to be.

The winter, cold and bare, as nature takes stock, rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right.

It is an endless cycle.

Many of us find ourselves in the midst of a winter in our lives. Is this a time of rest, a time to stand still a time to reacquaint ourselves with the faith in which we live?

When we put our trust in the faith in which we life, it is only then that we can draw strength from the one in whom we are rooted, that we can take time to grow and rise through the darkness into the warm glow of your springtime to blossom and flourish and bring colour and vitality into this world.

Thank you, God, for your presence through all the seasons of our lives.

Music – “When the Wind of Winter Blows” (MV #71)

“When the wind of winter blows,
Bringing times of solitude,winter-night-winter-snow
Fill the silent icy night;
Be our hearts’ compassion.

Holy Light, warm our night;
Warm the time of winter.
Holy Light, warm our night;
Warm the time of winter.

When tin days of fallen snow,
Change confounds or love burns low,
From the ashes may there rise
Phoenix of our growing.

Holy Light, warm our night;
Warm the time of winter.
Holy Light, warm our night;
Warm the time of winter.”

Gathering Prayer

God of presence, tonight we will face all that most concerns us: our fears, the shadowed places of the mind; the coming of winter darkness; the cold thin place between waking and sleep.

We call to mind the powerless, the lonely, those who most fear the knock at the door; all those deceived by the world’s empty promises; all those cowed by menaces or threats, all those experiencing grief and suffering.

We stand with those weak in body, mind or spirit and those seduced by treats or hurt by tricks.

God of light, your light shines into every darkness.

You told us:  pray ‘deliver us from evil’.  Your Spirit gives us hope, gives us courage, a candle in the window unhurt by the wind.

All: Oh God, be with us in our darkness. Make your face shine upon us and give us peace.

We pray for your Holy Spirit to be at work within us, all of us who are gathered here tonight, may your Holy Spirit comfort us, may it sustain us, may it remind us of your constant love for us. We trust this time of listening to you and ask you to open our hearts and our minds to whatever it is that we need to hear from you tonight.  Amen.

Music – “Longing for Light”

“Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
Light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.Rest-In-Peace-Candle-And-Rose-3
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope; many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.”

Isaiah 9: 2-4, 6

2    The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.
3    You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
4    For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
6    For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Opening Litany

One: Healing God, we come together in our brokenness, to call to you in your mercy, to make us whole again.

All: Wholeness–giving God, listen to our prayers, we pray.

One: Restoring God, we gather to worship you, even as we hopefully seek to be renewed and restored again.

All: God, our Quiet-Centre, listen to our prayers this day.

One: Foundational God, we come to praise and thank you! In the depths of your Holy Being we find peace and rest.

All: God – our Beginning and our End, we hope always in you. Amen.

Prayer

God of mercy and love, we gather here today as hurting people, bringing our pain, our sorrow and our confusion to this safe space tonight. Would you meet us in our darkness, and give us freedom to struggle together as we seek your presence. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past.
Amen.

Music – “Come and Find the Quiet Centre” (VU #374)

“Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed;
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see
All the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, face to face,
Making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun,
Raising courage when we’re shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.

In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other’s pain,
Let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain;
There’s a place for deepest dreaming, there’s a time for heart to care,
In the Spirit’s lively scheming there is always room to spare!”

Lighting of the Christ candle 

Reading- John 1:1-5

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2He was in the beginning with God.  3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The empty chair

This empty chair represents those who won’t be home for Christmas.

Perhaps a relationship has ended, perhaps the people we love will be far away, perhaps sickness or death has changed how things used to be…

Lighting the first candle

We light this first candle to remember those we have loved and lost.

We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices and the memories of them that we hold in our hearts.

[Pause]

We thank God for them and ask for his comfort, and when we are feeling overcome with sadness, we ask for the peace that is greater than we can ever understand.

All: Lord hear our prayer.

Lighting the second candle

The empty chair also represents the pain and sadness that can come from other events that enter our lives, uninvited and unwanted – leaving us reeling in pain and shock, unable to shake the feeling that it wasn’t supposed to be like that. This candle also represents that confusion and chaos that can come from this time of year, when we don’t feel festive, when we struggle with all the tiding of joy and happiness, when we just don’t feel like we can celebrate and we feel lost.

So we light this candle to represent other losses that we find ourselves faced with.

The loss of health,
of independence,
of freedom,
the loss of confidence or security,
plans that did not work out,
or hopes that ended in despair.

We pause now for you, in silence, to tell the God who longs to bind up those who are broken-hearted, about some of the losses that you are feeling at this time.

[Pause]

We thank you for your presence in our lives even in the midst of those times of pain, sadness, and loss.

All: Lord hear our prayer.

Lighting the third candle

This candle represents our courage: the courage to face our sadness, to share our feelings with others, our doubts and fears, our anger, frustration or depression, and to dare to hope in the depths of our pain.

We pause now for you, in silence, to tell the God who longs to take you by the hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you, about some areas where you need help in finding courage.

[Pause]

We thank you God for giving us the courage to face this world, even when we struggle.

All: Lord hear our prayer.

Lighting the fourth candle

We light this fourth candle to remember those who have supported us in our pain.

We pause to remember the prayers, the words of comfort and support, the acts of kindness from family and friends and those who stood with us in our time of need.

[Pause]

We thank you God for community, for those, whether they be family, friends, or community, who have journeyed with us through all the times of our lives.

All: We thank you God for sending others to remind us that we are never alone.

And we thank you for sending your son, Jesus.  Amen.

