Services offer solace and hope amid the darkness

While some anxiously await the coming of Christ, others dread the holiday season. Although light will soon be upon us, the darkness can feel as if it will never end. For that reason, some churches have embraced the idea of a Quiet Christmas for those who aren’t feeling up to all the cheer.

Whether experiencing sadness, grief or loss, these special services—often called Quiet Christmas, the Longest Night or Blue Christmas—help calm troubled hearts and bring peace, light and hope to those who are suffering.

Observing the Longest Night

In their invitation to their special “Longest Night Observation,” Waconia Moravian Church in Minnesota writes, “Perhaps this is the first Christmas after a significant loss. Perhaps you are experiencing financial concerns, medical worries. Perhaps winter is just always a bit hard for you. Perhaps you are fearful for the world we live in. For these reasons, Waconia Moravian Church offers a special ‘Longest Night Observance.’ Come out and join with us in sharing and hearing prayers, scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle – and that God’s Word comes to shine light into our darkness.”

During the observation at Waconia, guests gather to remind themselves of the light in the midst of darkness and the service is open to anyone, regardless of faith background. Special music includes a performance by the Waconia High School Chamber Choir. They then light candles and offer this prayer adapted from the prayers of St. John of the Cross:

“Holy God, in the quiet of this night, if only for a moment, let me stop struggling to hold onto the comfort of what I have, what I know, of what I am at ease with. I cannot remain in control, for it will forever pull me away from peace. I must let go and let you do what only you can. Descend on my soul like a river of peace; take away my uncertainties and my fear of the dark. Amen.”

Serving Words of Comfort

Fries Memorial Moravian Church in North Carolina holds “Words of Comfort Service.” This time of worship includes prayers, scripture and music acknowledging God’s presence, and that his word came to shine a light into our hearts, especially in our brokenness.

During Fries’ service, they each light a candle and offer this litany:

Leader: Each of us comes bearing our own hurts, sorrows, broken places. I invite each of you to offer your personal wound to the God who loves you deeply and wants to carry your pain. God waits patiently, gently calling out: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  I invite each of you during the special music to come forward and light a candle. As you light the candle, remember that it is God who lights a candle in our darkness and holds us close until we shine. If you wish, you may kneel at the front for prayer and/or blessing, before returning to your seat.

Participatants are invited to a time of reflection during candle lighting

Leader: These lights in their brightness are only symbols, but as they burn and finally go out, we remember that suffering lessens over time, and hope remains.

A Blue Christmas

Calvary Moravian Church, also in North Carolina, holds a “Blue Christmas Service,” filled with music, scripture, candles and words of encouragement. This somber service acknowledges the pain or sadness the attendees are experiencing, but also reminds them that Christ will come and shine his Light upon them and bring them peace.

During the service at Calvary, as each of four candles is lit, they share the following words:

(first candle is lit)

Leader: We light this first candle to remember those whom we have loved and lost. We pause to remember clearly their faces, their voices, their bodies. We embrace and give thanks for the memories that bind them to us in this season of expectation, when all creation waits for the Light.

All: We remember them with love. May God’s eternal love surround them.

(a period of silent reflection)
(second candle is lit)

Leader: We light this second candle to remember the pain of loss: loss of relationships, loss of trust, loss of jobs, loss of health, loss of faith, the loss of joy. We acknowledge and embrace the pain of the past, O God, and we offer it to you, asking that into our wounded hearts and open hands you will place the gift of peace.

All: We remember that through you all things are possible. Refresh, restore, renew us, O God, and lead us into your future.

(a period of silent reflection)

(third candle is lit)

Leader: We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmastime. We pause and remember the past weeks, months, and for some of us, years that have been heavy with our burdens. We accept and lay before you, God, the sharpness of memory, the sadness and grief, the hurt and fear, the anger and pain. We accept and lay before you the ways we feel we have fallen short, and the times we have spent blaming ourselves and you for all that we have suffered. We accept and lay before you the time we have walked alone, in darkness; and in knowledge of our own mortality.

All: We remember that, though we have journeyed far, and that, while lost, we may have turned away from the light, the light itself has not failed. We remember that, though winter be upon us and though the night be dark, with the turning of the wheel the dawn will come, and dawn defeats the darkness.

(a period of silent reflection)

(fourth candle is lit)

Leader: We light this fourth candle to remember faith, the gift of light and hope that God offers to us in the story of Christmas, which began in abandonment, insecurity, and humbleness, and in a poor stable. We remember that the loving God who came to share this life with us promises us comfort and peace.

All: We remember the one who shares our burdens, who shows us the way to light, and who journeys with us into all our tomorrows.

(a period of silent reflection)

(excerpt from closing prayer)

“…let the light of your Holy Spirit shine like these candles in the darkness, lighting a way for all who feel despairing, lost or forgotten, and grant that it may come to dwell so deeply in our hearts that, when we leave this place, it may shine on for us and for those we meet along the way. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace. In the name of Jesus. Amen.”

Sue Kiefner, communications assistant, IBOC, compiled this article.  Thanks to Waconia, Fries and Calvary Moravian churches for sharing their services.