Be Not Afraid

A Worship Series for Advent with Additional Services for Christmas Eve, Longest Night, the New Year, and Epiphany

We—pastors, worship leaders, congregations —are afraid. 2020 has seen the rise of a global pandemic, job loss and economic depression, and overwhelming prophetic anger at racial injustice, not to mention all of the uncertainties and losses of being human on a planet desperately in need of restoration and renewal. Advent is a season of waiting on God’s promises for a redeemed creation. As we wait, we offer up our fears to God and hear God’s comfort in angel voices: “Do not be afraid.”

For Advent, Pastor Meg Jenista Kuykendall preached the instances throughout the Christmas story where the words “do not be afraid” are spoken. We dug into what each character’s particular fears might have been as they were told that they had been chosen for a greater purpose. We looked at the many ways God’s promises of God’s presence were steadfast even in times of doubt and confusion.

In the sidebar are links to additional services related to this series, both new and previously published.


Prelude to Advent

Fear as the Beginning of Wisdom

God Calls Us to Worship

Scripture Reading

Psalm 111


“O God Beyond All Praising” Perry, LUYH 557, WR 64 (choir sings v. 1, all sing vs. 2–3)

“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Smith, LUYH 579, GtG 12, PsH 460 (vs. 1, 3, and 4)

We Confess Our Fears and Are Assured of God’s Presence With Us


“Still, My Soul, Be Still” Getty

Prayer of Confession

Lord, we are a fearful people. It is not easy to rest in you alone, and it is not easy to feel secure in a world that is shifting beneath our feet. We fear for our jobs, our country, our own health, our families, and all those we love. Fear is a language we speak fluently, and we confess this. Lord, we need faith in your wisdom and in your providence that, no matter what it is we fear, you in your wisdom are guiding us and walking with us.

Choral Assurance of Pardon

“Child of God” De Vries

God Speaks to Us a Word of Grace and Sends Us Out With God’s Presence


“Be Thou My Vision” Irish, LUYH 859, GtG 450, SSS 640


Proverbs 1:1–7


“The Fear of Wisdom, the Wisdom of Fear”

Sending Song

“God of Grace and God of Glory” Fosdick, LUYH 926, GtG 307, SSS 250 (vs. 1, 2, and 4)

Advent 1

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

We Wait and We Hope

Choral Introit

“Comfort, My People” Callanan

Advent Candle Lighting: Hope

On this first Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of hope. [Light andle.] Isaiah gives us a vision of a kingdom yet to come where everything has been made new and where creation is at peace. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:1–3). We light this candle of hope as a sign of our waiting and expectation for the coming Christ.


“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” German, LUYH 79, GtG 129, PsH 351 (vs. 1–3)

Responsive Reading

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning.

We wait and we hope.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!

For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

and with him is great power to redeem.

We wait and we hope.

Glory to God the Father, to Jesus the Messiah, and to the Holy Spirit.

We wait and we hope. Amen.

—adapted from Psalm 130:5–7, NRSV


“Christ, Be Our Light” Farrell, LUYH 908, GtG 314, SSS 242 (vs. 1, 2, 4, and 5)

“Here I Am to Worship” Hughes, LUYH 567, SSS 395

Prayer of Confession

We wait and we hope. For many of us, Christmas feels like a time in which we do neither. The season has become one of parties and extra activities, plans with family, year-end deadlines, and purchasing gifts. There is not much space for us to wait and feel hopeful. So this morning we begin our time of prayer by carving out some space for silence, for silent prayers to God or maybe just for silence before God.


Emmanuel, God with us, in this Advent season, we confess how difficult it is to slow down. We don’t want to wait patiently for anything, and instead we buy into the busyness of the season, leading many of us to feel a lack of joy and a lack of hope. When we look at the world around us, it’s hard to feel hopeful about the world, about our nation, about ourselves. We are surrounded by death, destruction, and pain, and we long for a day when your promised kingdom comes to make all things new. Give us hope that this day is indeed coming, and help us to rest in this because your promises are always true. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Our hope for a new creation is not tied to what humans can do, for we believe that one day every challenge to God’s rule will be crushed. His kingdom will fully come, and the Lord will rule. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

—Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, 55


“Eternal Weight of Glory” Kimbrough

We Rest in God’s Word

Scripture Reading

Isaiah 11:1–10


“The Hopes and Fears of All the Years”

Prayer of Response

Eternal God, for whom all people wait and search, open our eyes, closed by fear and blinded by self-pity, that we may see clearly the anxieties and uncertainties that beset our days. These are the very circumstances that make us impatient for your return.

