Home Worship Planning Seasons & Holidays A Service of Word and Table for Longest Night/Blue Christmas

A Service of Word and Table for Longest Night/Blue Christmas

Where I am in Moline, Illinois, the longest night of 2012 will begin at 4:35 on Friday, December 21. Wherever you are, I suggest you start this service half an hour before sunset.

This service is especially designed for people who have lost loved ones in the past year. Be sure to invite all families that have had funerals in the last year. You may wish to contact local hospital, hospice and other institutional chaplains as well.

Preparing the Worship Space

Place one or two larges vases with water and dead, gray sticks coming out of them in a prominent place near the Lord's Table. Place unlit votive candles around the vase.

Place a supply of blue or purple carnations or roses near the entrance so greeters may hand one to each person who enters.

If you use an Advent wreath, light three candles before the service.


Call to Worship

Many in this season are ready to sing "Joy to the World." Whether this is the first Christmas without someone we love, or we are still hurting from loss or suffering for a long time, we gather this evening as darkness comes to worship God in the midst of mourning. We gather to shed tears if they come, to hold hands if they are available, and to join our voices with one another and our forebears in the faith who still cry out, "How long?"

And so we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit.
Comfort us and all who mourn this night.
Give us strength to grieve as we must.
Help us receive your healing in the midst of our pain,
and find new order after the chaos of loss;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Suggestions from Worship & Song
"We Cannot Measure How You Heal" (3139)
"Hear My Prayer, O God" (3131)
"In God Alone" (3135) -- Sing through quietly 5-7 times

Suggestions from The Faith We Sing
"Now It Is Evening" (2187)
"When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise" (2216)
"By the Babylonian Rivers" (2217)

Suggestions from The United Methodist Hymnal
"Out of the Depths I Cry to You" (515)
"Canticle of Redemption" (516)
"By Gracious Powers" (517)
"Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" (520)
"Saranam, Saranam" (523)


Psalm 80:1-7 (UMH 801)Pray responsively or chant to Tone 2, UMH 737

Silence (one minute or longer)

Leader: Restore us, O God of hosts.
All: Turn the light of your face toward us, that we may be saved.


Hebrews 10:32-39


Suggestions from Worship & Song
"Give me Jesus" (3140)
"Holy Darkness" (3141)
"When the Waves are Crashing" (3144)

Suggestions from The Faith We Sing
"Why Stand So Far Away, My God?" (2180)
"Unsettled World" (2183)
"Faith is Patience in the Night" (2211)
"You Are Mine" (2218)
"Goodness Is Stronger than Evil" (2219)

Suggestions from The United Methodist Hymnal
"Beams of Heaven as I Go" (524)
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" (528)
"How Firm a Foundation" (529)
"Jesus, Priceless Treasure" (532)
"Be Still, My Soul" (534)

Homily: "In the Midst of Longest Night"

Act of Remembrance

Lights may be lowered.

Musicians: Play "Kyrie" (Worship & Song, 3133) or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" (The Faith We Sing, 2200) quietly in several arrangements throughout this section, and to accompany the prayers of the people that follow.

Pastor to People: You were given a carnation as you entered. As the music plays, you are invited to place the flower among the sticks in one of the arrangements alongside the Lord's Table. Silently or aloud, say the name of the person, persons or situation of suffering or grief as you do so. Then light a votive candle from one of the Advent candles and take it to your seat and kneel in prayer as you are able."

Prayers of the People
Musicians: Hold the first chord of "Kyrie" or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" as a "chanting tone" for the prayer leader for each of the intercessions, then accompany the congregation to sing the whole song.

Prayer leader: Pray or chant each intercession on the same tone, and then gesture for the congregation to join you in singing the response, "Kyrie" or "O Lord Hear My Prayer."

For all who seek you for restoration, and all who eat the bread of sorrow…
(Sing "Kyrie," Worship & Song, 3331, or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer," The Faith We Sing, 2200)

For all who are sick, weak, or worn down…
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

For the sufferings of our ecosystems and our fellow creatures…
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

For all who are abused and afflicted, and all those imprisoned, especially for the sake of the gospel…
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

For all who have experienced loss through death, separation, or the ending of relationships…
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

For the gifts of faith, hope, and endurance…
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

For the forgiveness of our sins……
("Kyrie" ... or "O Lord, Hear My Prayer ")

Pastor: Hear the prayers of your people, O God, forgiving our sins, and granting us and all for whom we pray the sure and certain knowledge of your saving love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God forever. Amen.

Forgiven people of God, the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you.
People: And also with you.

Share the peace of Christ with one another.

Great Thanksgiving

From The United Methodist Book of Worship
Great Thanksgiving for Advent, 54
Great Thanksgiving for All Saints and Memorial Occasions, 74
Great Thanksgiving for Services of Death and Resurrection, 150

From the Discipleship Ministries Website, adapted here:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you. Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing,
always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
From the silence before creation
your Word spoke all that is into being.
You saw the darkness and called forth light,
dividing the day from the night,
and giving each its name and your blessing.

We abused your blessing,
choosing to control rather than tend,
to consume rather than nourish,
to turn away from your light,
and turn your darkness into a hiding place,
a place of fear and shame.

Still you chose to bless us and redeem us,
calling us to restored fellowship
through prophets, leaders, and faithful people.

And so,
with your people on earth
and all the company of heaven
we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.

From the darkness of a stable,
you brought forth the light of the world,
He carried your light into every darkened corner,
calling those kept in darkness
to rejoice in your love,
and exposing those who hid from your Truth
to the light of your righteous judgment.

By the baptism of his suffering, death and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us
he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples, and said:
"Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."

When the supper was over, he took the cup,
gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said:
"Drink from this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me."

And so,
in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice,
in union with Christ's offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them to be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.

By your Spirit, make us one with Christ in his sufferings,
one with each other in mutual love,
and one in ministry to all the world with healing grace,
until Christ comes in final victory,
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ,
With the Holy Spirit in your holy church,
All honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever.

And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say:

The Lord's Prayer

The pastor breaks the bread and says:

Alleluia! In the midst of our longest night, Christ our Savior dwells among us!

Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia!

Songs during Communion

From Worship & Song
"Still" (3134)
"Lord Jesus Christ, Your Light Shines" (3137)
"There's a Spirit of Love in This Place" (3148)
"What Feast of Love" (3170)

From The Faith We Sing
"How Can I Keep from Singing" (2212)
"Come Now, O Prince of Peace" (2232)
"Here Is Bread, Here Is Wine" (2266)
"Taste and See" (2267)

From The United Methodist Hymnal
"O Thou, in Whose Presence" (518)
"Eat This Bread" (628)
"Una Espiga" (637)

Thanksgiving after Communion
(The Song of Simeon)
Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised.
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.

Blessing and Dismissal

May God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us, this night and always.


From Worship & Song
"The Risen Christ" (3179)
"Benediction Hymn" (3182)

From The Faith We Sing
"When God Restored Our Common Life" (2182)
"Healer of Our Every Ill" (2213)

From The United Methodist Hymnal
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" (519)
"Precious Name" (536)

Pastor: You have seen the Savior!
Go now into this longest night
knowing the love of Christ
and of his people,
a love without end.

Thanks be to God.

The Rev. Robb McCoy is a United Methodist elder serving as Associate Pastor of Riverside United Methodist Church in Moline, Illinois. You may follow his blog here. Another form of this service may be found here.

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