Advent is traditionally a time of waiting...when we sit with the way things really are, as painful and broken as they really are, in our world and in our lives, and hold them tenderly and gently, with the hope for how things are meant to be. Advent is about saying there is this beautiful world we all want to believe in and be living in. And there is a terrible not-yet-ness about that world. Advent is about facing the truth of what is right now, and remembering what it takes to get to a Christmas kind of world. The Longest Night is a time during Advent when we can let ourselves embrace that darkness fully, strip away our facades and sit in the barrenness and despair, lose ourselves in tears and lament, and in the process,  perhaps find ourselves and hope again. 

For this Longest Night gathering we brought people together around a stark, bare birch tree. When they entered the space they were invited to sit in a circle around this tree. On each of their chairs they found several strips of paper and a pen, tied with a ribbon. There were also several large empty jars placed around the dimly lit room. 

 

Waiting: A Gathering for the Longest Night

 

Singing Prelude

            Peace of God be With You

           

Peace of God be with you.  Peace of God be with you.

Salaam.  Salaam.  Peace of God be with you.

 

Welcome

 

Opening Responses

 

1.         It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We are surrounded by  happy  little Christmas songs, in stores, in churches, on every street corner, in every elevator we step into.

 

All:       But inside us, there is a darkness, aching. A night crying.

1.         Everywhere we turn, pretty sparkling lights shimmer and shine on  beautiful green trees…

2.         Yet, sometimes…we feel like trees that have lost their leaves, stripped down to bone, vulnerable, naked, easily breakable.

All:       Inside us, there is a darkness, aching. A night crying.

 1.         Everyone seems to want us to be merry. Sing about joy.

All:       Inside us, there is a darkness, aching. A night crying.

2.         People tell us to let our hearts be bright.

1.         But inside us, and yes…when we really look, really see…                 

           all around us…  there is a darkness, aching.

All:       A night crying.

2.         Because it isn’t Christmas yet.

1.         The light has not yet come.

All:       Sometimes we aren’t even sure if it will come.

 2.         Or if, when it comes, it will be enough to make a difference.

All:       Tonight, on this darkest of nights, we come together.

1.         To acknowledge the anguish, the anger, the losses, the longings.

            Find our tears.

2.         Cry out for something new to be born.

All:       Tonight, O God on this longest of nights, we come together to search for and wait for the advent of your hope, your peace,  your love, maybe even, your joy.

 

 

Singing Together       

            Waiting for You

 

Chorus

We are waiting for you. We are waiting for you.

We are waiting for that Gloria in excelsis Deo.  

 

Bridge (sing multiple times)

Let us be a sign of hope;

Let us be your arms of love.

Let us be the ones that say there is another way.

 

Last Chorus:

We are waiting for you.

You are waiting for us, too.

We are waiting for that Gloria in excelsis Deo.

 

Reading from the Bible

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)

All:       My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. (Psalm 56:8)

 All:       You have collected my tears in your bottle.

 

Singing Together

            Longest Nights

 

Chorus:

Emmanuel, Emmanuel, God with us. Love for us.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel, born into the longest nights

Emmanuel.

 

Prayers and Laments

Liturgist: You have been given several strips of paper and a pen. During the next few moments, we will be spending some time in prayer and lament. Scriptures and stories will guide us through this time. As you would like, write down your laments and prayers on the paper. We will be coming around and collecting them in these jars.

Join us now as we cry out to God for ourselves, our families and neighbors, for the dis-ease and despairs, the loss and heartbreaks, for the shame and fear and loneliness we try to swallow every day

            Reading from the Bible

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a piece of broken pottery, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.   (Psalm 22:14-15)

 All:      I am poured out like water. My heart is like wax.

 

A Lament from poet Ranier Marie Rilke:

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock

in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;

I am such a long way in I see no way through,

and no space: everything is close to my face,

and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief

so this massive darkness makes me small.

You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:

then your great transforming will happen to me,

and my great grief cry will happen to you.

 

A Carol

                        Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

 

Comfort, comfort ye my people,

speak of peace, thus says our God;

comfort those who sit in darkness,

burdened by a heavy load.

           

To Jerusalem proclaimGod will take away your shame;       

Now get ready to recover;guilt and suffering are over.

 

Straighten out what has been crooked;

make the roughest places plain.

Let your hearts be true and humble,

live as fits God's holy reign.

 

Soon the glory of the Lord shall on earth be shed abroad.    

Human flesh shall surely see it; God is ready to decree it.

 

Liturgist: Join us now as we call out to God in anguish for our neighborhoods, our cities and our nation, for injustice and racism and fear of differences that tears us apart, wounds us all. 

 

Reading from the Bible

O Lord, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence? Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you stand to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all around me, and there is fighting and quarreling everywhere. The law is weak and useless, and justice is never done. Evil people get the better of the righteous, and so justice is perverted.   (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

 

All:       O Lord, how long before you listen,

            how long before you save us?

 

A Lament from Danez Smith, from the poem: not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem

but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black

dead thing. bring him & we will mourn

until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?

not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking

at your child, turn your head,

then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.

