Bottling Summer

DownloadBanner[1]At this year’s Columbia Bible College (CBC) Christmas chapel, I adapted a creative non-fiction piece I wrote awhile back to serve as a structural liturgy leading up to communion. CBC decided to offer this reflection as a gift to their constituents, and made it into a beautiful e-book. You can download it for free here (Bottling Summer) or simply click on the banner above.

Merry Christmas! May it be a season of storing up plenty. And if it feels more like a season of want this time around–may this be an encouragement to pull a few jars off the shelf and feast on the provision from richer seasons past.

Stacey

Advent 2013: Resisting Idolatry, Choosing Christ

2011, 2012 027This year our church is moving through a number of texts in Isaiah during Advent and on Christmas Eve. The readings below take the traditional themes of Advent (hope, love, joy, peace) and unpack them in an effort to determine where we place our trust. Isaiah deals with themes of idolatry and re-alignment with God through the actions of a Suffering Servant. I’ve counterpointed those themes with a repeated congregational reading of part of Mary’s song in Luke 1, which is a prophetic proclamation of the work that Christ has come to do – the work of a Suffering Servant.
 
(Texts used: Luke 1:46-55; Isaiah 1:2-3; 2:2-5; 40:1-11; 11:1-16. Dark print to be read by the congregation.)

WEEK 1: Tenacious Hope

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

We have a tenacious hope. A thin cry in the darkness that somehow, slowly, inevitably, pushes away the darkness and reveals the light. What can overcome the weight of sin in the world? What can overcome our idolatry? What can overcome war, and hunger, and murder, and rage, and the sorrow of a world bowed under—lost in darkness? What is big enough? What is strong enough to beat back the darkness?

The answer, it seems, is a baby. The weakest and most vulnerable humanity. Not even from a powerful family. Destitute. Poor. Fragile. A fragile hope. But a hope that acknowledges a God that goes beyond our expectations. Stepping down into the world he created. Choosing to live with those who have rejected him. Extending hope where there appears to be none.

Let us turn away from the false hope offered by our own power and wisdom and place our hope in Jesus Christ.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

We light this first candle of Advent as a sign of our tenacious hope.

PRAYER: Hope of Israel, as we walk through the darkness and difficulty of this world, would you help us to fix our eyes on you—to know that your work is not finished. Please teach us not to hope in ourselves. May we look instead to you, our hope. Knowing that you continue to work your hope steadily into this world. Knowing that, at your coming, all war and oppression and sorrow will cease. That the darkness that feeds on this world cannot withstand the coming of the light. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.

WEEK 2: Steadfast Love

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

We have a steadfast love. A love that follows and pursues us even when we would push it away. What can overcome the weight of sin in the world? What can overcome our idolatry? What can overcome war, and hunger, and murder, and rage, and the sorrow of a world bowed under—lost in darkness? What is big enough? What is strong enough to beat back the darkness?

The answer, it seems, is a baby. The weakest and most vulnerable humanity. This small, crying one, as we move to comfort him, turns instead to comfort us. For in his weakness, Christ brings us strength. Killed by hate, he lives to extend his love to us. A steadfast love: not dependent on the circumstances in which we find ourselves; not dependent on our actions or our words; not dependent on how well we perform. The love of a God who goes beyond our expectations. Stepping down into the world he created. Choosing to love those who have rejected him. Extending love where there appears to be none.

Let us turn away from the love of our own power and wisdom and accept the steadfast love of Jesus Christ.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

We light this second candle of Advent as a sign of our steadfast love.

PRAYER: Love of Israel, as we walk through the darkness and difficulty of this world, would you help us to know you—to know that you love us. Please teach us to love beyond ourselves. May we look to you, the one who loves us with a steadfast love. Knowing that you continue to work your love steadily into this world. Knowing that, at your coming, all war and oppression and sorrow will cease. That the darkness that feeds on this world cannot withstand the coming of the light. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.

WEEK 3: Persevering Joy

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

We have a persevering joy. A joy that moves through suffering and sustains us, even when we think we cannot continue. What can overcome the weight of sin in the world? What can overcome our idolatry? What can overcome war, and hunger, and murder, and rage, and the sorrow of a world bowed under—lost in darkness? What is big enough? What is strong enough to beat back the darkness?

The answer, it seems, is a baby. The weakest and most vulnerable humanity. And it is this child that brings joy even to those in darkness. For it is a persevering joy born neither in circumstance, nor in the things we buy, nor in the triumphs we celebrate, but in the knowledge that one day all will be well and all manner of things will be well. The joy of a God who goes beyond our expectations. Stepping down into the world he created. Choosing joy despite his rejection. Extending joy where there appears to be none.

