Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Prayer

God of the Circle...
God who was and is and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the One with no beginning and no end.
We gather here as one year draws to a close and another year begins.
This Christmas draw the circles of love in our lives close around us.
As the cycles of the year to come go around may we carry with us the joy and hope that comes from knowing that we are a part of Your circle of love,
may we carry with us the promise of the child who is called Emmanuel, God-with-Us

God of the Evergreen...
Already the winter seems long and the snow is deep.
The green growth of spring seems so far away.
And yet we look for life.
God of life, you gave Isaiah a vision of flowers blooming in the desert.
You give us the evergreen, which defies the ice and cold of winter.
In this Christmas season may we see the life that breaks out where we least expect it:
a baby born to a virgin, green growth in the snowbank, flowers in the desert.
And, having seen that life, may we be those who share the word of hope, the promise of life, with all we meet.

God of the Holly...
Needle sharp prickles, blood red berries, bitter tasting bark –
the Carol tells us that the holly bears all these things.
We know that every Christmas comes with struggle and sorrow for some people.
We pray with and for those who find it hard to be merry this Christmas,
those for whom Joy and Peace are just words – not a reality or a promise.
Those in Ontario whose power is still out...
those in our own community who spend the year worrying about next month's rent or the next meal...
those who have an empty place at the Christmas table this year...
those who find themselves in a hospital bed, and those who sit and wait beside those beds...
those who live in places where we would not be caught dead...
We pray for and with all of your children.
May all of us hear again the angel's words: “Fear Not! For behold I bring you tidings of great joy!” May we all feel the comfort of knowing that unto us is born a saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
May the knowledge that God is breaking into our lives ease the sting of life's wounds.

God of the Candlelight...
Isaiah spoke saying: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”.
John wrote the the light which was in the beginning shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Here we are in the time of the year with the shortest days and the longest nights.
And so we look for light.
In this Christmas season may our eyes be blinded by the light of Jesus' birth.
May the light we meet this night shine in our hearts the whole year through,
and may it shine through us to give light to all we meet.

God of the Center...
You are the centerpoint around which we live the circles of our lives.
You are the center of our hope, of our faith, of our lives.
Tonight, amidst the hustle and bustle, the excitement and anticipation of this Christmas season,
we have gathered here at the center of the story.
Christ the Lord is Born!
We sing with angels and wonder with shepherds.
And we go out to the rest of our Christmas
to share the Good news of birth with the world.
We pray in the name of the child who lies in the manger,
Jesus of Nazareth, our Teacher and Guide, our Rock and Redeemer,
Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

For December 22, 2013 -- Advent 4

We gather just after the shortest day of the year,
in the season of darkness we come seeking the light.
We gather to prepare for a birth that is just days away,
in the season of coloured lights and carols we come seeking The Light.
We gather in the name of the One who is the Light of the World,
the light that no darkness can overcome.
Come, let us worship, come, let us prepare ourselves for the Christ light to flood our lives....

Dawn is breaking, the darkness fades.
The Light is coming into the world.
Though we may walk in darkness, real or symbolic.
The Light is coming into the world.
We go out to celebrate the child, the son, that has been unto us.
We go out to share the Light.
We go with God, who was in the beginning, who is in the present, who will be in the future.
The Light that no darkness can overcome. Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reflections for Blue Christmas Service:

To go with this service
We gather here today as another round of the calendar draws to a close. The circle has gone around again, bringing with it times of sorrow and times of joy; times of despair and times of hope; times of longing for what was and times of wondering what will be. And for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.

The circle of the seasons, the circle of the week, the circle of the day. Life is full of cycles, repetition, patterns. Sometimes these patterns bring us comfort, or at least keep us going when the world falls apart. And sometimes the patterns and cycles remind us of how this go round will not be the same , how something is missing, and so bring us a feeling of loss, of sorrow, of longing for things to be “the way they were”.

