Saturday, December 29, 2012

For the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's

We, who continue to celebrate the birth of Christ,
Go out to share the message that the angels sang:
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Humanity
The Old Year is Passing, the New Year is about to dawn.
Are we prepared for what it might bring?
Whatever it brings we will face it. But not alone.
God will go with us, supporting us in the future, as we have been supported in the past.
And so we will spread God's word of Love throughout 2013.
Indeed. For we are loved, called to love, by the Lover.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Prayer

God of Hope
We live in a world that all too often gives us reason to despair. And yet You offer us the promise of hope. In a world where so many struggle to get enough to live on, where it seems impossible to move forward against the force pushing us backwards, where it is so hard to see that things will get better, You offer us the promise of the Kingdom of God. This Christmas season, rekindle the fire of hope in our hearts. Reawaken in us a vision of the possibilities the world holds. Make us into hope-bearers, carrying Your Hope to places where despair seems to be winning.

God of Peace
So often Peace is just a word, a word whose meaning has been lost. Certainly it hardly seems a word that describes a world where children are shot at school, or firefighters shot responding to a fire, or marketplaces are blown apart by bombs, or enough money is spent annually on military expenses to feed the globe for decades, or so many other things that shatter the peace of which the angels sang. Tonight we celebrate the birth of the One we call the Prince of Peace. Tonight we listen again for the song of angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold. May we hear the siren call of Peace in our world. May we become makers of peace, in ways big and small, wherever we go. And may the Peace of Christ become not just a greeting we share in worship, but a reality in the world at large.

God of Joy
Churches and houses around the globe this night ring out with the sounds of Joy. “Joy to the World! The Lord is come” we sing. And yet joy is far from the minds of many this Christmas season. We hold in our hearts all those who are alone this night, and those who have an empty space at the table this Christmas, and those who find themselves in or beside a hospital bed. Sometimes Christmas is not what we want it to be. And the Joy seems to be lost. May all those who struggle to find joy in their lives know that they are not alone tonight. May they hear the word of promise that the baby is born for them, that in the midst of their struggles there is a promise that in the long term all will be well, all manner of thing will be well.

God of Love
That is the core of our lives isn't it. Love. That is what keeps us going, that we are loved and that we love others. In the end that is what it is all about. In love You continue to break into our world, into our lives. This Christmas season, and throughout the year that is to come, fill our hearts to overflowing with love. And may we, having experienced Your boundless, unlimited, passionate love, pass it on to all we meet. May love become the watchword and guidepost of our lives and the lives of all Your children.

God of Birth
Tonight we gather to celebrate a birth that happened long ago, the birth of a child laid in a manger because there was no place for his family in the inn. But tonight we also celebrate births that happen everyday. We sing praises for hope born anew in the midst of despair. We watch as peace is born in the middle of violence and struggle and disparity. We listen as joy is born afresh in the broken-hearted. We are overcome with emotion as love is born time and time again, overcoming fear and distrust and hatred. For all the births we celebrate this night we offer songs of thanksgiving and praise.

These things we pray in the name of the baby who now lies in the manger, the child who later taught his friends to pray together saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven…

December 24 Call to Worship (based on Isaiah 9:2-7)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”
The people who walk in darkness. That's us! We have seen deep darkness in the world around us.
So we have come to search for the light. We want the light to shine on us!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”
A child is born for US! A son is given to ALL of US!
We come to see the child that has been born, we come to gather in the glow of the stable, we come to sing with angels and wonder with shepherds.
Come and worship, come and worship. Worship the one who is born for us this day...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Opening Funeral Prayer for teh Christmas Season

God of Christmas, we gather here today
while the world continues to celebrate and sing joyful songs
with hearts that are heavy with grief.
There was a face missing at our Christmas this year,
and so we have come to say our farewells.
God who is with us in our joys and our sorrows,
you are one who gives us the gift of Life-in-Abundance
and so we come here today to celebrate life,
giving thanks especially for the life of NAME
God, you are mysterious beyond our full understanding,
and wonderful beyond our wildest expectation
yet you are also compassionate,
as protective as a mother watching her children at play,
as tender as a father holding his newborn child,
as watchful as a shepherd with the sheep,
as comforting as a grandparent’s warm embrace.
Today as we come into your presence to grieve NAME’s death,
we ask that your Holy Spirit would be here to ease our pain.
Be with us now, as we sing and pray and remember.
Through the shadow of death may we see the light and peace
promised in the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, Amen.

