Be Still

I wondered if you would come.
I wondered if you would just sidle up
quietly
unexpectedly
and sit by my side to watch the river.
Of course if you decided to take time with me
I would wonder immediately how long
you might
stay
because
no one stays.
We go, we leave, we wander,
we are sent — often in your name, often
at your urging. But I was thinking
it’d be nice instead to stay
to remain by the river
to set down roots that draw from and give life back to
the river, but to be secretly pleased all the while
that the river — and not me —
had somewhere to go.
Someday I hope
to be still long enough to be
found
but not today.
Today you don’t come
to sit with me. Today I take off running to find you
and somehow our paths never cross.
May those you found instead
be blessed by that
sweet holy presence
that tirelessly flowing river
I was missing.

Advent Candle Liturgies: Narrative

‘Tis the season for prophets. While this feels particularly true on the morning after the U.S. presidential election, in fact the season for prophets has been ongoing and building. We’ve been needing prophets to speak against and to actively counter the global rise of xenophobia. We’ve been hearing (and dominant culture is adept at ignoring) prophetic voices in #BlackLivesMatter, in #WaterIsLife, and in other movements for justice.

My colleague Dwayne Royster observes, “those who would be prophets in this generation [must be] not just those who want to give a word but those that will do a work, put their hands to the plow and not look back.”

The Narrative Lectionary for the upcoming Advent season gives us prophetic voices from the biblical text to bolster our own prophetic commitments for the living of these days. The following candle-lighting liturgies are offered for devotional & liturgical use this Advent; please attribute written/printed credit to this website if you adapt these liturgies for use in your faith community.

Advent 1 (November 27): Daniel 6:6-27

ONE: The first Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light against power that craves power.
ONE: We light a light to proclaim the goodness and dominion of God.
ALL: We light a light against our own vain egos and deep fears.
ONE: We light a light for the promise of deliverance.
ALL: The first Advent candle.
ONE: Take courage.

Advent 2 (December 4): Joel 2:12-13 & 28-29

ONE: The second Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light to await God’s coming.
ONE: We light a light with longing for God to set the world trembling.
ALL: We light a light to hold out hope for God’s mercy.
ONE: We light a light for the promise of new dreams and visions by God’s spirit.
ALL: The second Advent candle.
ONE: Prepare your hearts.

Advent 3 (December 11): Isaiah 61:1-11

ONE: The third Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
ONE: We light a light to dedicate our work in support of our words.
ALL: We light a light not just to proclaim but to comfort, not only to preach but to provide, not only to bless but to release.
ONE: We light a light to share the labor and the fellowship.
ALL: The third Advent candle.
ONE: Go where you are sent.

Advent 4 (December 18): Luke 1:26-45

ONE: The fourth Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light as we greet one another in God’s name. 
ONE: We light a light so we can recognize and welcome God’s messengers.
ALL: We light a light and we marvel to imagine God’s possibilities.
ONE: We light a light to say “yes” to God’s outrageous call.
ALL: The fourth Advent candle.
ONE: Do not be afraid.

Christmas Eve (December 24): Luke 2:1-14

ONE: At last, the Christ candle.
ALL: We light a light and sing “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth.”
ONE: We light a light and retell the good news of great joy.
ALL: We light a light and we tremble in awe that God has come.
ONE: We light a light and cast out all fear.
ALL: The Christ candle!
ONE: Rejoice!

Mary-Child

If you’re using the Revised Common Lectionary for this Advent season, find Advent candle liturgies on the Isaiah texts here.

Advent Candle Liturgies: Isaiah

I’m ready for Advent — Christmas too, but Advent especially. I find that the season’s wild imagination and perilous possibilities confront my pessimism, my complacency, my worry, and they challenge: “Well then? If you perceive the world’s discontent, why not embrace a vision for and live boldly into God’s fulfillment?”

Listening for that vision, conveying its provocative call through Advent candle liturgies feels particularly cathartic for this election week in the US. Perhaps reading the liturgies will encourage you too. These are written as Calls to Worship before lighting Advent candles. Feel welcome to use and adapt these liturgies for your own context, with written attribution (in a bulletin, e.g.) to this website.

Advent 1 (November 27): Call to Worship on Isaiah 2:1-5

ONE: One day we will arrive. One day our hearts will catch sight of the mountain of the LORD.
ALL: LORD, we want to go there! O God, we long to be in your presence and walk in your ways.
ONE: Let’s go! All together, let’s make that journey to the mountain of God.
ALL: Sisters and brothers, friends and strangers, let us travel together. Surely we will get there.
ONE: Let the dream of that holy mountain give you courage and strength as we go.
ALL: What a vision: weapons of war turned into tools of harvest, and lessons of peace taught to all people.
ONE: Let us journey together in the light of the LORD!
[first Advent candle is lit]

ny-lake

Advent 2 (December 4): Call to Worship on Isaiah 11:1-10

ONE: Friends, I dreamt that a new shoot was growing from the stump we thought was long dead.
ALL: We dreamt too — of cows and bears grazing next to one another in the field.
ONE: In my dream there was a toddler laughing in wonder and without fear at the world around her.
ALL: In our dreams, the wolf and the lamb found shelter together in a barn; the leopard and the goat curled up next to one another in the hay.
ONE: Did you dream too of generosity and compassion clothing all people like a soft robe?
ALL: Yes, and all people recognized the evils of poverty and worked together for restoration.
ONE: Let us not shy away from our dreams but seek God through them.
[first and second Advent candles are lit]

Advent 3 (December 11): Call to Worship on Isaiah 35:1-10

ONE: Be strong! Do not fear!
ALL: The wilderness will become a place of joy. The desert will become a field for harvest.
ONE: Be strong! Do not fear!
ALL: The drought will break with a spring of water. The weeds and wild shrubs will become a highway for all God’s children.
ONE: Do not let your head or your heart or your body hold you back!
ALL: The highway will not be a place of fear but of fellowship. All will sing and dance with joy, and none will be lost.
ONE: God is coming. Do not fear!
[first three Advent candles are lit]

Advent 4 (December 18): Call to Worship on Isaiah 7:10-16

ONE: Come. The days are long, the nights are longer. If you are tired, seek a sign of the LORD God.
ALL: Can a sign make it all better?
ONE: Come. Here are honey and bread for comfort.
ALL: Waiting for God’s fulfillment can be discouraging.
ONE: Come. Here is the promise of Immanuel, God With Us.
ALL: Pay attention to the signs.
ONE: God knows we need a sign. Be prepared and welcome the signs.
[all four Advent candles are lit]

Christmas (December 25): Call to Worship on Isaiah 9:2-7

ONE: A child has been born for us!
ALL: Now we walk in God’s light, because the heavens have opened and joy has come!
ONE: The Prince of Peace has come to us!
ALL: Now the wars cease and the warriors may go home.
ONE: From this time onward, justice is established!
ALL: Now our burdens are eased, now the harvest has ripened, now righteousness is established!
ONE: The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this!
[all Advent candles and the Christmas candles are lit]

Stars

I was thinking
that if I lean back
into your arms then
I might have the best view
of the stars in all their brilliance
and glory. By the light of their gaze
I might find peace illuminated…
might and maybe and if.
But I don’t easily lean
or rest, so I miss
the stars.

O God my God,
how I miss the stars.

cleveland-arcade-tile

on Job 9:4 & 9:9-10