Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas 1-C

Call to Worship
Praise God! Praise the Lord,, all creation!
Stars glittering with grace,
humpback whales singing of hope:
all praise our God!
Praise God! Praise the Lord, all you people!
12 year-olds, and 80 plus,
wise and those learning to walk:
all will praise our God!

Praise God! Praise the Lord,
in every moment, in every place!
Here in church, and relaxing at home;
in a classroom, and at the doctor's office:
we will praise our God!

Prayer of the Day
Wonder of wonders,
God of creation:
you choose us
to be your people,
continuing to clothe
us in holiness,
even when we drag
the garment through
the mud of our lives;
you call us 'Beloved',
even while
we speak words about others,
that would make
the Evil One blush.

Wonder of wonders,
Humble Jesus:
you ask questions
about our so-called wisdom,
revealing how foolish we are;
you wear your heart
on your sleeve
as you reach out
to embrace us
with you compassion.

Wonder of wonders,
Spirit of the old and the new:
every year
you take the old, stained clothes
of our silly lives,
and dress us in
kindness, humility,
patience, and meekness,
that we might be grow
in your love and grace.

May everything we do,
and everything we say,
be in your name,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we have been taught,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
We like to think we are wise beyond our years,
but when we look at our lives as God's people,
we discover we still act too often like little
children. Let us confess how we always want
our way, rather than following God's.

Unison Prayer of Confession
You set boundaries for us, Holy God, yet we
continue to cross over them into sin. Believing
we are wiser than you, we are amazed that you
would question our actions and lives. Offering
us the warm sweater of love, we would rather
slip our lives into the sleeves of bitterness and
anger. Challenging us to carry one's another's
burdens, we complain about how heavy and
uncomfortable they are.

Forgive us, Searching God, and clothe us
with your gifts of compassion, humility,
patience, and hope. Then, dressed as your

graceful people, may we go forth to live as
sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, our Lord
and Savior.

Silence is kept.

Assurance of Pardon
The good news is simple: God loves us
so much, we are forgiven and granted new life.
Praise God! As forgiven people, we will
go to forgive others, and share God's
grace with them. Amen.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Day

Call to Worship
Wonder of wonders,
God has come to us!
Not as a judge, but a Savior,
not in power, but as a servant.
Wonder of wonders,
God comes to us!
Not in silence, but in the Word made flesh;
not in the shadows, but bringing Light.
Wonder of wonders!
P: God is with us!

Prayer of the Day
Angels sang their anthems
at the midnight hour
to awaken a sleeping creation;
shepherds came to worship you,
and went away rejoicing;
wise one gave their hearts to you,
so they could dwell in yours.
O Immanuel,
we adore you!

You came to us as a baby,
to hold us in your grace;
you came to us in a stable,
so we would have no trouble finding you;
you came to us in poverty,
to enrich our lives.
O Beautiful Messenger of Peace,
we adore you!

You play with us
in the streets of the kingdom;
you build your home
deep within our souls;
you walk with us
in the winter of life.
O Wisdom from on high,
we adore you!

God in Community, Holy in One,
all the faithful lift their songs of joy to you,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father. . .

Call to Reconciliation

God became one of us, so that we could see the face of love, hear the voice of peace, be
touched by the hand of grace, know the heart of mercy. God comes to us, offering us
forgiveness and peace. Please join with me as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
You came in weakness, Mighty God:
forgive our grasping
for power.
You came in humility, Prince of Peace:
forgive us
wanting more than others.
You came in poverty, Everlasting One:
forgive us
when we do not see your family
sleeping in our streets.
You came in gentleness, Wonderful Counselor:
forgive us
for the anger we speak
and the pain we cause.

Child of Bethlehem,
be born in us today:
forgive us,
heal us,
make us new;
then we will join the angels
in singing your praises
this Christmas Day
and all the days to come.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Break forth into singing, children of God:
for the Babe comes to comfort us,
like a mother rocking her son to sleep,
like a father wiping away the tears
of his daughter.
(sung) Joy to the Word, the Lord is come,
let earth receive her King.
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Child of Bethlehem be born in you.
And in your heart as well.
Children of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One
who came to us that first Christmas morning.

People of God, give thanks to the One
who is always with us.
O come, o come Immauel,
to feed us at your Table.

