Order of Worship for a Blue Christmas Service (also known as a Longest Night Service)

blue-nativity

A Blue Christmas Service is offered especially for those hurting during the holidays. It’s often offered December 21, the longest night of the year.

Some come because they are mourning the death of a loved one. Some are far from home. Some suffer from illness, addiction, or estrangement. Some are lonely, struggling financially, or in conflict with another. Some hurt because of the great pain, need, and violence in our nation and world.

The reasons for coming are many. We gather in the midst of suffering to remember God is good. God is strong. God is near. We are not alone and we have every reason to hold on to hope.

Pre-Service Set Up
People to greet and pass out programs
Blue strips of paper in the pews
Evergreen clippings placed at the prayer rail
Anointing oil for prayer helpers
Tissues at the prayer rail and in pews
A table with 4 blue pillar candles and 1 white pillar candle
A box of matches
Blue tablecloth or white with blue runner for the table

Gathering Music

Welcome
This might include a brief explanation of the purpose of the service

Opening Prayer
One or All praying
Merciful God,
In this season of rejoicing, we come to you weary and grieving
In this season of feasting, we hunger for healing and relief
In this season of light, our hearts are veiled in sorrow and shadow
Will this season ever end?

“Yes.” We hear your, “Yes.”
Those who are weary will find rest
Those who mourn will be comforted
Those who hunger will be filled
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.

Lighting the Christ Candle
Strike a match and light the white candle

One voice We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World. In the midst of our suffering, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Scripture Isaiah 11:1-5, The Voice Translation
One voice
On this humbled ground,
a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising, will sprout from Jesse’s stump
a branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment, He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength, He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth
The impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

A brief message of hope is offered based on the Isaiah reading

Candle Lighting
Instrumental underscore- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Light one blue candle
One voice- This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of truth.
There is no need to hide or deny. God welcomes us as we are.

One or All voices
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ~Psalm 86:1

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of lament.
We recognize our wounds and cry out to God.
We accept God’s invitation to express every feeling and question.

One or All voices
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of courage.
Courage to be honest, to seek help, to comfort one another.
Courage to dare to love and dream again.

One or All voices
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ~ Psalm 28:7

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of hope.
God is good. God is strong. God is near,
leading us to a day without tears and pain, without sin and death.
Healing and deliverance are coming; if not now, then on that day.

One or All voices:
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. ~Psalm 65:5

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Cry out to Jesus by Third Day

Instructions for Prayer Time

  • You are encouraged to write your burdens and sorrows on the blue strips of paper and then place them on the table with the candles
  • Following that, make your way to the prayer rail
  • Persons are available to pray with you as you stand or kneel
  • Anointing oil is also available.
  • Please take an evergreen clipping with you as you return to your seat as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness

Instrumental underscore following the instructions

Prayer after everyone is seated.
One person praying as they place their hand on the blue strips of paper.

Jesus, you are full of compassion, you understand our pain. Our suffering changes our experience of you and the celebration of your birth. We are caught between remembering happier times and grieving what might have been. In our loss we feel cut off- disconnected, adrift, alone.

Root us in your steadfast love. Anchor us in your faithful promises.
Hold us, and all who weep this holy season throughout the world-
those who mourn, those far from home, those looking for work,
the lonely, the addicted, the abused,
the estranged, the oppressed, the enslaved,
the poor, victims of war, the sick and dying.
Shelter and sustain us all with your healing and hope, your peace and light.

We love you, we need you, we trust you,
We ask this in your name Jesus, praying as you taught us…

All praying
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

Song
Suggestion- The Only Real Peace I Have by Allison Speer

Affirmation of Faith for Christmas
Adapted from the poem First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle.

One Voice: Christians, what do you believe?