—Adapted from John T. Ames, Let Us Pray; Reformed Prayers for Christian Worship. Edited by Martha S. Gilliss. © 2002, Geneva Press. Used by permission.

Refrain: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee, O Christ. (“O Little Town of Bethlehem, adapted Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80)

For all those whose fears cause them to fight, who are caught up in conflicts or escalating tensions; for people and nations who bait and taunt one another, who threaten violence, who begin and perpetuate wars: teach us vulnerability to name our fears, to experience hope, and to trust in you.


For all those whose fears cause them to fly, who cannot name or feel or know the depths of their own sorrow or anger, who are so hidden they cannot even find themselves, who pretend when the work of holiness demands honesty: teach us vulnerability to name our fears, to experience hope, and to trust in you.


For all those whose fears cause them to freeze, who feel stuck in patterns and behaviors they know are not healthy or wise but do not know how to do or to be anything other than what they’ve always done and always been; for people and nations stuck in the way things have always been, who are afraid to imagine a new way forward: teach us vulnerability to name our fears, to experience hope, and to trust in you.


Remember your church, O Christ; send your Spirit of unity, courage, and holiness. Give joy to all your faithful servants; have mercy on all who suffer persecution for your name’s sake; uphold them by your strong Spirit. Bring an end to divisions between Christians; gather us in one visible communion. Teach us vulnerability to name our fears, to experience hope, and to trust in you.

—Adapted from an ecumenical prayer from France


We pray for all who are leading the nations. Give them a sense of what is right, that they may work toward peace, the common good, and human flourishing for all. Call each of us as we enter our workplaces, communities, and homes to bring your presence with us, bearing signs of your light in dim and dark places. Teach us vulnerability to name our fears, to experience hope, and to trust in you.

—Adapted from an ecumenical prayer from France


Eternal God, ever faithful to your promises, the earth rejoices in hope of our Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts to receive him when he comes, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

—Adapted from Baker’s Worship Handbook: Traditional and Contemporary Service Resources. Paul E. Engle. Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, 1998. © 1998, Paul E. Engle. Used by permission.

Advent 2

Fear of Disappointment

Praise Be to the Lord, the God of Israel, Because God Has Come to His People and Redeemed Them

Advent Candle Lighting: Love

Last Sunday we lit the candle of hope and were reminded to put our hope in God’s promises of a peaceful kingdom. [Light first candle.] On this second Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of love. Our 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). We light this candle to remember God’s love, which brings joy to the world and peace on earth. [Light second candle.]

Choral Anthem

“Joy to the World” arr. Proulx

Responsive Reading

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near.

We rejoice in the hope of Christ’s coming.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

—adapted from Philippians 4:4–5


“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Traditional, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (vs. 1, 2, and 7)

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Wesley, LUYH 56, GtG 83, SSS 64 (vs. 1, 3, and 4)

God Shows Mercy to Our Ancestors and Helps Us Remember God’s Holy Covenant


“My Soul in Stillness Waits” Haugen, LUYH 63, GtG 89, SSS 75

Prayer of Confession

Emmanuel, God with us, we confess how hard it is for us to wait. Like Zechariah, we have a hard time waiting on you, and we lose hope so quickly when it seems as though you aren’t answering our prayers in the ways we hope. Sometimes your timing is mysterious. Sometimes you answer our longings and our prayers in ways we have a hard time comprehending. Take away all the barriers in our lives that keep us from being able to hear you, to know you, and to love you with all our hearts. And give us ears to hear your gentle voice saying, “Be not afraid.” Amen.

God Gives God’s People the Knowledge of Salvation through the Forgiveness of Their Sins

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:5–25


“The Fear of Disappointment”

Responsive Music

“I Shall Not Want” Assad

God Shines on Those Living in Darkness to Guide Our Feet into the Path of Peace

Sending Litany

In this Advent season of waiting on the Lord,

We trust in the Lord’s goodness.

We rely on his mercy.

We find shelter in his steadfast love.

In this Advent season of waiting,

Lord, we await your salvation.

We await your leading,

We await your coming.

In this Advent season of waiting on the Lord,

We walk in the Lord’s way.

We keep our covenant promises.

We follow his example of love.

—Adapted from Harry Boonstra, Reformed Worship 9, © 1988 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.

