Litany for Christmas Spirit

Today I’m offering my patreon subscribers an extra-special Christmas litany. If you’d like to get extra content from me, you can join the fun on Patreon for less than the price of a latte!

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And if you haven’t ordered yourself (or your pastor, priest, worship leader, small group leader, or bestie) a copy of THE BOOK, there’s still time to get it before Christmas.

cheers y’all,

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)


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.



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:
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:
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.


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.


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)


  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

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.

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.


Litany for Advent Week 3: Joy

God of heaven and earth, you sent your angels as messengers to your servants, bringing news of comfort and joy, of your plan to heal a world gone astray...

...Bringing news of Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

To Mary, you sent a message of your favor.  You chose her to carry and give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High.

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. From now on all generations will call me blessed.

To Joseph the angel gave assurance that Mary’s son was from God, and should be named Jesus…

...Because he would save us from our sins.

To shepherds among their flocks, angels brought good news of great joy that will be for all people.

A Savior has been born to us; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

To Kings from the east, a star rose signifying the birth of Jesus.  When they saw the star they were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped the Christ Child, offering costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and lay all our treasures at His feet.

You have brought us joy through Your Son, the Messiah.

A Savior who is Christ the King.


Litany for Advent Week 2: Peace

Oh Great God, we are gathered here, your people, seeking out your face and the peace that is found in your Presence.

Let us dwell always in your presence, and walk in Your peace.

When humanity opened the door to sin, we were plunged into darkness and despair.  But You, Loving God, have made peace with us and restored us to grace.

For Your infinite mercy and lovingkindness, we thank You.

You sent your son Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, into the world as a human to save and heal Your children who were lost.  The light of peace came into the world.

We who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace!

We prepare our hearts now and acknowledge that Christ's work on the cross was the beginning of Your kingdom here on earth.  Your kingdom is a peaceable kingdom, where lion and lamb may lie down together, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We are all one in the peace of Christ.

May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, and may we carry the light of peace wherever we go.