Let us not run after temporary happiness in our own power and wisdom, but find persevering joy in Jesus Christ.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed,  for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

We light this third candle of Advent as a sign of our persevering joy.

PRAYER: Joy of Israel, as we walk through the darkness and difficulty of this world, would you help us to rejoice in you—to know that your work is not finished. Please teach us not to run after temporary happiness, but to find our joy in you. May we look to you, our joy, knowing that you continue to work your joy steadily into this world. Knowing that, at your coming, all war and oppression and sorrow will cease. That the darkness that feeds on this world cannot withstand the coming of the light. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.

WEEK 4: Persistent Peace

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

We have a persistent peace. A peace that goes beyond understanding and stills confusion, upheaval and war. What can overcome the weight of sin in the world? What can overcome our idolatry? What can overcome war, and hunger, and murder, and rage, and the sorrow of a world bowed under—lost in darkness? What is big enough? What is strong enough to beat back the darkness?

The answer, it seems, is a baby. The weakest and most vulnerable humanity. And it is this child that stops the war engines, turns instruments of torture into instruments of growth and flourishing, and stills the turmoil in our hearts. He brings a persistent peace that erodes the tempers of this world. The peace of a God who goes beyond our expectations. Stepping down into the world he created. Demonstrating peace in the midst of his rejection. Extending peace where there appears to be none.

Let us not seek our own peace through our own power and wisdom, but seek after the persistent peace of Jesus Christ.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed,  for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

We light this fourth candle of Advent as a sign of our persistent peace.

PRAYER: Peace of Israel, as we walk through the darkness and difficulty of this world, would you help us to know you—to know your peace. Please help us to seek peace in you rather than through our own efforts. May we follow you, knowing that you continue to work your peace persistently into this world. Knowing that at your coming all war and oppression and sorrow will cease. That the darkness that feeds on this world cannot withstand the coming of the light. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

CHRISTMAS EVE: Abundant Life

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

We have an abundant life. A life that springs up from the stump of Jesse, from the withered vine of human flourishing, and injects into that vine the abundant life of the creator. What has overcome the weight of sin in the world? What has overcome our idolatry? What has overcome war, and hunger, and murder, and rage, and the sorrow of a world bowed under—lost in darkness?

The answer, it seems, is a baby. The weakest and most vulnerable humanity. A fragile flicker of life that extends God’s abundant life in all directions: providing justice, reconciling differences, unifying our shattered and scattered world. An abundant life that confounds death and suffering. The life of a God who goes beyond our expectations. Stepping down into the world he created. Giving life to those who have rejected him. Extending life where there appears to be none.

Let us find our lives secure in the power and wisdom of Jesus Christ! (Light Christ candle.)

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed,  for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

Rejoice! For the light of life has entered the world and conquered the darkness! He has come! He is coming!

Remaking Christmas

Advent begins next Sunday – but the stores have been decorated and pumping out Christmas music for weeks already. This year makes a record for me: I saw my first tree on August 29. Well done Costco. Each year the music seems to get louder. The tinsel seems more garish. Each year Santa Claus gets bigger, and the manger fades just a little farther into the background. Even in Christian churches. Even in Christian homes. Even in Christian hearts.

That is what makes me saddest.

“How insidiously did the enemy work to slowly hijack Jesus’ birth and hand it over on a silver platter to Big Marketing, tricking His own followers into financing the confiscation? We all know it. We all feel it. Every year we bear this tension. Each December, the world feels off kilter. But in the absence of a better plan or an alternative rhythm or – let’s just say it – courage, we feed the machine yet again, giving Jesus lip service while teaching our kids to ask Santa for whatever they want, because, you know, that’s really what Christmas boils down to.”

A friend of mine shared Jen Hatmaker’s 2011 post “The Christmas Conundrum” on facebook, and I want to share it with you – because it spoke to me, and it might speak to you as well. In it, Jen asks the question: “What if a bunch of us pulled out of the system? What if we said something very radical . . . like: ‘Our family is going to celebrate Jesus this year in a manner worthy of a humble Savior who was born to two poor teenagers in a barn and yet still managed to rescue humanity.'”

What if.

