You!

You!
Who are holy!

You!
Who are surprising!

You!
Who are our new day!

You!
Who heed the cry of the poor!

You!
Whose name means life!

You!
Whose reputation is faithfulness!

You!
Whose salvation extends to all creation!

You!
Whose indignation rages against injustice!

You!
Whose sword strikes the proud heart!

You!
Whose beauty is beyond the stars!

You!
Who are majestic!

You!
Who are good!

You!
Thank you!

Monday Muse: Carols in Advent

Growing up, the rule in my family was simple: no Christmas music before Thanksgiving. As a church pastor, I held onto that same value of honoring each season in its turn: no “Jesus is born” hymns during worship in Advent.

Truth be told, however, in my personal music spaces I don’t keep the liturgical seasons quite so separate. John Denver and the Muppets are already caroling from my car’s CD player. Mariah has me praising, “Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child” on the commute to work. And with Amy Grant, I’m longing for Tennessee as if it were my home state.

For me, Christmas carols in Advent are not an oxymoron. The out-of-season music reflects my impatient longing for peace and joy: not just the eagerness for holiday rest and family time, but truly the restlessness that a new day must be near, the birth of Peace needs to come soon. The world is groaning like a woman in labor, but Justice remains overdue! Singing a few early Christmas carols not only energizes my joy in Christ’s coming; it also reminds me that God, too, longs for the world’s restoration.

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So if you’re still scurrying to plan Advent worship services or your December sermon series (or if you’re looking for an excuse to listen to Christmas music a little early), consider incorporating carols into Advent — that’s right, out of season! Here are a few specific suggestions:

Advent 1, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Reflecting on the carol with the lectionary’s Isaiah 2:1-5, imagine the good news echoing down the mountain of the LORD, across valleys and through towns, from shepherd boy to king: lessons of wisdom to teach justice and songs of peace to unlearn the ways of war.

Advent 2, “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night”
The haunting hymn asks for a guide to help us see beauty even in the most frightening, most mysterious hours of night: a star shining gloriously, a child born amidst doubt. Partnered with the strident Matthew 3:1-12, the carol gives voice to hope when otherwise we might see and hear only our own fears.

Advent 3, “I Pray on Christmas”
Mary is singing (Luke 1:46b-55), the desert is singing (Isaiah 35:1-10), you had better do some joyful singing on the Third Sunday in Advent! If our own faith communities aren’t accustomed to clapping and toe-tapping, sometimes a guest soloist can help! Bring Harry Connick, Jr.’s “I Pray on Christmas” into worship as the Prayers of the People or the Postlude for an upbeat call to renewal.

Advent 4, “Carol of the Bells”
Listen to the carol with its lyrics chiming incessantly. The words are tolling bells, pealing like prayers without ceasing: “O LORD, how long will you refuse to hear your people’s prayers? Give us life as we call on your name!” (Psalm 80) As Christ’s coming nears, the echoes of our prayers swell: “Bring good cheer to young and old, to meek and bold! Ding, dong, ding, dong!”

Sunday Prayer (Reign of Christ)

More than all things visible or invisible,
beyond pressures and powers and politics,
before all that has been and long after all that will be,
you alone are God.

Look favorably upon us, O LORD, as we come to you.
Remember your reputation of goodness
as we lift up the cares of our lives and our world.

Be a hiding place for those who live in fear
and a shelter to those at risk. But more than that:
bring about an end to war and an intolerance of violence
so that peace and healing might reign with you.

More than all things visible or invisible,
beyond pressures and powers and politics,
before all that has been and long after all that will be,
you alone are God.

When the mountains in our lives tremble
by events of illness or death or chaos,
comfort our souls with the wellspring of hope
that is your unfailing love.

Gather up all who feel lost and alone.
Remember those who are forgotten or cast out.
Hold us together in community as we have not been able
to do within the limits of our own perspectives.

More than all things visible or invisible,
beyond pressures and powers and politics,
before all that has been and long after all that will be,
you alone are God.

Let our lives be shaped not so much
by fear or the shoring up of false securities,
but shaped and reshaped and reimagined for the work
of witnessing to your presence in all of life.

Yours is the past, yours is the future, yours is this day.
In all things, we rejoice that we are never beyond your grace,
that this world is not beyond your reign!

More than all things visible or invisible,
beyond pressures and powers and politics,
before all that has been and long after all that will be,
you alone are God. Amen.

Cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.

Without End

We are waiting
for Love without end
without conditions
without violence
without fear

We are waiting
for Justice without end
without vengeance
without hatred
without lies

We are waiting
for Peace without end
without displacement
without borders
without war

We are waiting
for Restoration without end
without favoritism
without fatigue
without debt

We are waiting
for Joy without end
without reservation
without rebuke
without want

Holy Love, Divine Justice,
God of Peace, Restoration and Joy:
we are waiting for you.
We need you.
Amen.

The Heart in Mourning

[the Body is God’s love incarnate]

I miss your Body.
Not any general Body
but your very particular Body.

I miss the way your Body smells —
your Sunday morning coffee fragrance,
the fresh flowers you set out for every season,
the incense of bread and wine and candles.

I miss the way your Body feels —
the warmth of your embrace,
your hands meeting mine,
the holiness of time together.

I miss the way your Body sounds —
the ringing peal of your laughter,
the silence of your tears,
the clamor of your routines.

When I meet the Body incarnate
in new places with new particularities,
I cry because it reminds me of you.

I rejoice that the Body is found in so many places
. . . and I long for home, where your Body
welcomes mine in all of my particularity.