An Order of Worship for the Longest Night


In our communities, there are always people feeling the length of the night. On the longest night of the year, we pause with intention to acknowledge those for whom grief, loss, fear, homelessness or any other of the changes and chances of this life make the nights feel longer. We welcome Christ as our Light so that we, in turn, can be a light to those who are struggling. As we pray and light candles, we draw into our hearts and minds all those in need of love and care on this night.


If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light
around me turn to night,” darkness is not dark to you, O
Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to
you are both alike. Psalm 139:10-11

Opening Sentences:

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.
To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” darkness is not dark to you, O Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. Psalm 139:10-11

Let us pray.

O Holy One, whose coming we await, you invite us into the light of your presence on this longest night of the year: Illumine the dark and doubting places of our weary and wounded hearts, community and world. We are thirsty for your healing comfort, compassion, and peace. Draw near to us and fill us, that we may pour out your goodness to all who hunger and thirst for your mercy. Amen.

(One or more candles may be lit at this time; as candles are lit, the following anthem is sung or said)

O Gracious Light Phos hilaron

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Psalm 13 Usquequo, Domine*

How long will this pain go on, Lord,
this grief I can hardly bear?
How long will anguish grip me
and agony wring my mind?
Light up my eyes with your presence;
let me feel your love in my bones.
Keep me from losing myself
in ignorance and despair.
Teach me to be patient, Lord;
teach me to be endlessly patient.
Let me trust that your love enfolds me
when my heart feels desolate and dry.
I will sing to the Lord at all times,
even from the depths of pain.

*from A Book of Psalms, trans. and adapted by Stephen Mitchell

Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

First Lesson: Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
   and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
   He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Canticle 15
The Song of Mary Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior, *
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you *
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm *
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones *
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things *
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, *
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, *
to Abraham and his children for ever

Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

John 1:1-5; 9-14 (translation: The Message)

The Word was first,
    the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through God;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without God.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

Poem: First Coming
Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He 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,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

The Prayers

Hear our cry, O God.
And listen to our prayer.
Let us pray.

Our Father in heaven, 
     hallowed be your Name, 
     your kingdom come, 
     your will be done, 
         on earth as in heaven. 
Give us today our daily bread. 
Forgive us our sins 
     as we forgive those 
         who sin against us. 
Save us from the time of trial, 
     and deliver us from evil. 
For the kingdom, the power, 
     and the glory are yours, 
     now and for ever. Amen.

Candles may be lit and petitions/memories/intercessions shared at this time

Litany of Healing and Hope 

Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes with the morning.

For the losses we have endured,
Hear our cry, 0 God.
For good-byes left unsaid, and hopes left unspoken,
Hear our cry, 0 God.
For those we have lost whose names are known to God alone,
Hear our cry, 0 God.
For broken hearts and broken lives,
Hear our cry, 0 God.
For wounded innocence and shattered dreams,
Hear our cry, 0 God.

When we are weary or lost,
0 Christ, lead us home.
When we are hopeless and sad
0 Christ, lead us home.
When we are angry and tears become our food
0 Christ, lead us home.
When we are faithless and fearful
0 Christ, lead us home.
When we grieve and despair
0 Christ, lead us home.

Because you have been our companion in sorrow,
Holy Spirit, give us peace.
Because every person is a beloved child of God,
Holy Spirit, give us peace.
Because suffering can make us kinder and more courageous,
Holy Spirit, give us peace.
Because nothing can separate us from your goodness,
Holy Spirit, give us peace.
Because you pray within us ceaselessly,
Holy Spirit, give us peace.

Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Hear our cries, O God. Heal and restore us. Fill us with your peace. In all things remind us of your love, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Together we pray:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Go in peace, knowing that the God whose love created this world, sent Jesus into the same world to be our friend, companion, and Savior. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out! AMEN.

1 Comment

  1. On Mon, Dec 20, 2021 at 8:00 AM Virtual Chapel of St. Phoebe wrote:

    > harasprice posted: ” In our communities, there are always people feeling > the length of the night. On the longest night of the year, we pause with > intention to acknowledge those for whom grief, loss, fear, homelessness or > any other of the changes and chances of this ” >

    Like

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