Through Frozen Nights, We Wait A Blue Christmas Service

© 2008, gretta vosper

 

The service can be led by one person but is richer with a diversity of voices. In some places, options for Reader 1 and Reader 2 are marked to suggest a particular flow.  Leaders are urged to work out who is responsible for what and use the options provided only as guidelines.

The space is prepared for the service with an easily accessible table, cloaked in dark cloth, with baskets of tea lights set upon smaller tables or stands at each end. The table may be decorated with a sprinkling of silvery or translucent glitter or cut out stars. Silver-covered boxes of various heights might offer different places for people to set tea lights and offer visual interest. We have found that pulling the wicks of the tea lights up so they are perpendicular to the wax in incredibly helpful!

An advent wreath is present and lit during the service.  Depending upon which week the service is used in, one or more advent candles will remain unlit as will the central, celebration candle. You will note options made available in the readings and should choose and advise readers as to which is being used prior to the beginning of the service.  Leaders should remember to leave adequate space for reflection and silence, as appropriate, between readings.  It may be helpful to have small packets of tissues in the pews. 


Songs are from
Voices United, The Untied Church of Canada, Singing the Living Tradition, Unitarian Universalist Association, and The Wonder of Life, R. Scott Kearns, available at www.progressivechristianity.caThe Glory of the Skies, a new Christmas song from Scott Kearns, is available upon request, rskearns@yahoo.com. We recommend having song words projected to avoid the need for prepared bulletins.

 

Centering Ourselves

 

Call to Worship

Lighting the Candles (or attending to whatever ritual generally begins a service)

Song:    Kindle a Flame (Voices United #19)

 

Invitation to the Service

(adapted from an Advent prayer by gretta vosper)

 

We come here because we are tired of waiting.

Tired of waiting for the world to change,

for hope to be redundant

and the world be a place where peace is known and lived completely.

Tired of waiting too, too long to come to know others well enough
that we cannot exploit them, harm them, make war against them,

to know them well enough that we can only love them.

We dream of a world of peace

in which families raise up children who live justly,

in which societies raise up values

that honour creation and human dignity

in which love is raised up by all and no one need be alone.

Tonight, we gather together,

for we are tired of waiting alone.

 

Opening Prayer

(Please include a prayer appropriate to the beginning of services in your congregation.  You may choose to have it done in unison or extemporaneously.)

 

Stories of Light, The Advent Wreath

 

Emmanuel – God with us.

Our understanding of god
lives in us as a projection of our highest ideals
and our commitment to live by them.
We challenge ourselves
to make those ideals be boldly present with us tonight
because we find ourselves caught in a web of our own desires
and the cultural expectations that surround us.
May that which we once projected—

pure, unsullied by our baser needs and wants—

may it come once again and to our hearts
that we might remember
who we are
and who we seek to be.

 

All:       O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and with your captive children dwell.

Give comfort to all exiles here,

and to the aching heart bid cheer,

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come within as love to dwell.

 

The Light of Creation

Darkness covers the earth, stars dotting the velvet smoothness of the heavens.  Crisp, cold air wraps the invisible landscape.  In the east, light strengthens, lifts the velvet expanse and leaks, unbidden, into our world.  What beauty awaits us, pausing once, twice, to take our breath away as the world is revealed to us in all its splendour.

The Light of Creation unfolds before us another day.

(Light the first candle in the advent wreath)

 

All:       O come, you Splendor very bright,

As joy that never yields to might.

O come, and turn all hearts to peace,

That greed and war at last shall cease.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come within as Truth to dwell.

The Light of Guidance   

What choices lie before us!  We are confronted on every side with possibilities.  Life comes to us wrapped in the questions we must answer, in the opportunities that await our contemplation.  Sitting quietly in reflection, our way may be made clear; but we are set upon a moving star.  It whirls beyond our control, and time is hastened by its urgent spinning.  Deep within we feel the burning presence of the Light of Guidance.

 (The second Advent candle is lit/remains unlit.)

 

O come, you Day-spring, come and cheer

our spirits by your presence here.

And dawn in every broken soul

as vision that can see the whole,

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come within as Light to dwell.

 

Light of Courage

It is not that hard to make our decisions, judge incorrectly, and end up in a place we do not recognize.  Sometimes the decisions are not ours; life changes, death, loss and brokenness happen.  We find ourselves wandering, lost, in unfamiliar terrain.  Would that life had handed us something different!  Would that our maps, the ways we’ve traveled before make sense in this new world in which we find ourselves.  But we feel alone and lost and too often, afraid.  In such times, may we find within ourselves, or in the arrival of others, the Light of Courage.

