Christmas can be a painful time for some. It may be the first Christmas without a loved family member who has recently died; it may be a time that has always been difficult. The constant refrains on radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost. The anguish of the death of a loved one can make us feel alone in the midst of celebrating and joy. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness; we need to know that we are not alone. We need encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
There are times when life is good and beautiful, and celebration is appropriate. But there are also times of distress and loss. During those times we sing sad songs of lament, protest and complaint about the chaos and harshness that life can sometimes be for us. We often feel afraid, angry, or ashamed. Putting words to this season can often be difficult. But we do this together in our address to God.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. For the yoke that was weighing upon them and the burden upon their shoulders, thou hast broken in pieces O God.
- Isaiah 9:2, 4
Call to Worship
Leader: Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” And so we invite each other to this time of peaceful worship. Tonight we come looking for the Christ child.
People: We come, bringing our hurts, our worries and our fears.
Leader: We come seeking relief from pain, anxiety, loneliness and despair. With the psalmist of the Scriptures we say,
People: “O Lord, you are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living, Give heed to my cry, for I am low.”
All: We come tonight to rest in God.
Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of Light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears a way.
God of Mercy, hear our prayer in this Advent Season for ourselves and our families who live with the painful memories of loss, grief, separation, or crippling stress. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ who shares our life in joy and sorrow, death and new birth, despair and promise. Amen.
Hymn: O Come, O Come Immanuel
O, come, O come, Immanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-6 and John 1:4-5, 14
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has the light shined.
We have beheld Christ’s glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father.
For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Lament: Psalm 27
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Litany of Remembering
This first candle we light to remember those whom we have loved and lost. We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices, the memories that bind them to us in this season.
May God’s eternal love surround them.
[A moment of silence.]
This second candle we light to redeem the pain of loss; the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of home, the loss of normalcy. We pause to gather up the pain of the past and offer it to God, asking that from God’s hands we receive the gift of peace.
Refresh, restore, renew us O God, and lead us into your future.
[A moment of silence.]
This third candle we light is to think about ourselves this Christmas time. We pause and remember these past weeks and months; the disbelief, the anger, the down times, the poignancy of reminiscing, the hugs, kisses, and handshakes of family and friends, all those who stood with us. We give thanks for all the support we have known.
Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness.
[A moment of silence.]
This fourth candle is lit to remember our faith and the gift of hope which the Christmas story offers to us. We remember that God who shares our life promises us a place and time where there will be no more pain and suffering.
Let us remember our Savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who bears the light and shows us the way, unveiling the truths of eternal life.
[A moment of silence.]
Let all who wish to light a candle to remember a loved one, to remember a loss, to remember a relationship, come forward now to do so. Light a candle and set it into one of the containers on the table. Like our lives, each container is in darkness until it is filled by the light of Christ.
These lights in their brightness are only symbols, but as they burn and finally go out, we remember that suffering passes, though memory remains forever.
Let us remember that though Christ has gone before us, He is ever with us.
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Lament: Psalm 22
Response to the Word
Leader: The God of strength moves within us;
People: the God of courage hears our distress.
Leader: The God of hope reveals wholeness to us;
People: the God of healing touches us when we are broken.
Leader: When the pain overwhelms us, when the burden is too heavy,
People: we turn to our God, who is sustaining and redeeming.
Leader: When there is loneliness, when there is isolation,
People: we turn to our God, who is loving and present.
Leader: For God created us, redeemed us and sustains us, and we are not alone.
All: Lead us in your ways, O God, and bring us your healing touch. Amen.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind:
Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be thyself our King of Peace.
Thanksgiving Over the Oil
O God, the giver of health and salvation, we give thanks to you for the gift of oil. As your holy apostles anointed many who were sick of body and spirit, so pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on this gift, that those who in faith and repentance receive this anointing may be made whole; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Those who wish to be anointed with oil are invited to come forward. The sign of the cross will be made on your forehead with oil. The words spoken will be, “I anoint you with the oil in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Your response is “Amen.” Following anointing, or instead of anointing, you are invited to rest in the chair provided for the laying on of hands and prayer. You may briefly state your prayer request. You may then return to your seat for a time of silent prayer.
Prayer After Anointing
Almighty God, we pray that our brothers and sisters may be comforted in their suffering and made whole. When they feel afraid, give them courage; when they feel afflicted, afford them patience; when they are lost, offer them hope; when they are alone, move us to their side. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Most gracious God, source of all healing, we give thanks to you for all your gifts, but most of all for the gift of your Son, through whom you gave and still give health and salvation to all who believe. As we wait in expectation for the coming of that day when suffering and pain shall be no more, help us by your Holy Spirit to be assured of your power in our lives and to trust in your eternal love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art,
dear desire of ev’ry nation,
joy of ev’ry longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a king,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit,
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.
May the touch of Christ bring you healing.
May the love of Christ bring you hope.
May the life of Christ bring you insight
as you go forth with new vision. Amen.
You are invited to remain in the worship space as long as you wish following the service. If you would like to speak privately with someone as you leave, Ministers and Counselors will be available in the Bride’s Room.
Moving into the World
A breath prayer for use in daily life, as a reminder of God’s presence and healing touch:
“Jesus Christ, lover of all, bring healing, bring peace”
We are pleased to have you with us this evening. Following the service you are invited to share light refreshments in the Music Room.
We hope that you have a community of faith to support you in your time of grief, uncertainty, or loss. If you do not have a congregation, we invite you to join us here on Sunday mornings at 11:00 AM to hear God's word of hope and healing.
We thank Buck and Judie Kellaway and Mary Moder for assisting with the refreshments.