God’s Blessing

The same voice that speaks over the waters and calls us to follow and obey,

the same voice that promises “I am your God, you are my people,”

the same voice that spoke “This is my beloved Son,’

now blesses the people with peace:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”

The blessing of Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is with you now and forevermore. Amen.

—Based on Psalm 29:2, 9; Exodus 20:18; Matthew 3:17; Isaiah 41:10


“How Firm a Foundation” 18th century, LUYH 427, GtG 463, SSS 291 (vs. 1–3, 5)

Additional Services for This Series

Links to the following services are available in the digital edition and at

Two previously published services that would fit well with this series, also by Pastors Kathryn Roelofs and Meg Jenista Kuykendall:

Advent 3

Fear of Revision

Come and Worship!

Advent Candle Lighting: Peace

On the first Sunday of Advent, we lit the candle of hope and were reminded to put our hope in God’s promises of a peaceful kingdom. [Light first candle.] On the second Sunday of Advent, we lit the candle of love to represent God’s love for us through the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ. [Light second candle.] This morning we light the candle of peace. We wait for God’s promises of peace on earth and good will to all. We pray that God’s peace would break through our restless hearts and lead us to Bethlehem, where we can celebrate our Savior’s birth. We light this candle of peace. [Light third candle.]

Children’s Choir Pageant

“Away in a Manger” 19th c. North American, LUYH 86, GyG 114, SSS 79

“Go, Tell It On the Mountain” Spiritual, LUYH 93, GtG 136, SSS 90

Responsive Call to Praise

We have heard the story of Jesus Christ with joy and anticipation.

We have come to worship.

We open our hearts to prepare room for his coming.

We have come to worship.

We open our ears to hear the choirs of angels proclaim his holy birth.

We have come to worship.

We open our lives to God’s greater plans for us.

We have come to worship.

Through the grace of God’s Holy Spirit,

we have come to worship Christ, the newborn King.


“Angels from the Realms of Glory” Montgomery, LUYH 81, GtG 143, SSS 99 (vs. 1, 4, and 5)

“Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes” Doddridge, LUYH 60, PsH 335 (vs 1, 2, and 4)

Restore Us, O God, and Make Your Face Shine upon Us


“Meekness and Majesty” Kendrick, LUYH 157, SNC 109 (vs. 1, 3)

Prayer of Confession with Spoken Response

There is mystery in the season of Advent and mystery in the story of Jesus’ birth. God works in mysterious ways, using ordinary people like you and me to accomplish God’s plan of salvation and kingdom work. But we gather for prayer to confess that we aren’t always eager to allow God to work in us. We prefer our own ways over God’s mysterious ways. We prefer darkness over light. So we pray using words from Mary’s song (Luke 1:46–55), and we ask God to make God’s face shine on us and to open our hearts to God’s will for our lives. When I say “Restore us, O God,” please respond with “and make your face shine upon us that we might be saved.”

Let us pray.

Our souls glorify you, O Lord, and our spirits rejoice in you, our Savior!

For you have been mindful of the humble state of your servants.

You have heard our cry and saved your people.

We shall be called blessed because we are called by you to be a blessing to others.

Your mercy extends from generation to generation.

Your mercy called Adam and Eve into being.

Your mercy kept vengeance from taking Cain’s life.

Your mercy saved Noah and his family from the flood.

Your mercy caused Sarah’s womb to be fruitful.

Your mercy gave Joseph’s dreams the power to save a nation.

Your mercy heard the Israelites’ cry and called Moses to action.

Your mercy charged Mary with the most special of tasks.

Your mercy strengthened Joseph to care for her.

Your mercy sent Jesus Christ into the world to save us from the dark of night.

We give you thanks for your mercy; may it continue to shine upon us!

Restore us, O God,

and make your face shine upon us that we might be saved.

We remember this day those

who crave your shining face,

who long for the light,

who need your power to drive out the darkness:

For those who live with depression or other mental illnesses. [pause]

For those who cannot bring themselves to forgive others. [pause]

For those who cannot forgive themselves. [pause]

For those who seek refuge, but have been denied shelter. [pause]

For those who seek shelter, but have been denied a home. [pause]

For those who have lost loved ones in the past year. [pause]

For those who have lost physical or mental abilities. [pause]

For those who care for aging spouses or loved ones. [pause]

For those who have been living with cancer and other debilitating illnesses. [pause]

Restore us, O God,

and make your face shine upon us that we might be saved.