All Voices: God did not wait till the world was ready,
till nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame,
God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh;
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Passing the Peace

Song- Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All singing
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Announce before the blessing- Following the blessing, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. Persons are available to speak with you further about your situation. You are also welcome to set an appointment with the pastor or director of congregational care. (give contact information)

Blessing

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This prayer is printed as a gift for persons to take home along with a piece of evergreen.
I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Enduring

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Blue Christmas Service © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me- Prayers based on Isaiah 61 and Luke 4

holy-spirit-outpouring-deborah-brown

Holy Spirit Outpouring by Deborah Brown

Prayer: Long-awaited Messiah
Long-awaited Messiah
Lord of Hope
Have mercy

Long-awaited Messiah
Defender of Compassion
Have mercy

Long-awaited Messiah
Provider, Protector, Liberator
Have mercy

Release us from
the chains of this moment, born of imprisoned years
the distractions and false calls of those who cannot help

Release us from
the blindness to our complicity, frailty, and poverty
the apathy keeping us from seeing, speaking and caring

Release us from
the weight of needs stealing our courage to try
the slowness of change chipping away at our enduring

Have mercy on us
Finish your good and generous work

Prayer: Comfort Us
Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
When one suffers, we all suffer
You suffer

Hear our lament
for the ways we hurt one another and in turn hurt you
Our words weapons instead of life

Hear our wails
for all shattered by sin and fear and shame

Hear our groans
for all bent low beneath watching and waiting for another in pain
or their own

Hear our tears for all captive to
their poverty
their addiction
their loneliness
their otherness

Hear our grieving
for the powerful misusing their influence
The Forgotten… forgotten

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
Comfort us in your coming
Your freeing
Your healing

In your deliverance, there is a crown for our ashes
The oil of gladness pouring across tender brows till it pools in our clavicles

In the nakedness of our need you clothe us
Garments of Salvation
Robes of Righteousness
Jewels of our Belovedness
You dress us in your Victory
Wrapping us in your Joy and Delight
Swaddling us in your Promises made real

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Long-awaited Messiah © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Comfort Us © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 1 of 5: Prepare the Way of the Lord
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

First three songs of Handel’s Messiah are based on Isaiah 40:1-5, KJV
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are heavy. God is speaking reality through Isaiah about the consequence of sin. In chapter 40, the message turns. The Prophet Isaiah looks past the situation in front of him, the people of God taken into exile and returning from exile, down the highway of time to the coming of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ and past that to the second coming of Christ and the completed victory of God.

Isaiah 40:1-5, NRSV
1 “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

How are you preparing for Christmas?

Steve Garnaas-HolmesPrepare the Way
We prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations; we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life.

As the carol Joy to the World says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” There was no room in the inn, but there can be room in my heart.

Following the first London performance of Messiah, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the excellent entertainment. Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertain them. I wish to make them better.”

Handel’s desire in setting the scripture to music was that it would bring a change in us, that it would bring transformation. Prepare the way of the Lord is about transformation.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way In Me
Click Here for the first week of the Advent/Christmas Devotion which accompanies this sermon series.

We prepare inwardly by setting aside time for regular, quiet reflection with God. Here are two classic reflection questions to ask yourself.

A. This past week, when did I feel closest to God?
This is a question of consolation, of comfort. It’s when we experience the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God into our life. All of a sudden we’re awake, we’re alive in Christ and we notice it.

Isaiah 40:1-2
1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her

When did you experience God speaking comforting, tender words? God literally “speaking to the heart.” This is God’s voice of love and assurance breaking through the pain and confusion.

God is whispering, like the whispering of a lover into the beloved’s ears. It’s that intimate, personal, close. God isn’t whispering sweet nothings. These words are designed to remind you what is good, to strengthen you and help you and remind you how much you are loved.

B. This past week, when did I feel farthest from God? When did I blow it?
Which question is easier for you to answer?

This second question is classically a question of desolation. The sorrow, pain, guilt you are feeling is the Spirit calling you back to the path of life. Don’t let the feelings derail you, let them guide you.

