Longest Night is a worship service that may be planned at any time during Advent, for many churches it is celebrated on December 21st the longest day of the year. It acknowledges that, for many people, Christmas is a time of loneliness, sorrow, alienation, sadness. This service offers a way for people to claim those feelings and still feel surrounded by the compassionate love of God. In some churches it is also known as Blue Christmas.
“LONGEST NIGHT” - An Order of Worship
Centering Music: Any soothing piece of music, such as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” played on instruments, not sung.
Words of Welcome
[A brief explanation about the service may be offered at this point.]
Call to Worship
Leader: Remember the messengers of faith you have known, rejoice, and give thanks for their witness.
People: We, too, will prepare the way of Christ; we will help to level the hills and valleys of life.
Leader: Hold one another in your hearts this day; pray that love may rule all your relationships.
People: We will weep with those who weep. We will rejoice with those who rejoice.
Leader: God will be with you wherever you go. AMEN.
Hymn “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
God of love and understanding, we gather here this evening to confront our pain in the midst of the world’s celebration. Help us know that you are present with us in all of our moods and feelings and seasons. Grant us a taste of the hope, peace, joy, and love that you promise to all of your people through the gift of your son Jesus. AMEN.
Luke 14:15-24: This story offers hope for those who have no one to invite them. It reminds us that in God’s divine order, no one is excluded--all are invited.
Matthew 11:28-29: When burdens get piled on top of other burdens, the load can crush us. In his promise, Jesus offers us help to carry our burdens and responsibilities.
Revelation 7:15-17 or 21:1-7: Our present world is not how God wants things to be. Those who weep now will not weep later. In this new heaven and new earth, there will be no more need for tears.
Hymn “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”
Reader 1: We light four candles tonight in honor of our loved ones. We light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, and one for our love.
Reader 2: This candle represents our grief. We own the pain of losing loved ones, of dreams that go unfulfilled, of hopes that evaporate in despair. [Reader lights a candle; brief silence follows.]
Reader 1: This candle represents our courage. It symbolizes the courage to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to share our feelings honestly and openly with each other, and to dare to hope in the midst of pain. [Reader lights a candle; a brief silence follows.]
Reader 2: This candle represents our memories. For the times we laughed together, cried together, were angry with each other or overjoyed with each other. We light this candle for the memories of caring and joy we shared together. [Reader lights a candle; a brief silence follows.]
Reader 1: This candle represents our love. The love we have given, and the love we have received. The love that has gone unacknowledged and unfelt, and the love that has been shared in times of joy and sorrow. [Reader lights a candle; a brief silence follows.]
Leader: You are invited to come forward to light one of the votive candles which represents your burdens, griefs, sorrows, all those things that make Christmas a “blue” time for you. You may speak the name or the event if you wish to do so. When you have lighted your candle or candles you may return to your seat, come forward to pray silently, of if you wish someone will pray with you.
When all the people have had the opportunity to light candles, the leader continues . . .
Leader: We light the Christ candle, remembering that Jesus Christ is always in the center of our lives. He hears our cries, he knows our hearts and, in the midst of all our thoughts and emotions, he offers us hope and healing. [Leader lights the Christ candle.]
Reader: Let us pray.
Comforting God, wrap us in your presence in this time of remembrance. With these candles, help us find your light, a light that will guide us day by day, step by step, as we try to live life fully and wholly. We cherish the special ways in which we have been touched by our loved ones. We thank you for the gift their lives have been to us. Now comfort us, encourage us, empower us. AMEN.
Hymn “Silent Night”
Leader: Go in peace, knowing that the God whose love created this world, sent Jesus into the same world to be our friend, companion, and Savior. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out!
People: Thanks be to God. AMEN.
Postlude: “Coventry Carol”
Other hymns that may be substituted:
"Angels from the Realms of Glory"
"Love Came Down at Christmas"
SETTING: This may be done in your sanctuary or in a setting appropriate for your fellowship hall. If it will be in a traditional sanctuary, you might consider making the setting more intimate by placing the worship table on the same level as the congregation. I have used a simple card table with fabric.
FABRIC: I have covered the card table with royal blue fabric. Any darker tone blue may be used. I would stay away from light or powder blue.
CANDLES: For the four main candles, I have used 8” blue pillar candles, again keeping the color of the candles darker. The Christ candle is 10” pillar white candle. In addition I have scattered votive candles on the table. I have also had a taper candle [lighting candle] (12” inches) that the people may use to draw their light from one of the blue candles to light the votive candles. It is a good idea, if you are having a lighting candle, which is lying down on the table, to place a small plate under it.
OTHER: You may want to have a cross. I generally do not place one on the table. I prefer the candles and their light to be the focus. Upon leaving, you may present each person with a 6” blue candle or a blue votive candle to take home. Another option is to give each person a small pocket cross.