Longest Night 2013
Welcome and Introduction
Good evening and welcome to this place. You are invited to settle in and relax in this space. We offer this time without joy, without celebration, but to simply be who you are in this place. These are them; the darkest days of the year—winter actually begins on Sunday…It is also a time rife with holiday pressures and activities. Some of us feel overwhelmed with anxiety and busy-ness. Some of us are affected by the absence of the sun and warmth.
For millennia, people have held festivities at this time of year to celebrate the end of the dark time and a return to the light. For while Sunday is the darkest day in the year, each succeeding 24 hours brings a bit more daylight. This reliable movement of the sun gave ancient people comfort as they went into the hard winter; all the while anticipating and trusting that the increase of light would emerge on schedule.
Call to Worship—We are glad you are here; let us worship together.
During Advent, we are called to settle into the exquisite darkness, to hibernate, rest and restore. This cycle was given to us at the time of Creation. We are invited to face the darkness in our own lives and the world around us. The prophets assure us that the darkness will not overcome us. They call us to watch for the light, notice the Light, and be warmed and comforted by it. We are called to wait, to hope, to trust in promises made. As we make this journey, we claim we come alive in both the light and the darkness.
Hymn #84 “In the Bleak Midwinter”
Scripture: Genesis 1:14
God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years.
Name silently, and consider where you have experienced light and darkness during this season…
Take a moment for a time of quiet meditation, a space in which to be with your thoughts, to reflect on the season, what your hopes and dreams are, or, if you cannot go there, where you are at now. This silence is a place to just be; to wait to recognize and to give ourselves over to the rhythms of creation’s seasons.
Scripture: responsive reading from 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: Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer. And by night, but I find no rest.
One: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
ALL: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in my breast
One: My mouth is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
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!
Sometimes the darkness can symbolize all the negative parts of our lives…
This scripture can be used to help us acknowledge all the times and places when we feel pressure to produce or perform, times when we feel disconnected from God, overwhelmed by dark emotions or thoughts or situations.
You may be feeling hurt, sad, or angry; remembering people you have loved and lost; enduring physical, emotional, mental pain; experiencing the places in your life or the world that are stressful, violent, scary.
Here on the table is a compost pile; a mound of soil that is teeming with little bugs and bacteria. When you look at the soil, it looks static as if nothing is happening. But those little organisms are hard at work, almost invisible to the human eye, creating soil that will nourish and sustain new life as the seasons change and more light arrives.
You are invited to take a scoop of dirt and put it on the pile; symbolizing all that difficult, trying, frustrating, painful stuff that is in your life—to give it over for composting and seasoning.
Inside yourself, offer this all to God’s grace and care; God, who does meet us in the dark. Look toward finding the place of connection and care and the possibility of transformation.
Scripture: Matthew 11:28-29
Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves.
The darkness can also be a place of retreat and waiting. This season of exquisite darkness is a time of hibernation for so many plants, trees, animals.
What needs to settle and rest within you?
Write down on paper we gave you when you came in, what needs some tender rest in your life. What needs to hibernate, to be surrounded by darkness in order to be released and maybe come back to you in a new way?
Place your paper in the soil, symbolizing that what needs rest is still yoked to Jesus, still connected to his ways during this time of rest and hibernation.
If we left the paper in the soil, the organisms that are contained in the soil would cause them to compost and process, creating new soil that would provide nutrients from the paper or other by products or left-overs.
Special Music: “Heir of All the Waiting Ages” Andy and Regina Haag
Scripture: John 1:1-5, 9 Karen Villesvik
Reflection and Candlelighting— We are promised that Emmanuel, who’s coming we celebrate at the end of Advent, will bring the Light. A divine presence and energy that will empower, comfort, sustain, and redeem all of us and all parts of our lives.
Take a minute to give yourself over to the potential and hope and certainty of this approaching Light.
Light your candle, and add it to the table to signify the light that is to come. A new season of hope…
Hymn # 54 “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
From the rising of the midwinter moon, may darkness and light dance together, O Shining One.
In this season, make us short on grumpy thoughts,
Long on sharing words of gentleness
Make us short on being rushed,
Long on attentiveness
Make us short on seeing what’s right in front of us,
Long on peering into the horizon.
Make us short on out of control to-do lists,
Long on savoring kindness
Make us short on overlooking the dark sky,
Long on gazing at the twinkling stars
Make us short on tradition as habit,
Long on re-owning and re-creating.
Make us short on ignoring the hungry,
Long on making a delicious meal.
Make us short on rushing,
Long on wondering and pondering
Make us short on walking pst those sleeping in the cold,
Long on sharing blankets and tea.
Make us short on longing for what’s next,
and long on savoring the darkness. AMEN
May the sun, moon, and stars glow on you like a great fire. May your rest and hibernate in the exquisite darkness. May you and the whole of the planet be yoked to new life through God’s holy light and holy darkness. In the name of Christ, AMEN
Based on “Exquisite Darkness: Winter Solstice” which was created by Ashley Goff (UCC), minister for Spiritual Formation, and Rob Passow, Director of Music, at Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA) in Washington, D.C.