When you were weary
of chaos as your companion,
Everlasting God,
you whispered to the Word
who sang Creation's song:
mountains sprang to attention,
rivers and oceans splashed your feet,
and the dust from the Carpenter's table
was gathered up and shaped in your image.
Spirit breathed life into us,
that we might dance with you forever.
But when we looked beyond your glory,
and saw the decorative temptations
the world dangled before our eyes,
we rushed to embrace sin and death.
Yet you looked past our rebellion,
seeing the people we could become,
and so sent Isaiah and Hannah,
Simeon and Anna as your faithful witnesses.
When we continued to turn up
the world's volume
to drown out your pleas,
you sent the Word of hope
in the silence of a stable.

Therefore, we join with the angels
of Bethlehem's skies,
and all those who sing of your steadfast love,
in every time and place:


Holy are you, Mighty God,
and blessed is the One who comes in your name,
our Lord and Savior, your Gift to all the world.
You would not keep the Word to yourself,
but sent him to tell us
of your hopes for us.
You did not cling to the Prince of Peace,
but poured him out to end
our enmity and violence with one another.
You could not hold your Heart
in your hands,
but allowed him to be broken
on the tree of Calvary
that we might be made whole forever.

So, as we celebrate his birth,
his life, his death and his resurrection,
we remember the faith which he models for us,
and gives to us as our inheritance:

Memorial Acclamation

As we gather at your Table,
send your Spirit upon the bread and the cup,
and upon us, your children.
As you sent Jesus to be born of Mary,
may we bear the burdens of others;
as you became One with us in the Child,
may we live at peace with all people;
as you have brought us out
of the shadows of our sin,
may we carry the Light of the world
to all who live in the darkness
of oppression and injustice.

Then, when we gather at your Table
prepared for all people in your kingdom,
we will sing that new song
first caroled at creation
and echoed through Bethlehem's hills:
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace,
goodwill to all."

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Christmas Eve

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the shadows of death
a light has dawned.
Jesus Christ is our Life and Light.
In Christ's name, welcome!
In Christ's grace, let us worship God!

Call to Worship
Let us go, just as we are, to see what has happened.
let us go with the shepherds:
let us go and find the One
of whom the angels sang.
Let us go with those who are wise:
let us go and find the One
who brings God's truth to us.
Let us go with the poor in spirit, and in flesh;
let us go with those who are humbled by life:
Let us find the Glory of God
born in a stable, and placed in a feeding trough.
Let us go with our friends and family,
let us go with our neighbors and with strangers,
let us go with all the children of God:
let us go to find the One who comes
to lead us home to God's kingdom.
O come, let us go to the Babe of Bethlehem;
O come, let us adore him!
Christ our Lord!

Call to Reconciliation
We begin with such great hopes, such great dreams. We are going to be better, to treat others more fairly, to love more deeply. But we come to the manger once again, knowing our failings, and aware of our brokenness. Let us confess to the One who comes, that our lives might be made new.

Unison Prayer of Confession
God who comes to us:
forgive us . . .
when our shadowed lives dim your Light;
when the tinsel of Christmas means more
to us than your truth;
when our hearts of stone resist the pain
and brokenness around us;
when we care more about what is under
the tree, than the damamge we do
to your creation and to your children.

Have mercy on us, Healing God,
so we might
tear down the walls we have built
to keep your love away;
so we could
seek your justice for our sisters and brothers;
so our hearts
would become cradles for your Son,
our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon (based on Is. 62:10-12)
Go, go through the city, preparing for the people;
repair, repair all the roads, filling in the holes,
raising a banner for all to see.
God has spoken to all people,
saying to sons and daughters:
'See, your Savior comes;
to make good on my promises,
to bring redemption to all people.'
And we will be called God's Beloved,
the Redeemed of the Lord;
God will seek us out to live
in the New Jerusalem,
where no one is left behind. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May God be with you.
May God be also with you.
People of God, open your hearts,
We open our hearts to God.
Let us give thanks to the Living God.
It is right to give thanks to the One
who offers abundant life.

This is the night your heart bursts open with Joy,
this is the evening Grace pours out of heaven,
this is the moment when you come
to make all things new,
ever-creating God.
You shaped light out of the shadows of chaos,
and molded your children from the earth,
looking in the mirror as you formed us,
breathing your Spirit into our empty lungs.
Made for life with you
in the Garden you designed for us,
we ran away into the wilds of the world,
believing we were wiser than you,
that we could make our own way.
Yet your love never failed us,
your compassion was never taken from us,
you would not abandon us in our foolishness.
You brought us out of slavery
into that land of promise and hope.
You sent your prophets to speak to us
of your disappointment in us,
and to remind us of your dreams for us.
Your love for us was so passionate,
that you sent your only Son
to become one of us
that we might be one with you again.