Please follow the link to read the whole post. This woman’s got some great ideas: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/29/the-christmas-conundrum

Advent Readings, 2012

 

 

This year our church is moving through John 1:1-18 for the four weeks of Advent and for our Christmas Eve service. We will be exploring the themes of creation, light, home, glory, and becoming. Each service will begin with a full reading of John 1:1-18, and before the sermon we will use the following readings as we light our Advent candle – followed by the singing of O Come O Come Emmanuel (without the chorus – until we get to Christmas Eve, at which time it will be sung raucously and with great joy several times over!).

 

First Week of Advent, December 2: Creation

John 1:1-3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of your life: within us, within your world. We light this candle in the knowledge that without you, there is nothing. You are our life.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are thankful for your life. We see you everywhere we look: in the beauty you have created, in the relationships you have given us, and in the many blessings we have received from your hand. But we do not live in the fullness of your life. We turn back, time and time again, toward our own sin—toward death. The world you created is mired in oppression, injustice, pain, and death—and sometimes we wonder where you are. You were there at the beginning. You are here now, even in the midst of our darkness. Living God, we long for you to come again and bring the fullness of your life. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Congregation Sings: verse one only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

 

 

Second Week of Advent, December 9: Light

John 1:4-8

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of your light: within us, within your world. We light this candle in the knowledge that without you, there is only darkness. You are our light.

 Prayer: Dear Lord, we are thankful for your light. We see it in the eyes of our children, in the kindness that we are shown, and in the many blessings we have received from your hand. But we do not live in the fullness of your light. Too often we shade our eyes and turn away toward the overwhelming darkness: toward famine, and sickness, and war. But you said “Let there be light“—and the darkness was shot through with the glory of your presence. Bright Morning Star, come again into our darkness and declare the night over, and day begun… Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Congregation Sings: verse one and two only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

 

 

Third Week of Advent, December 16: Home

John 1:9-13

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of your home: within us, within your world. We light this candle in the knowledge that without you we have no home. You are our home.

 Prayer: Dear Lord, we are thankful that you have made your home with us. We find you at home in our conversations, in our actions, and in our thoughts. But we do not always feel at home with you. We do not always recognize you. In the midst of strife and conflict, in the middle of illness and pain, we often don`t see you for who you are. But you have come, and you are coming. You have made us your family, and we long for you to come and live with us again—to sit at our table… Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Congregation Sings: verse one, two, and three only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

 

 

 

Fourth Week of Advent, December 23: Glory

John 1:14-18

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of your glory: within us, within your world. We light this candle in the knowledge that without you there is no grace or truth. You are our grace and truth.

 Prayer: Dear Lord, we are thankful that you have revealed your glory to us. We see it in the words you have left for us to follow, in the friendships you have granted us, and each time another person turns to you. But we do not always live according to your glory. Sometimes we look around us and we sink into despair. We are defeated by the suffering and delusion all around us. But you have already won the victory. We long to see your victory brought to completion. Lion of Judah, come quickly to shatter our despair with your grace and truth… Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Congregation Sings: verse one, two, three, and four only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

 

 

Christmas: Becoming

John 1:1–18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of our faith in you. We light this candle in the knowledge that without you there is no faith. You are our faith.

 Prayer: Dear Lord, we have waited so long. And still we wait. But on this day, on this night we shout into the darkness and declare the victory of your light. For you have come. And by coming you have made us into something more than simply a people waiting in darkness. You have given us your life. You have given us your light. You have made your home with us. You have revealed to us your glory. You have made, and you are making us. You put on human flesh like a robe—wore our fragility like a cloak about you. But more than that. You are fully human. Vulnerable. Weak. But more than that. You are fully God. Powerful. Victorious. Holy God. Lamb of God. Jesus. Thank you… Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Congregation Sings: all verses of  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” followed by several repetitions of the chorus.

Chapters 9 & 10: Let’s start at the very beginning…

By Andrea Tisher

Advent. The beginning of the liturgical calendar. The darkness into which the light will dawn. The waiting. The anticipation.

But it’s more complicated than that. It’s a time of other-ness. It’s the counter-season to the commercial Christmas that starts right after Halloween (oh, for American Thanksgiving that would give us one more holiday to hold out for before switching over to Christmas…).

Chittister goes so far as to say that the liturgical calendar helps us to plumb the depths of human experience, and that Advent starts with the basic and essential dimention of human life – waiting. She writes that Advent “teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious…Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.” (59)

And waiting does seem to me to be an essential part of the human experience. Life can be painfully slow at times, particularly as we wait for growth. Other people take FOREVER to change. And then we compare the pace they take with our own and realize that change in our own hearts is positively glacial. Waiting will turn out to be a necessary discipline.

