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)
And yet we stumble, O Lord. The night is long, morning seems far off. Though you can see, we cannot. And yet into our uncertainty, into our longing, into our apathy, into our desperation, you come again, taking on flesh to share our life, raising us to oneness with you.
As the light slowly returns to our part of the earth, we pray too for your light to shine gently, bringing us into the glory of your day. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We yearn for this light, for life abundant and for joy to come in the morning.
Even as we await the lengthening of days, we remember those for whom the days begin to shorten. For those celebrating your incarnation at the height of summer, soon to slide toward winter’s chill. For those whose joy will be short-lived, as loneliness returns after the parties and presents are cleared away. For those whose gaze has turned toward light eternal, and for those who will walk in the valley of the shadow of death.
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; all for your love’s sake.
We pray in the name of the One whose cries in the manger echo our own, even Jesus Christ our Lord. amen.
Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL. Last paragraph (“keep watch…”) from the Book of Common Prayer.
Jesus said “I am the gate, and you will come in and go out and find pasture.”
At this table, Christ opens the door for all people, calling us by name and inviting us to be nourished.
At this table, it does not matter if we have denied, betrayed, forgotten, or turned away—Christ bids us come.
At this table, we do not need to understand, we only need to be open to love.
At this table, we do not need to be Presbyterian, to all think or believe the same things—all we need is to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, calling us to enter and be fed.
At this table, we are filled with the good gifts of God so that we can go out and feed others.
At this table, Christ is the host, and each one of us is a treasured guest.
So come, for you are invited to come in and go out and be fed.
The Lord be with you,
and also with you!
Lift up your hearts!
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Let us pray together:
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise,
O Lord our God, Creator of the universe,
for you worked in darkness to bring all life into being,
and to bring new life through Christ your Son.
Out of that darkness you bring marvelous light, again and again.
When we shield our eyes, unwilling to see what you are doing, still you work.
When we shut the doors, afraid to step into your new world, still you work.
When we deny and betray, with words and with actions, still you work.
And so we give you thanks, O God,
that your love does not depend on our faithfulness,
that your saving grace does not depend on our worthiness.
You are the breath of life and the light of the world,
giver of every good gift.
As we come to your table of grace, filled with your bounty,
we cannot forget the emptiness that plagues so many bellies,
the hunger of our neighbors near and far.
We cannot forget the rawness of your earth,
exploited for our gain and groaning under our weight.
We cannot forget the world at war—in Syria, in the Congo, in the streets of Chicago.
We cannot forget the world preparing for war, and we beg for peace in North Korea and Ukraine.
We cannot forget those who suffer at the hands of those who should love them.
We cannot forget those who feel trapped in the tomb, with no hope of life ahead.
We pray that you would come quickly, Lord, with good news for this troubled world.
Come quickly, Lord, with your spirit of justice and peace.
As you rose in darkness to bring about a new thing,
rise again in our darkness, bringing light that dispels the shadows of despair.
As we come to your table of grace,
we hear again your call to be made one,
and to show the world your love in our every action and every word.
Send your Spirit again to this place,
that just as many grains become one bread and many grapes become one cup,
we who are many may become one with you and with your people in every time and place.
May this feast nourish us for your kingdom,
and may your kingdom come here and now.
We pray these and all things in the name of Jesus the Christ,
who is victorious over death and who calls us by name,
and who taught us to pray together, Our Father…
Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL
Your light shines in the darkness, O God, and we confess that sometimes we prefer to hide under cover of darkness, where we are free to participate in injustice, to hurt others and ourselves, to do whatever it takes to get ahead, to operate only in our comfort zone without challenge. We forget that your light of true freedom will shine, calling us to a more excellent way. We forget that the promise of a child is a promise for the future—that there is more beyond us, beyond our desires, beyond our brokenness, beyond our understanding. Forgive our short-sightedness. Forgive our hardened hearts. Forgive our complicity in systems that hurt and abuse your earth, your people, your church, your world. Shine your light again this day, that we may see and follow your path.
Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, The Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL
remove the stones that block the portals of our minds…
shine your light so that it may take over the darkness within…
and fill our thoughts with your perfect vision for creation
so we may go, and tell, and be, and do.
Submitted by Scott Cervas, pastor at Meadowthorpe Presbyterian Church (Lexington, KY)
*Prayer of Confession
We hear that we are loved, but we struggle to receive it. We err on the side of fear and judgment rather than faith and love. We choose darkness instead of light. We hear there is eternal life, but refuse to believe it.
Forgive us when we choose darkness over light. Have mercy on us when we choose judgment over love. Remind us that you hear our cry in the wilderness and we will not perish…
(time of silent confession)
*Assurance of Pardon
The Light has come into the world and the darkness shall not overcome it!
God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Rejoice! Beloved children of God, we are forgiven!
Submitted by Rev. Kathryn Z. Johnston – Mechanicburg Presbyterian Church – Mechanicsburg, PA