Saturday, January 18, 2020

Liturgy with communion for January 26, 2019 (Third Sunday after Epiphany - A

Texts: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1st Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

Call to Worship
Come out of the shadows and into God's light!
We will not play hide and seek,
but will make a pilgrimage to God's heart.

Lay down all which is a burden to you!
We will give our fears to God,
who is our help in every moment.

Follow the One who will lead you to new life!
We long to live in God's presence
every day of our lives.

Prayer of the Day

Your heart is the shelter
     for our weary souls.
You will not push us away,
     but clasp us tight in your embrace.
You refuse to abandon us,
     standing by our side all our lives.
Time Reaper,
you are our Hope!

When others try to tear us apart,
     you pick up the pieces,
     making us whole.
When we wonder what
the day might bring,
     you whisper, 'follow me,
     I will make you
          readers to little children,
          bandagers of bruised hearts,
          lovers of the forsaken,
          pilgrims who show the way
                    to others.'
Time Shaker,
you are our Dawn.

You appeal to us
to set aside all that divides us,
     so we might be one.
You send us to proclaim good news,
not with silver-tongued sophistication
     but with simple words:
     which bring light to the shadows.
Time Keeper,
you are our Joy.

From the former times to the latter,
we lift our prayers to you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we offer the words Jesus taught us,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation

If we come to God with open hearts and honest words, we will not be pushed away, but wrapped in God's loving and forgiving embrace.  I invite you to join me as we confess our lives to God, praying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We admit, God our Light, that we do indeed try to tear Christ apart - a piece of him here to support our politics, a part of him to undergird our economic views, the rest of him to bolster our fears of others.  We could leave immediately to follow him, but need to wait until we see where he might lead us.  We want you to look upon us with favor always, but have no trouble turning our backs on those around us.
     Hear us, God our Deliverer, as we speak of our failures!  Have mercy on us, we appeal to you, have mercy!  May your love become the core of our hearts, may your compassion become the words we speak, may your hope illuminate the ways in which we serve others, even as we seek to follow the One who calls us to new life, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God is our help, so why should we be afraid?
God keeps us safe, there is nothing to dread!
This is good news for all of us.
Sheltered in God's gracious heart of mercy
and love, we raise shouts of joy: thanks be
to God, we are forgiven!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Use our gifts, Loving God, so others might not be scared by life; so they may be sheltered in the blanket of your grace; so they might find a home with us as their family.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May the God of all time be with you!
And also with you!
God asks one thing, that we offer our hearts.
We lift them to the One who does not abandon us.
Do not turn your backs upon the One who loves you.
We will join in glad songs of joy and wonder to our God.

In that former time, you brought
into creation all that existed
in your imagination, Dawn of Life.
The sun, moon, and stars
     illumined the shadows of chaos;
melting snow trickled into creeks
     which joined together to rush
     to the seas;
every living thing multiplied in wonder,
     increasing your joy.
You did this for us, those
shaped in your image and heart,
     but when we heard sin calling,
     we immediately left your side,
          following down death's dusty road.
Longing for us to return to you,
you sent the prophets to us,
proclaiming the hopes of your heart.
     Yet we did not listen,
     letting evil continue to tear us apart.
Then you sent Jesus to us,
proclaiming that your kingdom had come.

With those who are of the same mind,
with those who long for your presence,
we sing our songs of thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Keeper of our hearts.
All creation joins in shouts of joy to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who calls us to follow.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, Shelter of our lives,
and Jesus Christ is your blessed Child of grace.
When he heard your call,
     he immediately left glory's side,
     to make a pilgrimage to our lives.
When he could have played
hide and seek with us,
     he revealed himself as
     the Dawn of our salvation.
When he could have abandoned
us to the yoke of sin and death,
     he took it from our shoulders,
     breaking it over his knees,
     shaping it into the cross where
          he broke their power forever,
as he calls us to follow him
into resurrection's new light.

As we seek not to divide Christ,
as we long to have the same mind,
we proclaim the gospel which is often a mystery:

Christ died, taking our sins upon him;
Christ was raised, casting off the yoke of death;
Christ will come, so we may live in your presence forever.