But still the circles turn. Unendingly they turn, pulling us around with them, bringing us up and down. And so we light this candle to remind us of the circles, to remind us that there is a time to weep and mourn but also a time to laugh and dance. May its light and warmth sustain us as the circles carry us through the years....

The snow drifts pile up. The cold wind blows. The ground is hard and frozen.
The sand dunes stretch for miles. The sun blazes down. All is hot and dry and barren.
Neither is an image that suggests comfort and life.

But wait. Look again at the winter scene. As the wind gusts it shakes the trees, sending lumps of snow to the ground and revealing the trees. Sometimes the branches revealed are bare and dry, mere sticks in the winter landscape, bereft of any sign that they once bore bright green leaves. But then there are the other trees. Dark green against the white snow. Defying the cold and lifelessness of winter. Reminding us of the life that continues.

Or shall we join Isaiah in the desert, watching it burst into bloom? A place where the barrenness is replaced with life through the power of God.

We light this candle to remind us of the possibility of life. We light it to remind us that there is life, even when we may not expect it, there is life. May the light of this candle give us hope when we have lost it....

Such a pretty plant. But pick it up and you feel its sharp thorns, poking holes in the skin so that drops of bright red blood join the bright red berries. Such is the Holly.

Such a pretty season, coloured lights everywhere, songs ringing through the air. But look closer. There amidst the joy and excitement are people whose hearts have been pierced, people for whom the joy is hard to find, people who need a place where they are allowed to feel the pain that breaks their heart. Such is Christmas.

As the circle of the year turns, it brings Christmas. And so Christmas comes to us all in our sorrow and our pain as well as our joy and excitement. But hidden amongst the coloured lights and the joyous carols is comfort. Hidden amongst all the fuss and bother is hope, the promise that a road is being built through the rough places, the proclamation of comfort to those who struggle. The Holly of the season reminds us that not all is well. But the promise is there – we are comforted in our pain, we are given a path to follow that leads us through the rough places. For God gathers us as a shepherd gathers the lambs, holding us close, holding us safe.

We light this candle to remind us that we carry our own wounds, but also to remind us of the One who brings comfort, who binds our wounds and shares their pain. May the light of this candle remind us that we are not alone...

In the beginning, all was darkness and chaos. In the beginning, God's Spirit was there. In the beginning, God spoke “Let there be Light”. And everything changed. There was light, there was order (or at least some order).

When Blue Christmas services first started to gain traction they were often held on the night of the solstice, the longest night of the year (and many were in fact given names like “Longest Night Service of Into the December Darkness). It was a way to honour not only the reality of our days in this latitude but also the darkness of grief.

Isaiah wrote “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who walked in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” There are times when we are the people who walk in darkness. And so we come searching for the light.

There are days when life thrusts us into darkness and chaos. And God's Spirit is there. And God speaks, saying “Let there be Light”. And things change. Maybe not all at once but they change. Even if shadows remain, the light drives away the darkness. And order starts to take shape within the chaos, even if only to the point where it can now be called “ordered disorder”.

We light this candle to remind us of the light that was and is and yet will be. We light this candle to remind ourselves that we need not walk in darkness. May the light of this candle shine in our hearts whenever the shadows grow stronger and deeper...


The center of our circle, the center of the season, the center of our hope. Christ the Lord is Born! The Light of the World is come!

We have come to our last candle. We have come to the point when we are reminded of where the hope, the comfort, of the season. The angel speaks across the centuries of faith and tradition to reach into our own hearts, quelling the fear, touching the despair with words of hope. “Do not be afraid..for to you is born a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”

John reminds us that the God who comes as a child is the God who has been from the beginning, the Word that brings hope, light and life to a world. Today we remember the promise of the Light that can never be overcome, no matter how dark the world may get. Can we join with the angels, even if only with part of our being, and sing Glory to God for the Christmas gift?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For January 5, 2013 -- Epiphany Sunday