So on this night when heaven reaches down
to caress creation with healing,
we join the angel choirs who sang your glory,
and with your people in every time and place,
caroling the good news which is ours:


Holiness is who you are, God of Christmas,
and blessings come in Jesus Christ, your Child of Grace.
Finding no warm welcome at his birth,
he knew the cold shoulder of friends at his death;
born in the rude confines of a barn,
he knew the suffering of your children;
sent to be your Word made flesh,
he calls us to follow him into your Kingdom;
proclaimed by the prophet as our Prince of Peace,
he died in the quagmire of human violence.
By his death and resurrection,
you have given new life to all creation.
So, as we gather on this holiest of nights,
we proclaim that mystery we call faith:

Memorial Acclamation

Pour out your Spirit upon us,
Wonderful Counselor,
and on the gifts you have given us.
We lift the broken bread,
praying we would be made whole,
at peace with one another,
and reconciled to you.
As we drink from the vineyard of grace,
we believe that our salvation has come,
and we are one with Christ,
our flesh filled with his spirit of sacrifice,
our spirits refreshed by his compassionate heart.
As your joy flows into us,
may we become a river
carrying your justice to the poor;
as your hope sings in our hearts,
may we carry your righteousness to all who suffer.
And as we taste the promise
of the feast you prepare for us in your kingdom,
may we live for you and serve your children,
as we have been served by the Child of Christmas,
Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent 4-C

Call to Worship
We come to glorify God,
to rejoice in the One who saves us.
God comes:
for the lost, the last,
the little, the least of this world.
Our hearts leap for joy!
For God is coming to us in a child.
God comes:
for those who hunger for hope;
for those who thirst for grace.

Holy is the One who comes in God's name;
the One who fulfills every promise of God.
God comes:
to stand with those who follow in faith;
to bring peace to a scattered world.

Prayer of the Day
Holy God,
scattering the proud,
you look with favor
on those the world ignores.
For you,
we wait for the One
who will feed us;
for you,
we wait for the One
who stands with us
in our loneliness and pain.
For you,
we wait.

Jesus Christ,
born in a little backwater town:
in you,
God fulfills the hunger of our hearts;
in you,
God lifts us from our hopelessness;
in you all the promises come true.
For you,
we wait.

Holy Spirit,
Hallower of God's people:
from you comes faith,
so we might believe;
from you comes belief,
so we might be blessed;
from you come all blessings,
so we might share them with others.
For you,
we wait.

For you, we wait,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation.
Every notion we have about power, success,
wealth, and achievement, God takes and tosses out the window. More importantly, God comes
to us, to upset our notion that we have to save ourselves. In Jesus, God comes to us, removing
our sin, our failures, our expectations, so we might have new life. Please join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
We confess we are not the people you hope us to be, Advent God. The very ones you favor, we too often ignore or ridicule. The ones you knock off their pedesatls, we admire and emulate. We are so focused on having more and more, we risk
being sent away empty.

Forgive us, Mightly God, and look with grace upon us. We would live secure in your love; we would be the ones of peace for our world, we would seek to do your will, as did Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in whose name we pray.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Even now - yes, even in this very moment, God comes to us, bringing hope, bringing
forgiveness, bringing grace as freely offered gifts to us.
May we open our hearts to the God who is with us, and receive the gifts which have been offered to us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blue Christmas/Longest Night Service


Call to Worship
Tonight, we gather here in this place of refuge,
for we are lost,
we are lonely,
we are afraid.
Tonight, we gather daring to wonder
of God has indeed come in Jesus,
discerning the rejection we have known,
intimate with our failed relationships,
holding our heartache in hands of tenderness.
Tonight, we gather with neighbors and strangers,
a family made one by our brokenness,
coming with our hearts full of hope,
and our pockets filled with doubts.
Tonight, we gather just as we are,
for God has promised to meet us here
and to welcome us for who we are.

Prayer of the Day
Holy God of Advent:
you became weak
so we could find strength
in moments of heartbreak;
you left the safety of heaven
to wander the wilderness of the world,
holding our hands when we feel so hopeless;
you set aside your glory
to hold our pain so we might be healed,
even when there seems to be no hope;
you became one of us,
so we could never be alone
in any moment,
in any circumstance.

