Saturday, January 12, 2019

Liturgy with communion for January 20, 2019 (Epiphany 2 - C)

Texts:  Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Call to Worship
We come this day, Precious God,
as people in need of your steadfast love:
with you is the fountain of life;
in your Light we see light.

We gather this day, Water-changing God,
as people looking for signs:
with you is the fountain of grace;
in your Hope we see hope.

We worship this day, Gifting God,
as people who confess Jesus as our Lord:
with you is the fountain of joy;
in your Life we see life.

Prayer of the Day

With you, Enduring Joy,
we find our refuge.
In the shelter of your compassion,
we are made whole;
in the abundance of your grace,
we are fed;
in the depths of your living waters,
we are transfigured into new people.

With you, Revealer of Glory,
we are filled to the brim.
Our lips cannot contain your praise;
our hearts overflow with your spirit;
our lives are poured out for others.

Activating Spirit,
we find our common life
in this community of faith.
United by a common confession,
we take our uncommon gifts
and share them
in serving all people.

Same in love, same in grace,
God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as Jesus taught us, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We cannot claim ignorance of our sins, for we know how we have not lived as God's
people.  But God refuses to forsake us, waiting to forgive us and call us as God's
children.  Please join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Delight of the Ages, we cannot remain silent, but must speak of the ways we misuse your gifts.  In our desire to have more and more, we cause more damage to your good creation.  In our obsession with ourselves, we have desolated that lives of those around us.  When we hoard what you have given us, we cannot be a blessing to other people.
     Forgive us, Restless God, so we might be restored to life.  May your steadfast love save and strengthen us to share our gifts with others, even as you have shared the Gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God delights in you.  So much, that God will not rest until you are at peace.  God will not remain silent, but will call you by name: 'My Delight.'
God's steadfast love extends to the heavens, and reaches down to touch our hearts.  Thanks be to God who forgives and saves us!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Sometimes, we believe the gifts we offer do not matter.  But when they are combined with all the other gifts – of healing, of hope, of compassion, of your heart – they can become rivers of grace and justice flowing through the lives of everyone around us.  We offer our gifts to you in this hope, as we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of steadfast love be with you!
And also with you!
Here, we will find refuge in our God.
Here, our hearts may be offered for healing and hope.
Let us feast on the abundance of God’s grace.
We will sing glad songs as we come to this Table.

You could not rest, Steadfast Love,
until creation had emerged from chaos;
you would not keep silent
but spoke the Word which
   placed the sun like a burning torch,
   caused the moon to shine like the dawn,
   crowned the night sky with stars.
Shaped in your image, you delighted in us,
   but we forsook you for sin,
   moving into the neighborhood called Desolation.
Prophets came repeatedly, to remind us
of your never-ending delight in us,
   but we thought their words
   were of no concern to us.
So you sent your Child to us,
the One who would fill us
to the brim with your gracious hope.

So with our sisters and brothers around us,
in the midst of the richness of your gifts,
we celebrate your steadfast love for us:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Refuge of our hearts.
All creation sings of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who is the same Lord of all.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Light in whom we see light,
and Jesus is your vindication for all to see.
He could have rested in glory,
   but came hurrying to gather
   us up in your grace.
He could have remained silent in disapproval,
   but spoke over and over
   of your steadfast love for us.
He could have joined the world
in calling us all sorts of names,
   but whispered that we are
   your beloved children.
He could have forsaken us,
   but went into death’s desolation,
   so you would rejoice over him
   on Resurrection’s morning.

As we remember the life he led and offered to all,
as we look for signs of his presence in our midst,
we would proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, faithful to the very end;
Christ was raised, your righteousness drawn
   out of the depths of death;
Christ will come, so we will no longer be alone.

The same Spirit which moved over the waters
is now poured out over the gifts
of the bread and the cup, created from
the rich variety of creation’s gifts.
This bread, though broken,
strengthens us to be your people,
   who will not remain silent,
      but will confront injustice;
   who will not rest until
      all the broken are healed.
The cup, dipped into grace’s river
and handed to us, sends us forth
to be a fountain of life,
   where empty longings might
      be filled with love;
   where desolation might be
      replaced with hope.

