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Posted: December 21, 2010 4:09 p.m.

Longest Night service today

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Christmas is a time of celebration and excitement, with parties, shopping, gift-giving, food, and time with family and friends.

But it can also be a somber time for some, those who are dealing with the loss of loved ones, or for people who simply do not cope well with this time of year.

This Christmas, two Covington churches are teaming up to produce a service to bring comfort to those who need it. First Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church will present the Longest Night Service at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the First Presbyterian sanctuary, 1169 Clark St.

Expect a much quieter and more subdued service than a typical Christmas or Advent service. The program consists not so much of Christmas carols but of Advent hymns and some of the more introspective songs of Christmas. There will be an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a pastor, to talk about burdens and receive prayer.

"This time of year, things can get dark for people," said the Rev. Billy Wade, pastor of First Presbyterian. "But it’s good to remember that Christmas is not about happiness but about joy that is based in the hope of the one who loves us and in the hope of things beyond."

Statistics show depression increases in winter, and is even more prevalent during the holidays. For those dealing with death or divorce, the days from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day are often filled with reminders of good times that will no longer be shared with loved ones. Also, fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures affect some people in drastically negative ways. Many people with health problems have difficulty participating in Christmas activities.

The Longest Night Service will cater to those who need encouragement, a renewed sense of peace, and a reminder that God’s Word says that "the darkness will not overcome."

The Longest Night Service is traditionally held on or around the Winter Solstice, which is the day with the least daylight, thus the "longest night." Ancient cultures would often hold events at the solstice, both to help others cope with the longer periods of cold and dark and to celebrate the fact that longer days were ahead. In Western culture, communities often held events on this night to celebrate Christmas as well as the change of season.

"The tradition of the Longest Night service goes back to a time when there was no electricity and only the rising of the sun would end the longest night of the year by welcoming the annual commencement of longer days," said Wade. "Through the years, the church has created a pastoral Longest Night worship liturgy for people who are mindful of the grief and stress that many of us bear during the Christmas season."

The two congregations have long been close, and have teamed up for other events, including Ash Wednesday services and Holy Week events. Though neither church has held a service like this one before, Wade says that those in his congregation who have attended such events described them as "meaningful." Though the service will largely be handled by clergy and church staff, a group of members from both churches has been praying for the event for several weeks.

Though it is specifically intended for those in need of comfort, Wade says that anyone will benefit from and be blessed by the evening.

"Come lift prayers for one another and for the peace of the world. Come if you simply want more time singing carols in our beautiful sanctuary. Come if you are traveling for Christmas and would enjoy an evening worship with your church family before you leave town."

For more information call the church office at (770) 786-7321, or see fpccov.org.

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