(The third Advent candle is lit/remains unlit)

 

O come, you Wisdom from on high,

from depths that hide within a sigh,

to temper knowledge with our care,

to render every act a prayer.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come within as Hope to dwell

 

The Light of Hope and New Birth

We live with uncertainty.  The fragility of life is our constant companion.  We yearn for a world in which love, lived as justice and compassion, lived as dignity and purpose, reigns.  But we are vulnerable.  Such a world does not await us as we rise for the day.  Alongside love, must journey hope, in order that love might never be extinguished and new life, no matter our circumstances, might ever be our prospect.  We light/await the Light of Hope and New Birth.

 (Fourth Advent Candle is lit/remains unlit.)

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and with your captive children dwell.

Give comfort to all exiles here,

and to the aching heart bid cheer,

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come within as love to dwell.

 

For those who wait

© gretta vosper, 2007

 

In the secret places—

you know them—

behind the mall where the dumpsters are,

down beside the train tracks,

through that hole in the chain link fence,

just inside the culvert’s lips—

they wait.

 

In the silent places—

you know them—

the crowds bustling for last minute gifts,

the office party no one wanted to go to,

the corner carved out in the midst of the family gathering,

down by the water where the steam freezes into winter stillness—

they wait.

 

In the empty places—

you know them—

where the heart used to beat,

arms used to hold,

whispers used to break the solidity of night into shimmering moments of delight,

and wonder lived—

they wait.

 

In the middle places—

you know them—

in between now and ever after,

between what was and what might be,

night and the breaking possibility of morning,

between I will never be worth loving and perhaps—

they wait.

 

Into the secret, silent, empty places

where hearts wait for tomorrow,

we go.

 

 

The Candle Lighting

 

Invitation to the Ritual

(The leader invites those present to join in the ritual when they are moved to do so by taking a tea light from one end of the table, lighting it from a lit candle, and placing it on the table wherever they would like.  To facilitate the beginning of the candle lighting, the reader, when he/she is finished reading, lights the first candle for that section and places it on the table.  The very first tea light can be lit from the advent wreath.)

 

The Ritual

Light For Those Without Hope

Reader 1:         For all those who live in darkness, who shelter, wrap, and freeze themselves in its silence; for those who have been so deeply hurt they hide from any touch that might shatter their fortress—the walls that protect their too-tender hearts and keep possibility and promise far, far away; for those among us who are without hope, we light a candle.  (Reader 1 lights first tea light from advent wreath and places on the table.)

 

Candles may be lit

 

Piano Solo:  It Is Love  (While candles are being lit)

 

Prayer (Reader 2):  We have known Hope.  We have felt it bursting in our hearts with such fullness and urgency that we were certain it would bring our dreams to fullness.  If we could only, all of us, find our way back to that hope, again, far from the temptations of cynicism and the dust of this world’s empty promises.  May we find a way, just one way, to connect with one another and, together, rekindle the passion that is Hope so that no one waits alone.

 

Song:  It is Love, verse 1

(The Wonder of Life © 2005, R. Scott Kearns, Appears here with permission.)

 

What stands tall when all has fallen,

Remains when strength is gone?

What can heal the broken spirit,

‘mid chaos find a song?

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love.

 

Light For the Poor And Humble

Reader 2:         For those we name in the tradition of the song we once sang, “O poor ones and humble;” for the families in the shelters across the street, the refugees who haven’t begun to hope that this place might be home, for the angry youth and the forgotten children, for the destitute and fearful elderly, for the newly unemployed and those caught in the generational web of welfare; for those among us who are the poor and humble, for all these we light a candle. (Reader 2 lights a tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others

Piano Solo:     It Is Love (during candle lighting)

 

Prayer (Reader 1):  Let us pray. (Pause) Despite the value systems of our world, in our hearts we know that those it calls the poor and humble are also blessed and that light shines on around them.  May we move that awareness to the whole of our being so that we act in accordance with what our hearts know.  And may those we have named, as they experience this winter season, catch sight of shining stars, the sound of hope-filled singing and know that no one waits alone.

Light For the Forgotten

Reader 1:         For those who live as forgotten people, absent from the pages of our agendas; for those dreams that linger yet on the far horizons of our consciousness; for the addicted, the abused, the abject, the abandoned, the alone; for those people, those issues, those ideas that are pushed far from the lists that capture privileged, hurried, festivity-focussed minds; for those among us who believe they are forgotten, we light a candle. (Reader 1 lights a tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others

Prayer (Reader 2):  Abandoned and alone, strength comes only from the deep, deep places in the soul.  May our hearts be filled with compassion and may we find the courage to reach out, even from our own isolation and despair, and prove to one another that no one waits alone.

 

Song:  It is Love, verse 2

 

What consoles the aching spirit,

brings joy despite the pain?

What can soothe out hurt fill’d anger,

sees sharing wealth as gain?

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love.