And when, at the end of all time,
we are gathered in Beulah land,
we will be seated with our sisters
and brothers at your Feast,
where we will discover you have save
the best until then, as we sing to you,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

God sends us out to the lonely, the forsaken.
We will go to gather them up into the heart of love.
Jesus sends us out to throw a party for those
who nibble at the stale crusts offered by the world.
We will go to sit with those who have no family,
to fill their lives with hope and grace.
The Spirit sends us forth, as transformed people,
as those who have been given new names.
We will go to those sunk deep in the muck of life,
Who long for new days, for new joy, for new wonder.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Liturgy with communion for January 13, 2019 (Baptism of the Lord - C)

Texts: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Call to Worship
Like the soft whisper of a little child singing
to herself before anyone else in the house is awake,
ever so gently, God's voice cradles us

with songs of wonder and awe.
With the persistence of teenagers and young adults,
heady with the newfound freedom of questioning everything,

God's voice rumbles like a river through our lives,
sweeping away all the boundaries between us.

Like the grandpa who passes on the secret to his bread,
like the nana who teaches her grandkids how to drive,
God's voice is always reminding us

that we are precious, esteemed, beloved.

Prayer of the Day

When we baptize ourselves
in the frigid waters of fear,
     you come to gather us up,
     drying us off with grace,
     wrapping us in the warm,
     fluffy towel of the Spirit.

When our faith becomes
as threadbare as the
carpet beneath our feet,
     you come, your work boots on,
     your tool belt around your waist,
     building a new foundation for us,
          whistling, 'my hope is built
          on nothing less . . .'

When we worry that someone
else has taken our place in your heart,

you show us where our name is etched,
     so you can always feel us
     with every beat.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our prayers of joy to you,
even as we pray together saying,
 (The Lord's Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Broken? God promises to make us whole.  Lost? God promises to come and find us, gather us up, and bring us home. Confused about  tomorrow? God promises our future is grounded in love. Let us confess that, though we have heard the promises over and over, we have trouble believing them, as we pray together saying, 

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
     We know what it is like to be singed by the flames of our lives, Holy God. We look for ourselves in all the wrong places - success, power, adulation. We carve our names in the granite walls of work, hoping we will be remembered when we are gone. We have gone through the waters of baptism, but live as if they have not changed us.
     We need to hear your sure word, 'do not fear,' Shaper of our lives. Our failures do not cause you to quit loving us, for you continue to claim us, gathering us up in your compassionate arms. In our baptism, we discover not the end, but the first step of our journey with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God's words of comfort and restoration are more powerful than any foolishness, any mistakes, any sins we commit. This is good news: we 
are God's people!

Thanks be to God! By water and word, by the Spirit of God's redeeming grace, we are marked and sealed as God's beloved children. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We offer our gifts in recognition that we are baptized people, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  So, we will hold nothing back but will share our lives, our hearts, our energies, as well as our efforts, in ministry to the world around us.  This we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of glory be with you!
And also with you!
People of God, offer your hearts to God.
We give them to the One who comes to redeem us.
Sing songs of praise and joy, Children of God.
We lift our voices to the One who journeys with us through the waters of baptism,
and who feeds us at the Table of hope.

With the water of baptism
reminding us of your love for us,
Voice of Heaven,
we lift our praises to you.
Before you breathed the Word
which tamed chaos,
you named us your children,
     heirs of all the goodness
     you desired for us.
You sang to us in Eden's fields,
inviting us to glorify you forever.
     Yet, we walked into the shadows
          of the world, leaving the songs behind us.
You persisted in your hopes for us,
knowing that where
     no life is anticipated,
      no hope is expected,
      no future is seen,
it is in those barren and desolate places
that you gather your children up
to carry us into your kingdom.

