The Longest Night Service has been an important part of my Advent since I first attended one in the early 1990s. Soon after I started hosting it at the church I was serving.
It is traditionally held on the longest night of the year; hence the name. It can be held at other times and is sometimes called a "Blue Christmas" service.
The invitation is for those who need silence and an honoring of their sadness. For some, it touches them because of a grief in their lives. For others, it touches them because of conflict around them or within them. And for some, it is a chance to take a break from the enforced merriment of the season. Personally, I have needed that time of quiet reflection when the world tells me I'm supposed to be shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping, and basically doing everything possible to avoid coming face-to-face with God.
The service has singing - quiet hymns for Advent and Christmas - and prayer. And Scripture - plenty of Scripture. When you hear a Scripture reading that touches on your need, then you can come to the Table and light a candle. I always include Psalm 130, because of a personal story. Young Clayton (7 years old) died one January, after a long hospitalization for aplastic anemia. I remember visiting him on Christmas Day. I remember his mother's strength through his illness, and the horrible grief of his family and his school when he died. He died on a Sunday morning, and I scrapped my sermon that day and talked to the church about him - and had the church stand and say Psalm 130 together. Every year at the Longest Night Service I read Psalm 130 and I light a candle for Clayton. Usually I light a candle for me, too: "O Israel, hope in the Lord."
In 2016, the winter solstice in Omaha is at 4:44 am on Wednesday, December 21. That means the night of Tuesday, December 20 is the longest night of the year. We will observe the Longest Night Service on Tuesday, December 20 at 6:30 pm. If you need some quiet, and the assurance that God is gently present while the world around us is mad, come pray with us. And light a candle or six.