Immanuel, God with us!
You are indeed with all of us, wherever we are
across the many miles, under our assorted roofs.
In the birth that we celebrate this Christmas season,
You stripped off omnipotence,
burst through the border between Creator and Creation
to curl Your infinity into a finite form,
a frail, physical, form — an infant
utterly dependent on others to survive.
You who choose
interdependence over self-reliance,
society’s outcasts over mighty kings,
abundance for every creature over excess for the few,
You are indeed worthy of our praise!
As we worship you today,
may the same Spirit
who brought new life to Hannah and Elizabeth,
who came in dreams to change the mind of Joseph,
who took shelter in Mary and spoke through Simeon and Anna
come upon us all —
a rushing wind to stir up fainting spirits,
a gentle breeze to refresh the weary body.
Spirit of God! Here today!
Breathe new life into us
that we may join the ones who prepare Your way!
PASTORAL PRAYER / INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Like Simeon and Anna, we eagerly anticipate God’s restoration,
which is unfolding even now — yet is not fully here.
We look forward to the future in which all needs will be met,
all cruelty will be transformed into compassion,
all sickness and suffering will give way to flourishing
for all of humanity, and all of Creation.
In the meantime, we pray for those whose needs we can name –
and for those whose needs we do not know,
those who do not know how to ask for what they need.
Join me now in offering our joined prayers up
to the God who loves us, who is with us, who is bringing about abundance for all.
God of the Hope born anew at Christmas,
We pray for persistence as we continue to keep each other safe
in this time of pandemic, even when it means keeping physically apart.
Make your warming Presence felt to all those struggling with loneliness or depression, O God,
and pour your blessing upon those who reach out to their fellow human beings
in large ways and small.
Encourage and protect all who act in solidarity
with the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned, the oppressed.
We give thanks for protestors who continue to demand justice and equity,
For those who speak out against the violence we wage against this good world you created,
For those who dream of a better reality for all peoples, all creatures,
And who invite all of us into the hard, holy work of making those dreams reality.
We pray also that those in positions of power will be moved
to take the steps that only they can to reduce sickness and suffering.
We pray for a major transformation of the heart
in those who shrug off wearing masks,
And in those who perpetrate hate crimes — or who by their silence enable them.
And God, we offer our deepest gratitude
for the vaccines that are rolling out:
Bless and hover over those who create them,
those who administer them,
those who have received them, those are still waiting to receive them.
As we live into this new stage in our long waiting, revitalize us.
Empower us to be your Presence in the world,
helping others where we can
And attending to our own spirits when there is little else we can do.
God of the manger, God of the stranger,
Carry the most vulnerable of us safely into the future that is coming,
that we can almost reach out and touch, and that we continue to wait and work for.
INVITATION TO THE TABLE
My siblings in the Living God,
The infant born to impoverished Jewish parents
is the one who invites us to his table today.
He who knew poverty and homelessness
Welcomes you, even if you don’t think you have anything to bring to the table.
Having spent some of his youngest years
as a refugee far from home,
Jesus welcomes refugees and immigrants,
As well as spiritual wanderers, those who do not feel at home at church,
And those who deeply miss gathering physically in their church building.
Jesus welcomes you.
Jesus welcomes oppressors who strive to make amends,
The oppressed who seek sanctuary and justice.
Jesus welcomes you.
Whoever you are, whatever you believe,
Whatever hopes and fears, griefs and doubts you carry to the table with you,
You are welcome here.
Come. Eat. This table is for you.
Siblings in Christ,
having been nourished by the Word made flesh,
by songs that welcome in God’s Kin(g)dom,
by bread offered to us from the one born of Bethlehem,
It is time for us to depart:
to carry our renewed hope out to the despairing,
and to seek the Spirit of God
in the most shunned corners of the world.
Let us go now in peace,
rejoicing that the God who creates, sustains, and redeems us all
goes with us.
I wrote these pieces for a virtual service on December 27, 2020 (First Sunday of Christmastide) centered around the story of the Presentation at the Temple as told in Luke 2:22-40. There are also some references to Isaiah 61.