December Solstice

 photo by Michael Niessl on Unsplash  
 
it is solstice night
it is the death of darkness

for an age
light has been slipping away
but now
no further

it shall return

and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
arise
shine
for your light has come

the promise frees itself from the frost
and long nights

there is an awakening
and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
the people who have walked in darkness
have seen a great light

the day now
shrunken yet
is filled with hope
and begins to stretch
pushing at the edges of darkness
scraping it away
with hope of new life

and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
for unto you a child is born
unto you a son is given

this is a darkness greater than any night
and the light more than the day

right in the heart of the deeper, human darkness
a manger is ready
as the age of brightness returns

the advent promise
has found a place
to chase the darkness
and make room for the light
 
Roddy Hamilton, Scottish Pastor
 
________________
 
 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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your Son, born of a virgin

image / pixabay

 

O Holy God of Promise,
    we so often place our trust in the things we can see,
    and touch, and easily believe.
But you did not ask us to believe what is easy,
    you have asked us to believe what is true!
Forgive us, Holy One, when we doubt the ways you work.
Forgive us when we find it hard to believe an ancient story.
Forgive us when we question how you chose to enter the world,
    born as one of us.
Forgive our lack of faith and belief
    in ways which seem so impossible to believe.
Help us to look in faith, open our belief, and set aside our doubts
    that you sent your Son, born of a virgin –
        the one who has come to set us all free.
We offer these prayers in the name of your Son,
Emmanuel, God with us.  
Amen.

Jan Brook, Presbyterian Pastor serving in Kansas
re-worship.blogspot
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In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
 

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We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah

Rainbow in Bethelehem by Ami Tesler on Unsplash  
 
In this season of expectation
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into the bustle of our lives
and the hard to find moments of solitude
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into our homes and situations
along with friends and families
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into our hearts, and those often hidden parts of our lives
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
For beneath the surface of your story
is an inescapable fact
You entered this world
as vulnerable as any one of us
in order to nail that vulnerability to the cross.
Our fears, our insecurities and our sins
all that can separate us from God
exchanged by your Grace for Love.
We cannot comprehend the reasoning
only marvel that Salvation comes to us
through a baby born in a stable,
and reaches out to a world in need.

In this season of anticipation
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
 
John Birch, Methodist Lay Preacher and worship leader in Wales
 
__________________
 
 
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
  and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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meek in your kingdom

Zechariah / www.LumoProject.com
 
O Lord, Catch us up, like Zechariah,
    in the whirl of your holy history.
We seem to be but particles in the wind;
    but you declare each of us to be a holy person,
    spokes in the great wheel 
        of your covenant-loving of the world.
Let us be meek in your kingdom, but not abject;
    humble, not self-pitiful;
    obedient, not obsequious; 
    servants, not servile;
    childlike, not childish;
yours in love and willingness,
  and then our smallness shall be your greatness indeed.
Amen.
 
Walter Wangerin, Jr., American writer and research professor
 
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In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
 

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diligent submission and obedience

image Joseph and Mary traveling the Bethlehem
 
We look to the example of Joseph and Mary 
    who responded to the decree of Caesar Augustus to be taxed,
    obediently placing themselves in subjection under him.
You are our sovereign Lord, the true Augustus Caesar, 
    the one whose kingdom increases and has the power to bless us.
May we diligently come to the place where we can truly pray:
 
“O my God, you only are my Creator and Lord!  
I cast myself down to be entirely subject to your holy will,
    with all that is within me or pertains to me.
Here is my heart, my soul, my body, my spirit.
Here is all I have and am; 
    I cast it all down and offer it as a sacrifice to you, O Lord,
    to make it genuinely submissive to you.
If before now I have resigned this to the world, 
    or if now I have walked according to my own will, oh, not any more, 
    for from now on all that I am is to be subject to your will.
Renew this decision day by day more and more,
    and make me willing and able to follow you in all things, and to be obedient.”
 
Jakob Denner, 1659-1746, German Mennonite pastor and author
 
____________________
 
 
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
 

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to prepare for your coming

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  
 
Christ our Advent hope,
bare brown trees,
etched dark across a winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling,
ground hard and cold,
remind us to prepare for your coming;
remind us to prepare for the time
when the soles of your feet will touch the ground,
when you will become one of us
to be one with us.
 
Karen McIlhappa, 1938 – 2002, Scottish minister of the Iona Community
 
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And it shall be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
    remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

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Come, Lord Jesus

Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash  
 
Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
    send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear
    Your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to
    Your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for
    the complete joy of Your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek
    the joy of Your presence.
We are Your people, walking in darkness,
    yet seeking the light.
To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!”
Amen
 
Joel Mason
 
__________________________
 
 
He who testifies to these things says, 
    “Surely I am coming soon.” 
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
 

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enlighten the blindness of our minds

Photo by Emma on Unsplash  
 
You who send forth the light, 
    create the morning, 
    and make the sun rise on the good and the evil,
enlighten the blindness of our minds 
    with the knowledge of the truth:
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us,
    that in your light we may see light,
    and, at the end, be in the light of grace
    and in the light of glory.
 
Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626, English bishop, oversaw the KJV translation
 
_______________________
 
 
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
 

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watchful for your coming

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash  
 
Righteous one,
to you alone
we lift our souls;
in you alone
we place our trust;
for you alone
we wait all day long.
For you are the God
of our salvation,
abounding in mercy
and steadfast love.
Help us remain alert and watchful
for the coming of your promised one—
the one who comes with power and glory,
the one drawing near
to bring our salvation. 
Amen.
 
Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2009 © 2008 Abingdon Press
 
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Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

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