Hear the good news and believe it. Isaiah 40:2 is Grace, Grace, Grace.
that she has served her term
You’ve been in prison and chains long enough

that her penalty is paid,
Jesus paid it on the cross

that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins
Yes, there are consequences for our sins. But this is not saying God is handing out a double punishment. It’s actually a reference to God’s grace. We sin, and God returns to us mercy, forgiveness, and grace. What God supplies is far more than what we deserve. It is double grace, greater than all our sin.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The “all” includes you, even in the wilderness of your soul and the wilderness of this world.

Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas
The wilderness does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way Of Me
Our internal life leads to an external life. God’s word, “Comfort, comfort my people” does not equal us being comfortable. (no troubles, no worries, I pay no attention to the troubles of the world)

The comforting of God is the strengthening and encouraging of God. We are prepared in order to share. There is an expectation of prayer and action.

This passage is full of God’s call and command.
Verse 1, Comfort, Comfort my people! 
Make sure this happens!

Verse 2, Speak… cry out
To those in chains, to those exiled

Verse 3, Cry out in the wilderness
Those lonely places, harsh places, broken places, unjust places

Verse 5, The Mouth of the Lord has spoken 
This is not a suggestion. This is a command. God prepares us so we can be part of the way making.

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Isaiah is preparing the way. Down the road, John the Baptist uses Isaiah’s words to prepare the way for Jesus- The Way, the Truth, the Life. Down the road, it is now us.

Enjoy the season. Feel it fully. Be fully present and go deep. Spend time with God. God, prepare the way in me and through me. We are making the way and we are mending the world.

God breaks into all the systems and places and pain; breaks in to create something new. The mountains where what’s needed is too high, out of reach, brought low. The valleys where there are much darkness and pain are raised up. There is a plain, an evenness, an equity, a justice for all.

Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, as a charitable benefit for 3 charities- prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary. It raised 400 pounds, split between the 3 charities, freeing 142 men from the debtor’s prison. 142 households were instantly transformed.

How will you make a difference this holy season? For making the way where there seems to be no way, for bearing God’s light into the world.

PRAYER:
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth
It shall be done in us and through us and of us.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,
we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
Shall, by Lisa Degrenia

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Be sure to also check out Rev. Magrey deVega’s stunning reflection on this passage in his blog post, Is God on your Christmas List?

Prepare the Way of the Lord © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer and Graphic for Each Beatitude

I’ve been offering a series of reflections and prayers based on the Beatitudes on my Instagram account (@revlisad). It’s been so rewarding to prepare the graphics, I thought you might want to see them as well. Feel free to share them on your social media platforms. I pray they are a blessing to you. – Lisa <><

Beatitudes title

Beatitudes 1 poor in spirit

Beatitudes 2 Mourn

Beatitudes 3 meek

Beatitudes 4 hunger thirst

Beatitudes 5 merciful

Beatitudes 6 pure heart

Beatitudes 7 Peacemaker

Beatitudes 8 persecution

Beatitudes receive blessing
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Beatitude Prayer Graphics © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61.10

Isaiah 61 10 robesGrowing in Resilience
Day 22, Read Isaiah 61
Reflection: Comfort Us, based on Isaiah 61:10, NRSV

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
When one suffers, we all suffer

Hear our lament for the ways we hurt one another and in turn hurt you
Our words weapons instead of life

Hear our wails for all shattered by sin and fear and shame

Hear our groans for all bent low beneath watching and waiting
for another in pain
or their own

Hear our tears for all captive to
their poverty
their addiction
their loneliness
their otherness

Hear our grieving for the powerful misusing their influence
The Forgotten… forgotten

Comfort us
Comfort us who mourn
Comfort us in your coming
Your freeing
Your healing

In your deliverance, there is a crown for our ashes
The oil of gladness pouring across tender brows till it pools in our clavicles

In the nakedness of our need you clothe us
Garments of Salvation
Robes of Righteousness
Jewels of our Belovedness
You dress us in your Victory
Wrapping us in your Joy and Delight
Swaddling us in your Promises made real

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Comfort Us © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.