Focus on the central candle

Standing here in the centre of the candles that represent some of life’s joy and pain, this central candle represents Jesus who has come to be Immanuel, God with us, in the midst of it all.

Jesus who was born as a helpless baby – and who hears our cries, and understands how weak and helpless we can feel.

Jesus the good shepherd, who knows our hearts and offers us healing and hope in the midst of our suffering. Who came to help us understand just how much God loves us. And who lived and died to restore our relationship with our heavenly father.

Jesus who will reign as King over God’s new creation, where there will be no more sickness or death or crying or pain for all eternity. And who has given us his Holy Spirit to help, comfort and guide us as we seek to follow him here on earth and wait for his glorious return.

IMG_8540

Music – “In the Quiet Curve of Evening” (VU #278)

“In the quiet curve of evening, in the sinking of the days,
In the silky void of darkness, you are there.
In the lapses of my breathing, in the space3 between my ways,
In the crater carved by sadness, you are there.

You are there, you are there, you are there.

In the rests between the phrases, in the cracks between the stars,
In the gaps between the meaning, you are there.
In the melting down of endings, in the cooling of the sun,
In the solstice of the winter, you are there.

You are there, you are there, you are there.

In the mystery of my hungers, in the silence of my rooms,
In the cloud of my unknowing, you are there.
In the empty cave of grieving, in the desert of my dreams,
In the tunnel of my sorrow, you are there.

You are there, you are there, you are there.”

winter-solstice-2015-777x437

Prayer

One: Let us pray to God.  God, come to your people.

All: In your mercy, set us free.

One:  Unlooked for, Christ comes.
Loving God, we pray for our community.
In the midst of our everyday lives, surprise us with glimpses of your glorious, humble love at the heart of existence.  God, come to your people

All: In your mercy, set us free.

One:  Searched for, Christ comes.
Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the world.
Guide them with your light, to seek wisdom, justice and peace.  God, come to your people

All: In your mercy, set us free.

One: Longed for, Christ comes.
Loving God, we pray for those whose lives are hard and painful, or whose existence is sorrowful, bitter or empty.
In their need, may they know your healing touch, reaching out to comfort, strengthen and restore.  God, come to your people

All: In your mercy, set us free.

One: Loving God, come to us now, as you have come to your people in every age, as we gather our thoughts in the words that the adult Christ taught us:

All: Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name;
They Kingdom come; thy will be done;
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection

You came as a baby, God, as a helpless little child who relied on a human family to care for you.

You cried because you were hungry, because you were homeless, because you were a stranger, far away from home. You still cry with hunger, God, in the voices of many that are starving; your tears still flow: for the homeless, the lonely, the forgotten. You still rely on human families to care for you. We are challenged each Advent with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love and if we are  honest with ourselves we don’t always feel these gifts in our lives. There are so many days that we struggle and we wait and to feel that hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives. Sometimes it seems as if these gifts will never come to us and enter into our lives, let us remember that you call on us to trust in You each day and to continue on each day as best as we are able and then, maybe, in those unexpected moments we might find You and Your gifts for each one of us. And so this Christmas, God, we pray: Help us to be the kind of people who look for you in the world, and joyfully discover you as we care for one another.  Amen

Music and the lighting of individual candles

In a moment I will be inviting you to come forward and as we do I invite you to remember God’s promise to be there with us in the midst of life’s storms.

Whilst the music is playing you’re invited, if you’d like to do so, to come up and choose a candle to represent whatever pain and loss you’re experiencing most strongly tonight, and to light it from the candle in the centre that represents Jesus, as a way of saying thank you to him for being the light in our darkness, as you ask for God’s help to keep on trusting him in the middle of whatever’s going on around you.

Music – “Jesus, Be the Centre”

“Jesus, be the centre.
Be my source, be my light, Jesus.

Jesus, be the centre,
Be my source, be my light, Jesus.

Be the fire in my heart,
Be the wind in these sails,
Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus.

Jesus, be my vision,
Be my path, be my guide, Jesus.

Be the fire in my heart,
Be the wind in these sails,
Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus.

Jesus, be the centre.
Be my source, be my light, Jesus.
Be my source, be my light, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

Psalm 22
One: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, so far from the words of my groaning?

All: O my God, I cry by day but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

One: In you, our ancestors trusted. They trusted and you delivered them.

All: It was you who brought me from the womb,
you who kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
Since my mother bore me, you have been my God. 

One: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

All: God does not despise the affliction of the afflicted.
God does not hide from me.
When I cry to God, God hears me.
Thanks be to God.

Blessing

God, in the beginning when all was very dark, you said: Let there be light.
And there was light and life throughout the universe.
And when the human race was exhausted, tired and weary, in the darkness of anxiety, confusion and sin, into that darkness you came as light in Jesus Christ.
God became a human being among us all.

Once again it is dark. Not just dark at midnight but dark in ourselves: dark with doubt, dark with fear and uncertainty, dark with confusing and conflicting voices in our ears.

Come, Light of Life, lighten the darkness in our lives with your mighty word of love.

Lighten our hearts with the joy of your promised coming.

Lighten our world with the hope that faith in you brings.

We travel towards Christmas Day in the peace of Jesus Christ.

May his peace, that lightens the soul with faith, lifts the spirit with hope, and leavens the world with love, be yours tonight and always.

And the blessing of God, The Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer, go with you and remain with you now and always.  Amen.

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Please join us at 7:00 p.m. tonight (December 19) as we gather in community. 

All welcome.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Notes on the Notes, Worship