So, with angel choirs in every region,
with shepherds who caroled a homeless family,
with those who came home singing from exile,
we lift our voices in joy and hope:

Holy, holy, holy, Awesome Voice of life and hope.
All creation resounds with your wondrous love.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes to be baptized
      with water and the Spirit.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Bearer of grace and Singer of truth.
When we lost our voice to sin,
     you sent your Word to teach us
     new songs of joy and praise.
When our feet became muddy
from playing in life's puddles,
     he stepped into the Jordan,
     so we might be cleansed of sin.
When our ears were filled
with the lies of the world,
     he spoke the truth of
     your everlasting hope for us.
When we were about to die,
     he came running to us,
     defeating sin and death,
          marking us as your own
          with the kiss of the Holy Spirit.

As we remember Christ's baptism,
as we recall his life and ministry,
as we follow him through death
into the resurrection of the new life,
we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Baptized, Christ was called your Beloved;
dying, Christ was your heart broken for us;
risen to new life, Christ is the Voice which shatters all our fears;
coming to gather us up, Christ will bring us home to you.

Holy Spirit,
fill us with the bread of forgiveness
and with the cup of hope.
Flow through us like baptismal waters,
     so we might become
     a river of reconciliation.
Grant us your peace,
     so we might carry this gift to the world.
Set our hope on Christ,
      so we might build such hope
     in our neighbors and communities.

And when the river of time stops flowing,
when we gather as one around your Table,
we will join our voices as your children,
singing to God, Child, and Spirit,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Baptized, we will go to share God's love with others.
We will welcome those the world rejects as our sisters and brothers.
Baptized, we will become the grace of our Lord Jesus.
We will share the waters of life with everyone we meet.
Baptized, we will become the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
We will be a community of justice, not judgment;
we will be a household of hope, not an exclusive club for just a few.

(c)  Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Day of Epiphany

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 arose, 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

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Liturgy with communion for December 30, 2018 (Christmas 1 - C)

Texts: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52

Call to Worship
Snow-capped mountains and sand castles on beaches,
comets flashing across the night, meteors crashing into moons
Dolphins playing tag in the ocean and trout resting on river bottoms,
storks nesting on chimney tops, and doves cooing in the mornings,
Children making angels in the snow, teenagers knotting in hallways,
grandparents watching favorite movies, nervous singles on a first date,
All creation joins in one song:
Praise the Lord!

Prayer of the Day
Wrap us in the shawl of compassion,
God of holiness,
so that this season of goodness and giving
might last longer than
the after-Christmas sales.

Slip our hands into the gloves of humility,
Brother of the overlooked,
so we might join in your work of
rebuilding communities,
feeding the hungry,
embracing the outsiders.

Teach us your patient ways,
Wisdom from on high,
so we would learn to notice
what we have in common with others,
rather than what divides us;
so we might offer kindness
in the face of bitterness and hurt.

May all we do with our hands, our hearts,
our minds, our feet, our lives be done
in the name of the One who taught us to pray, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Before we put away the ornaments and put the tree out by the curb, before we toss the cards and wrapping paper into the recycling bin, before we store the movies and music back in the closet, let us confess how quickly we forget the true meaning of this holy season, as we offer our prayers to our God, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   How patient You are with us, Loving Creator, and how hard we find it to put up with the foolishness of others.  In humility, You became one of us, and we keep wanting everything to be about us.  You model a life of meekness in service to others, and we are convinced life is all about power and success.  All creation sings of Your kindness, while we hurl angry words at those we say we care about the most.
   Yet, rather than becoming frustrated with us, Joy of Christmas, You continue to forgive us.  Clothe us with Your love, we pray, so we might be more compassionate towards others.  Touch us with Your grace, so we might become more gentle people.  Fill us with that peace which longs to reside in our hearts, even as we seek to continue our journey with the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
In these moments, let God’s peace dwell in your hearts.  For God gives us hope, gives us peace, and gives us new life in the forgiveness of God’s grace.
We will be thankful, for in receiving God’s forgiveness, we are enabled to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
You bless us with an abundance of gifts, God of this holy season, not as a reward for doing good, but as a means to reach out with healing to the broken, to clothe those who shiver in winter, and to bless others with the hope which has been ours.  As we offer our gifts to you, we do so in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of Christmas be with you.
And also with you.
Let us open our hearts to the One who would clothe them in garments of service.
We offer our hearts to be swaddled in compassion, kindness, and humility.
Join in singing glad songs of praise to our God.
With our lips and with our hearts, we offer thanksgiving as we exalt our God.

