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. 

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.

New Starter

The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. —Exodus 12:33-34 (NIV)

I’ve read the story of the Exodus at least once a year since I got my own bible in third grade. I’ve read about the Ten Plagues and the Israelites leaving after the Angel of Death visiting each home of the Egyptians while the Israelites were saved because they had the special marks on their doorways. I’d read about the feast of unleavened bread and not having yeast in their homes for a week.

This week, reading it again I noticed the people of Israel having to pack up in the middle of the night and carry their bread wrapped up in their cloaks before the bread could rise, possibly before the yeast could be added.

Yeast is a living thing that feeds on sugar and makes air bubbles. Yeast in the time of the Israelites was probably a small jug of starter that was kept alive and added to bread a little at a time, with little bits of extra added back to the jug every so often to keep it healthy.

Bread is a basic necessity, and so yeast is as well.

Imagine a people who leave in the middle of the night, carrying only what they can on their backs. These people are headed out into the desert where they will wander for forty years to learn who and whose they are.

They have left their starter yeast behind because they are going out to start a new life. 

This new life will be different down to the bread they bake. It won’t taste like the bread of Egypt because they won’t have any of Egypt’s yeast to put in their loaves. Even this incremental change will be hard to take, and they will complain about not having bread. God will provide them with bread that is sweeter than what they have ever tasted. And soon enough they will tire of that as well.

But they will learn to make new bread in a new land. They will start a new home in the land that is promised to them. And they will gather a bit of yeast from a neighbor and create a new starter jug for the bread that will sustain them through their lives.

They will become a new people. Little by little. Even down to their bread.