So come now,
Child of Bethlehem,
to strengthen us in these days.
May we feel your presence
in a way we have never known,
not just as One born in a stable
long ago and far away,
but as One born in our hearts,
in our hopes, in our spirits,
in our weakness.
You have promised to go before us:
into our brokenness, into hospital rooms,
into empty houses, into graveyards,
into our future held by our God,
and your are here, even now,
waiting for each of us:
to serve us,
to hold us,
to comfort us,
to live in us, now and forever. Amen.

Carol (if music has the possibility of mending
our brokenness, then let the music work in you
as you listen)

Prayers of Intercession
All around us are the sights and sounds of
Christmas, Gentle God: the laughter of parties, the
songs of carolers, the shouts of children sledding
down hills, the music in every store. But deep within
us we carry our pain, our grief walks with us every
step we take, loneliness is a shawl we drape over
our shoulders on empty nights.
So, in this time when every night stretches into
eternity, we come to you, bringing our gifts: not
gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the grief that is
the empty space in the closet filled with memories,
the loss that is a sore which never heals, the bitterness
that tastes like two-day old coffee.
We have come from different backgrounds, from
different families, from other faith traditions. But
we have all lived in the far country of despair,
wandered the land of shame, built our lives in
those neighborhoods peopled by empty dreams.
We have stood on the side of every room we have
gone into, hoping against hope that someone would
ask us to dance, but find the wall is our only friend.
In a season when so many people don't have enough
hours in a day to get their lists checked off, their cards
mailed, their presents wrapped, we have all the time
in the world:
to remember the loss that has stolen the joy of the season;
to grieve over a job, a dream, a loved one we have lost;
to sit in the shadows of our homes, too weary to turn on
the lights; to wander the streets lit by decorations on all
the houses, but not by the Light of the world.
Our fear of the future, our remembrance of the past;
our pain which is difficult to bear and harder to release;
our emptiness which cannot be filled with platitudes;
our hands which cannot hold the ones we wish to embrace:
all make this a season of long nights.
So, be with us in our loneliness,
in our longing,
in our loss,
in our lives.
All: In Jesus Name, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of our acceptance by God


Hearing the Word of God, for our time, for our places(following each reading, you are invited to come forward
and light a candle. The bowl of salty water represents
God's tears: you may dip your fingers into to share in
them, or put some salt in to add your own)

A variety of readings follows.

Nourishment for enduring the longest night

Peace be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to God.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

When there was only chaos,
you whispered of your hopes,
God of every moment,
and light shattered the shadows,
water raced down the valleys,
creatures beyond imagination
grazed in the abundant fields.
You created all which is beautiful
for those shaped in your image,
but loneliness became our companion,
grief wrapped its arms around us,
fear sang its carols to us,
and our dreams turned to nightmares.
So that we would know you are with us
in these moments, these days, these lives,
you became one of us, Jesus walking among us,
reminding us of your promises to us,
not only in the songs of the angels,
but in the quiet whispers of hope
which are lullabied to us in the night.

P:   You are not only holy, God of hope,
          you know the pain we have felt,
          you have mingled your tears with ours,
          you have wept at the graveside of a loved One.

The angelic chorus told of your glory and wonder,
yet Jesus came to let us know of your compassion.
He could have remained safe in the cradle of grace,
but became as poor as we often feel.
He could have clothed himself in holiness,
but knew the humility of wondering
where his next meal might come from,
whether or not he had a place to sleep at night.
He could have trampled death and sin into the dust,
but let them have their way with him,
so that we might find the path
to life that is whole and complete,
where promises are fulfilled,
where hope is the bed
where we can rest our wearied souls.

P:  We believe we will find acceptance,
        because Jesus was rejected;
     we trust we know new life,
         because Jesus experienced our death;
     we look to that day when all weeping is done,
         when pain and loss is behind us and
         we are welcomed into that kingdom called eternity.

As your Spirit moved upon the waters of creation,
filling them with life beyond imagination,
may it move upon the gifts of this Table.
We hunger for hope in the midst of despair,
   for life when grief seems to never leave our side,
   for wonder where there are only shadows,
       and you feed us with that Life which
       will never depart from us, but be with us
       on this night and in all the moments to come.
Our souls are parched from the deserts of our lives,
    we thirst for joy in a world burgeoning with sorrow,
     the deep pools of love have gone dry,
         and you hand us that cup of grace
         which will never run empty
         but will continue to fill us
         the waters of life forever.