We appeal to you, God of our lives,
to send your Spirit upon us,
and upon the gifts of the Table.
As we eat of the bread,
we ask but one thing,
     that we might go forth
     to proclaim your kingdom with our lives.
As we drink from the cup,
we would make a pilgrimage
     to the broken of the world,
     so they would know they
     have not been abandoned by us,
          or by you.

And when the last moments come,
and we are gathered around
that great feast of the Lamb,
our hearts will rejoice in you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Let us take God's light into the world.
We will go to join others in pilgrimage of trust.
Let us go to gather the burdens of others.
We will take away their fears and offer them to Jesus,
who helps everyone in every moment.
Let us go to live in the Spirit's presence.
We will follow the Spirit into the peace
which is offered to all of God's people.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Liturgy with communion for January 19, 2020 (Second Sunday after Epiphany/Ordinary 2 - A)

Texts:  Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1st Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Call to Worship
We wait patiently for our God.
We will sing, we will sing new songs
of the One who calls us here.
We will not chase after other gods.
We will sing, we will sing new songs
of the One in whom we can trust.
We will tell of all God has done for us.
We will sing, we will sing new songs
of the One whose salvation is for all.

Prayer of the Day
There is none like you,
God of infinite patience.
You promise to listen to us,
You speak more words
     of hope and grace
and offer more acts
     of mercy and hope
then we can count
on the fingers and toes
of every person who ever lived.

There is none like you,
Shaper of servants.
Gathering up all the words
     we should never have spoken,
  you rearrange them into
     stories of peace and reconciliation.
Sweeping up the messes
      we leave littered behind us,
   you recycle them into gifts
      which soften the hardest hearts.

There is none like you,
Ever-listening Spirit.
You gather up all our cousins
      scattered throughout the earth,
   bringing us to the Table of life.
You point the way to Jesus
      when we have lost sight of him
   on the fog-filled days of our souls.

There is none like you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
and our hearts will sing new songs
even as we pray, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
It is clear that God wants to hear our prayers and forgive us, for God is willing to lean close to our hearts to listen to our failures, our poor choices, all the things we have done wrong.  Please join me, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   You are faithful, Patient God, even as we continue to live in the shadows of life.  We could delight in your hopes for us, but choose to do things our way.  We could serve the most vulnerable around us, but long to pal around with the powerful.  We could share the glad news of deliverance, but prefer to swap stories and gossip.
   There is none like you, Redeemer of all your children.  You lean over to listen to our prayers, and whisper forgiveness to our souls. You lift us out of the holes we dig for ourselves, and set us on hope's solid ground.  You strengthen our weak faith with the life, grace, and love of Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Come, dear friends and receive God's grace; see all the God is doing for you; follow Jesus, as he leads you closer to God.
I will sing of God's love for me;
I will sing a new song of hope and wonder.
Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May these gifts we offer, God of new ways, bring comfort to those who grieve; hope to those who live on the streets of despair; peace to all the broken places; and grace to all who long to draw closer to you.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of patience be with you.
And also with you.
Offer your hearts to the One who waits for you.
We open them to God, who is our Life.
Come and sing new songs to our God.
We will praise the One who dwells in our hearts.

You saw the emptiness of chaos,
God of before-time,
and so the Spirit and Word came
bearing the gifts of creation:
   coastlands lapped by ocean waves;
   goats playing king of the mountains;
   children laughing in summer showers.
You shaped us in your image, hoping
we would see you wonders,
and stand up to walk with you.
     But we chose to follow
     those false gods, sin and death.
Women and men came trying
to call your children back home,
     but we would not listen to them.
Then you sent Jesus to us,
the Faithful One pointing
out the way for us.

Together with all around us,
with those in every place, from every time,
we will sing our songs to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Redeemer of all.
Creation joins in praising your name.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who invites us to 'come and see.'
Hosanna in the highest!

You are the Holy One of all time,
and Jesus is the Lamb who takes
     away the sins of the world.
He would not remain in glory,
     but came to gather us up
     and bring us home to you.
He would not hoard,
     but poured out your grace
     on everyone he met.
He would not remain silent,
     but told us of your kingdom
     in our midst.
Despised by evil, abhorred by death,
     he defeated their power
     by dying on the cross and
     being raised to new life for us.

Called to be faithful as he was,
sanctified by his grace and love,
we sing a new song of the mystery called faith:

Christ died, blameless in God's eyes;
Christ was raised, honored in God's sight;
Christ will return, so we will be seen as without fault.