A Funeral Blessing for the Christmas Season

We go out from this time of remembering and farewell
into the world which is still festooned with the decorations of Christmas.
As we go, may we take comfort that the Babe of Bethlehem was born to share our joys and our sorrows.
May we remember that Emmanuel, God-With-Us comes to a world of struggle to bring peace, hope, joy, and love.
May the God who is revealed in a baby in a manger go with you this day.
May you remember the words of the angel “do not be afraid”
Even in the darkness of grief, may we all see the light that can not be overcome. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A PRayer for Children:

Spurred by the Connecticut School Shooting of Dec 14 but also remembering the dozens of children who die needlessly every single day:

God of life, God of laughter, God of death, God of tears,

Even as we pray for those families whose hearts break wit
h an act that we honestly believe should be rare (though increasingly it is not) we also remember that hearts are breaking and broken all over the world on a daily basis.

We hold in prayer all those who live in places where children die. Places where children die because there is not food. Places where children die because the marketplace is wracked by a suicide bomb. Places where children die because they happen to be too close to a place that is deemed by someone to be a military target. Places where children die simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Places where children die simply because there is nobody willing or able to care for them properly. Places where children die because...

God we read that list and our hearts ache for a world that sometimes feels too broken to ever be repaired.

We share the (apparently) idealistic dream that children somehow should be spared from the harsh realities of life. And yet we know it to not be true. And so, trusting in the hope of faith that the world can indeed be changed, we share the ancient words : Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

May it be so.   May it be so soon.  Amen

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Magi Monologues

The plan for Epiphany Day Worship on January 6 (which happens to be a Sunday this year) is to have three monologues intertwined with the verses of We Three Kings.  After some internet searching (and lamenting the apparent loss of a document I used to have that I could have used as the basis for the monologues) into traditions about the Magi, here are those monologues [courtesy of a lot of creative license]:

Melchior's Story: (Gold --1st) (Persia)
Hello. My name is Melchior. I brought the gold to offer to the child.

I came from the land of Persia. I was not a king as your song suggests. None of us were in fact. We. sometimes advised kings. We sometimes advised those who struggled against kings.

Maybe you would call me a priest? Maybe you would call me an astrologer? I spent my days studying the world and the stars, looking for signs about what would happen. For centuries my ancestors have done just that. We believe that the sky gives us information about what is happening and what will happen both in our homeland and in places far away. It is one of the ways the Creator of the World speaks to us.

Anyway, back to the story at hand.

One night I was taking my regular readings of the sky when something highly unusual caught my eye. A new light in the sky. Quickly I consulted my charts and could find nothing explaining it. So I studied it closely. I watched how it interacted with the other stars in the sky. And soon it was obvious to me that something spectacular was about to happen. The star signified a royal birth. And everything about it suggested it was to happen in the land of the Jews. I needed to learn more.

As it happens there is a tradition in my family that we have a connection to the people of Jerusalem. Many years ago the Babylonians conquered that city and took captives. One of those was a young man named Daniel. He rose high in the esteem of the Babylonian Royal Court, then when my Persian ancestors conquered the Babylonians this same Daniel moved into the service of the Persian King. It is a tradition in my family that Daniel was one of us, that he was in the same group of advisors that we are. For all I know I could be one of his descendants! Because of this we had in our records many writings from the Jewish land. I quickly consulted those to see what I could learn.

At any rate I quickly sent messages to my colleagues in other lands, telling them what I had seen and learned. Something this important required that we gave a reply of some sort. We had to go and see in person this thing that had happened.

While I was waiting for an answer from my friends I began to prepare to travel. A king had been born. I needed to take a proper gift, so I obtained a large casket of gold, a truly regal gift.

Caspar's Story (Frankincense --2nd) (India)
My name is Caspar, a scholar from one of the kingdoms in that part of the world you now call India. I brought frankincense to offer the child.

Like my friend Melchior I study the night skies for signs and warnings and news. When I too saw the strange new light in the sky I wondered what it would be. As I am still young and inexperienced I asked my mentors what they saw. But they had no idea what this new sign was. All they could tell me was that it was something of great importance. After asking every wise man in the kingdom I knew that I had only one other choice.

To the West in Persia was Melchior. Far older than I and much more learned. Quickly I gathered my servants and a small armed escort and started on my way to consult with him. I had barely started out when a messenger from Melchior met me on the road. We made camp and shared a meal together. After the meal I asked him what message he had brought with him. After I had heard it I could not wait any longer. Early the next morning we broke camp and I hastened to meet with Melchior to discuss this news.

When I arrived at his palace I found him preparing to leave. After we had feasted together I asked him to show me the old Jewish writings he had in his records. I spent an entire night and the whole next day poring over them, pausing only to compare my understandings with Melchior. What I found amazed me!

