Wednesday, December 28, 2016

For January 8, 2017 -- John the Baptist

God of life and love, as we gather for worship this morning,
open our eyes and hearts to see signs of your grace.
God of life and love, we gather as a baptized and baptizing community,
trusting that the waters of faith have changed and cleansed us,
pledging to live as citizens of the Kingdom.
God of life and love, we gather together at the table of faith,
as we eat and drink together, reawaken in us a sense of common purpose.
God of life and love, when we leave this place today,
lead us in the path of Christ, lead us to follow his Way. Amen.

God, in Christ you proclaim that the Kingdom is here among us.
But when we look around it is sometimes hard to see signs this is true.
God, in our baptism you proclaim us to be citizens of the Kingdom.
But if we are honest we know that sometimes we are part of the brood of vipers.
God, in the words of John the Baptizer you call us to prepare.
To prepare ourselves and our lives for the kingdom.
To reset our priorities and live as people of the Way
To be cleansed and changed, to repent and change our path
To open our hearts for the coming of the Promised One.
God of grace, as a people who are not always what we could be,
we seek your grace, we pray that you would work in our hearts and souls.
Changing us from within and without,
growing the Kingdom through and around us.
God of grace, who offers us forgiveness and renewal,
we offer our thanks and praise. We pledge to follow your Way. Amen.

We have gathered, we have prayed, we have eaten.
Now we are sent back out to live and serve.
As we go into the world we pledge:
to live as changed people;
to use God’s priorities as the guide to our life;
to prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom
God with God: who creates, who redeems, who transforms.

Call to Worship for January 2017

(uses the chorus of VU#82 A Light is Gleaming by Linnea Good)
A light is gleaming, spreading it arms throughout the night.
God’s light draws us here, God’s light guides us along The Way of life
Come share its gladness, God’s radiant love is burning bright.
We come to worship God, we come to be reshaped as God’s people.
In this place God challenges us to _______ as we join the early disciples to follow Christ
As we open our hearts for worship, we greet our neighbours with words and signs of Christ’s Peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Prayer 2016

God it is Christmas again.
Another year has come and gone.
Once more we join the shepherds as they flock to the stable to see the newborn baby.
Once more our eyes search the heavens for signs of angels appearing in our midst.
Or maybe the angels are standing beside us. Sharing tidings of comfort and joy.
As we stand in wonder at he Good News for all people we open ourselves to you.

God it is Christmas again.
And yet again we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child in a world where despair seems stronger than hope,
Yet again Christmas comes to shake us, to awaken the power of possibility and promise.
The local Salvation Army aims for 1200 hampers, food bank usage is up.
There are neighbours with an empty spot at the table this year.
There are neighbours who struggle with their health: physical, emotional, mental.
We search for signs of rebirth, of the time when all will live with basic needs met.
We look to the promise that in Christ we see the breaking in of your kingdom.
And until that day we live in hope.

God it is Christmas again.
For the last several week joyful songs have filled our stores, our coffee shops, our radios.
The joy of the season rings in our ears.
Sometimes Joy is hard.
Sometimes the spark of life seems to get extinguished.
This Christmas, as we tell the old story and sing the old songs.
Reawaken in us the wonder of the shepherds hearing the angel proclamation,
the wonder we see in a young child’s eyes when they see the gifts under the tree,
the joy of knowing that we are not alone, the God is with us always, in the ups and the downs of life.
Help us trust, and in that trust find joy.

God it is Christmas again.
A season of Love.
Love is the force that drives us forward.
Love is what conquers fear.
Love can lift us up, love can be the source of deep pain.
God who loves us from our beginning to long after we draw our final breath,
in this Christmas season fill our hearts with love.
In a world where we are told to be afraid, remind us of the duty to love.
And so we may share the love that shines from the manger this night.

God it is Christmas again.
Again we have heard the angel proclaim the Good News.
Again we have heard about Peace on Earth, Good will to all.
But the world around us seems not to know what peace is.
Rivalry and hatred and discord seem to win the day.
Help us respond to the Good News by becoming people of peace.
Locally and globally may we push each other to build peace.
And in doing so, live out our call to be people of love and hope and joy.
God it is Christmas again.
And we join in the celebrations.
And we marvel at the baby.
And we remember the promise.
Before the marvel of this night we stand silently.
Giving thanks,
holding those who struggle in love and prayer,
letting the glory of Christmas sink into our souls
...time of silence...
Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!
Alleluia and Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Meditation for Christmas Eve 2016

Photo Credit
(Uses the poem Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
When Luke wrote his account of Jesus’ birth, he had the angels announce the birth with the words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. Centuries before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah wrote “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined...For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,”. Centuries later, as the followers of Jesus told the stories of his life they remembered the words of Isaiah and saw Jesus being described. And so for generations we at Christmas time have sung the carols of peace on earth, good-will to men!.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
There is a power to the promise of peace at Christmas. Last Sunday morning I was testing the video we have just watched. Two of my daughters were watching it with me, and their considered opinion was that this had to be a fictional story. Such a thing could not happen. And I can see their logic. It goes against everything we have been taught about battlefronts. And there are stories that French soldiers in neighbouring sectors (most of the truce stories involve British troops) being shocked at what was happening. But it did. Not across the whole Western Front but in various places there are records of a very informal truce cropping up at Christmas 1914. Maybe some of them did include a quick pick-up game of football.