Here your children are gathered, where
the gifts of the Table are offered for all.
Here  you bring us together
from every place on earth,
where the Spirit transforms
simple gifts into sacred us.
Here where the bread is broken,
     we are strengthened to go
     and bring the good news to all.
Here where salvation is poured out,
     we are called into fellowship
     with those despised by the world,
     with those who live in the shadows,
     with those who long for someone
          to listen to their pain.

And when you have brought all time to an end,
when you gather your children home,
seating us around the great Feast of the Lamb,
we will sing that new, new song of praise to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Having learned new words from our God,
we will go to warm others in the bleak midwinter of life,
to whisper to them of grace and hope.
Having learned new ways to serve from Jesus,
we will go to clear paths for those lost in oppression,
to wait with those in hospital rooms and job lines.
Having learned new songs from the Spirit,
we will go to sing of peace in all the broken places,
to light the way out of the shadows of injustice.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Friday, January 03, 2020

Liturgy with communion for January 12, 2020 (Baptism of the Lord - A)

Texts:  Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Call to Worship

Baptized to begin lives of faith,
we would witness to all you do
in our communities, in our midst, in our world.

Baptized to serve,
we would speak up for the voiceless,
we would bring justice to those who have none.

Baptized to speak,
we would heal, and not hurt;
we would bless, and not curse.

Baptized to do what is right,
we would not play favorites,
but treat each as your Beloved.

Prayer of the Day

Your voice thunders in the night,
     and sings love songs
     in the morning.
Your voice tumbles raging rapids,
     and ripples pools of peace.
Your voice snaps trees in two,
     and can mend broken hearts
     with a sigh.
We give glory to your name,
God of our lives.

Guided by grace,
     you became the champion
     of justice.
Beloved of the sightless,
     you release those
     we would shackle.
Broken for our sake,
     you shape our souls
     into silhouettes hanging
     in the Hall of Servants.
We give glory to your grace,
Child of the waters.

You cup your hands
around our flickering faith,
     breathing us to new life.
You call us to work for justice,
     teaching us intentional
     acts of service.
You immerse us in courage,
     daring us to speak
     words of hope.
We give glory to your love,
Spirit of wonder.

We give you the glory now and always,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation

Can you imagine a God who would rather forgive us than punish us, who calls us 'my delight,' rather than chiding us for being so foolish and wayward?  This is why Jesus came, so we might know of God's tender mercy toward us.  Let us confess our lives to the One who fills us with hope, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We try to stop Jesus from coming into our lives, Patient God, for we know how disruptive he can be.  He wants us to preach the gospel with our lives, but we prefer to complain how hard that is to do.  He wants us to do what is right, yet wrong-doing comes so easily for us.  He would like us not to give up until justice is done, but we just don't seem to have the time.
     We confess because we know we need to be forgiven by you, Glory and Grace.  Bathe us in the life giving waters of your mercy so we can come up from the water, ready to do good for others, to give you all the praise, to learn justice, grace, and hope from your Servant, Jesus Christ.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
You are God's Beloved.  You delight God's heart. Believe this good news, my friends!
The Spirit of God rests upon us, anointing us with mercy and peace.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We leave the waters of baptism to offer grace to others;
we give from our abundance to bless others with hope and healing;
we offer our lives to you and others in serving with love and mercy. 
In Jesus' name, we pray you will bless these gifts and us.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

May the impartial God be with you!
And also with you!

Lift your hearts to the One who anoints you with the Spirit.
We come to God, our hearts' true delight.

Sing praise to God, who calls you to the waters of life.
Songs of thanksgiving are lifted to the One who prepared this Table for us.

In a wild whisper
you spoke to chaos,
God of the waters of life,
and your Spirit raced forth,
playing tag with the Word,
     mountains shook with thunder,
     whales whispered in the oceans,
     hawks floated lazily in the skies,
     and kittens chased butterflies in fields.
You created us from the dusty earth,
placing us in your garden on wonders
so we might delight in you, and in each other.
But we wandered away from you,
     as sin and death took us by the hand,
     teaching us to do all that is wrong.
Prophets came in every age
to testify about your hopes,
     but we did not want to be
     set free from our captivity.
So Jesus was sent, your future
coming over the horizon to us
to be baptized as your Beloved.