We ask that you would strengthen us as a congregation:

as we serve one another and those with whom you called us into fellowship,

as we seek to bring hospitality and hope to our community,

as we discern where you might be leading us,

as we hold in tension that which we have been with that which you call us to be,

as we seek to be the best stewards of the money and gifts with which we’ve been blessed,

as we search for the truth of your word and do our best to live it out in our lives,

as we wait, watch, and wonder in preparation for the coming of your Son.

Restore us, O God,

and make your face shine upon us that we might be saved.

Gracious God, on this Advent journey,

may we wait with Mary’s joyful anticipation

as we prepare to welcome your Son, our Savior,

into this broken world in need of his redeeming.

Gather us, guide us, and keep us as your people.

Send us into the world so that our hands might be

Christ’s own, and his mind one with ours in all that

you would have us do.

Restore us, O God,

and make your face shine upon us that we might be saved.


“May Your Word to Me Be Fulfilled”

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:26–45


“The Fear of Revision”

Dramatic Reading

“How the Grinch Learned the Magnificat,” by Rev. Emmy R. Kegler (


“My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” Cooney, LUYH 69, GtG 100, SSS 38 (vs. 1–3)

Parting Blessing


“My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” Cooney, LUYH 69, GtG 100, SSS 38 (v. 4)

Advent 4

Fear of a Ruined Reputation

Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come!

Advent Candle Lighting: Joy

As we anticipate the birth of Jesus Christ, we light candles of hope, love, and peace as reminders of the promise that Emmanuel is our God with us and that God graciously gives us these gifts even if they sometimes come in ways that are mysterious to us. [Light three candles.] On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of joy. We fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him, he came down to earth and took on our humanity, endured the cross with all its shame and sat down at the right hand of God in heaven. The day is coming when there will be everlasting joy to the world, for our Lord will come! Let all the earth receive her king! We light this candle of joy in anticipation of that day. [Light fourth candle.] Please stand as we join our voices with the heavenly voices to sing our joy.

—Some sentences adapted from Hebrews 12:2


“Joy to the World” Watts, LUYH 92, GtG 134, SSS 95 (vs. 1, 2, and 4)

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” Wade, LUYH 76, GtG 133, SSS 96 (vs. 1–3)

Greeting From God

We Greet Each Other

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room


“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Wesley, LUYH 56, GtG 83, SSS 64 (v. 1, 3, and 4)

Prayer of Confession

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, come. Sometimes we have a hard time imagining that you would come down from the glorious splendor of heaven to be born in a Bethlehem stable with straw, mud, and animals all around. We cannot imagine that you willingly took on our broken human flesh with bodies that ache and suffer from illness and pain. You walked into our sadness, into wars, into violence and persecution, and you did this all for us. We confess that it is difficult to comprehend and difficult to believe. Why, Lord, would you do that for us? We call you Emmanuel, God with us, but how often do we live out this Christmas story with the truth that your incarnation was for us? Continue to enter in, Emmanuel. Enter into our darkness and give us light. Enter into our lives and change them for your good purposes. Enter into our hearts and still them with the words “Be not afraid.”


“Imagine” Getty, LUYH 72

Assurance of Pardon / Guide to Grateful Living

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

—Philippians 2:5–11

Children of God, this is the God who forgives our sins and calls us to obedience and love. Thanks be to God.

He Comes to Make His Blessings Flow Far as the Curse Is Found

Scripture Reading

Matthew 1:18–25


“The Fear of a Ruined Reputation”

Response with Song

“Christ, Be Our Light” Farrell, LUYH 908, GtG 314, SSS 242 (vs. 1, 2, 4, 5)

He Rules the World with Truth, Grace, and Wonders of His Love

Call to Service

By the power of your Spirit,

we will walk in the light.

In times of joy and gladness,

we will walk in the light.

In times of sorrow and despair,

we will walk in the light.

Called to witness to your love,

we will share the light.

Parting Blessing


“Jesus, the Light of the World” Wesley, LUYH 100, GtG 127, SSS 103 (vs. 1, 2, 4)

Visual Arts Ideas That Highlight Advent Lament

  1. Create a video of the key headlines of the past year with images and set to an appropriate song such as was done with this one created for 2016 ( The fact that many of the same images could have come from this past year is in itself cause for lament.
  2. Wrap advent candle/wreath in burlap sprayed with a flame retardant

A Longest Night Service Based on Psalm 80

Fear of Darkness

Call to Worship

Responsive Reading

Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And so we invite each other to this time of peaceful worship. Tonight we come looking for the Christ child.