The promise, the possibility, the hope, of peace sticks strong in the human soul. There is a part of most of us that knows peace is the better path. Some seasons ago, Inspector Brackenreid of Station house 4 told Detective Murdoch and Constable Crabtree that one of the hardest things to do in war is to get men to intentionally shoot and kill other men. For those of us with Christian heritage, the words of Jesus about being peacemakers, about loving our neighbours and enemies, sink deep. We still want, in whole or in part, to join the song of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
But alas the world as we know it is rarely the world as we would want it to be. Longfellow wrote this poem, Christmas Bells during the US Civil War, a time when his nation was in the throes of a conflict that threatened its very survival. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was short-lived, just a few hours, and was not repeated in 1915, 1916, or 1917. Indeed the officers involved were severely reprimanded. Fraternizing with the enemy was deemed not good for morale, at the very least it was gross misconduct, if not treason. And besides, it is entirely possible that the longer the war dragged on the harder it would be to imagine behaving like that towards the men who spend the rest of the year trying to kill you.

After all these years it is still so easy to say:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
We read the stories of the siege of Aleppo, a siege that has lasted over 4 years. Some of us remember the stories from the siege of Sarajevo or the massacre of Srebenica a generation ago. We remember the tales General Romeo Dallaire tells from Rwanda. During the week before Christmas a Russian ambassador is assassinated in Turkey and a truck crashes into a Christmas market in Berlin. Our news feeds tell us of an increase of people being attacked because of their sexuality, or their skin colour, or their religion. We are told to be afraid of Islamist terrorists just waiting to strike here in North America. It is easy to wonder if the will for peace is strong enough to counter the hate, the anger, the fear that threatens to drown out the song of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
But once again it is Christmas. Once again we listen for the song of angels. Once again we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. There is still hope. God has not given up on the world, God will not give up on the world. God is breaking into the world again this night.

As we gather at the manger to see the new-born King we are invited to share his Passion. Jesus invites us to share a passion for God’s kingdom. As we listen to the angel proclamation we are invited to see what is possible. Despite all that happens in the world the bells still ring out. The song still echoes through the air. Emmanuel, God-With-us, is in the world. This broken world, with all its fear and hatreds and violence, is also the place where God is active. Peace On Earth is more than a sentiment on a card. It is the hope that is born again this Christmas as the bells ring the carols sweet, and the words repeat, of peace on earth goodwill to men.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Prayer of Memory and Intercession (for a Blue Christmas Service)

God of hope,
You come to us in the midst of our despair and offer hope.
In hope we hold the memories of our past in our hearts.
The memories give us hope, they remind us of what was,
they keep alive the happiness of those days in our hearts.
As we remember and give thanks, keep us hoping for the new memories yet to be made.

God of peace,
In this season of preparation we join the global family praying for peace on earth, good will to all.
In this season of preparation we seek a time of rest, an oasis of calm in the midst of the activity.
Grant us the peace of mind to sit with our memories, to stay with our grief, to find the peace that heals a broken heart, and a broken world.

God of joy,
Sometimes joy is difficult.
Sometimes the hardness of the world sinks into our soul and joy is pushed out.
Help us trust in you. And as we trust,
open our eyes to see the signs of joy that stubbornly push through the icy hardness of life.
May we find joy in remembering years past, and joy in the present, and look ahead to joy in the years to come.

God of love,
Love is that force that drives the world.
Love brings tears to our eyes, be they tears of wonder, or joy, or pain, or sorrow
Love shapes our memories.
In this season of Christmas, remind us of the love that surrounds us.
Remind us that love never really lets go.

God of Christmas,
We listen for angel song.
We watch for signs of new birth.
We trust in the promise.
In this season of birth, of promise, as we carry the hopes and fears of the past and present into the future,
Remind us that we are not alone, that you are with us.
Emmanuel, we raise our memories, the bitter and the sweet, and share them with you, that you would share the heaviness they sometimes bring, that you would help us celebrate the promises and possibilities of life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

For Christmas Eve

Stop! Look! Do you see it?
See what?
That light shining in the distance. The one that seems to dance and sing on the horizon.
Yes I see it! It is so warm, What could it mean?
Something special is happening. Something new is being born!
Let us go and see!
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the new-born King

The nights are long, the days are short, the wind is cold.
We stave off the darkness and the cold with candle flames.
Flames of Hope, of Peace, of Joy, of Love (light the four outside candles)
There is one more flame to be lit.
On this night of glory we remember that God is born in our midst,
the Light of the world that no darkness or cold can extinguish
And so we light our centre candle, remembering the Babe who is the centre of our celebration, Christ who is the centre of our faith (light centre candle)
God, so often we are the people who walk in darkness.
We live in a time where darkness is deep and yet,
we have seen a great light
for unto US a child is born, unto US a son is given.
This night we join in the songs of angels and the wonder of shepherds.
Celebrating that the Prince of Peace is come!
Gloria in excelsis!
Glory to God in the Highest! Amen.

Peace on the Earth, Goodwill to all.
The angel song rings in our ears.
The baby has been born, the story is just beginning.
The promise of peace shines from the manger, calling us to live as peacemakers.
As we go out to celebrate the Christmas Season,
we share the light of the Christmas star, the light that brings hope, peace, joy, and love.
And we do so knowing that the Light shines in the darkness but the darkness can never overcome it.
Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, Peace.