But what are we waiting FOR? Surely it’s more than a chance to open all those presents amassing under the tree, or to feast with family and friends that we may or may not be excited to see. Advent reminds us of the big picture – of the three comings as Joan rightly points out. The coming in the past – the birth. The coming in the present – God’s presence in Word, Table and Community. And the coming in the future – the parousia or ‘arrival’, the time when the Kingdom of God will finally come into its fullness (from Chapter 10). The function of Advent then is not simply preparation or anticipation of the birth of Christ, but of the WHOLE story. Of the whole calendar. Of the whole of history. As Chittister writes, “Advent asks the question, what is it for which you are spending your life?” And I can’t think of a better time in our culture to re-adjust our perspective on the big picture.

How has your participation in Advent helped to ready you not just for Christmas, but for the coming of God into your present life, and for re-aligning that life to the reality of a Kingdom that is here already but not yet in full?

Advent Carols

We all know which carols to pull out for Christmas, but which carols do we turn to if we really want to observe Advent rather than start our Christmas celebrations early?

Of course the two classics that are already familiar to most congregations are: “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” They work as Advent carols because they convey the sense of waiting and preparation that Advent entails. “Come” is the dominant word and theme, and these carols evoke both Israel’s longing for the Messiah, and our own longing for Christ to return and make all things new.

Other traditonal Advent hymns incude Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending, here sung by the Lichfield Cathedral Choir. T, Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding, and Rejoice, Rejoice Believers. These hymns speak of Christ’s second coming, and call us to prepare ourselves for his return. On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry calls us to confess our sins and prepare, once again, to welcome Christ.

Lest you feel that only hymn-singing congregations can celebrate Advent, however, allow me to recommend a few songs that, while not traditionally sung during Advent, certainly belong within a season of pain, waiting and longing. Laurell Hubick’s song Lift (unfortunately, all I have in the link to itunes, if anyone has chords, music, or a video for this song, please post it in comments) is a gentle way to enter into the disparity between what our world is, and what it should be, while still singing praise. Stephen Toon’s Even Though has a similar feel.

I would also commend to you a song that I found last year, when trolling through “holiday” music on itunes. It is an old carol that was traditionally used by beggars as Christmas approached, as a way of encouraging passersby to give more freely. It’s a haunting and repetative melody, and the lyrics are strongly moralistic, for which it has been criticised. As an Advent carol, however, it contains a confessional element (or a call to confession) that is very helpful in preparation for Christmas. I refer you here to Steve Winwood’s interpretation of the carol, but there is also a lovely acapella version by the The Watersons. The lyrics follow. Steve Winwood: “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand”

Christmas is now drawing near at hand
Come serve the Lord and be at His command
And God a portion for you will provide
And give a blessing to your soul besides
 
Down in the garden where flowers grow in ranks
Down on your bended knees and give the Lord thanks
Down on your knees and pray both night and day
Leave off your sins and live upright I pray
 
So proud and lofty is some sort of sin
Which many take delight and pleasure in
Whose conversation God doth much dislike
And yet He shakes His sword before He strike
 
So proud and lofty do some people go
Dressing themselves like players in a show
They patch and paint and dress with idle stuff
As if God had not made ’em fine enough
 
Even little children learn to curse and swear
And can’t rehearse one word of godly prayer
Oh teach them better, oh teach them to rely
On Christ the sinner’s friend who reigns on high

Advent Liturgies, 2011

Most of the scripture passages are taken from the lectionary. The other words I wrote in the hope that they will help our community to be honest about the darkness in which we wait – but also will encourage anticipation for Christ’s coming. So often we seem to think he could hold off a bit (until we reach a certain goal, or achieve a certain experience), but the reality is that we need him now – our world needs him now.

If you wish, you could repeat these readings and prayers each day, as a personal means of experiencing Advent. Light a candle. Create some space. And add to these words your own prayers for our world, for your community, and for yourself.