We bring in our hearts the hopes and fears of all the years.

We come seeking relief from pain, anxiety, loneliness, and despair. With the psalmist of the Scriptures we say, “I cry to you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (Psalm 142:5–6).

We bring in our hearts the need and desire to rest in God.

We come to worship, to sing, to pray, to be silent before our God. In the busyness of this season, in a countercultural way, we chose this evening to slow down, to remember, and to wait.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 13:5–6).


Wait for the Lord Taizé, LUYH 480, GtG 90, SSS 580

Prayer of Invocation

O God, our beginning and end, by whose command time runs its course: Bless our impatience, perfect our faith, and keep us from growing weary until at last the coming Christ enters the hearts of those who wait with quiet expectation for all that is good and holy and just. Amen.

Praying for Darkness in a Year of Glare

1st voice

Lord, turn out the lights.

Turn out for moments of our prayers

and for moments of our lives

all the lights we see by,

or all the lights we think we see by.

Make it dark in here, even now, in each of us.

2nd voice

Here in the half-drowned world

that we surrender to when we sleep,

we feel the dark river that flows

through every heartbeat,

the pulse of our oldest and deepest music.

Congregational Response

O Come, O Come, EmmanuelLatin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (v. 1, no refrain)

2nd voice

With all our old symbols of candles and torches, 

with our little logos of lamps of learning,

since ancient times we have always been taught

to seek and pursue the light.

But sometimes now we shield our eyes 

from all the glitter and glare.

1st voice

We have trivialized our ancient symbols of light.

We haven’t learned to govern

the new light we uncover or make.

This is what we are learning to fear:

Our own light. Our idol. Ourselves.

Congregational Response

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (v. 2, no refrain)

1st voice

We see how we have hurried past the vision

the psalmist knew, 

that Jonah, Job, Mother Teresa, 

and so many others knew to be true, 

that even in the dark God is there. 

     “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12)

2nd voice

Keep us now and then in the dark, Lord—

The dark of Golgotha, or Paul’s black jolt

on the way to Damascus, or the grapple of Jacob,

to be renamed Israel, wrestling his way

in the dark from eyesight to vision.

We pray for darkness so that we may see.

1st voice

As we wait in the dark

we do sometimes see tracings and splinters,

a flicker of our dream of the world you gave us,

sparks and flashes we almost remember.

2nd voice

We seek moments of blindness and insight

so that we may be truly one

with the dark and lowly servant,

paradoxically “light of the world,”

who came to share our darkness with us.

In his name have we dared to ask

for dark as well as for light.

Congregational Response

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (v. 4, no refrain)

2nd voice

Now we rest in quiet for a moment

     in the shadow of the Almighty,

remembering Moses and

     the dark cloud where God was,

remembering at least to say what the psalmist used to sing;

     “He made darkness his covering,

     his canopy around him—

          the dark rain clouds of the sky.”

1st voice

Parent God, cover us, your adopted children, as in blankets,

in what St. Hildegarde called “the cloud of unknowing.”

Hold us here in darkness a moment more, a moment more.

We want to see again from behind the eye;

it is here we can dream and remember and imagine deeply

as Hebrew prophets did, as children do.

Congregational Response

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (v. 3, no refrain)

So now we pray you, Lord—

do not yet dispel the dark; 

dispel the light a little longer.


2nd voice

Now stilled by this primal dark,

children again who feel alone and lost,

we pray for light.

1st voice

Let it be a flicker that grows as it approaches,

not harsh or blinding, a flashlight through the woods

that’s coming to find us.

Congregational Response

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (vs. 5 and 7, no refrain)

2nd voice

As we emerge out of this dark into light, show us, God,

as for the first time, freshly, the rich glowings of our different skins,

the eyes of the oppressed piercing dark skies like beacons,

the flares of wonder that play in the eyes of our children.

Congregational Response

By way of darkness, seeing fresh, Lord,

we pray to live again in the wonder of light. Amen.

—© Rod Jellema, d. 2018. Used by permission. Churches interested in using “Praying for Darkness in a Year of Glare” may email for permission.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73 (v. 6, with refrain)

Ministry of the Word

Scripture Reading

Psalm 80:1–10


Song of Response

Shine On Us Smith

Ministry of Prayer

Prayers of Intercession

(with refrain “Come and Fill Our Hearts Taizé, LUYH 528, GtG 466)

We light this candle to remember those who have died, and those who mourn the dead. The shadow of death can seem impenetrably dark during these long nights. We pray to God, whose first act in creation was to call light from darkness.


