Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Crash

I had the best of intentions. I even managed to keep it together until one week before Christmas. Then I realized that it was only one week before Christmas. It felt a lot like that moment when, after running off a cliff and through thin air for several yards, Wile E. Coyote looks down, realizes that he's run off a cliff, and goes plummeting down, leaving a terrified thought bubble in his wake and creating a coyote-shaped crater at the bottom of the ravine. All of a sudden I realized that I needed to write prayers, write a sermon, clean my apartment, finish my shopping, send all of my Christmas cards, make food for three upcoming events, prepare for my trip, and get everything finished for the rest of 2012. Panic set in. And instead of attempting eloquent prayers on my blog, I prayed a lot of, "God, HELP!" and saved all of my theological language for worship.

So, here I am on Christmas Eve Eve, six days behind on sharing prayers with you. My apologies. I wish I were the sort of person who could keep absolutely everything going under pressure. But I'm not. I'm a person who juggles as much as possible at once and occasionally drops something. This got dropped. I am sorry for that.

In lieu of prayers for the last six days, which I just don't have in my head after three drafts toward a Christmas Eve sermon, I will offer you this, my Prayer for Candlelighting for worship tomorrow:

God, our Light,
We are amazed that you have come in Christ to dwell with us.
The radiance of your presence dazzles us
as it breaks through the darkness of the world.
Bring the spark of your Spirit to live in our hearts,
Driving away the shadows of doubt and sin.
That we may show forth your glory
Not only today, as we celebrate your birth among us,
But throughout our lives.
Let us bear this light forth into the world,
That, through us, you might kindle the flame of your presence throughout the world,
And inspire all creation to serve Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent, Day 16

Isaiah 11:1-9; Numbers 16:1-19; Hebrews 13:7-17

Creating and Re-creating God,
You promised that a shoot would grow up from the stump of Jesse,
That a great leader would come from a dying family line,
that new life would appear where previous generations had been cut down.
Restore hope where desolation reigns.
Re-create our hearts,
that instead of being broken by sin
we may be mended and re-formed into your good creatures.
You promise that the wolf will live with the lamb,
prey and predator will dwell together in safely.
What a peace, what a transformation that assures!
What a turning of hearts and habits it must require for the predator to stop hunting!
What a growth must take place for the prey to have courage to take its place beside the hunter!
God, if you can work this transformation, if you can bring this growth, there is nothing you cannot do.
Transform our human hearts as you transform the animals.
Soften the hard hearts of the cruel, teach them to act with gentleness,
Put kindness and compassion in the hearts of bullies.
Embolden the victims: Heal their perspective, fill them with confidence,
turn them into survivors who can stand strong.
Bring an end to persecution and abuse of all forms.
You promise safety for even the most helpless creatures.
Empower us to build a world that is safe for all your children.
Guide us to create systems of care for those who live with mental illness.
Mend our ways, that instead of weapons plants we build hospitals,
instead of shooting ranges, mental health clinics.
Reshape our world, that there will be no harm or destruction,
in this, your holy creation.
Replace our hate with knowledge of your love.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent, Day 15

Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

God of All,
You call all your children to serve, each with different tasks before us.
But you also lay upon all of our hearts one mission:
To prepare the way of the Lord, motivated by love for you.
You call us to prepare our hearts
through prayer, worship, and study.
You call us to prepare those around us
by sharing your promise of grace and forgiveness.
You call us to prepare the world
by working for your justice and peace and caring for all of your creation.
You call us to prepare, for you are coming.
Open our hearts and minds today,
And fill us with anticipation as we prepare to welcome you,
Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

Advent, Day 14

Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 9:8-15; Luke 1:57-66

Holy One,
We carry the weight of pain and sadness. We suffer with illness, broken relationships, hurtful memories, and the loss of loved ones. We have moments of loneliness and self-doubt, moments when we are overwhelmed by stress or hardship. We bear one another’s burdens as we pray for those in our community and those in our lives who are undergoing difficult times. Help us to turn our concerns over to you, gracious God, that by trusting in you we might be released from our burdens.

