Liturgy for a New Year: A Service of Holy Communion
December 31/January 1
New Year’s Celebration
Setting the Space
The main texts behind this service are Psalm 8 and Revelation 21: 1-6a. The images are of the wonder and vastness of creation, and of the beauty of a bride or groom approaching their beloved at the wedding.
Let the space you create reflect this imagery: use lots of greenery and twinkling LED lights to suggest the abundance and mystery of creation, and the hope of a “new heaven and new earth.” Adorn the space as if for a wedding; perhaps use the special carpet that marks the way down the aisle for a bride or groom to walk. Set the carpet to end at the Communion table, where later the congregation will place their commitments for the new year.
Set the table with:
- Communion elements
- One or two pitchers with water and a spoon for stirring
- An empty basket
- A tray of votive candles set in wet sand; when the candles are lit later in the service they can safely burn down to extinguish on their own. Have LED votive candles for children.
- On an easel by the table, have a large picture of your church or perhaps a large photo of your congregation, or a cross or other Christian symbol.
Each participant will need:
- a 3x3 post-it note,
- a small piece of rice paper or other dissolvable paper (If you cannot get rice paper, you could collect the papers and announce that you will burn them after the service.)
- an envelope with a piece of paper.
Call to Worship (based on Psalm 8)
Between the sections of the spoken call to worship, sing the first verse of Michael W Smith’s How Majestic Is Your Name; end the call to worship with the entire song. https://hymnary.org/text/o_lord_our_lord_how_majestic_is_smith
Leader: We gather here in this sacred space to lift up your name in glory.
At the start of this new year,
we continue to be amazed by your Creation,
Your heavens, with the multitude of stars in the vastness of space;
The secrets found in the depths of your oceans;
The majesty of your tallest mountaintops
and the roar of your waterfalls;
The splendor of your desert in bloom after a rainfall;
And the vast expanse of the African savanna.
Musical Response: How Majestic Is Your Name (verse 1)
You have set your glory above all the heavens
and yet still care for us.
You gave us responsibility for your creation
giving us the power over the works of your hands.
You shaped us in your image
and filled our world with your creations,
the sheep and oxen and all the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air and the fish of the seas.
We lift up our hearts and our hands
in praise and thanksgiving for your Creation.
Musical Response: How Majestic Is Your Name
New Year’s Ritual
Scripture – Revelation 21:1-6A
In this scripture, we learn that the New Jerusalem
comes down from heaven: God in the midst of the world.
Revelation describes this new moment with wedding imagery,
a relationship of perfect joy and peace between God and God’s people.
We are called to partner with God to make this new heaven and new earth.
Invite people to consider how they might commit themselves<
to one or two things in the upcoming year
that will show God’s love and teachings in the world.
Also ask them to consider what might hold them back
from showing God’s love to others.
Invite them into a writing exercise:
- On the post-it note, write what new practice they plan on trying in 2020.
- On the rice paper, ask them to write what might prevent them from successfully implement this practice.
- On the paper in the envelope, ask them to write a short letter to themselves that reminds them of their choice and encourages them to continue the practice. Tell them to write their name and address on the envelope and to seal it. The church will then mail their letter to them in late May 2020.
Have reflective music playing in the background.
Prayer to begin the writing process
God of Creation and Wonder, you formed us in your image.
You gave us your Son who taught us how to live out your teachings.
Give us the strength and wisdom to make this world your world.
Open our hearts to the possibilities of the new year.
Remove any cynicism or mistrust we may be clinging to
and fill us with the hope of a new beginning. Amen.
Invite people to come forward with their post-it note, rice paper and letter to themselves.
- Direct them to put the post-it note on the large photo of your church. This will be used in the upcoming year as a visual symbol of what the congregation has promised to do in the world.
- They should place the rice paper in the pitcher and stir the water until the paper dissolves. This symbolizes handing over their fears or concerns to God.
- Their letter to themselves should be placed in the basket.
As this is occurring, if you have a choir, have them sing the hymn, What Does the Lord Require of You (Jim Strathdee, Moon tune). This can be sung in a round. https://hymnary.org/text/what_does_the_lord_require_of_you_what_d
As the congregation comes forward, have them remain standing around the table, and ask them to join into the song.
If you have the space, have the people remain standing around the table for Communion.
Jesus, you invite us to your table, freely, without condition.
We cannot earn a seat at your table and yet we are here.
We came together as individuals,
but have now formed a community of believers.
Just as the grapes and the grains of wheat are transformed,
we also are transformed by your grace and your love.
Christ, you have brought us together into your extraordinary presence.
We have no words with which to explain or to fully understand,
and yet we are here with open hearts and open hands.
As we work together to make this world the New Jerusalem,
we ask that you continue to transform us.
A new year is upon us, a year full of your promise and possibilities.
Help us to see ourselves in a new light and fill us with a desire for change.
ou taught us that God’s creation is full of abundance
to be shared with everyone.
Encourage us to share your love and your gifts with those around us.
We have come to this table at your invitation.
Once strangers, now family.
Together, we lift up our voices to give you praise and thanksgiving:
Sanctus can be sung or spoken
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God.
Hosanna in the highest.
Words of Institution in the tradition of your congregation.
Prayer for the Holy Spirit
In this act of sharing a common meal, we ask the Holy Spirit to come to us.
At this table, we are able to see, smell, touch and taste
the gifts that our God freely offers to us.
And yet, this table, is filled with not only God’s gifts to us,
but also with our dedications to God for the new year.
Fill us, Holy Spirit, with the promise of new possibilities
and open our hearts to the New Jerusalem here on earth.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Invite people to receive the bread and cup. As they process forward or (if they are already at the table) after they have received Communion, invite them to light a votive candle while they say a prayer for the new year. Children can “light” an LED votive candle and place it on the table.
You are the people of Christ, the people of the New Jerusalem.
You have been claimed by God.
Look bravely into the future and see the promise of the new year.
See the abundance of God’s gifts in the world.
Feel the presence of God in the world with you and
go forward in God’s strength, love and grace. Amen.
A Service of Holy Communion for the New Year was written by Catherine Kenlin, a recent graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary, and Member in Discernment in the Lancaster Association of the Penn Central Conference.
Copyright 2019 Justice Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.