 

           

Singing Together

 

               In this world

 

 

Chorus

I lift my eyes up to the hills

I lift my eyes to know what’s true

I lift my eyes and then I see

 

You...In this world

I see You...In this world

I see You...In this world

Liturgist: Join us now as we weep and name for God the sorrows and violence and needs throughout our world, for families ripped and torn, for those who live in terror every day, without enough to eat, without safety, without homes.

Reading from the Bible

How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. (Psalm 80:4-5)

All:       You have fed us with the bread of tears.

A lament from Warsan Shire, from the poem Home

 no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

 

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

Singing Together

                         Room For Us All

 

Chorus 1

Your light came shining

Into this crying night

Bringing hope, bringing healing,

Your love revealing.

 

Your light came shining into this crying night

To say it's ok, there's room for all of us here.

 

Chorus 2

We are on this earth to love.

 

Gather our Tears

Liturgist:  We will now gather your laments collected in these jars and bring them to this barren tree. Pouring them out, we’ll water this tree with our tears.

 

Singing Together

            It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

 

It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth,
to touch their harps of gold:
'Peace on the earth, good will to all
from heaven's all-gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.

 

And you, beneath life's crushing load
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing;
oh, rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing.

 

Prayer Over Our Tears

The liturgist reads a few of the laments from the people out loud at this time and then offers a few extemporaneous words and a prayer, reminding us that God keeps track of all our sorrows, collects all our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8), because each tear matters. So even though we may sometimes wonder what God is doing in our lives and in our world, we can always cry out to God, like children cry out to their parents, “This is where it hurts!” and know that God hears us, God weeps with us, God is wholly and completely with us and for us. Jesus was called “Emmanuel,” “God with us” because Jesus is always born where the hurting are, in the middle of our longest nights. Our call is simply to follow Jesus and be with each other, as well… in our days and in our long nights, be with each other in our fears and tears and laments and longings, in our joy and sorrow. This is how new things grow. This is how we can all find our way to love.

 

 Singing Together

            Find Our Way to Love

 

Chorus

There is no “other”

There’s only us

On this trembling, tender earth.

And all of heaven is here with us

When we find our way to love,

When we find our way to love.

 

Coda

God so loves the world.

God so loves the world.

God so loves every one of us

So we can find our way to love,

So we can find our way to love.

 

Ribbons of Hope

Liturgist:  Sometimes it’s hard to find hope. Sometimes, in the middle of all that we see and hear and experience, having hope feels wrong.  As Cornel West has said: “For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good.”

 How can we be a hope? How can we be a force for good in the world? How can we be the ones who show there’s another way?  We invite you to think about that, about what you will commit to do, to be a hope. To be a participant. To be a force for good.

It could be something as simple as “Be more kind.” Or “protest.” Or “Give money.” It could be “Love my neighbor as myself.” As we sing, we invite you to come forward and hang your ribbon on this tree, as a sign of your hope and commitment.)

 

Singing Response

            We Are on This Earth To Love

 

After the ribbons are placed on the tree the liturgist says:

We have watered this tree with our tears, and what has grown here are flowers of hope and leaves of love. When you came here tonight, you may have felt alone with your sorrow, alone in your fears, alone in your longing for a new day, a new way. But as we look at this tree, we can perhaps try to see and believe that we are not alone. We are not alone. God is with us. And we are with each other. Even the angels and heavens sing with us of the new day that’s coming…and that we can participate in creating together.  That is something that young Mary understood so well when she sang the words in Luke we call The Magnificat. Let us sing it with her. With all our hearts. 

 

Singing Together

            Holy Is Your Name

 

Chorus

Holy, holy, holy is your name.

Glory, glory, glory to your name.

 

The angels and the heavens sing

Of the new day that you bring.

They say, “Glory, glory, glory to your name.”

 

Bridge

The proud will fall,

The poor will see

That all hopes not lost,

And grace flows free.

 

 

Benediction

 

 

Choral Postlude

            Gloria in Excelsis Deo

 

 

 


Acknowledgements

 

This gathering was written and produced by the Plural Guild, led by Gary and Lenora Rand. It was originally created for a gathering held at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park and was made possible by their generous support, encouragement and participation.

Most of the songs used in this experience are on the recording, Advent & Christmas, Volume One, an album of 6 original songs and 3 carols by The Many.  The rest of the songs are from the recording, Waiting.  Both albums, and other music from The Many are available on the site, Bandcamp. The download of the album Waiting includes a pdf of this full liturgy.

 

 

Song Information

The Carols, Comfort, Comfort and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear were arranged by Hannah Rand.

Find Our Way to Love.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand. Music by Gary and Hannah Rand. © 2016 Plural Guild Music.

 Gloria in Excelsis Deo.   Music by Gary Rand.  © 2015 Helical Music.

 Holy is Your Name.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2015 Mirasion Music. 

In This World.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Gary & Hannah Rand.  © 2015 Helical Music.

 Longest Nights.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2015 Mirasion Music.

 Peace of God be With You.  Text:  Arabic greeting.  Music by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan.  © 2004 Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ.

 Room For All Of Us.  Words by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2015 Mirasion Music.

 Waiting for You.  Lyrics by Lenora Rand.  Music by Hannah Rand.  © 2016 Plural Guild Music.

 

 

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