Christ, Prince of Peace,
You came to a broken world, a world divided by the fences and walls that we build to protect us from things that scare us. Help us to see that the people on the other side of our fences and walls are your beloved children, just as we are. Help people on both sides of every wall, fence, and barrier, from the fence separating Mexico and the U.S. to the walls dividing Palestine from Israel to the demilitarized zone that splits North and South Korea to seek the peace of Christ that passes all understanding. Come, God, and bring freedom to this world that is enslaved by inequality, oppression, hatred, and violence.

Emmanuel, free us from all those obstacles that prevent us from seeking you or feeling your presence. Free us from the barriers that divide us that we might be one in Christ. Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent, Day 13

Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 8:4-12; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

"Will not the land tremble on this account, and all who live in it mourn?" - Amos 8:8

How long, O Lord?
How long before humans stop killing one another?
How long before we root out the hate that lives in our hearts?
How long before we stop shedding the blood of your children,
your precious ones, whom you hold in your hand?
Our hearts are broken.
We cry out for the lives lost;
we feel powerless before the evil, the violence,
the incomprehensible rage that leads humans to kill.
We grieve today for lives lost:
for 28 people murdered in Connecticut today,
for 40,000 people killed in violence in Syria in the last 24 months,
for the countless victims of violence and terrorism in Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine.
We acknowledge with remorse the many other people we kill each day
through our unjust economic systems and our apathy:
the thousands of people who die each day from disease, hunger, and exposure.
And we ask again: How long?
How long before we allow your transformation to change our hearts and lives?
How long before you come and put a stop to all evil?
How long before you wipe every tear from our eyes,
and establish your kingdom of justice and peace?
We know, O Lord, that you weep over your children;
you mourn when one of your beloved ones takes the life of another.
We trust, O Lord, that you are coming to put an end to all this horror.
On this dark day, we ask you to come and bring your light.
Drive out the shadows of evil, hate, and sadness with the brightness of your presence.
Restore our hope, and grant us your peace, which passes all understanding.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent, Day 12

Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

I sing your praise, O God, for you have done marvelous things!
Today, though, I praise you for the small blessings you have given:
For friends who bring laughter and wisdom;
For the freedom of hours to spend as I wish;
For the joy of giving to those I love;
For the wonders of technology and storytelling;
For shooting stars that light the sky;
For a warm dog cuddled by my side;
For opportunities to rest in the assurance of your care.
For all these things, O God, I give you thanks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent, Day 11

Psalm 126; Isaiah 35:3-7; Luke 7:18-30

God who spoke the world into being,
I am out of words.
I have used up all of my energy to create.
You created for six days, nonstop,
your creative energy overflowing.
I spent all day shaping words,
composing liturgy,
preparing to preach.
And now I have nothing left to say,
no more creative energy to expend.
Give me rest, O Lord.
Lift me up in your strong hands.
Breathe your Spirit into me again.
Refill my soul with your Living Water.
Pour out your grace, Creating God,
and renew my heart. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent, Day 10

Psalm 126; Isaiah 19:18-25; 2 Peter 1:2-15

Bear fruit in me, O Lord.
Help me to walk in your ways.
Guide me on the paths of knowledge and wisdom,
that my thoughts may glorify you.
Teach me self-control,
that my behavior might follow your commandments.
Grant me the strength to endure all things,
that I may outlast struggles and glimpse your promises fulfilled.
Purify my heart,
that I may grow toward you.
Pour your love into my heart,
that my words and actions may show my affection for others.
Help me to love,
in all times and circumstances,
loving all your people and all your creation,
and growing in depth of love for you,
today and always.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent, Day 9

