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A Blue Christmas Service
reproduced by permission

This service of worship known as "Blue Christmas" or "Longest Night"
was published in the Whole People of God Sunday School
Curriculum 1996-97 Clergy Supplement. The service was written and
contributed to Whole People of God by First United Church, Kelowna, B.C.
Wood Lake Books is located at 10162 Newene Road, Winfield, B.C., V4V 1R2
Phone 604-766- 2778.

You may reproduce this service, in whole or in part but please include the
following notice: "Copyright 1996, Wood Lake Books. Used with Permission."

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The Gathering 

     Words of Welcome 
 
The Approach 

     Call to Worship (from Isaiah 9) 
     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, our Renewer. 
 
     Opening Prayer 
     God of Mercy, hear out prayer in this Advent Season for ourselves and 
     our families who live with the painful memories of loss. We ask for 
     strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past. We 
     ask these things in the name of you Christ who shares out life in joy 
     and sorrow. Death and new birth, despair and promise.  Amen. 
 
1.   Isaiah 40 
          Our first scripture reading comes from the Book of Isaiah. It was 
     written in a time when many of the people of Judah had been taken as 
     captives into exile in Babylon, and were feeling crushed and without 
     hope.
           "Comfort, comfort my people," says our God. "Encourage the people 
     of Jerusalem and tell them that their time of suffering is ended. with 
     whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?" asks the Holy One. "Look 
     up to the heavens! 
          Who made the stars, if not the One who leads them out like an army, 
     calling each one by its own name? So mighty is God's power and 
     strength that not one fails to answer. Israel, why then do you 
     complain that our God does not know your troubles or care if you 
     suffer injustice? Our God, the everlasting God, the creator of the 
     farthest parts of the earth, never grows tired or weary. No one can 
     fathom the depths of God's understanding. God gives power to the faint 
     and strength to the powerless. Even youths become exhausted and young 
     ones give up. but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their 
     strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and 
     not be weary. They shall walk and not faint." 
 
2.   Responsive psalm 121 
     One:      I will life up mine eyes to the hills. From where does my 
               help come? 
     Many:     My help comes form God who made heaven and earth. 
     One:      God will not suffer your foot to be moved. The one who keeps 
               you will not slumber. 
     Many:     Behold the one who keeps Israel shall not slumber or sleep. 
     One:      The holy one is your keeper. The Holy one is your shade on 
               your right hand. 
     Many:     The sun shall not hurt you by day nor the moon by night. 
     One:      Our God shall preserve you from all evil and shall preserve 
               you soul. 
     Many:     Our God shall preserve your going out and ;your coming in 
               form this time forth and even for evermore. 
 
3    Matthew 1 and 2 
     The story of the first Christmas is not really a happy story but a 
     story about life in the real world. Mary of Nazareth, who is engaged 
     to the carpenter Joseph, discovers she is pregnant. Joseph does not 
     want to embarrass Mary and plans to break the engagement privately. 
     This was not an easy time for this couple. Their country was under 
     Roman occupation and King was not an easy time for this couple.  Their 
     country was under Roman occupation and King Herod who ruled Palestine 
     for the Romans was known for his cruelty. These are not exactly ideal 
     conditions for bringing a child into the world. In the midst of their 
     turmoil, an angel-God's messenger- speaks to Joseph in a dream and 
     tells him to proceed with his marriage to Mary. 

     (Read Matthew 1:18-24) 
          In the midst of Mary and Joseph's joy over the safe birth of 
     their son Jesus, a new crisis looms. King Herod orders the death of 
     all children under 2 and so the Holy Family have to flee as refugees 
     to Egypt. There they live for several years until King Herod dies and 
     it is safe to return. Mary and Joseph felt God's presence with them 
     through all the hardships they had to face. 

     (Read Matthew 2:7-23) 
 
     Music: "You'll never Walk Alone" 
 
4    John 1 
          Matthew and Luke describe Jesus' birth Bethlehem with stories of 
     visits from shepherds and Magi. But John's gospel speaks of Jesus as 
     God's word for all humanity, as God's word spoken through this one 
     born into a hurting world. He also describes Jesus's birth as light in 
     out darkness. "Before the world was created, the world already 
     existed; the word was with God and was the same as God. From this very 
     beginning the word was with God. 
          Through the word God made all things. Not one thing in all creation 
     was made without the word. The word contained life and this life 
     brought light to all people. 
          The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never 
     overpowered it. The true light that enlightens all people was coming 
     into the world. And the word was made flesh and lived among us; and we 
     saw his glory, full of grace and truth." 
 
5    Message 
     A very short reflection and affirmation using some poetry such as "The 
     Christmas Spirit" and "Into This Silent Night" by Ann Weems from 
     Kneeling in Bethlehem 
 
Music: "The Impossible Dream" 
 
Responding to God's Word 
 
     A Liturgy of Remembering 
     (Using the Advent Wreath Candles) 
     One: This first candle we light to remember those whom we have loved 
          an lost. We pause to remember their name, their face, their 
          voice, the memory that binds them to us in this season. (Pause 
          while the first candle is lit) 
     All: May God's eternal love surround them. 
     One: This second candle we light is to redeem the pain of loss; the 
          loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. 
          (Pause while the second candle is lit.) 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. 
     All: Refresh, restore, renew us O God, and lead us into your future. 
     One: This third candle we light is to remember ourselves this 
          Christmas time. We pause and remember these past weeks and month; 
          the disbelief, the anger, the down times, the poignancy of 
          reminiscing, the hugs and handshakes of family and friends, all 
          those who stood with us. (Pause while the third candle is lit.) 
          We five thanks for all the support we have known. 
     All: Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness. 
     One: This fourth candle is lit to remember out faith and the gift of 
          hope which the Christmas story offers to us. (Pause while the 
          fourth candle is lit.) We remember that god who shares out life 
          promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering. 
     All: Let us remember the one who shoes the way, who brings the truth 
          and who bears the light. 
 
Prayers of the People 
     One: In the spirit of this season let us now confidently ask God for 
          all the things we need; For ourselves as we participate in 
          whatever way we can this Christmas. 
          God hear our Prayer.... 
     All: And in your mercy answer. 
     One: For our families and friends that they may continue to help and 
          support us. 
          God, hear our prayer.... 
     All: And in your mercy answer. 
     One: For the person we have loved that has died. For all the losses 
          that we know, that all may be redeemed by you Easter promise. 
          God, hear our prayer. 
     All: And in your mercy answer. 
     One: For all our family and friends that they may know love and peace 
          and happiness in you. 
          God, hear our prayer. 
     All: And in your mercy answer. 
     One: For the peace proclaimed by the Christmas angels, to come 
          throughout the whole world. 
          God, hear our prayer.... 
     All: And in your mercy answer. 
     One: God of great compassion and love, listen to the prayers of these 
          you people. 
          Grant to all, especially the bereaved and troubled ones this 
          Christmas, the blessing we ask in the name of Christ who taught 
           us to pray together saying: 
          Our father, who art in heaven..... 
 
     Hymn: Sing together-"Silent Night" or "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" 
 
     Benediction: The Irish Blessing (in unison) 
          May the road rise up to meet you, 
          May the wind be always at you back, 
          May the sun shine warm upon you face, 
          and the rains fall soft upon your fields; 
          and until we meet again, 
          May you be held in the warmth of God's hand. Amen. 
 
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