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 like,
and what do you do,
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 are still playing with our new toys,
the manger 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
The gift of Bethlehem has come to bless us, and so may our gifts bring hope, bring healing, bring peace, and bring grace to Birmingham, to Belfast, to Bangladesh, in every place where folks hunger for your gifts, O God. This we pray in Jesus' name. 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.
As you go, remember the gift of God's Word.
We will tell of the good news to the world.
As you go, remember the simple graces of the bread and cup.
We will seek to feed those who hunger and thirst for life.
As you go, remember the gifts of oil and water.
We will live out our baptismal promises in all the days to come.
(c) 2014 Thom M. Shuman