Longest Night ~ Tears and Blessing

 

img_0194
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.  Psalm 56

 

Sometimes we are gathering words for a worship we will lead; sometimes we need words that are just for us. I offer these hoping that there may be a quiet word somewhere in their midst that is just for you.

 

 

 

 

Call to Worship

Come ~
to the One
who knows your tossings
And hallows your tears
Come ~
Let your heart be open
And even your sorrow be as praise.

 

As we gather I invite you to speak aloud or in your heart one word that rises in you as Christmas comes to us.  If you wish to say a word of phrase I will repeat it and pour a symbol of our gathered tears into this bowl.  I will pour tears also for those words held in the silence.

Prayer of Approach  (unison)
We come to you Holy One
You who have promised
That you will bind us up, the broken-hearted
Release us, held captive by grief
Comfort us who mourn
That you will touch us with the oil of gladness
And gently place round us a circle of restoring
That into the midst of words that hurt
And silence that feels barren of hope
You will be born for us
A Wordless child

That we will touch
The soft living skin of You
And be healed

Catherine Smith

Hymn:   In the Quiet Curve of Evening      Voices United  278

Candle Lighting

All during Advent we light candles to ready ourselves to enter the mystery of Christmas.  It takes time to get ready.  It takes time for hearts to heal.

I light this first candle to call us to hope, not a hope forgetful of our losses, of those we loved, or of those parts of ourselves that helped us know who we are, work or health or relationship.  This tiny act is not forgetful; it lives in the midst of loss and longing.  This is the candle of hope.

Sung Response:           Kindle a flame to lighten the dark                     Voices United 19

 We light this candle to call us to peace, to believe in peace even in the midst of struggle and our hope that we might be agents of peace in a fearful world.

Sung Response:

We light this candle to recall joy,
joy as deep and vital as the night sky of Advent,
as vivid and unexpected as mourning turned to dancing,
as true as God with us. 

Sung Response

 We light this candle to call us to love,
to carry love even through all that tries to diminish it;
to be love in the name of the Coming One, the One who changes everything.

Sung Response

 We light this candle, the candle of Christ, to remember the One who said, I am the light, and I am with you always.

(Pause while candle is lit.)
(No sung response.)

Scripture:            John 1:1-5
Matthew 1:18-24

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way, not an easy way or a soft way or an expected way. It took place in the midst of impossible obstacles and an exhausting journey, in an unfamiliar place. It took place in the midst of those things that all of us here can recognize,
the way it sometimes seems impossible to overcome our emptiness,
the exhaustion of grief
the unfamiliar place in which loss lands us
And perhaps the worry,
when we do give way to joy,
that we have forgotten or will forget one who was dear to us.
Jesus was born into the midst of these.
So Christmas is for us.
There is a place for all we feel at the manger.

Hymn:  O Come Let Us Await Him   (tune O Come All Ye Faithful)

O come all you faithful
hoping but uncertain,
O come now O come now to Bethlehem.
There where the manger
stands in straw-filled quiet,
O come let us await him,
O come let us await him
O come let us await him
with trusting hearts.

O come all you faithful,
longing but distracted.
O come now, O come now to Bethlehem.
See how the days move
softly through the stable.
O come let us await him
O come let us await him
O come let us await him
with quiet hearts.

O come all you faithful,
loss-touched but expectant,
O come now, O come now to Bethlehem.
Watch how life’s straw
prepares a place for glory.
O come let us await him
O come let us await him
O come let us await him
With open hearts                                                                                   Catherine Smith

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
As the shadows
Have lengthened,
This blessing has been gathering itself,
Making ready,
Preparing for this time

 It has practiced
Walking in the dark,
Traveling with
Its eyes closed,
Feeling its way
By memory
By touch
By the pull of the moon even as it wanes.

So believe me
When I tell you
This blessing will reach you
Even if you have not light enough
To read it;
It will find you even though you cannot
See it coming.
You will know the moment of its arriving
By your release of the breath
You have held
So long;
A  loosening
Of the clenching
In your hands,
Of the clutch
Around your heart;
A thinning
Of the darkness
That had drawn itself
Around you.

This blessing
Does not mean
To take the night away
But it knows
Its hidden roads,
Knows the resting spots
Along the path,
Knows what it means
To travel
In the company of a friend.

So when this blessing comes,
Take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road you cannot see.
This is the night
When you can trust
that any direction you go,
you will be walking toward the dawn.                                Jan Richardson

 

Christmas is a time full of ritual and celebration. Sometimes we need to come to Christmas by a different way. Like Mary perhaps we are pregnant with waiting for the touch of new life. We are carrying our loss or our grief or our memories waiting to birth them into something we can hold in a new way.

Sometimes symbol and ritual can help with this. Today sea glass is our symbol, broken, reshaped, treasured.  Beginning as broken shards of glass as sharp as the beginning of grief, they are tumbled by the ocean, full of salt as our tears.  Time after time they are washed and tossed by wild and gentle waters till one day they are found on the shore their cutting edges smoothed, the grief transformed.  We see them here reminders of our searching for some small treasure in the midst of the losses of our life.

I invite you to come now to the manger to take one of these fragments. Perhaps it will find its way onto your Christmas tree inscribed with the name of the one you love and remember or a hope to which loss may turn you. Perhaps it will sit on your window sill a reminder of the thing you have lost through which new life will shine. Perhaps it will sit on your bedside table or nestle in a Christmas meal centerpiece. Perhaps it will be a offering to one with whom you have broken relationship. Sea glass can carry many meanings. As we pick up these fragments perhaps too will find different relationship with what holds us.  It is not forgotten; it goes with us in a new shape, the shape of rebirth, a reminder of the wordless child, the one who changes everything, born to us in the mystery of Christmas.

Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem     Voices United 64

The Christmas spirit
Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces
In the face of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things still are possible
That even now
Unto us
Child is born!
Ann Weems

Concluding Blessing
May the love of God
The grace of the Son
The enlivening of the Spirit
Touch and tend and heal you
Now and always.     Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Longest Night ~ Tears and Blessing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s