 

Light For the Children

Reader 2:         For the children, yesterday’s answer to our prayers for hope; for children finding their lonely way on the back streets of this broken world; for children living in poverty or abuse or those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, who, children yet, find themselves caring for sibling, cousins, neighbours—learning too soon, the burden of responsibility; for children whose physical needs are met but who yearn to be loved by a single overflowing heart; for children whose light may ever wait to be noticed, treasured, celebrated; for our own children; for the children we were, we light a candle.  (Reader 2 lights tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others

 

Piano Solo:     It Is Love (during candle lighting)

Prayer (Reader 1): So many miracles—the constancy of life’s spirit urging itself into being.  May we see its sacred hope in the faces of the vulnerable.  May we find our hearts being changed by wonder, our hands reaching out in love.  And may we sort our priorities into place that our children, these fragile gifts of an uncertain future, might find shelter and nourishment to become their own most certain hope.  May we speak with them and for them, proving ever to them that no one waits alone.

 

Light For the Afflicted and Oppressed

Reader 1          For victims of violence the world over, both personal and systemic; for those who suffer the realities of chronic malnutrition and disease; for those marginalized in our own community by religious and societal values that judge and exclude them; for families struggling to make a new life after the horrors of war and displacement; for those among us who walk the tragedies of affliction, whatever its source might be, we light a candle. (Reader 1 lights a tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others

Piano Solo:     It Is Love (during candle lighting)

Prayer (Reader 2):  We pray boldly in a world of trouble.  Our hearts long for change and so to ourselves we raise the challenge:  See life as possibility, not loss!  See it as gift, not burden!  See it as beauty, not ashes!  The world’s pain is our pain and we who see this must work to end it.  May we have the vision and the courage.  May we see beyond our own despair to the light of the world’s possibilities.  There, where we hope together, we can make it a sure and certain hope that no one waits alone.

 

Song:  It is Love, verse 3

 

What inspires responsibility,

sees worth in great and small?

What views self and others equally,

seeks peace and joy for all?

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love

and Love alone.

It is Love.

 

 

Light For Those Who Are Alone

Reader 2:         For those whose loneliness silences the spirited laughter of a holiday crowd, dulls the welcome embrace of a compassionate friend, and carves empty corridors in the depths of their hidden places; for those who seek to hide it in the busyness of celebration and festivity, who stuff it in turkeys and bind it in brightly coloured ribbons – who force it into anywhere so it might not be found; for those for whom the burdens of loss and grief are too familiar, too personal, too close to the surface; for those among us who walk with the shadow of grief, in the shelter of one another, we light a candle. (Reader 2 lights a tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others

 

Piano Solo:     It Is Love (during candle lighting)

Prayer (Reader 1):  In the shadows of loss, we feel the movement of the sacred.  It can pour into our hearts, it can wrap around us, it can turn an otherwise lonely day into loveliness.  May we sense its presence in our darkest times, find peace in the stillness of loneliness and know a connectedness that comes from deep within the whole of creation and knits us into it, into holiness, into Life.  May we know, even in our deepest sorrows that we are not alone—love lives in the bonds we share between us.  We do not wait alone.

Light For Those Who Seek

Reader 1          For those whose searching brings them back again and again to the emptiness in their lives, to the void dwelling in the place of their soul; for those who fill their emptiness with questions; for those who fill it with busyness; for those who spill their life’s energies into finding the answers; for those who live content with the questions; for those who share what they know and for those who are afraid to ask; for those among us who continue to seek, that we might be seen, we light a candle. (Reader 1 lights a tea light and places it on the table.)

Candles may be lit by others 

Piano Solo:     It Is Love (during candle lighting)

 

Prayer (Reader 2):  To sense the holiness in every moment, we need but pause and open our hearts.  We cannot shut ourselves to it and be lost in our fearful, ceaseless wandering.  Let us open ourselves to the journey, embrace and encourage each other as we walk unlit roads.  May the waiting end and may we then know that we are not, that we never were, that we never will be alone. Amen.

 

Song:  It is Love, verse 4

 

What will feed our hungry children,

will bind the wounds of war?

What will speak sweet peace in conflict,

will make the spirit soar?

(bridge)

It is love, respect and care,

within and then with others gladly shared,

at home and ev’rywhere.

It is love,

and love alone.

It is love,

and love alone.

It is love.

 

Prayer
© 2005 West Hill United Church.  Used with permission.

 

As I live every day,

I want to be a channel for peace.

May I bring love where there is hatred

And healing where there is hurt.

Joy where there is sadness

And hope where there is fear.

I pray that I may always try

To understand and comfort other people

As well as seeking comfort and understanding

from them

Wherever possible,

may I choose to be a light in the darkness,

a help in times of need, and a caring, honest friend,

And may justice, kindness, and peace

Flow from my heart forever,

Amen

 

Song:  The Glory of the Skies, R. Scott Kearns

Blessing and Sending Forth

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Through Frozen Nights, We Wait A Blue Christmas Service

or, use the form below to post a comment or a review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>