We light this candle to remember those who are captive to darkness. For those lost in the night of addiction, depression, anxiety, or unexpected grief, we pray to God, who guided the Israelites through the darkness with a pillar of fire.


We light this candle to remember those who feel that hardship will overwhelm them. For the poor, the persecuted, the hungry, the immigrant, the refugee, and the homeless, we pray to God, who walked with three men through the consuming flames of a fiery furnace.


We light this candle to remember those who are battling illness. We lift up those who suffer the pain, indignity, and bewilderment that accompany a broken body. For all who desire to be returned to wholeness, we pray to God, who lit the night sky with a star to guide three Magi to the healing Christ.


We light this candle to remember those who are alone. We remember those who isolated from loved ones; far from home; wandering down the wrong path; or convinced that God is unconcerned with their suffering. We pray to God, who is like the woman who lit a lantern to search all night for one lost coin.


We light this candle to remember God’s beautiful and fragile creation. For those who experience drought, flood, disease, famine. For survivors of natural disasters and for all those called to be caretakers of creation. We pray to God, who will not destroy the earth but purify it with refiner’s fire that goodness may be restored.


You alone see us as we are, Lord God, so we ask you to nurture us according to our need tonight, to minister to us according to our wounds, to heal us in all the places you can see that we are broken or sick. Come and fill our hearts with your peace. Alleluia. Amen.

Prayer Stations

During this time you may visit the prayer stations or pray quietly in your seat.

1. Anointing

Come forward to a pastor for anointing with oil and for personal prayer. You may ask for prayer for yourself or another person and can be as specific or private as you need. Please indicate whether you’d like anointing on your hand or forehead.

[Words of blessing: Restore your child, O God; make your face shine upon him/her/them, that he/she/they may be saved.]

2. Candles

Light a candle in remembrance of a loved one, in solidarity with someone who is hurting, or as a representation of your own need and prayer.

3. Map

Many areas of our world are in need of Christ’s light to break through the darkness of war, poverty, conflict, and strife. Light a candle and place it in the area of the world where you pray for Christ’s light this Christmas.

Sent Out with God’s Blessing


O Little Town of Bethlehem Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80 (v. 1)

Prayer for God’s Blessing

Lord, it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.

The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you. 

The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray, amen.


O Little Town of Bethlehem Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80 (vs. 3–4)

Please leave the sanctuary in silence.


Christmas Eve

Fear of Revelation

Candle of Hope

Prayer of Invocation

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 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 our lives long for

depends on us being as open and vulnerable to you

as 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. 


—”When the world was dark” from Cloth for the Cradle, p. 92-93 by the Wild Goose Resource Group, © 1997, 2000 WGRG c/o Iona Community, Scotland, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent. Reprints permitted with a license from ONE LICENSE

We hope for an end to the darkness and for the beginning glimpses of light. We hope expectantly as those who wait for a promise that is coming. We light this candle of hope. [Light candle.]


O Little Town of Bethlehem Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80 (vs. 1, 3, 4)

Candle of Love

In-Between Words

“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). On this Christmas night we celebrate God’s gift of love, seen in the birth of Jesus Christ. We light this candle of love. [Light candle.] We are also called to show God’s love to others. Please greet each other and extend Christ’s love to those around you.

We Greet Each Other


Once in Royal David’s City Alexander, LUYH 87, GtG 140 (vs. 1, 4, 5)

Candle of Peace

Scripture Reading

Isaiah 40:1–11 


Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming German, LUYH 79, GtG 129 (vs. 1–3)

In-Between Words

The words of the prophet Isaiah remind us of a coming kingdom where peace will reign and all will be well. Because of the birth of Jesus Christ, we can anticipate peace on earth and pray for the ability to be peacemakers until he comes again. We light this candle of peace and then bow our heads in prayer to pray for the world that God so dearly loves. [Light candle.]

Prayers of the People


Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Wesley, LUYH 80, GtG 119, SSS 94 (vs. 1 and 3)

Candle of Joy

In-Between Words

We light this candle of joy. Emmanuel is born! Rejoice! Rejoice! [Light candle.] Hear now the glorious story of the birth of our Savior.

