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From Darkness to Light

This service is part of the Advent series “Looking for the Real Jesus.” It could also be used independent of the series. For our Candlelight service, we wanted to make sure that people who may come to only one service a year would hear the whole gospel story from beginning to end. We wanted to make sure they knew why Jesus had to come to earth and why Christmas is so important.

Ringing of Bells

Musical Prelude

Solo: “O Holy Night” (Adolphe Adam, words Placide Cappeau, trans. John S. Dwight)

Opening Prayer:

Immanuel God,
we are here tonight looking for you.
We come to cradle the holy in our arms,
to hear the newborn cry of the divine Creator,
to see you decked out in flesh.
We’re here to consider the mysterious,
to sense angels, and to catch a glimpse
of the Star of all stars.
We have need of such things, God—
all that is brilliant and bright,
all that merges mystery with the manger.
But we have more need of your presence
that is with us always.
Come again, Immanuel God,
to dwell among us.
Bring us your grace and truth. Amen.

Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CH 244, PH 2, PsH 329, SWM 83, SFL 122, TH 196, WR 153

The Darkness: Creation

Narrator: In the beginning . . .

[pause; sanctuary becomes totally dark]

God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty—a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. Then God said,

God: [voice only] Let there be light!

[lights come on]

Narrator: . . . and there was light. And God saw that it was good. And God said,

God: Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years. Let their light shine down upon the earth.

Narrator: And so it was. God created the sun, the moon, and the stars. And God saw that it was good. Then God said,

God: Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life:  the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.

Narrator: So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them,

God: Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.

Narrator: And so it was. And God saw that it was good. So God created everything that exists—the sky, the land, and the sea—and filled it with all kinds of plants and animals. Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.

Song: “We Sing the Mighty Power of God” CH 128, PH 288, PsH 430

The Darkness: Sin Enters the World

Narrator: Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden; he planted all sorts of trees in the garden—beautiful trees that produced delicious fruit. At the center of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it. But the Lord God gave him this warning:

God: You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.

Narrator: Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. The serpent spoke to the woman:

Serpent: [hissing] Really? Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?

Woman: Of course we may eat it! It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it, or we will die.

Serpent: You won’t die! God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.

Narrator: The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.

[Sanctuary becomes dark; a full minute of silence]

Narrator: Fallen in that first sin, we prove each day that apart from grace we are guilty sinners: We fail to thank God. We break God’s laws. We ignore our tasks. Looking for life without God, we find death; grasping for freedom outside the law, we trap ourselves in Satan’s snares; pursuing pleasure, we lose the gift of joy. (from Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, Faith Alive 2008)

Song: “Lord, Have Mercy” WR 375

[Lights come back on]

A Tiny Flame: God Makes a Promise

Narrator: Our world, fallen into sin, has lost its first goodness, but God has not abandoned the work of his hands. While justly angry, God did not turn away from a world bent on destruction, but turned to face it in love. With patience and tender care, the Lord set out on the long road of redemption to reclaim the lost as his people and the world as his kingdom. Remembering the promise to reconcile the world to himself, God joined our humanity in Jesus Christ—the eternal Word made flesh. He is the long-awaited Messiah, one with us, and one with God, fully human and fully divine, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. (excerpts from Our World Belongs to God)

Song: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” (st. 1, 4, 6) CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Lighting of Advent Candles: God’s Promises

Reader 1: Jesus is our Good News—a prophecy from Isaiah 61 (read Isaiah 61:1-2a).

[First candle is lit]

Reader 2: Jesus is our King—a prophecy from Isaiah 9 (read Isaiah 9:6-7).

[Second candle is lit]

Reader 3: Jesus is our God—a prophecy from Isaiah 7 (read Isaiah 7:14).

[Third candle is lit]

Reader 4: Jesus is our Peace—a prophecy from Isaiah 11 (read Isaiah 11:1-3, 6).

[Fourth candle is lit]

Reader 5: We light the Christ candle because Jesus, the light of the world, has come (read John 1:14, 4-5)..

[Christ candle is lit]

Song: “Love Has Come” (Matt Maher, OCP, www.spiritandsong.com)

A Warming Light

Scripture

Message

Offering

[During the offering, children are called up to place battery-operated candles around the manger as “Away in a Manger” is played. Then all sing “Away in a Manager” 1, 3.]

Song: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” CH 255, PH 48, PsH 351, TH 221, WR 190

[Roses may be offered at the manger, symbolizing the offering of our hearts and lives.]

Prayer:
When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
you came.

You crept in beside us.

And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different. 

Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?

Will you come into the darkness of today’s world;
not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
that the war will end
or that food will come
or that a government will change
or that the church cares?

Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?

Will you come into the quietness of this city,
not the friendly quietness
as when lovers hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
the phone has not rung,
the letter has not come,
the friendly voice no longer speaks,
the doctor’s face says it all?

Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
to embrace your people?

And will you come into the dark corners
and the quiet places of our lives?

We ask this because
the fullness we long for
depends on being open and vulnerable to you—
like you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their Maker.

Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
you came.

You crept in beside us.

Do the same this Christmas, Lord,
Do the same this Christmas. Amen.

—“Christmas Prayer” from Cloth for the Cradle, p. 92-93 by the Wild Goose Resource Group, © 1997, 2000 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Scotland, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent.

A Spreading Glow

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16)

Song: “Joy to the World” (st. 1, 3, 4) CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179

We greet each other with Christmas joy

God’s Blessing:
May the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”
make his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(from 2 Cor. 4:6)

[Sanctuary darkens again; instruments softly play “Silent Night.” One candle is lit from the Christ candle and brought down to light two candles. Those two people walk down the center aisle and light the end candle at each pew. The light spreads down the aisles.]

Songs:
“Silent Night, Holy Night” CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186
“Angels from the Realms of Glory” CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189
“Angels We Have Heard on High” CH 278, PH 23, PsH 347, SFL 133, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CH 277, PH 31/32, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185

[Extinguish candles and continue singing as congregation leaves the sanctuary.]

“O Come All Ye Faithful” CH 249, PH 41/42, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” CH 258, PH 29, PsH 356, SFL 131, TH 224, WR 218

Ringing of Bells