With those who bend but do not break,
with those who long to do what is right,
we lift our thanksgiving songs to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of impartial love.
All creation gives you the glory
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who is your heart's true delight.
Hosanna in the highest!

We glorify your name, Holy God,
and bless Jesus, your Child, our Savior.
Lord of all,
     he came, not with shock and awe,
     but with gentleness and patience.
Light of the world,
     he came to fan the spark of justice
     until it ignites throughout the world.
Bearer of our sins,
     he died on the cross,
     snared in death's embrace
     until the tomb opened up
     and the Spirit came down,
     lifting him up, as you proclaimed,
'here is my Son, the Resurrected One.'

As we remember our baptism
into the life and death of Jesus,
we speak of our faith as a mystery:

Christ came, to show us God's love;
Christ was baptized, inviting us into the waters of life;
Christ died, to fulfill all righteousness;
Christ was raised, to set us free from death;
Christ will come to take us by the hand
     and never let go.

You spread the Table before us,
the Spirit anointing the bread and the cup
and those gathered in this place
of water and of the Word.
We take the broken bread,
it's healing grace strengthening us
     to open eyes blinded by hate,
     to free all imprisoned by fear,
     to feed those who hunger for justice.
We share the Cup of salvation,
it's tender love nourishing us
     to offer balm to the hurting,
     to bring light to those who lose their way,
     to not give up on the oppressed
          until justice is served.

Then, when all righteousness is fulfilled
and we are gathered with our sisters and brothers
from all times and from every place,
we will join our voices to give you the glory,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Baptized, let us go to live in faith.
We will bring healing to the broken
and offer God's joy to those who grieve.
Baptized, let us go to serve.
At the side of Jesus, we will serve the hungry,
we will give shelter to the homeless.
Baptized, let us go to be a voice.
We will echo the Spirit of calling for peace,
we will never stop speaking against injustice.
Baptized, let us go to do what is right.
Finding you, God in Community, Holy in One,
waiting for us to join you beside all your Beloved children.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Day of Epiphany - ABC

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Call to Worship
We gather wondering,
'Where will we find the Babe
born in Bethlehem?'
We will find the Babe
     in the laughter of children,
     in the wisdom of grandparents.

We gather asking,
'where will we find
the Child of Christmas?'
We will find the Child
     where the needy are gifted with hope,
     where the oppressed are set free.

We gather wanting to know,
'where will we find the Christ
who has come for us?'
We will find our Hope
     where fear is overwhelmed by grace,
     where hatred is overwhelmed by love,
     where all people are overwhelmed by joy.

Prayer of the Day
We have heard
of your grace,
Shaper of stars;
from those set free
     from injustice;
from our children
     who whisper of your joy;
from greeters
     of dawn's fresh start;
from late risers
     who listen to the stories
     of the needy.

We have heard
of your Light,
Bright Star of the morning:
which can illumine
     the shadows of our lives;

which can show
     the path to God's heart;
which can point the way
     to where we become
     servants of the gospel.

We have heard
of your promised peace,
Wisdom's Radiance:
that peace
     which can end war,
     as well as heal our hearts;
that peace
     which can conquer our fears,
     and flood us with faith;
that peace 
     which can enter our lives
     and overwhelm us with hope.

We have heard of you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
and will proclaim your glory to all,
even as we pray, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation

Why do we huddle in the shadowed corners of life, rather than running to the Light of life? Why do we love the wrong we do rather than grasping the good news offered to us? As we struggle with such questions, let us speak to God of all we have failed to do, seeking hope and grace as we pray,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We search for your light, Star Caster, but too often end up settling for the dimness of temptation. Our motives for seeking to find Christ are not always pure, for we expect him to fulfill our desires, rather than your hopes for us. We want the gifts of wealth, health, success, fulfillment, rather than those of servanthood, of compassion, of peace. 
     Forgive us, Shaper of our lives, that we are so foolish to put our needs ahead of your grace. Help us to be like those wise people of so long ago, who found hope, instead of a destination; who found grace, instead of gratitude; who found salvation, instead of a sign. As we journey with your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fill us with the light of your joy and love.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon

Up, on your feet! Grace has been poured into our hearts, love has flooded our souls, the light of hope shines in us.
This is the light which has come to all, the light we will carry and give to everyone we meet. Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May the gifts we offer bring food to the hungry, healing to the broken, community to the lonely, and hope to those who live in the shadows of our time.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

People of Advent: the Lord be with you!
And also with you!