Psalm 126; Isaiah 40:1-11; Romans 8:22-25

I am so impatient, O God.
I want to know what will happen, what joy you will bring.
It was a heavy weekend, with a memorial service for one,
and a service of remembrance for many.
Now it is Monday,
and I am greeted by messages of stress and strain,
words that challenge and bear down on my heart.
The tasks to do are numerous,
and I long to crawl back into bed and ignore them.
But the Psalms speak of joy.
They speak of laughter and joy to come.
And so I pray, with them:
"Lord, change our circumstances for the better."
Bind up my broken places.
Breathe your Spirit of inspiration and strength
into my downtrodden and weary soul.
Give me hope in you,
so that, while I go out lamenting and carrying my to-do list,
I will come home with joyful exclamations and completed tasks,
enjoying the fruits you have borne in my ministry. Amen.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent, Day 8

Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6

Gracious God,
We are filled with anticipation at the promise of your arrival.
Prepare us to receive you.
Straighten out our words and smooth over our rough edges;
Purify our hearts and refine our lives,
That we may be ready for the transformation you will bring
To us, and to the world.
Awaken us to your presence,
That we may hear your Word anew.
Fill us up that we might overflow with knowledge, insight, compassion,
and, above all, with love for you and for our neighbors,
According to the example of Christ. Amen.

Advent, Day 7

Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 9:1-6

God of our Journeys,
You called your disciples and sent them out to proclaim the good news
with the instruction to take nothing for the journey.
You told them to pack nothing:
No extra clothes,
no walking stick,
no food,
no money,
no baggage at all.
But we are a people obsessed with our stuff.
We never leave home without keys, cell phone, wallet or purse.
And in this season we are focused on things:
We're focused on gifts and wrapping paper and bows,
we're focused on baked goods and festive drinks,
we're focused on what to pack for the trip and what to bring to the party.
Remind us that, in the journey of our lives, there are no tangible "essentials".
Remind us of your provision that fills our hearts and our minds with what we truly need.
Remind us of your Spirit that goes before to prepare the way for our arrival.
Help us to think of Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem,
carrying with them few possessions,
but bearing what was truly essential: Christ, God-with-us.
Just as they transported the good news,
teach us to bear your good news to a world filled with stuff,
but in need of your love and truth.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Advent, Day 6

Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 3:13-18; Philippians 1:18b-26

Reading these passages today, I'm struck by this verse from Paul's letter to the church at Philippi: "Since Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether from dishonest or true motives, I'm glad and I'll continue to be glad."

God of Glory,
May Christ be proclaimed in this season of celebration!
May Christ be proclaimed in Christmas carols sung in cathedrals
   and in carols played in coffee shops.
May Christ be proclaimed in the glow of Advent wreath candles
   and in the glow of tacky light displays.
May Christ be proclaimed by evergreens in the forest
   and by artificial trees in department stores.
May Christ be proclaimed by handbells in worship
   and by jingling bells of Salvation Army ringers.
May Christ be proclaimed in homes and neighborhoods,
   in chapels and shopping malls.
May Christ be proclaimed in candy canes for children
   and in meals for the hungry.
May Christ be proclaimed in homes shared with relatives
   and in shelter given to the homeless.
May the Word of God be proclaimed at all times and all places,
   that all may know the love, the joy, and the grace of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Advent, Day 5

Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 3:5-12; Philippians 1:12-18a

God of All,
You call all your children to serve,
each with different tasks before us,
each with a unique path of service before us.
But you also lay upon all of our hearts one mission:
To prepare the way of the Lord,
motivated by love for you.
You call us to prepare our hearts
through prayer, worship, and study.
You call us to prepare those around us
by sharing your promise of grace and forgiveness.
You call us to prepare the world
by working for your justice and peace and caring for all of your creation.
You call us to prepare, for you are coming.
Because of your deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us.
You are coming to give light to those who are in darkness and the shadow of death.
you are coming to guide us on the path of peace.
Teach us to prepare for the joy of your arrival.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Advent, Day 4

Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31; Luke 11:29-32

I fear your justice,
O God of All Knowledge.
I fear your justice, for my stomach is full
and my kitchen is filled with more good things than I can eat,
while others of your children go hungry.
I fear your justice, for my home is warm,
and my walls and my roof are solid,
while others of your children have no safe shelter from the elements.
I fear your justice, for I have so many possessions,
many more things than I truly need,
while others of your children have nothing.
I fear your justice, O Lord, for I know that I am guilty.
I have such abundance while allowing others to live in scarcity.
When I worry, it is about how I will pay for car repairs and Christmas gifts.
Others worry about whether they will have food and shelter to survive the night.
I have not done all I could to help them.
I have not shared my abundance with those in need.
I have enjoyed so many gifts while doing so little to share those gifts with others.
I have seen your children hungry and imprisoned and I have not cared for them.
I have not loved my neighbors, your children, as I have loved myself.
Have mercy on me, O Lord.
Forgive my selfishness and my greed.
Forgive my apathy and inaction.
Transform me, Holy One.
Move my heart with compassion so that my actions follow your commands.
Give me eyes to see the injustice and inequality in the world,
and strength and courage to remedy it.
Teach me to recognize the difference between my selfish desires and real need,
and to work to meet real need wherever I encounter it.
Help me to follow more closely each day
the footsteps of Christ,
who had possession and dominion over the universe,
yet chose to become a lowly infant, born in a barn,
out of compassion for a world in need. Amen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Advent, Day 3

Psalm 90; 2 Samuel 7:18-29; Revelation 22:12-16

Holy God,
You are alpha and omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.
You are eternal, omnipotent, limitless.
Who am I that you pay attention to me?
I am human, mortal, limited.
I am dust, a temporary speck in the enormity of the universe.
I am not as large as the whale or the elephant.
I am not as old as the mountains or the oceans.
I am not as bright as the stars, nor as powerful as the winds.
I am not as wise as the sages, nor as pure of heart as the children.
I am mere flesh and bone.
I am ordinary.
But still you, Creator of All, Eternal God, Cosmic Lord, make note of me.
You listen to my voice, you know my thoughts,
you reach out to me with grace.
That is the joy of the incarnation.
That is what we anticipate in this Advent season.
That is what we celebrate at Christmas.
We give thanks because
You are Emmanuel, God-with-us.

You became limited, mortal, flesh and bone,
to reach out to all humanity with your love.
I stand in awe because

You are Jesus Christ, God-with-me.
You became limited, mortal, flesh and bone,
to reach out to me, even me, with your love.
Remind me, O Lord, of who you are.
Turn my heart,
so that instead of asking, "Who am I that you pay attention to me?"
I will sing, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!"
Teach me, each day, to praise You,
Almighty God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Advent, Day 2

Psalm 90; Numbers 17:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-18

Almighty God,
You birthed all creation.
Before your Spirit swept over the waters,
before your hands sculpted the mountains,
before you breathed life into your creatures,
you were there, whole and holy unto yourself.
You drum your own beat,
and you do not function according to mortals' sense of time.
In your own season you created all that exists,
in your own season you were born into the world you created,
and in your own season, you will return to redeem the universe.
But we wait impatiently.
We count days, hours, minutes,
tapping our feet, drumming our fingers,
alternately hoping to hasten your coming
and wondering if you are going to arrive at all.
Give us patience in this holy season.
Remind us that, to you, a thousand years is but a moment.
In your eternal gaze, our lives are but the blink of an eye.
Open our eyes to look for your coming.
Open our ears to listen for your footsteps.
Open our hearts to welcome your arrival.
Prepare us to stand in your presence.
Give us holy hearts and godly lives,
and grant that our works might all be praise,
glorifying your holy name every moment until you come. Amen.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent: Day 1

Advent begins today! So, in keeping with my Advent covenant, here are the Scriptures, and my prayer for the day:

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Hope of the World,
You are everlasting light, and in you there is no darkness at all.
In this season of long nights and dim, cold days, we wait for your coming.
We wait for your dazzling truth to break into our consciousness,
for your light to illuminate our ways.
Give light to our paths.
Make your ways known to us, and lead us in your truth.
Let your brightness drive away the shadows of sin
that haunt our steps as we journey toward Bethlehem.
Breathe your holiness into our hearts, that we may stand blameless in your presence.
Give us strength for the journey as we seek your face.
Guide us on our way to you, that we may see Emmanuel, God with us,
and through his grace ever increase in love for you and one another.