Readings for Christmas and Epiphany

Christmas isn’t over yet. We will be reading these each night as a family. All scripture from CEB, all prayers original and by me.

December 25: Christmas Day (1)

Luke 2:1-20 

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. (CEB)

Christ, Jesus, be born in us today. Fill us with wonder and glory. Show us in our fear that we can still be amazed at your Good News. Amen. 

December 26 (Christmas 2)

John 1:1-3a

In the beginning was the Word

    and the Word was with God

    and the Word was God.

The Word was with God in the beginning. 

Everything came into being through the Word,

    and without the Word

    nothing came into being. (CEB)

Creating Word, pull us into being in you, so that we can fully exist. Amen. 

December 27 (Christmas 3)

John 1:3b-5

What came into being

   through the Word was life, 

    and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (CEB)

Living Word, shine your light on us so we can see your love. Amen.

December 28 (Christmas 4)

John 1:14

The Word became flesh

    and made his home among us.

We have seen his glory,

    glory like that of a father’s only son,

        full of grace and truth. (CEB)

Human Word, live among us so that we can see your truth. Amen. 

December 29 (Christmas 5)

Luke 2:29-32

“Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,

   because my eyes have seen your salvation.

You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.

It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles

    and a glory for your people Israel.” (CEB)

Saving God, give us rest, we are so tired. We need your help. Amen.  

December 30 (Christmas 6)

Jeremiah 31:8

I’m going to bring them back from the north;

    I will gather them from the ends of the earth.

Among them will be the blind and the disabled,

    expectant mothers and those in labor;

        a great throng will return here. (CEB)

Gathering God, we are so far apart. We long to be together. Be present with us while we wait to gather in your presence. Amen. 

December 31 (Christmas 7)

Jeremiah 31:9a

With tears of joy they will come;

    while they pray, I will bring them back.

I will lead them by quiet streams

    and on smooth paths so they don’t stumble. (CEB)

Guiding God, let us know that our feelings are valuable, and that you honor our tears as we wait for you to bring us together. Amen.

January 1 (Christmas 8)

Isaiah 63:8-9

God said, “Truly, they are my people,

    children who won’t do what is wrong.”

    God became their savior.

During all their distress, God also was distressed,

    so a messenger who served him saved them.

In love and mercy God redeemed them,

    lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times. (CEB)

God of old and new, be with us in hard times. Carry us, make us yours. Amen. 

January 2 (Christmas 9)

Matthew 2:13-15 

When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt. (CEB)

God of refuge, be with refugees who flee for their lives. Move us to prepare safe places for them as you prepared for Jesus’ family when he was a child. Amen.  

January 3 (Christmas 10)

Matthew 2:18

A voice was heard in Ramah,

    weeping and much grieving.

        Rachel weeping for her children,

            and she did not want to be comforted,

                because they were no more. (CEB)

God of sadness, grieve with us when we learn of unjust death. Help us change the world so that mothers no longer lose their children from violence, unnecessary disease, and hunger. Amen. 

January 4 (Christmas 11)

Matthew 2:19-21

After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. (CEB)

God of protection, bring us home to you, make us a home wherever we are. Amen. 

January 5 (Christmas 12)

Isaiah 60:1-3 

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;

    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.

Though darkness covers the earth

    and gloom the nations,

    the Lord will shine upon you;

    God’s glory will appear over you.

Nations will come to your light

    and kings to your dawning radiance. (CEB)

God of Christmas, with your birth your dawn approaches, shine your light through us. Amen.

January 6 Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,

            because from you will come one who governs,

            who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. (CEB)

King Jesus, reveal our lies and false words, so that in truth and honesty we honor you. Amen. 

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. 

Five Cumulative Years of Breastfeeding

Today, December 10, 2020, marks five cumulative years of breastfeeding. For five years, I have been feeding another person outside of myself all or part of the nutrients they needed to grow and learn and develop. I’ve spent only two nights away from my children since having them, and the two nights I did spend, over a year ago, I pumped enough so that my milk didn’t stop, and well… it’s continued not stopping for another 13 months.

Roar reading her sisters birth story

I’ve breastfed longer than I went to college. Longer than I’ve lived in any place save Columbus, Georgia. Longer than my current pair of jeans lasted with out getting a hole. 

Longer than any appointment I’ve served. Actually, it’s exactly the amount of time I have served in appointive ministry, so far. So, tomorrow, it will be. 

It’s over half the time I’ve been married. 

The first and second born sharing a story

I’ve come to know my body more deeply and more intimately than I really had imagined. It’s been a little while since I’ve felt the true harsh tug of letdown, but I still can remember the way sometimes it feels like my child is pulling through me all the way down to my toes. If she goes a morning without nursing but on one side, one breast can be two inches larger than the other until evening.