Scripture Reading

Luke 2:1–20


Song of Response

Angels We Have Heard on High French, LUYH 82, GtG 113, SSS 93

Lord’s Supper

Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Long after the angels vacated the skies, the shepherds left the manger and the Magi traveled home again. On another night—the night of his betrayal, not his birth; the night of his arrest, not his adoration—Jesus sat at dinner with his disciples.

On that night, he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”

As we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember and proclaim the mystery of our faith:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The LORD be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. 

We lift them up to the LORD.

Let us give thanks to the LORD our God.

It is right for us to give thanks and praise.

With joy we praise you, gracious God, Eternal Creator. At the beginning of time your rescue plan of salvation began with the work of Your hands, fashioning our planet and spinning our galaxies into place.

Through history you sent prophets and priests to point the way and to shape the expectations of your people longing for rescue from sin and salvation from bondage to sin’s effects.

Until, at last, in the fullness of time, our Savior and Redeemer was born.

Though he could not find hospitality in his own city, his birth offers the world the eternal hospitality of God.


Of the Father’s Love Begotten Prudentius, LUYH 78, GtG 108, SSS 81 (vs. 1–3)

We give thanks to you, Jesus Christ, who came among us as the Word made flesh to show us a new and radiant vision of your glory, full of grace and truth.

Therefore, we join our voices with the angel choirs who forever sing glory to your name.


Of the Father’s Love Begotten Prudentius, LUYH 78, GtG 108, SSS 81 (vs. 4–5)

By the power of your Holy Spirit, unite us with Christ and all who share this feast. Give us courage to live according to the promise of this night, to be your people, showing forth your justice, grace, mercy, peace, and love until the day when the baby whose birth we celebrate tonight comes again in fullness and peace.

Then we will feast with all your saints in the joy of your eternal realm.

Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 

all glory and honor are yours, 

almighty God, now and forever. 



The church father Ambrose of Milan wrote about the significance of this evening, saying:

“He became an infant and a child so that your humanity might be made perfect. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes so that you might be absolved from the bonds of death. He was on earth so that you might be in heaven. He had no room at the inn so that you might have mansions in heaven. He was in a manger so that you might be at the altar.”

—Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke 2:41

The gifts of God for the people of God!

[Distribution of elements while singing “What Child Is This” Dix, LUYH 95, GtG 145, SSS 105]

Candle of Light

Scripture Reading

John 1:1–5, 14

We light this candle of light, for Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has been born for us.

[Light candle.]


Silent Night! Holy NightMohr, LUYH 85, GtG 112, SSS 83

Parting Blessing

The joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the Magi, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of Jesus Christ be yours this Christmas.

The blessing of Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


Epiphany 1

Fear of Strangers 1

“Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come”

Responsive Call to Worship

May the light of God’s love push back the darkness.

We come to the light from the four corners of the earth, 

from the north, from the south, from the east, and from the west.

We come from many nations and many cultures.

But we are all one in Jesus Christ.

We come seeking the light that guides us to life.

But we are all one in Jesus Christ.

Let us lift up our many voices and praise the God of all people.

—From Reformed Worship 63, © 2002, Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church


Jesus, the Light of the World Wesley, LUYH 100, GtG 127, SSS 103 (vs. 1, 2, and 4)

Greeting from God

We Greet Each Other

“See, Darkness Covers the Earth, and Thick Darkness Is Over the Peoples”

In-Between Words

God calls us to live in the light and to walk as people of the light. But on this Epiphany Sunday, we come before the Lord in prayer to confess that we still walk in darkness. We make personal decisions that drive us into the darkness. Our world is one filled with darkness, brokenness, and despair. We are deeply in need of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, to enter in and shine on us. Together we confess in song our need for light.

Sung Prayer of Confession

Christ, Be Our LightFarrell, LUYH 908, GtG 314, SSS 242 (vs. 1, 3, and 5)

Assurance of Pardon

The light of God shines in the darkness. God is calling the whole world together in unity to walk in the light as beloved and chosen people. Open your hearts to God’s light and to one another. Thanks be to God.


We Are Called Haas, LUYH 296, GtG 749, SSS 241 (vs. 1–2)

“Nations Will Come to Your Light, and Kings to the Brightness of Your Dawn”

Scripture Reading

Matthew 2:1–12


“Fear of Strangers” (Part 1)

Declaration of Promises

Remember that at [one] time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

—Ephesians 2:12–14


Epiphany 2

Fear of Strangers 2

God Calls Us to Worship and Praise

Call to Worship

I will extol the LORD at all times;

     his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the LORD;

     let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;

     let us exalt his name together.