Originator of all that is good and beautiful,
You clothe meadows with wild flowers
and spin rings around planets,
You illuminate waves with a winter moon
as tiptoe shadows across lawns for kittens to chase.
You did not create these wonders for Yourself,
longing share them with those formed in Your image,
inviting us to follow You into these delights,
   but we stayed behind, learning as much
   as we could from the elders of death.
Those we call prophets, women and men of hope,
came to place Your words in our hearts,
   yet we turned a deaf ear to them,
   preferring the siren songs of sin.
So You sent your Child to us,
who was willing to be involved in
Your business of redemption.

With songs of praise that are always in our hearts,
with silence which walks with us each day,
we offer thanksgiving to you in these moments:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Author of all life.
Creation joins with those of every age and place in praising You.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who teaches us songs of wonder.
Hosanna in the highest!

You are holy, God of eternity, yet
in a little baby, You set aside holiness
   to wrap yourself in a caregiver’s humility;
in a young boy, You planted the seeds of hope
   so we might learn compassion for others;
in a young man, You placed the gift of patience
   so we would discover how to put up
   with those who drive us to distraction;
in brokenness on a cross, You put on love,
   not staying behind in the grave,
   but coming forth singing the refrain of resurrection.

As we move on from the celebration of a Birth
to learning what it means to follow Jesus into life and death,
we seek to proclaim that mystery called faith:

Dying, Christ sought to do everything in God’s name;
raised to new life, Christ gave thanks to God;
returning to us, Christ will clothe us in resurrection’s grace.

We come to Your meal once again,
praying that You pour out Your Spirit
not only upon those who have gathered this day,
but on the bread and the cup, the symbols of life for us.
As we set aside our fears and doubts
to eat of the bread which is broken,
we ask to be clothed in Your compassion,
   so others might find hope in us;
to be swaddled in Your humility,
   so we might serve in Your name.
We would drink from the cup
that Your grace might fill us
   so we might use our hands to lift up the fallen,
                  our feet to walk with the lonely,
                  our heads to solve the problems of poverty,
                  our hearts to love those hated by others.

And when all time comes to an end,
no one will stay behind, but all Your children
will be gathered around Your Table of grace and live,
where we will sing canticles of hope and wonder to You,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

Let us go to praise our God!
We will sing of God’s hope as we offer compassion to the hurting.
Let us go to praise the Brother of the poor!
We will offer psalms of passion as we seek to lift others to new life.
Let us go to praise the Spirit of humility.
We will join in canticles of conciliation and peace for our broken world.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Day

Texts:  Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20

Call to Worship
In snow-capped churches,
and on sand-strewn beaches,
God’s people gather in joy
to celebrate a birth.
With hopes littering our hearts
like wrapping paper under a tree,
We offer our thanks and praise
for the gift of grace swaddled in love.
With eyes wide open like little children,
with hearts full of wonder and laughter,
We join our lives with Mary and Joseph,
with the shepherds who ran to tell the good news.

Christmas Morning Prayer
Grace dawned this morning,
   streaking our bleary eyes
   with bright shafts
   of beauty and goodness.

Joy sang us awake
with carols of wonder
   written by the shepherds,
   the tunes composed by children
      who could not sleep.

Hope was fixing breakfast
for us while we slept,
   toasting the Bread and
   slathering it with jam,
      pouring us a cuppa
      steaming grace.

