Advent Four

Advent Week 4

December 20

Luke 1:46-49 

Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord!

In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.

[God] has looked with favor on the low status of [their] servant.

    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored

     because the mighty one has done great things for me.

Holy is [their] name. (CEB)

Surprising God, fill our hearts with joy and wonder at the ways you subvert the systems of the world. Bear within us the heavy word that speaks grace to the weary world. Amen. 

December 21

Luke 1:50-51 

 [God] shows mercy to everyone,

        from one generation to the next,

        who honors [them] as God.

[God] has shown strength with [their] arm.

    [God] has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. (CEB)

Merciful God, scatter our pride and focus our hearts on you. May we learn from the earnestness of our children and the wisdom of our elders. Amen. 

December 22

Luke 1:52-53 

[God] has pulled the powerful down from their thrones

        and lifted up the lowly.

[God] has filled the hungry with good things

    and sent the rich away empty-handed. (CEB)

Mighty God, tear the tyrant from their thrones and redistribute the wealth that has destroyed too much. In your power: fill the hungry, release the oppressed, sustain the work of justice. Amen. 

December 23 

Luke 1:54-55 

[God] has come to the aid of [God’s] servant Israel,

        remembering [God’s] mercy,

just as [God] promised to our ancestors,

        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” (CEB)

Saving God, you see us when we struggle, when our voices are unheard, when we feel lost, lonely, or abandoned. Free us to help those around us without counting the cost, to see what needs to happen. Amen. 

December 24

Isaiah 9:2, 6 

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.

    On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

A child is born to us, a son is given to us,

    and authority will be on his shoulders.

    He will be named

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (CEB)

Human God, shine light on us in these shadows. Guide us on the path to the child born tonight. Amen. 

Advent 3

Advent Week 3

December 13

Isaiah 61:1

The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me.

[God] has sent me

to bring good news to the poor,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim release for captives,

and liberation for prisoners. (CEB)

God of freedom, free the prisoners, release the captives, heal our broken hearts—we need some good news. Amen.

December 14

Isaiah 61:2-3a

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

and a day of vindication for our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

to provide for Zion’s mourners,

to give them a crown in place of ashes,

oil of joy in place of mourning,

a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. (CEB)

God of joys, God of sorrows, comfort us in our grief, celebrate with us while we dance, and hold us in all our varied and true feelings. Amen.

December 15

Isaiah 61:3b-4

They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,

planted by the Lord to glorify [God’s own self].

They will rebuild the ancient ruins;

they will restore formerly deserted places;

they will renew ruined cities,

places deserted in generations past. (CEB)

God of restoration, work through us to rebuild what has been lost. Amid ruins and places of death, plant life for everyone to flourish. Amen.

December 16

Isaiah 35:1-2

The desert and the dry land will be glad;

the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus.

They will burst into bloom,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

They will receive the glory of Lebanon,

the splendor of Carmel and Sharon.

They will see the Lord’s glory,

the splendor of our God. (CEB)

God of splendor, plant us deep in you. Flourish within us joy that blossoms in unexpected places so we may reflect your glory. Amen.

December 17

Isaiah 35:3-4

Strengthen the weak hands,

and support the unsteady knees.

Say to those who are panicking:

“Be strong! Don’t fear!

Here’s your God,

coming with vengeance;

with divine retribution

God will come to save you.” (CEB)

Steady God, strengthen and support us when we feel weak. When we are afraid, be with us, so that our fear does not swallow us up. Amen.

December 18

Isaiah 35:5-6a

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,

and the ears of the deaf will be cleared.

Then the lame will leap like the deer,

and the tongue of the speechless will sing. (CEB)

God of surprises, move us to dance in your glory, sing within us, and show us your wonder in new ways. Amen.

[sub note about ableism: I wonder how those who live with disabled bodies and limited senses are able to engage in the wonder of god in ways that those who are not disabled miss out on. Also, in reading deeper, the deaf, blind, lame, and mute do not lose their identities, instead, their engagement with the glory of god expands. And that’s a prayer that I also want for myself.]

December 19

Isaiah 35:6b-7

Waters will spring up in the desert,

and streams in the wilderness.

The burning sand will become a pool,

and the thirsty ground, fountains of water.

The jackals’ habitat, a pasture;

grass will become reeds and rushes. (CEB)

God of waters, refresh us with your presence. Bring us to the waters edge so that our parched lips may drink deep and be renewed. Amen.

Readings for Advent Week 2

Here is what we will be reading around our table this week. All scripture CEB (with inclusive edits by me) and all prayers written by me.

December 6

Malachi 3:1 

Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple.

The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (CEB)

God of messengers, we need some good news. Help us see the ways your messengers share your good news with us. Amen.

December 7

Isaiah 40:1-2 

Comfort, comfort my people!

    says your God.

Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,

        and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,

    that her penalty has been paid,

    that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins! (CEB)

God of comfort, show us your kindness. Help us receive the rest you provide for us. Amen. 

December 8

Isaiah 40:3-4 

A voice is crying out:

“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!

    Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!

Every valley will be raised up,

    and every mountain and hill will be flattened.

    Uneven ground will become level,

    and rough terrain a valley plain. (CEB)

God of pathways, clear the route for your way in the wilderness we are in. Guide our feet in your path. Amen. 

December 9

Isaiah 40:10-11 

Here is the Lord God,

    coming with strength,

    with a triumphant arm,

    bringing [their] reward with [them]

    and [their] payment before [them].

Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;

    [God] will gather lambs in [their] arms

    and lift them onto [their] lap.

    [God] will gently guide the nursing ewes. (CEB)

God our shepherd, gather us with gentle strength. Help us know your comfort no matter how old we are. Amen. 

December 10

Matthew 3:1-2 

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (CEB)

God of the desert, open our hearts to receive your word. Prepare our hearts and lives so we can be ready for your kingdom. Amen. 

December 11

Matthew 3:3-4 

He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:

‘The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,

        “Prepare the way for the Lord;

        make his paths straight.”’

John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. (CEB)

God of strangers, show us the messengers in our lives that point to your truth. Amen. 

December 12

Matthew 3:11 

I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (CEB)

God of change, wash us with your Spirit. Set our hearts on fire for your good work. Amen. 

Giving Tuesday for Advent Week One

Advent may very well by my favorite season, and this year I know it will be especially hard for me to celebrate in the midst of everything being uncertain and uncomfortable and unknown. So I decided to create a daily liturgy for my family, with short scriptures and prayers that are words that my kids are familiar with. And, in the spirit of we’re all doing hard things, and can’t someone help, I’m sharing them here (and on my instagram).

One of the reasons is that I remember reading some of these scriptures when I was a child, for advent. The very scent of a lit match is a holy moment for me, and I want to create that same space for my children.

So, here is what I am teaching my kids:
Peace that tends to necessary work and cultivates space for flourishing life.
Love that surprises expectations and reconciles with enemies.
Joy that embraces those who sorrow and creates possibility.
Hope that recognizes the current situation and imagines generative futures.

I’m wondering if one of the ways that I can comfort my children is in saying that I am worried, disappointed, and frustrated, too. And that our emotions and feelings and thoughts are all valid and true and important. And that the way through isn’t to cover these things up, but to move through them.

This feels like work that we can actually sink our teeth into.

And I’m working to have the scriptures that I’ve chosen do some of this work. Because the gift of scripture is that anger, frustration, fury, disappointment, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, longing, and fulfillment all exist in this book breathed into being through a complicated past.

Life is complicated now. So it’s helpful to know that complications are not new.

If you want to follow along with our family, here are the readings and prayers for this week. (all scripture translations are from the Common English Bible translation)

Advent Week 1
December 1
Isaiah 2:4 CEB
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war. (CEB)

God of peace, teach us how to plant peace
in the midst of conflict.
Show us how to grow healing, forgiveness,
and love in the world around us. Amen.

December 2
Jeremiah 33:15-16 CEB
In those days and at that time,
I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line,
who will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days, Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this is what he will be called:
The Lord Is Our Righteousness. (CEB)

God of direction, help us learn when we are wrong.
Point us towards the difference
between winning and living in justice. Amen.

December 3
Psalm 25:4-5 CEB
Make your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
because you are the God who saves me.
I put my hope in you all day long. (CEB)

God of truth, guide us towards you in all that we do.
Save us from the lies that work so hard
to keep us from you and your love.
We want to learn, God, teach us. Amen.

December 4
Psalm 80:4-5 CEB
Lord God of heavenly forces,
how long will you fume against your people’s prayer?
You’ve fed them bread made of tears;
you’ve given them tears to drink three times over! (CEB)

God of comfort, you are with us when we are sad.
Help us feel you in the midst of our tears. Amen.

December 5
Psalm 80:6-7 CEB
You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors;
our enemies make fun of us.
Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved! (CEB)

God of healing, restore us when we are broken,
shield us when others laugh at us,
and help us see ways you are working
to mend the world. Amen.

I’ll post the next one on saturday.

Waiting

The busyness of Christmas is over. The season of Advent has come and gone, and the new year has begun. Some cultures have yet to celebrate Christmas, they will be gathering together for Three Kings Day, Epiphany, on January 6th. But for most of the people I know, we are winding down on the holiday season, getting ready to pack up the decorations, returning to the regular routine of work and play. For pastors, we are already looking forward to Lent (or at least know that we should be… even if we are adamantly denying it’s coming).

So with all this closure you would think that the waiting was over. We are in a holding pattern, not yet making plans for anything of much import.

For me, the waiting has just begun. I’m now three months pregnant. Which means that for the next six months, I have quite a bit of waiting to do. I am waiting to see what sex our child will be, I am waiting to see his or her face on the ultrasound screen, I am waiting to see whether the baby sticks with the due date, or has us guessing. I am waiting to meet this baby.

This waiting will have preparations and signals: registry lists, appointments and check-ups, showers, thank you notes, new clothes, and the physical reminder of a coming change through a changing body. As my body changes, I will change routines, expectations, and my bedtime, so that I will have enough energy for work, for relationships, and for my body to do its miraculous knitting together of a new life.

This is not the only change happening in our family, my husband is hoping to be ordained this year, and we are looking to celebrating that as well. But I get the feeling that the new baby coming will quickly turn our attention to a new life.

Many times of waiting do not have a tangible marker of the change to come. However, growing a new life creates a myriad of changes in the mother’s body, and changes the relationship of those who are preparing to raise a child. I already do not fit in to most of my pants from before I was pregnant. I will have to go buy a few new things even before I start to really look pregnant.

As I sit in the midst of this waiting, I anticipate that not everything will go the way that I plan. I don’t know what different things I will need to be ready for, but I look forward to finding out what they are, and how I figure out how to handle them. I am looking forward to this new season in my life, but God only knows what it will look like once it arrives.