We have seen a light, we have been drawn toward it.
We come together to find out its source, to honour the child from whom it glows
We come to offer the child our gifts of time, ourselves, our worship.
We come to worship the child in whom we see God's own face.
We gather together to eat and drink, to be refreshed, to be sent back out
Let us worship together, greeting each other with words of peace and blessing...
God of light, like the Magi we are drawn into your light, into your presence.
Like them we want to bring our best to lay by your side.
God of light, like the Magi, we are sometimes unaware how proclaiming the birth of Jesus threatens those around us.
Causing them to strike back in ways that are violent, shocking, and destructive.
God of light, when the shadows of the world loom on the horizon,
grant s the grace, the strength, the wisdom to react appropriately.
God of light, when we are the ones who are casting the shadows,
grant us the grace, the strength, the wisdom, to choose another path.
..time of silent prayer...
The God revealed in the Christmas child is gracious and giving. The God revealed in the manger draws us to the light with mercy and forgiveness. The God revealed in the Christmas star helps us to shine through the shadows of life.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
We have come seeking the child, born the King of the Jews.
We have knelt with the Magi, offered gifts and honour.
But we have heard that there are those who are threatened by his birth,
so threatened that they will strike out in fear and anger.
But there still is good news to share!
Christ is born! Hope is born! Light is shining that no darkness can overcome!
And so we go out as changed people, to face the shadows, to share the light and hope of the birth.
Trusting that God goes with us each and every step of the way. So Be It. Amen.

Christ Candle REsponse for Epiphany and the Season After

Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. “
As this candle light is set up high so all can see by its light, so may we shine in the world.

For Christmas Eve...

On this night, something special is happening,
something amazing, something that will change the world.
On this night the stillness is split with surprising sounds,
the cry of a newborn, the song of angels.
On this night we join sisters and brothers across the years and across the miles,
praise-fully calling “Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord”
The old story has been told, the old songs have been sung
Jesus is born! The world has been changed!
As we leave this place with the carols vibrating in our souls we have good news to share.
The child in the manger, the one at the center of all the fuss, brings us hope for Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all!
As you go to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-With-Us, know that God is with you every day and every hour. And so sing with the angels and shepherds:
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

O Tannenbaum Revisted

O Christmas Tree
(verses1 & 5 traditional, others by Gord Waldie)

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Your boughs are green in summer's clime
And through the snows of wintertime.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
In you we see God's Promise
That even though we might despair
God's brings us life and hope to share
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
In you we see God's Promise

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
What wonderful surprises.
Where we expect to only find
cold barren ground you blow our minds.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
What wonderful surprises.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You speak of life unending
Though all around is ice and snow
still life goes on while cold winds blow.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You speak of life unending

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson
That constant faith and hope sublime
Lend strength and comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.

Monday, December 2, 2013

For December 8, 2013 -- 2nd of Advent

Outside the snow is deep, and underneath the ground is frozen.
Inside the tree lights glow, and the fellowship warms our hearts
In the middle of the winter, when the world seems to be asleep,
we come together to celebrate life that comes in surprising ways and places.
Come and worship, come and worship, worship God who brings us life.

(Uses lines from O God of Life)
God of life who wills new life to be.
Sometimes our world does a better job of showing us disasters than new life springing forth.
Through love created; born a child.
In this Christmas season we await the birth of a child, but also we look for signs of hope, peace, joy and love.
God of power, whose Spirit you have sent,
flowing through the water of baptism, coursing through the blood in our veins.
As we prepare for the coming child, fill us with your wisdom.
So that we can be aware of the life that never goes away.
AS we celebrate the gift of life in baptism,
may we be surprised by life in new and unexpected places.
And may we live in hope, for where there is life...
there is hope. Amen.

As we leave this time of worship,
we go from the warmth of the indoors into the winter wonderland that surrounds us
As we continue to prepare for the Christmas festival,
we keep our eyes and ears open for the signs of new life that surround us.
We echo the ancient cry:
Come Emmanuel, Come God-With-Us.
May God walk with you as we prepare for the first cry of a newborn in a stable.