CALL TO WORSHIP/OPENING PRAYER (uses words from "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti [#55 in Voices United])
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind makes moan,
blowing across the snowdrifts, chilling the body to the core.
Earth stands hard as iron, water like a stone,
frozen and lifeless, cold and unforgiving.
Snow is falling, snow on snow,
as we gather to share the promise of life and warmth
God of life, death, and life beyond death, in this time of worship,
open our eyes and hearts to see new shoots coming from dead stumps, to see flowers blooming in the midst of the desert.
And in the end send us back out,
as people of life and hope, as people of peace and justice, as people who know that life still wins.
We pray in the name of Jesus, whose birth we prepare for, and who taught his friends to pray by saying together...
COMMISSIONING: (uses words from an Israeli traditional song "Joy Shall Come" [#23 in Voices United] which echoes Isaiah 35)
Joy shall come even to the wilderness!
A shoot shall spring forth from the stump of Jesse!
The parched land shall know great gladness!
As a rose, like a garden, the desert will blossom
The Anointed One is coming!
And in response we sing songs of Good News
Go out from this time of worship ready to proclaim the promise that life conquers death, that life still wins!
We go with God, who calls forth life. Amen.