This litany was originally adapted from the Wellspring Worship Group, based in the north of England, by Christine Jerrett and Susan Woodhouse for use in conjunction with the “Family Tree” service described in RW 75 (p. 20). It is suitable for any service that focuses on passing the faith from one generation to the next, such as All Saints’ Day or a profession of faith. The image of light also fits well with a service on evangelism, mission, or serving.
You may want to adapt this reading to include readers of various generations passing a candle from person to person. Or perhaps ask representatives from various generations to hold their own candles during the reading to increase the intensity of the light in the room. The service could conclude with a song of dedication or commission, with everyone in the sanctuary lighting their own candles.
Reader 1: In the beginning the universe is dark and cold, and the Spirit hovers and broods.
Reader 2: In the beginning God says, “Let there be light.”
Reader 3: In the beginning the Word is spoken, and light and life come into being.
Reader 4: In the beginning God looks at all that he makes and sees that it is good.
Reader 1: In the beginning . . . (getting softer)
Reader 2: In the beginning . . .
Reader 3: In the beginning . . .
Reader 4: In the beginning . . .
Reader 1: Soon after the beginning, God hands the light to human beings—to Adam and to Eve.
Reader 2: And they hand the light on to their children: to Cain who turns from the light, and to Abel who lives and dies in the light, and to all their children.
Reader 3: And their children hand the light on to their children: to Noah who lives when the world is turning dark, the world is gray with cloud and floodwater. But God sets a rainbow in the sky to remind them of the light.
Reader 4: And Noah hands the light on to his children,
Reader 1: and they hand it on to their children,
Reader 2: who hand it on to their children,
Reader 3: who hand it on to their children,
Reader 4: until one night, God speaks to a man in the dark of the desert, “Look at the stars, look at the stars, look at the stars, Abram. Take the light to a new homeland—you shall be Abraham and your wife shall be Sarah.
Reader 1: Abraham takes the light and gives it to Isaac,
Reader 2: who gives it to Jacob,
Reader 3: who gives it to Joseph,
Reader 4: who gives it to the Hebrews who live in Egypt.
Reader 1: But Egypt becomes a dark place for God’s people, and God speaks to another man in the desert. The light becomes a burning bush, and Moses approaches and hears God’s voice:
Reader 2: Take this light to my people. Go, tell Pharaoh: Let my people go!
Reader 3: So Moses takes the light to God’s people and leads them into the desert, where they wander for forty years until God leads them to the Promised Land.
Reader 4: And the light passes to Joshua, to Deborah, to Gideon, and on and on until it passes to Samson, who is blinded, but still trusts the light.
Reader 1: The light passes to Ruth, the Moabite, who hands it to Obed, who hands it to Jesse, who hands it to David,
Reader 2: and the light passes to Hannah, who gives it to Samuel, who sees the light in David and names him king.
Reader 3: And David passes the light to Solomon, and Solomon passes the light on to generations of kings.
Reader 4: But the kingdom begins to grow dark, so God hands the light to the prophets: to Elijah and Elisha, to Jeremiah and to Micah, to Hosea and to Amos.
Reader 1: The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. On those who live in shadows, on them God’s light has shone.
Reader 2: And the light burns in the darkness of exile, in the hopes of rebuilding. Through invasion and suffering the light does not go out.
Reader 3: Then an angel appears to Mary and passes the light to her. Creation holds its breath,
Reader 4: and an angel appears in a dream to Joseph and passes the light to him. Creation holds its breath,
Reader 1: and in the dark of a stable in the town of Bethlehem, the light is given to the world. The one who was there in the beginning comes into the world: Jesus Christ. In him is life, and the life is the light of all nations. The Word becomes flesh and lives among us,
Reader 2: and the light shines in the darkness,
Reader 3: and the darkness does not overcome it.
Reader 4: For the Light and Life of the world is destined to enter the darkest darkness, and it seems for a while as if the darkness has won.
Reader 1: But in the darkest hours just before sunrise, darkness gives way to a new dawn.
Reader 2: The Light of the World returns to the Father,
Reader 3: and passes the light on to his disciples, to Peter, to Mary, to the twelve,
Reader 4: and to the three thousand who see the light of the Spirit’s coming and believe.
Reader 1: And the light appears to Saul, and Saul becomes Paul and takes the light to the nations.
Reader 2: And some take this light into desert places,
Reader 3: and some to the east,
Reader 4: and some to the south,
Reader 1: and some to the north.
Reader 2: The light passes to those who love God’s Word, to those who pray and place it in the hands of believers.
Reader 3: The light passes to those who see the dignity of human beings and seek to bring justice to the poor and freedom to those who are slaves. The light travels to new nations, to us.
Reader 4: The light waits.
Reader 1: Who will carry the light in our day?
Reader 2: Who will carry the light into the world?
Reader 3: Who will carry the light today? Tomorrow? Next year?
Reader 1: Who will carry the light if we do not?
Reader 2: Creation still groans for fulfillment, and human souls yearn for salvation. The Spirit hovers over human hearts, calling them to work with the Spirit in the great unfolding of Creation.
All: And we are witnesses to the Spirit, disciples of Jesus Christ, and children of God. We are called to carry the light of the kingdom; chosen to bear the fruit of the Spirit to a hungry world; called for our generation to reflect God’s light to our world and to allow God to nourish human souls.
Whom shall the Lord send to carry his light?
Here we are, Lord. Send us.
—© 1999, Wellspring, adapted. Used by permission.
Art by Clemens Schmidt, from Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (© 1988, The Liturgical Press, 1-800-858-5450, www.ltp.org).
Used by permisssion.
For additional material from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, click here.