We rejoice and give thanks
God in Community, Holy in One,
our Grace, our Joy, our Hope,
even as we pray as your Child taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
On this morning of love and joy, of laughter and families, we must remember and confess how we dampen the spirits of others, speak hurtful words to those we love, turn our backs on those in need.  Join me, as we pray together saying,

 Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Manger-dwelling God,
      we heard the songs of the angels,
         yet we easily tune-out the cries of the needy;
      we feel the breath of our children on our faces,
         yet remain untouched by your Spirit of peace;
      we are surrounded by gifts as precious as those
      brought by the Wise Ones,
         yet have trouble sharing with those
         who are from other countries, other faiths.

   Forgive us, Grace swaddled in mystery.
      We believe in Christmas,
         help us to believe in you even more;
      we hunger for happiness,
         feed us on your peace;
      we long for community and acceptance,
         surround us with our brothers and sisters
         we find in all those, of every age and every place,
         who follow and serve alongside our Lord and Savior,
         Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this day.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Born that day was grace – for the broken and bereft;
born that day was hope – for the vulnerable and forgotten;
born that day was love – for all of us!
Thanks be to God, we are forgiven!  We will go to tell others of all we have seen, heard, experienced, and know.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May the gifts we share be from the heart, just as yours was that day, God of Bethlehem.  ay they serve those who look for welcome,
those who struggle with loss and grief,
those who need to be blessed by hope
This we pray in the name of your Child, Jesus.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Now, may Bethlehem’s Child bless you!
And also bless you!
Now, may the children of God open their hearts.
We offer them to the One who loves us each and every morning.
Now, may we join in the songs of the angels.
We join our voices with those of every time and place.

In the silenced night of chaos,
creation rejoiced with the carols of wonders
you had composed, God of surprises:
   as joy sparkled in the sky,
   as rivers swarmed with fish,
   as turtles plodded through meadows.
The Word gently gathered up earth’s dust
and the Spirit breathed life into those
shaped in your image, so we might
be at peace and be with you in joy.
   But we were tempted by sin’s decorations
   and death’s commercials of life without you. 
Time and again, you sent folks to call us home.
Miriam and Micah, Ruth and Habakkuk
spoke of your hopes for of us,
   yet we found rebellion the better
   road to take in our journey through the years.
Finally, you chose to offer yourself
in that Child born into poverty,
that little One who would strengthen all.

With those who gathered on that first morning,
with all who have celebrated with songs and service,
we sing carols of praise to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of all turned away by the world.
Creation joins the angels in praising you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who clears the Way for us to walk.
Hosanna in the highest!

In the silence of the night, God of holiness,
your Child crept in among us,
so small no one would notice,
so poor no one would care.
But those who are forgotten by the world,
   like shepherds and the disabled,
   come to worship, and to tell us the good news.
Those who have no money to their name,
   gift us with their hopes and love,
   even as he did so long ago.
Those children who are overlooked by culture,
   sing to us of the One given to us,
      so we might find our way home;
   of the One who gives himself to death,
   so resurrection love might destroy sin’s power,
      and we might be swaddled in grace.

On this morning when we celebrate his birth,
in the days to come when we follow him to Jerusalem,
we sing carols of that mystery we call faith:

Christ was born, so we might have life;
Christ died, so we might have forgiveness;
Christ was raised, so we might have resurrection;
Christ will be born again, to gather us together with him.

In the silence of these holy moments,
pour out your Spirit upon
those gathered on this morning
and on the gifts of the Feast of Joy.
As we are welcomed here,
   may we remember and include
   all rejected by the world.
As we are fed by the bread,
   may we be strengthened
   to go and bring tangible hope
   to all who are famished by despair.
As we drink from grace’s cup,
   nourish us, so we may go
   to overflow with love and peace
   for everyone we meet in every season.

And when all history and time ends in silence,
and we are gathered with our sisters and brothers
around the feast of the lamb,
we will join the angels in singing carols to your forever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.              

Let us go,
to join the angels in singing
of God’s glory and grace.
Let us go to share the good news,
that Jesus, the brother
of the vulnerable and forgotten
is in our midst still.
Let us go to offer
peace and goodwill to everyone,
joining the Spirit in telling
of all we have seen and heard.

(c) Thom M. Shuman