People of Christmas, lift up your hearts.
We lift our hearts overwhelmed with grace to the One who was born for us.
People of the Star, offer your songs of joy and thanksgiving to God.
We will sing our praises to the One

who has revealed glory and hope in the Babe of Bethlehem.

In that first moment, you spoke,
Radiant God,
     and the light of creation
     dispelled the thick darkness of chaos.
You whispered,
     and your glory filled the skies.
You sang,
     and the dust of the earth
     was shaped into your image,
as you breathed life into us.
We could have lived
in grace and peace with you
     for as long as the sun endures,
     for as long as the moon hangs in the night sky.
But we were tempted
by the sweet taste of sin,
     and overwhelmed with temptation's
      wealth of cheap gifts and thrills.
The prophets were sent
to tell of your gifts of joy and peace,
but we listened to the world's news
of success, power, achievement.
Finally, in that dark time of despair,
you sent Jesus,
your servant of salvation.

Therefore, we will join our voices
with the wise ones, as well as the foolish,
of every time and place
who forever sing of your grace:

Holy, holy, holy, God of bright dawns!
All creation renders tributes of praise to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who saves the lives of the needy.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of redemption,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Overwhelmed with compassion,
he left the glory of heaven,
     to become a prisoner of sin,
          so we could be set free.
Overwhelmed with hope,
he entered death's house,
     to break its dark power forever.
Overwhelmed with love,
     he travelled another road,
     walking to Calvary,
          so we might run with joy
          into your waiting arms.

So, as we remember his birth,
as we prepare to journey with him this year,
we speak of that mystery called faith,
which is revealed to us through Christ:

Christ came, the morning star of love;
Christ died, the night star of salvation;
Christ was raised, the radiant star of resurrection;
Christ will come again, the constellation of hope.

Holy One of stars and sinners,
send down your Spirit of hope
upon those gathered around this Table,
and on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
that they might make us  
your faithful and loving children.
Feed us with the bread of hope,
so when we leave,
we will travel another road,
     to defend the weak,
     to speak for the voiceless,
     to assist those cast aside.
Refresh us with the sweet nectar of grace,
so we, overwhelmed with joy,
would go forth
     to enter the houses
          of the strangers in our midst;
     to enter the despair
          of the lonely and forgotten;
     to enter the hearts
          of everyone we meet.

And when eternity's time begins
and we are gathered around your Table,
with friends and family we loved,
with those we ignored and mistreated,
with all our sisters and brothers of grace,
we will lift our songs of glad joy to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Now, God sends us out by a different road.
So we may find those who have been left by the side of the world.
Now, Jesus walks with us down a different road.
So we may serve those who are lonely and frightened.
Now, the Spirit illumines a different road.
So we may take our sisters and brothers by the hand
to walk in wonder and grace.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Liturgy with communion for January 5, 2020 (Second Sunday after Christmas - A)

Texts:  Jeremiah 31: 7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

Call to Worship
On this day, we remember the gift of God's Word,
who gathers us together from the farthest parts of the world
to worship in joy and hope.
On this day, we remember the simple graces of the bread and the cup,
those plain gifts shaped by God's love into nourishing hope.
On this day, we remember the gifts of water and oil,
cleansing us in the baptismal pools, anointing us as God's children.

Prayer of the Day
You could let us continue to shuffle
through the world's deserts,
God of Christmas,
     but you choose to walk with us
     beside the rivers of life.
You could forget who we are,
     but you adopt us into your family,
     your children of hope and joy.
You could decide we are not worth all the love
or all the agony of caring,
     but your redeem us and make us whole.
Blessed are you!

It was only the other day
the angels were singing of your birth,
Tiny One of Bethlehem,
and now, here you are,
running swiftly toward us:
     to melt our frozen faith,
     to comfort us in our loneliness,
     to lead us into life in your kingdom.
Blessed are you!

At the edge of a new year,
we wonder what life will be life,
and what do you do,
Gathering Spirit?
     You water our parched souls with laughter;
     you teach dance steps to those
          too weary to tap their toes;
     you fill our emptiness
          with overflowing gladness!
Blessed are you!

