O God, Our Help in Ages Past: A vesper service for the eve of a new millennium

This service was adapted from a set of perspectives and worship resources for Christ the King Sunday (November 21, 1999) through the first week of the year 2000. The eighty-page booklet Standing at the Door is available at no charge from the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship (1-800-685-4370).

The vesper service reflects the historic tradition of daily evening prayer services. It is a brief service that makes use of silence and symbol. The mood of the service should be unhurried and quiet.

[The worship space should have subdued lighting. A flame is carried in. If the congregation lights the Advent wreath candles during the twelve days of Christmas, they will be lit first, followed by the Christ candle. If the Advent wreath is not used, an evening candle or evening lamp is lit on a stand in a prominent place during the opening sentences and first hymn.]

Hymn

“In the Bleak Midwinter” PH 36

Entrance of the Light

Light and peace in Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to God!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8).

Alleluia!

Evening Hymn

“O Gladsome Light” (see p. 29). This hymn was used by the ancient church to begin vespers since at least the fourth century. Alternate hymn: “All Praise to You, My God, This Night” PsH 441, PH 542, RL 77, SFL 78, TH 401, TWC 361

Thanksgiving for Light

Blessed are you, Holy God!
When you said: “Let there be light”
there was light and it was good.
When your people fled from oppression,
you led them with a pillar of fire.
In Jesus Christ, your light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Blessed are you, God of light!
Shine in our lives with the light of Christ
that we might give you praise through him
who lives and reigns with you and Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.

Evening Prayer Canticle

A setting of Psalm 141 may be sung. Possibilities include PsH 141, PH 249, and the United Methodist Hymnal 498, a Vietnamese setting that could be effectively sung by a soloist with the choir, a small group of singers, or the congregation singing the phrases “Have mercy on us, Lord, and grant us your grace,” and “This my offering to God, the Lord of all.”

Confession and Assurance

Choose a historic prayer of confession, perhaps introduced by these words: “As generations of our mothers and fathers have done, we come before the throne of grace in the assurance of God’s great mercy as we confess our sins.”

Psalter: Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is a traditional psalm for New Year’s Eve. Choose a setting to be sung by the congregation.

A time of silent meditation

Scripture

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8; 2 Peter 3:8-13

A time of silent meditation

Canticle of Mary

Many musical settings of the Song of Mary are available in hymnals; many choral and solo settings of this canticle are also available.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Everlasting Lord,
we are grateful and hushed by the mystery of existence
as we stand on the threshold of a new millennium.
We marvel in your love and gracious purpose
woven into the fabric of our days.
With confidence born of your faithfulness
we offer our hopes and prayers:
for ourselves and all most dear to us [pause]
for the world, its peoples and its leaders [pause]
for the mission and faithfulness of the Church
here and everywhere [pause]

[Here the congregation may be invited to pray “A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition” (as found in the The United Methodist Hymnal 607):]

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
let me have nothing
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings,
with your most gracious favor,
and further us with your continual help,
that in all our works,
begun, continued, and ended in you,
we may glorify your holy name,
and finally, by your mercy,
obtain everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who taught us to pray, saying: [The Lord’s Prayer]

Hymn

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” PsH 170, TWC 78

Ascription of Praise (Jude 24-25)

Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you without blemish
before the presence of his glory with rejoicing,
to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time and now and forevermore.

Blessing (2 Cor. 13:14)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God!

 

Excerpt

HOLY TIME : SEVEN SEASON OF JUBILEE

A subcommittee of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Canadian Council of Churches) writing committee is working to produce an accessible resource that will help Christians use the months from Advent 1999 to Advent 2000 to reflect on the meaning of sabbath time. The resource invites Christians to walk through each liturgical season, one season per chapter. These chapters each draw out aspects of the notions of sabbath and jubilee, using the emphases of each respective season as an interpretative lens. Each section includes a meditative reflection, activity suggestions for encouraging everyday discipleship, and worship resources for use in a variety of contexts. Some of the questions asked deal with how we attend to or pay attention to time in each season. How do we make our time holy in each season? What character of Christian discipleship does each season call out in us?

This resource is expected to retail under $10.00 CDN and will be available in the fall from the Canadian Council of churches, 3250 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4; 416-232-6070; fax: 416-236-4532; e-mail: ccchurch@web.net; internet: http://www.web.net//~ccchurch.

 

THE MILLENNIUM
DRAMA PROJECT

If your congregation would like to plan an extended service to end the old and bring in the new year and millennium, check out the website of DramaShare Christian Drama Resources: http://www.dramashare.org.

Drama Share is coordinating a worship celebration on Friday evening, December 31, 1999, that will involve hundreds of churches and ministries in at least thirty countries around the world.

The focus of this project will be twofold:

  • as a form of praise for God’s Son and for God’s faithfulness over two thousand years.
  • as a form of outreach ministering to the unreached throughout the world.

The celebration will last up to three hours and will feature drama, music, stories and prayer, ending in a service of worldwide communion.

The celebration actually kicks off on September 1, 1999, as local participating churches and groups around the world will meet to initiate a planned, continuing ministry of prayer for the project, and continues until December 31, 1999, with follow-up discipling for those who have made commitments to Christ as a result of this project.

Resources include

  • project procedural manual prepared by an international team.
  • drama and original music made available to participating churches in printed and electronic format.
  • a website and e-mail listing to provide assistance to churches and offer them the opportunity to discuss the project and ask questions about it.

For more information, contact DramaShare by e-mail: DramaShare@xc.org or call toll-free (in North America) 1-877-DO-DRAMA.

Dwight W. Vogel is professor of theology and ministry and director of the Nellie B. Ebersole Program in Sacred Music, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois. He also directs the seminary choir.