I’ve learned to be more gentle with myself and with my body, watching my body change and shift and adapt to the needs of my two partners in this process. At the same time I’ve learned what lines, boundaries, and parts of agency I chose to put into place. Yes, I will nurse while peeing. No, you cannot rub your fingers across my neck that way.

Grins

It has been a joy to develop this relationship with my second born who can now pause her nursing session, put my nipple on hold, and say, “I’m not done, but I want to tell you something.” Sometimes that’s frustrating, but it helps that I can now have full conversations with the person who is in this partnership with me. At least when she pauses these days I don’t drench her face with overabundant spray. 

I keep wondering, when it will end. Will we drop from three feedings to two, or just to one? Will naps stop? Or will those feedings be the last to go? Will we notice it both at the same time? What will that conversation be like? 

She knows how to say, “no, not this side, this one is empty.” But right now, we switch, and by the time we switch back, the milk has begun to flow again. Sometimes she taps my breast like a mechanic seeing if the right jolt in the right place will get the gears rolling again.

Very early on with rebel

I started this process with five days of stress and gaslighting and then massive engorgement and then my child having a tongue- and lip-tie revision at three and a half weeks. I was in tears curling my toes in pain every time she latched. For a couple weeks there, the entirety of the time she was awake, I was nursing her. 

In her first year I pumped for ten months, five days a week, producing an overabundance of milk and getting steadily more sleep deprived while I devoted sixty hours a week to work. 

When we night weaned and changed that first relationship, and at four and a half months pregnant, my first born weaned and I didn’t know what to expect with the second to come.

Playful sisters

I had a community group that supported me then, and even though I moved away from that town, I know it was partly because of Stacey and Jean that I kept going even when the going was incredibly tough. 

But while the second one was so much easier to latch, it was my body that didn’t recover as well from carrying her. The second born’s journey has been more about my own body, with physical therapy, shingles on my left breast for over a month while she was six months old (before she could get her chicken pox vaccine), and now varying degrees of energy from incredibly heavy periods.

Roar at six months with my shingles bandage still protecting us.

Now, breastfeeding is one of the few things I’m doing right now that makes the most sense, that is the most familiar to me, that provides me the most comfort. I don’t know or have a lot of answers right now about what is going on in the world, with excess grief and excess deaths and excess anger. But I do know that I’ve used my body to create a home when home has changed. And sometimes home is all we’ve had.

Breastfeeding on a beach walk

I’ve breastfeed at all hours of night and day, on packed subway trains, in meetings, at the dinner table, in the bathroom, in my bed, her bed, numerous rooms in multiple houses, the front porch, the mountains, the beach, on hikes, on the side of the road, in hotel lobbies, on boats, in worship, and as worship.

Breastfeeding on the subway in DC wearing my clergy collar

I don’t know how much longer this will last, but I’ve been grateful to have practiced this so far. R&E, thank you.

And Hubs, partner, confidant, supporter, and advocate, thanks for helping make this a priority for the family, for staying up and getting up as nights during night weaning so the milk doesn’t try to put the baby to sleep. Thanks for meals prepped when I didn’t have free hands, and working with flexible sleeping arrangements. Love you.

Sometimes my body is a hiding place.
Latched yoga
Three thumbs up.

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. 

Catching Moments

A year and a day ago I took a photograph of the tiny face of my sleeping twelve hour old Roar. It is currently the best photograph I have yet to take. The light is streaming in behind her, but diffused in the gentleness of the sheets and covers surrounding our nest of warmth. We are gently resting from the ordeal of birth the night before, but resting in our bed together, beginning the journey of learning from each other how to nurse and feed, how to ask for what we need and how to get what we want. 

Both girls when they were very young made this delicate huh-huh-huh sound to say please can you feed me now. It faded over time, and now all I’m left with is a fading memory of the sound. She was so small, and for such a small amount of time, quickly growing through sizes as she smiled for the first time, discovered her hands, and found her ears. 

I took a replication of that photo this morning after laying her down for her nap, her hands curled around her face again, the light, now, different, the covers patchworked under us as their color brings a vibrancy that mimics the way Roar plays now with us, her family. 

Photographs of Rebel, her sister, have worked to capture the innocence of that shot, but this one photograph is simply perfect. One of the reasons I like it is because there is actually no way to do it again. We are in a different bed in a different house facing a different direction. I’m not having another baby. There will never be another twelve hour old Roar. It is incredibly precious for that. She is precious, for certain, but while I have this photograph, I remember the way she taught me what she needed when she was so tiny and delicate. 

Roar is certainly not delicate, even though she continues to be precious. She’s substantial, and surprises us with her joy and emerging personality. As sisters, Rebel and Roar laugh and play, together and alongside each other. She’s watching us, keeping us in check, and making sure that we never leave her out of the fun.