Week 1, Sunday, November 27: HOPE

Reading 1: Psalm 80:1-7; 17-19

Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of Israel’s hope for a Saviour, fulfilled in Christ. We light this candle as a symbol of our hope that Christ might enter each of our lives and transform us. We light this candle as a symbol of our hope that Christ will return and make all things new. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are surrounded by darkness. When we look at our world we see famine, injustice, and war. When we look at our community we see loneliness, sorrow, and pain. When we look at our own lives we see sin, fear, and shame. We are surrounded by darkness. But you, Jesus, are the morning star. The star that appears when night is at its darkest—and heralds the morning. Come, Lord Jesus, and awaken our hope. Come, Lord Jesus, and light our darkness. Come, Lord Jesus, and restore us, restore our community, restore our world. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Congregation Sings: verse one only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

Week 2, Sunday, December 4: LOVE

Reading 1: 2 Peter 3:8-15

Reading 2: Isaiah 40:1-11

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of God’s love for us, for our community, and for our world. We light this candle in the understanding that we continue to live in darkness, because God desires to bring light more abundantly. We light this candle as a symbol of our love, which provides light to the world through the Spirit of Christ, as we wait for him to return and make all things new. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are surrounded by darkness. We don’t understand why you allow famine and sickness. We don’t understand why you allow injustice and war. We don’t understand why you allow loneliness and pain. We are surrounded by darkness. But we understand that you love us. We see evidence of that love in the air we breathe, in the beauty we see, in the community you have given us, and especially in the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Even as we long for your coming, we are thankful that your love holds it at bay—that more may come to you. As we wait, help us to extend your love to others. Come, Lord Jesus, and love beyond our understanding. Come, Lord Jesus, and let your tenacious love transform us, transform our community, transform our world. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Congregation Sings: verse one and two only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

Week 3, Sunday, December 11: JOY

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of the joy we have in Christ. We light this candle in celebration of the good news we have received, and the good news that is surely coming. We light this candle in anticipation of the joy we will experience when Christ returns to make all things new. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Prayer:  Dear Lord, we are surrounded by darkness. Our joy is tempered by tears of sorrow. Our joy is tempered by pain and confusion. Our joy is tempered by news of the world’s despair. We are surrounded by darkness. But even in the midst of darkness, our joy cannot be repressed. For you have come to free the captive. You have come to make the blind see, and the deaf hear. You have come to bring peace to the nations. You have come to give sustenance to the poor, and to provide justice for the oppressed. Come, Lord Jesus, and teach us joy beyond circumstance. Come, Lord Jesus, and give us reason to rejoice. Come, Lord Jesus, so that our joy may be abundant, spilling from our mouths to light our community, and even our world. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Congregation Sings: verse one, two, and three only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

Week 4, Sunday, December 18: PEACE

Reading 1: Isaiah 9: 2-7

Reading 2: Colossians 1:15-20

Lighting of the Candle:  We light this candle as a symbol of the peace given to us by Jesus Christ, our Lord. We light this candle as a symbol of our unity as the body of Christ, and in the hope of greater unity yet to come. We light this candle, in a world tainted by war, as a proclamation that the God of peace will bring justice and peace to every shore. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are surrounded by darkness. When we look at our world we see hatred and war. When we look at our community we see anger and broken families. When we look at ourselves we see selfishness and discontentment. We are surrounded by darkness. But you, the light of life, have come to bring us peace—a peace that passes understanding, as we wait in our war-torn world for the light of your righteousness. Come, Lord Jesus, and heal our broken nations. Come, Lord Jesus, and heal our broken families. Come, Lord Jesus, and heal our broken hearts. Fill us with your peace. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Congregation Sings: verse one, two, three, and four only of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (no chorus).

Christmas: Sunday December 25 (or Saturday December 24); repeat on Sunday, January 1

Reading 1: Psalm 98

Reading 2: John 1:1-14

Reading 3: Titus 2:11-14

Lighting of the Candle: We light this candle as a symbol of our hope in Christ (light first candle). We light this candle as a symbol of Christ’s love for us (light second candle). We light this candle as a symbol of the joy we find in Christ (light third candle). We light this candle as a symbol of the peace of Christ (light fourth candle). And we light this candle in thankfulness for a creator who consented to become part of creation, so that we might know him better. We light this candle, rejoicing in the light of life that has broken into the darkness of the world. We light this candle, proclaiming that Christ has come, and that Christ is coming. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are surrounded by light. We do not deny the darkness that still lays hold of our world, of our community, of our lives—but we recognize that your light is greater. Your hope is stronger. Your love is wider. Your joy is deeper. Your peace is more substantial. We welcome you here. We rejoice over the unimaginable mystery of your incarnation with Simeon and Anna. We sing for joy over field and city with the angels. We kneel by your humble cradle with the shepherds. You have come. And everything is different. May we draw nearer to you this Christmas. May we share your hope. May we extend your love. May we be filled with your joy. May we experience your peace. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Congregation Sings: All of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” including the choruses!