That next night Melchior and I went up to his observation gallery and watched the night sky again. The light had changed slightly. I looked at Melchior and said “It is done. The child is born.” Melchior said nothing, only nodded in agreement.

While we watched I took some more measurements and consulted the notes I had made. “There is more here than the birth of a king,” I said. “My reading of these signs says that God has come to dwell on Earth.”

At that very moment we decided that we would leave the next day. So in the morning we gathered our servants and Melchior called on his apprentices to join us. And with a larger armed escort we set out.

As we travelled we discussed what gifts would be most appropriate to take to the child. Knowing that many cultures burn incense in God's presence I knew what I needed. And so at the next city I sent my most trusted servant out to buy a large quantity of frankincense, so to honour the Child who was God in human form.

Balthazar's Story: (Myrrh -- 3rd) (Arabia)
My name is Balthazar. I come from Arabia and brought Myrrh to lay at the feet of the child.

When the first messenger from Melchior arrived I was stunned. How could I have missed such a sign? How could I have not heard about such things happening in the land of my brothers?

For we are brothers you know? We Arabs and the Jews. We in Arabia count ourselves as the descendants of Ishmael, the firstborn of Abraham, the elder brother of Isaac. But alas, from the time of our shared ancestor we have been at odds with our brothers. But I digress.

I spent many hours mulling over the message I had received, wondering what it might mean. I searched the writings we had in our records, I stared at the night sky, I spent time in deep meditation. What should I do?

Then a second messenger came. Melchior had been joined by Caspar from farther East. They were certain that the child was born. Even more they were sure it was more than a human king that had been born, that God had come to Earth. I resolved then and there to join them in their quest to see the child. So I gathered my own servants and a small escort and went to meet them on the road.

In addition to my scholarship I have been blessed with the gift of interpreting dreams. And it was a dream that influenced my choice of gift. My heart carried deep foreboding that this child would some day be killed. And so I gathered together a large supply of Myrrh, a burial spice.

After I joined my fellow travellers we continued to the most logical place to go looking for the new King of the Jews. We went to Jerusalem. We were quite a large entourage by this time, with many armed men as an escort. The people around the King were clearly unsure what to make of us.

While we were there our compatriots, men who also studied the ancient writings and the signs of the times looked into their traditions and told us that we were close to our goal. Bethlehem was where we wanted to go. So it was that we took our leave of the Jewish King and finished out journey.

After we had paid our homage to the child and presented our gifts we made ready to return to our homes. Melchior and Caspar had promised the Jewish King that we would tell him where the child was to be found. Foolish men. They had obviously not heard about the Herod. In Arabia we had heard about how jealous and violent and murderous he was. Then I was warned in a dream. If we told Herod where the child was the child would die. Once I told this to my fellows the choice was obvious. We bypassed Jerusalem and went home by a different road.

Strangely, many years later, I heard stories about a preacher who was thought to be God in human form. He was executed but his followers claimed that he had been risen from the dead. As I investigated the stories I am sure this man Jesus was the same child we visited all those years before. Of him it was said that once people met him they could not follow the same path any longer. They too had to follow a different road.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

For December 23, 2012 -- Advent 4C

We count it in mere hours now. Soon the first pains of labour will be felt.
Soon the Light will shine in the darkness, soon the baby will be born.
Soon God will once again break into our lives,
coming in a way that is expected yet unusual, challenging our expectations and calling us to see life differently. 
God of birth, God of light, in this time of song and prayer and silence,
reawaken in us the awe of Christmas.
As we hear again the story of a young woman and a surprising visitor,
remind us that we are called to respond to you in unexpected ways.
And when we leave this place,
may we be willing to sing praises for a young woman who said YES and the birth that we prepare to celebrate.
We pray in the name of the child who even now is starting to push from the womb, who would later teach his friends to pray saying...

It has been done! The News has been shared!
A young maiden will bear a child, and she will call him Jesus.
But that is the beginning of the story, a story that has not yet ended.
A story that includes us, a story of which we are a part.
So we go out to live the story,
to tell of the Hope that is being born among us the Christmas, to share the Love of the season with the world, to be agents of Peace in times of trouble, to sing songs of deep and abiding Joy.
As you go, may God go with you. Challenging us to respond God's Call
in ways that are new, unexpected and a little unsettling.
And as Tiny Tim said so very well...
God Bless Us Every One. Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christ Candle Responses for Epiphany and the Season Following

God is here! Among us, within us, bringing Light to our lives!
We light this candle to reminds us of God's Light that can never be extinguished.