—Psalm 34:1–3


Praise the LORD! Sing Hallelujah Psalter, LUYH 518, PsH 146, PfAS 146D (vs. 1, 3, and 4)

Lord Most High Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448, SNC 47

Greeting from God

We Greet Each Other

The Lord Is Close to the Broken-Hearted

Call to Confession

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;

     he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;

     their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;

     he saved him out of all his troubles.

—Psalm 34:4–6


Pelas dores deste mundo / For the Troubles Neto, LUYH 663, GtG 764, SSS 579

Prayer of Confession

O Christ, you are the light of the world. Shine into the dark places and expose the sins of greed, oppression, hate and violence. Fill us with love, joy, peace, patience, and a willingness to forgive.

O Christ, you are the light of the world. We pray for the homeless, the refugees, the expelled and forgotten people everywhere. Strengthen us in our belief that you are a God of justice. Empower us with the determination to work for basic human rights.

O Christ, you are the light of the world. We pray for people everywhere that you would show us how we are to live together as neighbors, understanding and respecting one another. We remember before you the many places in the world where there is conflict between nations. We pray that love may determine a just solution.

O Christ, you are the light of the world. As the Risen Christ you broke the chains of death; free us from every kind of oppression. Breathe your Holy Spirit upon us. Make us a people of hope who live in lands where there is peace and justice for everyone.

Pocket Prayers for Peace and Justice, compiled by Christian Aid. Prayers for Peacemakers, page 46, by Women of Jerusalem, Church House Publishing, 2004, © The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. Used by permission. 

Assurance of Pardon

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;

     he delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted

     and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

     but the LORD delivers him from them all.

—Psalm 34:17–19


Blest Are They Haas, LUYH 117, GtG 172, SSS 128 (vs. 1, 2, and 5)

Statement of Faith

What do you believe about God the Father?

I believe in Almighty God,

who guided the people in exile and in exodus,

the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,

the God of foreigners and immigrants.

What do you believe about God the Son?

I believe in Jesus Christ,

a displaced Galilean,

who was born away from his people and his home,

who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger,

and returning to his own country suffered the oppression

of the tyrant Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power,

who then was persecuted, beaten, and finally tortured,

accused and condemned to death unjustly.

But on the third day, this scorned Jesus rose from the dead,

not as a foreigner but to offer us citizenship in heaven.

What do you believe about God the Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,

who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,

and reunites all races.

I believe that the church is the secure home

for the foreigner and for all believers who constitute it,

who speak the same language and have the same purpose.

I believe that the communion of the saints begins

when we accept the diversity of the saints.

I believe in the forgiveness of sin, which makes us all equal,

and in reconciliation, which identifies us more

than does race, language, or nationality.

What do you believe about the life to come?

I believe that in the resurrection

God will unite us as one people

in which all are distinct

and all are alike at the same time.

Beyond this world, I believe in life eternal

in which no one will be an immigrant

but all will be citizens of God’s kingdom,

which will never end. Amen.

Book of Common Worship, 2018 edition. © 2018, Westminster John Knox Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  

Special Music

Refugee King (Away from the Manger) Scheer, Vice, Benedict, and Ruth (

God Speaks to Us Words of Grace

Scripture Reading

Matthew 2:1–8, 12–23


“Fear of the Stranger” (Part 2)

We Dedicate Ourselves to God’s Work and Go Out to Serve


Imagine Getty, LUYH 72

Declaration of Faith

How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

We can be patient when things go against us,

thankful when things go well,

and for the future we can have

good confidence in our faithful God and Father

that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.

For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand

that without his will

they can neither move nor be moved.

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 28

Even now,

as history unfolds

in ways we know only in part, 

we are assured

that God is with us in our world,

holding all things in tender embrace

and bending them to his purpose.

The confidence that the Lord is faithful

gives meaning to our days

and hope to our years.

The future is secure,

for our world belongs to God.

Our World Belongs to God, section 12

Parting Blessing


The Lord Is My Salvation Getty

Meg Jenista Kuykendall has served as Pastor at the Washington DC CRC since 2012. She received her MDiv from Calvin Theological Seminary in 2008 and is pursuing a ThM in preaching from the same institution.

Kathryn Ritsema Roelofs is a commissioned pastor in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and serves as a worship specialist with Thrive, a ministry of the CRC. She is also the managing director of the Worship for Workers project through Fuller Seminary. 

Reformed Worship 137 © September 2020, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.