On this night, remind us that your morning of hope will come;
in our sorrow, wrap us in the swaddling cloths of healing;
in our loneliness, help us to find you as the Friend who never leaves us;
in our loss, whisper to us your promise that we will be fulfilled
   in the future you hold before us in the longest nights.
God in Community, Holy in One, be with us now and forever.  Amen.
     © 2011  Thom M. Shuman

You may come forward, as able, to be served





In your silence, may the Word dwell in your heart.
In your brokenness, may the Bread of Life heal you.
In your pain, may the One who can heal you touch your soul.

Go in peace and silence

(c) Thom M. Shuman

This service was originally published in Candles and Conifers

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

3rd Sunday of Advent - C

Call to Worship
God comes! So don't let go
of all the reasons to rejoice.
We will sing a song of Advent
to the One who fills our lives with joy.
God comes! Son don't stop
lifting your prayers with thanksgiving.
We will sing a song of Advent,
to the One who hears our words and silence.

God comes! So don't stop
giving your hearts to God.
We will sing a song of Advent
to the One who graces us with a peace
we cannot begin to understand.

Prayer of the Day
Advent God:
like a mother lullabying a baby,
you sing over us;
like a father picking up
his kids after school,
you bring us home.

Jesus Christ,
Wellspring of salvation:
may we draw near
and drink deeply of
your living waters,
so we might be renewed to life,
and restored to wholeness.

Holy Spirit,
Peace surrounding
our hearts and minds:
help us to set aside
our fears and worries,
and to rejoice in
what God has done
and is doing in our midst.

God in Community, Holy in One,
in the midst of us,
in this holy time and sacred space,
in every moment and place we live,
hear us as we pray, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
Don't be afraid! God does not turn away from us, but comes towards us. God does not hold what we have done against us, but takes away the judgments against us. Join me as we pray to our loving God,

Unison Prayer of Confession

How can we think of rejoicing, God of all times,
when we face our world, and who we are? Called
to gentleness, we can be angry and hurtful people.
Called to generosity, we tighten our grip on our
clothes, our food, our love. Called to fairness,
we can easily reject those who are different
from us.

Yet, you are our salvation, Joy of our hearts,
and you forgive us. Renewed in your love, we can
be more loving; restored to new life, we can give
ourselves away to others; as you rejoice over us
with gladness, may we share the joy of Jesus
Christ, our Lord and Savior, with everyone we meet.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon

This is the good news proclaimed to us:
The Lord is near, the Lord who is our
We give thanks to God, who has come
bringing peace, bearing hope, carrying
joy into our lives. Amen.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 04, 2006

Advent 2-C

Call to Worship
Welcome to this place
where we seek our hearts' true home.
here, we gather with God's people;
here, we hold one another in our hearts.
Welcome to this place
where we seek our hearts' true home.
Here, God looks in favor on us;
here, we discover God's intentions for us.
Welcome to this place
where we seek our hearts' true home.
Here, we find a feast prepared for us;
here, we taste God's grace and hope.
Welcome to this place!
Where we find our hearts' true home.

Prayer of the Day
Blessed God,
Faithful Promise-Giver:
you hold us in your love
and will not let us go,
no matter how often
we may break your heart.

Jesus Christ,
Dawn from on high:
we remember your birth with joy
and await your Day,
when you complete
your work of love and grace.

Holy Spirit,
Refiner and Renewer
of God's people:
you invite us to share in the gospel,
to grow in understanding,
to live with one another,
to cope with anxiety,
to serve the world in God's name.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our prayers in joy,
thanking and remembering
the One who taught us to pray, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
God is the witness to our lives, the One who sees all we do and fail to do, the One who hears what we say, and don't. God is also the One who cleanses us, who makes us pure, who forgives us. Join me as we pray to our God,

Unison Prayer of Confession

Refining God, it is not easy for us to admit we are not a blameless people. We trust the promises of politicians, but have trouble believing the ones you have made. We find ourselves captive to emotions and lusts which stun us, but doubt you can save us. We prefer the shadowy streets of the world, rather than walking in your Light.

Forgive us, Faithful One. May the Light of Christ show us your way; may the Love of Christ overflow from our lives to others; may the Life of Christ be our model as we seek to be your people.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Do you feel it? God's tender mercy rests on you, heals you, transforms you. Do you see it? God's Light breaks into our lives, and shows us the way.
All: Renewed and made whole, we see the path God has prepared for us - the way of peace, the way of hope, the way of grace, the way of service. Thanks be to God. Amen.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman