Advent Week 4 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Love

Mary’s Magnificat is part of the Lectionary selection for week 4 of Advent. One of the most beautiful and stirring prayers in scripture, spoken by a young woman of humble origin, accepting a dangerous long-term mission with gratitude, grit, and grace.

God, you are mighty in Love
You have done great things for us:
Lifted up the lowly
Filled the hungry with good things.
You have helped us
And showed us what mercy looks like (Luke 1:52-54);

Mercy has gathered bone and sinew.
Love has taken on flesh,
Saving us from heartless wandering
And merciless suffering.

Love’s Ambassador showed up and invited us
Into the work of building outposts,
Enclaves of lovingkindness,
Starting within our own hearts.

The work begins within us:
The Community of God grows within our beings
And blossoms outward to other people,
To become a network of love,
Blanketing the world:
Each intersection a soul.

We have only to wait a bit now,
While the momentum builds.
The day is coming
When love will reach a critical mass
And its reality will overtake fear.
All our waiting and working will be complete.

We thank you, oh God,
For the gift of Love within us.

Amen


Advent Week 3 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Joy

This litany draws from the Lectionary readings for Week 3 of Advent, Year C.

God, one of the best things about the way you made things,
And the most challenging for us,
Is that joy is always available.
Returning to love is always an option,
Even in the midst of turmoil;
Even in distress.

We know that we always have access to joy
By choosing to be in the present moment,
To practice gratitude,
To pay attention,
To be mindful,
To surrender.

When we become awake to you, God,
We open the door to joy;
We open the door to your constant loving acceptance,
And to the gladness of your presence.

Sing aloud, and shout!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart (1, 2)!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against us,
And has turned away our enemies (1).

God rejoices over us with gladness.
God renews us in love.
God exults over us with loud singing (3).
We share in the joy of God.

Amen.

  1. Zephaniah 3:14,15

  2. Philippians 4:4

  3. Zephaniah 3:17

Advent Week 2 (Year C): Look Up, There's Beauty

Look, I know week 2 of Advent is usually about peace. But the lectionary passages for the day are so strongly themed with beauty, particularly the Apocryphal passage, that I couldn’t resist. Plus, it’s how we’re interpreting it this year at Peace for our Advent sermon series entitled “Look Up". So, a little beauty in your Advent mix this year.

God, it’s easy for us to get bogged down
In our to-do lists,
The problems we must solve,
The needs we must meet,
The expectations we put upon ourselves,
The crises we must manage --
And forget that beneath everything
There is the hum of beauty.

Beneath dust and decay,
There is a sheen of value.
Beneath disease and distress,
There is a sparkle of wisdom.
Beneath the appearance of death,
There is the glimmer of rebirth.
Beneath the cloak of sorrow and affliction,
There is the endless beauty of the glory from God (1).

Awaken us, oh God, to the beauty beneath,
The beauty that confronts us
With your presence and power,
Your plan and purpose.

We know that by the tender mercy of our God,
The dawn from on high will break upon us,
And the beauty of God will overwhelm our senses.
May we be alert, and looking for it.

Amen

1) Baruch 5:1


Advent Week 1 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Hope

Our Advent preaching series for this year is entitled “Look Up.” I’ve developed this years Advent litany series to play on that theme, as well as follow along with the Lectionary passages for the season. This one, the first in the series, centers on Luke 21 and Psalm 25.

God, the nations rage.
The earth shudders.
Storms, fires, and violence abound.
The people are in distress.

In the midst of turmoil,
In the midst of trouble and need,
In the midst of swirling forces
We look up.

So intent on the needs and crises before us,
We raise our downward gaze.
Shifting away from our worry and despair,
We adjust our focus.
Heavy-hearted, weighed down by the cares of this life (1),
We release our burdens.

We look up to the heavens,
To signs in the sun, moon, and stars (2).
We look up toward the horizon,
To the coming dawn,
Because you are our help.
Your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness.
Do not let us be put to shame
Because we trust in you.

We stand up and raise our heads;
Our redemption is drawing near (3).

Amen


  1. Luke 21:34

  2. Luke 21:25

  3. Luke 21:28

Litany for a New Year

God, in the past year
We have been tested and tried.
We have been given joys and pains in their measure
Laughter and sadness in their measure.
And now we look forward into a new year,
A new leg of our journey,
Knowing that not everything will be easy
Joy and pain, laughter and sadness will meet us in turn.

Help us to live this year with intention
With compassion
With attention
With assertiveness
With kindness toward all (including ourselves)
With purpose
With calm
With gratitude.

And whatever storms we must navigate
Whatever roads we must travel
Be present with us.
Speak to us of your mercy;
Speak to us of your love,
That we may in turn speak mercy and love into being
In this world
And in this year.

Amen

Christmas Year B: Litany for Light in Darkness

This litany contains references from the Lectionary selections for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year B, plus an additional reference from Christ's words in John 8.


God, we celebrate the season of Christmas
When darkness outweighs light,
When the year is steeped in dimness,
When day is overshadowed by night.

Even so, our eyes have seen your salvation (1)
Which you’ve prepared for us all --
From oldest to youngest,
Biggest to smallest,
Richest to poorest,
Healthiest to sickest,
Smartest to simplest,
Greatest to least --
The light of revelation
Has come for us all. (2)

Our inner thoughts will be no longer secret (3)
What is hidden will be revealed in its beam.
Our vindication shines out like the dawn,
Our salvation like a burning torch. (4)
All the earth
Is turning toward the light.

The light which came down from heaven
Is the Christ.
The light of the world has come
That we may never walk in darkness. (5)

Amen


1) Luke 2:30
2) Luke 2:31
3) Luke 2:35
4) Isaiah 62:1
5) John 8:12


 

Advent: Year B: Litany for Real Christmas

God, we can wait our whole lives for it to look like Christmas.
We can rely on tinsel and twinkle lights;
We can conjure up nostalgia with cookies;
We can spray cans of snow on trees;
We can fill stockings with miscellany;
    We think we can buy Christmas.

But this is what real Christmas looks like:
Mother laboring in a barn;
Babe in manger, sticky from birth;
Exhaustion, and milk-drunk sleep;
Stink of cattle, dung, and hay;
Starlight shining on crisp plains.

And the lingering question:
What do we do now?
Now that the world has become quiet
Now that everything is changed,
Now that we have seen a Great Light
Now that we have Wonder?

Christmas is sweaty work
And joyful
A long push
And glorious
Traveler’s grit
And graceful.

Christmas is subtle things reverberating
Past, present, future re-made.
Christmas is small things making meaning.
Hopeful waiting and arrival.
Christmas is homeless finding refuge ...

That is the Gloria the angels sing.

AMEN


 

Advent, Year B: Week 4: Litany for Deep Love

God, in the waiting and the tension
You are teaching us
The characteristics of True Love
Like a prism, it has many faces:
Patience,
Courage,
Gentleness,
Honesty,
Kindness,
Freedom, and more.

For years, for generations, we said
“God is Love,”
When what we really thought was
“God is Wrath.”
We thought of you as moody and prickly,
Distant and disembodied.

We know better now.
The Christ has taught us.

We like to imagine the night Love became Incarnate:
Clear,
Still,
Peaceful;
Perfect conditions for Love’s emergence
Perfect timing for Love’s expansion.

It’s in quiet that love has its purest voice.
It’s in stillness that love finds its rhythm.

And indeed, Love smiled upon us that day
Its every face beaming
A tiny voice bawling out love’s insistence
A tiny heart beating out love’s cadence.

Shhh, we can still hear it:
I love you. I love. I am love.

Amen

Advent Year B: Week 3: Litany for Deep Joy

God, all kinds of feelings pass through us in this life:
From happiness to sorrow and everything in between.
We can look around and see all kinds of reasons not to feel joyful
Until we learn:
Joy is not felt
Joy is found.

We straighten our spines,
Posturing ourselves toward joy;
Needing constant rediscovery
Until it becomes our nature.

Joy in pain
Joy in transformation
Joy in journeying
Joy in growth
Joy in parting
Joy in waiting

This is the joy that wells up from us:
The intentional song
The thoughtful gift
The word of comfort
The broken thing mended
The belly filled.

This is the joy given to us:
To love and be loved
To sacrifice and be blessed
To be lost and found.

Joyful, Joyful!
Rejoice, Rejoice!

Amen

 

Advent Year B: Week 2: Litany for Deep Peace

God, we are longing for a silent night --
For a reprieve
From noise and anxiety and hurry;
For a moment
Of space and time, empty yet full.
Gift us the gift of quiet.

This is the Peace:
Of baby’s breath
Of feathered wing
Of rustling leaf
Of sphere’s turn
Of light beam.

The heavenly peace in which we long to rest
To sweetly sleep
In safety and freedom
In certainty and repose.

We can smell the peace
Coming on the wind.
We can feel the peace
Arriving with the morning.
We can taste the peace
In the bread and cup.

We look in your direction, God
The Place from which peace comes;
For you are its Author and the home of its Prince,
And in your peace we dwell.

Amen

Advent Year B: Week 1: Litany for Deep Hope

God: as the light of day fades in the evening
We hope for the sunrise.
As leaves journey toward earth mulch
We hope for good soil.
As the winter deepens around us, hollowing to slumber
We hope for springtime.
As all around us sleep the sleep of the wrecked
We hope for healing.

We wait in wakefulness
Eyes open,
In readiness and expectation
For you to come;
For you to call us on a journey --
We wait awake.

On the dawn
Goodness comes.
With green shoots
Goodness comes.
From earliest darkness
Goodness comes.
From darkest soil
Goodness comes...

The Goodness that is dung and straw and lamb and shepherd and angel
Our God-With-Us;
The Goodness that is fresh babe -
Our Holy One;
The Goodness that is Messiah
Our humble king.

Year after year, winter after winter,
For Goodness we wait.

Amen





 

Litany for Imagination

God, we are made by you:
Imagined by you,
Formed in your image,
Created by your love.

We often forget that we are creatures of imaginative potential,
Of creativity;
That our imaginations, like yours, can be generative and life-giving
Useful to your Kingdom.
We often forget that our assumptions about you are limited
     By our experience here;
     By words on a page,
     By culture and tradition,
     By our ego,
     By our smallness.
But with these starting points, and with imagination, we can let go of assuming
And move closer to you.

We struggle, because we only know things that you are like
     Like water
     Like bread
     Like wind
     Like a parent
     Like a king.
But we know that these are incomplete comparisons:
Nothing we know can define you.

We pause now, and open our minds
To the fullness of God;
Of which we can contain only a little at a time -
A portion that gives us life
And makes us hungry and thirsty for more.
Fueling our imaginations.

This is what we ask for:
To be able to move past what we can see, feel,
Taste, touch and hear with our mortal bodies.
Toward a new horizon, a new reality:
A Kingdom you are imagining
And inviting us to imagine and embody.

Amen
 

Litany for Being of Good Cheer

(See John chapter 16)

God, some of us are bombarded with messages
That tell us we should never feel sad -
We should ignore pain or cover it up.
Some of us are bombarded with messages
That tell us we should only feel sad -
We should give up hope altogether.

We are grateful for your balanced view,
and for your example
Of acknowledging people’s pain and darkness
And companionably entering into it with them;
Of letting death think it won for a hot minute
Then BOOM: resurrection!

Death overcome.
Grief turned to joy.
Weeping turned to laughter.
Pain and travail: a child is born.

Help us to live as faithful Grievers
Of whatever anguish we encounter or experience,
Who are willing to walk among despair.
And help us to live as faithful Hopers:
Courageous People of Good Cheer
Who are certain of our impending joy.

Amen

Being of good cheer is a thing that Jesus says we should do, or be, as it were. At least, the King James translates it that way. Other more contemporary translations give the line as “take courage” or “take heart.” I’m naturally a suspicious, somewhat cynical, glass-half-empty sort of individual; being of good cheer is not really my thing. But this line comes at the tail end of a chapter, John 16, in which Jesus is being really honest with his followers about what it’s going to be like for them to live in the tension of the time between when he leaves and when he comes again. The tension of waiting. The tension, it occurs to me, of Advent.

See, I’m about done with Christmas Cheer by now. Kids are dying in Syria and Yemen, and Standing Rock still isn’t over, and bombings and cancer and melting polar ice caps, and people around the world are grieving a million different losses and hurts. And if you ask me to ignore that and just sing songs and spread cheer I’m probably going to tune you out. I don’t see Jesus ignoring darkness or pain, and I pray we can have the courage to follow his example, roll up our sleeves and be about healing and peacemaking.

The part of the chapter that’s most hopeful to my cynical self is this: Jesus doesn’t sugar coat anything. He doesn’t say, “oh things are going to come up roses for the next few dozen centuries while I’m doing my thing in heaven.” He doesn’t omit the fact that we will experience grief and loss; “you will grieve,” he says baldly, “but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).*

Instead he gives us this invitation to enter into the darkness of grief and pain - an act in itself of hope and faith - so that we may learn to experience joy. It is both permission and a paradox: this becomes that, but only if we stop faking the one and start doing the other. It’s a place we get to lend our weight to help “bend the arc of justice” as MLK famously said, by becoming willing to see and feel the pain around us, and to work transform it in light of Christ’s example.

In this world you’ll have trouble, says Jesus; but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world and you are free to live as though I have even though the evidence you see around you contradicts me. Part of the tension of Advent is this: how to both grieve authentically and be of good cheer. Always the tension, always the paradox of faith, the waiting that stretches our boundaries. I like Christmas Cheer better this way, with salt alongside light, with real-life darkness to illuminate.

 

*This passage is just another one of the myriad reasons I think grieving is important work, not to be shirked.

Christmas Eve: Litany for Exaltation

This litany contains phrases from several of the classic passages of scripture relating to the birth of Christ, which are represented in this week's lectionary readings.

Sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth! (1)
For great is the Lord
And greatly to be praised (2)

We who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light. (3)
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
And on earth, peace! (4)

For unto us is born this day in the city of David
A savior,
Who is the Messiah,
The Lord. (5)
Authority rests on his shoulders, and he is called:
    Wonderful Counselor
    Mighty God
    Prince of peace.
His authority will grow continually,
And in his kingdom will be endless peace. (6)

We exalt him with our voices.
We exalt him with our hands.
We exalt him in word and thought.
We exalt him in actions that make for peace.

Let the heavens be glad!
Let the earth rejoice! (7)
For the grace of God has appeared,
Bringing salvation to all. (8)

Amen

  1. Psalm 96:1

  2. Psalm 96:4

  3. Isaiah 9:2

  4. Luke 2:14

  5. Luke 2:11

  6. Isaiah 9:6-7

  7. Psalm 96:11

  8. Titus 2:11

Advent Week 4: Litany for Expectation

This week's Advent litany for December 18, 2016 is brought to you via the Lectionary texts for Advent Week 4, Year A. Plus a splash of Luke 1 and second Corinthians 4 for lagniappe.

God, we see the signs of your coming:
Signs of the goodness to come,
Signs that disturb, surprise, and awaken us:
    An angel’s voice
    A prophet in the wilderness
    A virgin with child
Signs we might otherwise quietly dismiss as ridiculous (1);
Signs of Immanuel, God-with-us (2)

Restore us, O God; let your face shine,
That we may be saved. (3)

Help us to see the signs that point us to You (4).
Restore us, O God.
That we may clearly hear your voice;
Restore us, O God.
That we may clearly perceive your intention;
Restore us, O God.
That we may live in expectation of your coming;
Restore us, O God.
That we may put away any fear of an uncertain future;
Restore us, O God.
That we may walk the path of peace in the light of love (5);
Restore us, O God.

Restore us, O God; let your face shine,
That we may be saved.
We expect a bounty of unpredictable grace,
A full weight of glory (6).

Amen

 

  1. Matt 1:19

  2. Isaiah 7:14

  3. Psalm 80:3

  4. Isaiah 7:11

  5. Luke 1:79

  6. 2 Corinthians 4:17


 

Advent Week 3: Litany for Annunciation

Annunciation is an old Christian-y word. It basically just means “announcement” but refers specifically to a particular divine announcement as recounted in Luke 1, when the angel Gabriel announces to the virgin Mary that she would bear the Christ child. After hearing this news Mary gives her beautiful Magnificat, which is one of our Lectionary texts for this Sunday and begins with the line,“My soul magnifies the Lord.”

This week’s Advent litany contains pieces and ideas from several of the Lectionary passages for week 3 (year A) of Advent, hence all the notations. Not included in this week's texts is the angel's strong admonition to Mary: "Do not be afraid!" Yet it echoes in this week's themes. Feel free to omit the notations when projecting or printing this litany. The texts can be found here.

If you or your church are using this Advent series this year, please drop me a line to let me know how its going.


My soul magnifies the Lord.
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For God has looked with favor on the lowly,
The Mighty One has done great things for me. (1)

Until the coming of the Lord,
Be patient, beloved.(2)
His coming has been announced to us.
Be patient, beloved.
He brings justice for the oppressed; (3)
Be patient, beloved.
And gives food to the hungry.
Be patient, beloved.
Blind eyes will be opened, and deaf ears unstopped (4,5).
Be patient, beloved.
He gives good news to the poor (5)
Be patient, beloved.
He scatters the proud and powerful (6)
Be patient, beloved.

To those who are fearful:
Be strong; do not fear! (7)
Strengthen your hearts (8)
Be strong; do not fear!
Strengthen weak hands and feeble knees (9)
Be strong; do not fear!

The Lord will reign forever.
Praise the Lord! (10)

Amen
 


(1) From Luke 1: 46-49
(2) James 5:7
(3) Psalm 146:7
(4) Isaiah 35:5,
(5) Matthew 11:5
(6) Luke 1:51,52
(7) Isaiah 35:4
(8) James 5:8
(9) Isaiah 35:3
(10) Psalm 146:10

 

Advent Week 2: Litany for Anticipation

With Advent comes a new church year, the beginning of the church calendar.The Lectionary passages for week 2 of Advent, Year A are here. I have used ideas from several of the passages for this Advent litany.

In the season of Advent we remember that waiting is not always comfortable, that anticipation requires us to sit on the edge of our seats, vigilant and ready. Advent is an opportunity to enter into the not-yet, to feel the feelings of longing, waiting for God to act. And we begin to see that waiting quietly has value if we are to hear the “voice calling in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord!”

 

God of steadfastness and encouragement: grant that we may live in harmony with one another,
In accordance with Christ Jesus.
Grant that we may be filled with all joy and peace in believing,
So that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1)

To the voice crying out in the wilderness (2)
Give us ears to hear.
To the prophets telling of your coming

Give us ears to hear.
To the whisper of our Loving Creator
Give us ears to hear.
To the silence of anticipation
Give us ears to hear.

May you find in our hearts
Straight paths.
May you find in our minds
A prepared way.
May you find in our spirits and our communities
Fruit worthy of repentance. (3)

May we live in the spirit of Christ:
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; (4)
Whose presence is near to us,
And whose kingdom is Peace. (5)
 

 

  1. Romans 15

  2. Matthew 3:3

  3. Matthew 3:8

  4. Isaiah 11:2

  5. Isaiah 11;6-9

 

 

Advent Week 1: Litany for Preparation

The Lectionary text from the Gospels for the first week of Advent, Year A, is Matthew 24:36-44.
Traditionally, the candle of Hope is lit on week 1 of Advent. I wrote another advent series year before last; week 1 of that series can be found here. This year I will continue following along with the Lectionary texts for Year A. I've concentrated on the Matthew passage here, but woven in threads from the other Lectionary readings from Sunday.

God, we are a people in darkness.
We prepare our hearts.
For the coming of Messiah,
We prepare our hearts.
For the coming of light,
We prepare our hearts.
For the peaceful kingdom,
We prepare our hearts.

We exchange our weapons for gardening tools (1).
We look to your coming.
We exchange stone hearts for those of flesh (2).
We look to your coming.
We exchange fear for love.
We look to your coming.
We exchange guilt for forgiveness.
We look to your coming.

Let us go down now, to where the living water flows
And cleanse ourselves.
Let us set aside distractions and idols
For salvation is near (3).
Let us be alert and ready,
For the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour (4).

The King is coming.
We prepare our hearts.

Amen
 

 

(1)”...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4

(2) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

(3) “...it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” Romans 13:11

(4) “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Matthew 24:44

Litany for Christmas Day

Gracious, generous God:
On this day we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Your Self in human form.
We celebrate the Son of God.

We are transfixed by the story of Jesus.

We looked for a warrior;
     You sent a baby.
We looked for royalty;
     You were born to peasants.
We looked for power
     You showed us meekness.
We looked among rulers and politicians;
     You were found among cattle and shepherds.
We looked for military victory;
     You gave us resurrection.
We looked for riches;
     You gave us selflessness.
We looked for a king;
     You gave us a servant.

We worship Jesus, the humble hero of God's Redemption Story.

May we become more sensitive to the themes of that story
     seeking peace,
     embracing vulnerability,
     humbling ourselves,
     looking for glory in lowly places.
May we recognize our part in the story,
     our place as Christ-followers
     our calling to gentleness and humility
     our opportunities to give our most profound gifts.

May we grow ever more like Jesus, and live in the light of His presence and example.
Amen

Litany for Christmas Eve

Creator God, you opened up the heavens and sent part of yourself down in human form.  He was, and is

Immanuel, God-With-Us

You sent your Angel to speak to Mary and Joseph, that she would conceive a miracle child, the Son of God; and that Joseph should take Mary as his wife, and name the child

Immanuel, God-With-Us

This is Jesus Christ, who was born in a stable and laid in a manger, whose life was Spirit-filled and blameless, who healed the sick and opened his arms to sinners, took upon himself the sins of all humankind, was crucified, died, and is risen.  

Blessed be Immanuel, God-With-Us

This Jesus lives, and intercedes for his people at the right hand of the Father-God, and sent his Holy Spirit to remain with us.

Blessed be Holy Spirit, and blessed be Immanuel, God-With-Us

We celebrate and give thanks for Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, and we anticipate his return.  

May your power be perfected in us, may we be a testament to your Great Love, and may our lives reflect your coming Kingdom, Immanuel, God-With-Us.

Amen