Blessed are we,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as we lift the prayer Jesus has taught us, saying,
(The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Have we really been to Bethlehem? Have we worshiped at the manger? Have we changed, for the better? Or have we simply gone back to being the people we were before the joy, the peace, the gifts of Christmas? Let us confess how we have not lived as those who have seen the Baby, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
God of Christmas:
we still are playing with our new toys,
     the creche figures have not been put away;
we have the stacks of Christmas cards,
     but we memorize the words sin has taught us;
we set limits on who we will love,
     we make promises we cannot keep,
we fail to see the pain and hurt we cause.

God of the angels and shepherds, forgive us.
     Your Word has come to reshape our lives;
     your Light has come to show us the way home;
     your Son has come to make us your family.
Have mercy and make us new people. This we pray
in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Like the Baby of Bethlehem, we are born anew. God's forgiveness cradles us; God's love is poured out on us.
What a marvelous gift - forgiveness! Filled with hope and new life, we can sing God's praises forever. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Blessed are we, O God, for you came to be with us, to walk with us, and to share our lives.  As we offer our gifts to you, may we be willing to share in the lives of those around us, to share in their journeys, and to be your presence and spirit in their lives.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of newness be with you.
And also with you.
People of Christmas, offer your hearts to God.
We lift them to the One who comes,
new hope and life cradled in loving hands.
People of the Holy One of Bethlehem, sing glad praises to our God.
We come, for we have received the good news,
we have believed the Word, we are given joyful songs to sing.

When chaos thought there was no end,
you began, Fullness of all time.
Your Word ran sprints through creation,
     scattering the seeds which sprang forth
     into fruit, flowers, mountains and molehills.
Your Spirit sang songs of wonder and hope,
     that Breath which gave your children life.
We were as close to your heart
as the blood which flows through ours,
but the soft, insistent whispers of sin
grew louder and louder in our ears,
     and we ran off, letting the shadows
     of seduction overwhelm us.
Time and again, every time you could,
you sent your messengers to us,
crying out in love and hope, 'return!'
     but we did not recognize them
     nor listen to their words.
So turning to the angels,
you said, 'Watch!' as you
sent Jesus to bring us home to you.

So, with those in every place,
and with those from every time,
we join our voices, singing to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God of every blessing.
All creation lavishes praise on you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to live among us.
Hosanna in the highest!

You could have kept us scattered
to the limits of loneliness, God of Wonder,
but you sent Jesus, your Glory,
to become the Gatherer of those
who had wandered far from you.
Peering into the shadows of our lives,
     he is the Light which overcomes
     all our fears, our doubts, our worries.
Speaking into the hollows of our hearts,
     he is the Word who teaches us
     new songs of gratitude and awe.
Gathering the cross into his arms,
     he is the Deliverer who breaks
     sin's death grip on us,
          walking with us by the brooks of water,
           into the kingdom of life eternal.

As we begin this year with hope,
we remember his promise to be with us always,
even as we tell of that mystery we call faith:

At the beginning of time, Christ was the Word of creation;
at the right time, Christ was the Word of redemption;
at the end of time, Christ will be the Word who brings us home.

And in this time, in this place,
with these people, we come to your Table,
     Gatherer of your children.
The simple gifts we take for granted,
the bread which has been a staple of life,
the cup which refreshes us when we thirst,
     you transform into imaginative grace,
     the Meal which is blessed by the presence
     of your Spirit of power and peace.
You bring us from every point on the compass -
     young and old, the mother with her son,
     the grandfather balancing the girl on his knee,
     those who run circles around us,
     and those who point the way with their canes -
welcoming that great parade of your children
who come with outstretched hearts
to receive every blessing imaginable.

And when our beginning has come to your fullness,
when we come, our faces glowing with wonder,
our voices ringing with the songs of freedom,
we will gather around your Table in heaven,
comfort and gladness our eternal inheritance from you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Go forth now, with God's Word echoing in your hearts.
We will go to share God's hope with all who are empty.
Go forth now, with the grace of Jesus filling your souls.
We will go to share the justice of Jesus with all who are forgotten.
Go forth now, with the Spirit's peace resting on you.
We will go to share this peace, placing it like a shawl
around the broken, the grieving, the lonely.

(c) Thom M. Shuman