Christmas 15: Returning from Egypt

St. Joseph the Worker, artist unknown

The Christmas Story
Day 15 Reading:
Matthew 2:19-23

Effortlessly,
Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world,
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings–
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound. – Mechtild of Magdeburg, 1207-1297

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 77.77
Suggested tune: THE CALL (United Methodist Hymnal #164)

God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home

God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs

God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path

God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest

God who steps into our time
Take away this needless fear
Turn our lives to songs of praise
Play us for your world to hear

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For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.
Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

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please refer to the copyright information page.

Christmas 14: Herod's Genocide

The Story of Christmas
Day 14 Reading: Matthew 2:16-18

The word “innocent” from its Latin root means “not wounded.” That’s how we all start life. We’re all innocent. It doesn’t have anything to do with moral right or wrong. It has to do with not being wounded yet. We start unwounded. We start innocent, but the killing of our holy innocence by power and abuse (as in the killing of the Holy Innocents by Herod [Matthew 2:1-23]) is an archetypal image of what eventually happens to all of us.
– Richard Rohr

There was another night in Bethlehem. No angel chorus was heard that evening. No Gloria in excelsis. The air that night was rent with shrieks–shrieks and cries; sobs and tears. A hellish horde had done the bidding–the bidding of a paranoid devil. These thugs search –not for life– but to deal out death. And newborn babes lie bundled in grave cloths–laid to rest–cradled in fresh-turned earth. None to save them; so that the streets of Bethlehem echo– Miserere, miserere!
James T. Dennison, Jr. in Kerux: The Online Journal of Biblical Theology

End the Madness
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Hear our cry! Hear our cry!
Death is at the door
Evil is taking the day

Fear makes us crazy
Relief supplies rotting on the docks
Vaccines waiting on shelves
Abortions of convenience
Suicide bombers
Enslavement
Genocide
Warfare

End the madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Teach us to value every life

Come quickly. Come in power.
Rescue your beloved.
Lord, where else shall we go?

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Click Here for another reflection on this scripture by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The Slaughter of the Innocents. Click Here for his reflection entitled Herod.

For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

End the Madness © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

Christmas 13: Run For Your Life

Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Luc Olivier Merson

The Story of Christmas
Day 13 Reading:

Matthew 2:13-15

Canticle:
Lead Me to Safety, Lord

ALL SINGING:
Lead Me, Lord
(United Methodist Hymnal #473)
Lead me, Lord,
lead me in thy righteousness;
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.

ONE READING: Psalm 5:8-11 (NRSV)
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies– make straight your way before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

ALL SINGING:
Lead me, Lord,
lead me in thy righteousness;
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.

ONE READING: Psalm 27:11-13 (NRSV)
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

ALL SINGING:
Lead me, Lord,
lead me in thy righteousness;
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.

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Click here for A Way In the Wilderness by Steve Garnaas Holmes, an encouraging and powerful reminder of the promises of God.

For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

Lead Me to Safety, Lord: compilation © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

Christmas 12c: Gift Giving


Matthew 2:11
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Born a king on Bethlelhem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never
over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I:
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising gladly raising,
worship him God Most High.
Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
-from the hymn We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

Epiphany comes each year to remind us that God has come to us in the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. People near (like Joseph and Mary) and people far away (like the magi) are invited to come to him. No one is kept away. And as we do so with perception (i.e. eyes of faith), we find that our most precious gifts (our gold, frankincense, and myrrh) belong at his feet.
– Steve Harper, The Holy Gospel: January 6, 2013 (Year C)

Behold, I give thee gold, that is to say My Divine Love; frankincense, that is all My holiness and devotion; finally myrrh, which is the bitterness of My Passion. I give them to thee to such an extent that thou mayest offer them as gifts to Me, as if they were thine own property.-Mechthild

Psalm 51:15-17 (NRSV)
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Each encounter we have is part of our daily offering to God. Each day, every deed, all the intentional motion of our souls – however helpful or hurtful it may be – is the actual “living sacrifice” we give to God as material with which to weave the human story (see Rom. 12:1). At this daily altar our selves are offered to or withheld from the Spirit’s transforming power. – Robert Corin Morris, Wrestling with Grace

Romans 12:1 (NRSV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
– from the hymn Brightest and Best by Re­gi­nald He­ber

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For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

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please refer to the copyright information page.

Christmas 12b: The Star

Christmas Star by Mark Jennings

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10 (NRSV)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

Luke 1:78-79 (NRSV)
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Along my life’s journey, I discovered a Star that does last forever
and his name is Jesus. – T.D. Jakes

To find the child
one must see the star.
To see the star one must go into the darkness,
the pain, the fear, the emptiness,
the hidden weeping,
the heart’s dark wounds.
Only in the darkness
can the be stars seen.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, To Find the Child

Clearly did Balaam reveal to us
The meaning of the words which were prophesied,
Saying that a Star would rise up,
A Star which would dim all prophecies and divination,
A Star to destroy the parables of the wise,
Their teachings and their enigmas,
A Star much brighter than this star which just appeared,
For He is the Maker of Stars
About whom it was written: ‘From Jacob shall rise up
A newborn babe, the God before time.’
– Romanos

Numbers 24:15-17a (NRSV)
So he uttered his oracle, saying: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is clear, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, but with his eyes uncovered: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near— a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…

O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light
– John H. Hopkins, Jr.

When we realize that we do not have to be clever, powerful or successful in order to be loved, then we can live in truth, come to the light and be led by the Spirit of God.
Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, O past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and always:
Now begin, on Christmas Day.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed.
The guilty one is not he who commits the sin,
but the one who causes the darkness.
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Every example of goodwill proclaims Christ’s coming. Every genuine outbreak of “Christmas Spirit” speaks God’s blessing. Every gracious act of love, gesture of peace, and inkling of hope proclaims the witness of the shepherds. Each resounding experience of joy cries out with passion the reality of God’s creative and redeeming love. What a dark world this would be without Christ. What an empty festival of winter would remain if God had not so loved this world.
– Derek Maul, In My Heart I Carry a Star

John 1:1-5 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Lord from the beginning of time, light made the difference.
Let your light shine upon us, Lord.
You introduced light by your command and dispelled darkness.
Dispel our darkness, Lord.
Your light is a gift to the world and an answer to our prayer.
May we receive your gift, O Lord.
We come in our darkness, and prefer to remain hidden.
Shine your light upon us, Lord.
Remove our stubborn wills and penetrate our darkness.
Come into our lives with light, Lord.
Let our lives be gifts to you and brightness to others.
Make us shine with your light, Lord.
Fill this place with light eternal.
We will shine for you, Lord. Amen.
– T. Anne Daniel, The Africana Worship Book: Year C

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For a worship resource on the theme of God’s Marvelous Light, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Christmas 12a: The Wise Ones

The Journey of the Magi (1894) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

The Story of Christmas
Day 12 Reading:

Matthew 2:1-12

Canticle: A Sacrifice
Acceptable to God

ALL SINGING:
What Child is This?
United Methodist Hymnal #219, verse 1

What Child is this
who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

READER ONE: Verse from Shepherds’ Hymn by Richard Crashaw
To Thee, meek Majesty, soft King
Of simple graces and sweet loves!
Each of us his lamb will bring,
Each his pair of silver doves!
At last, in fire of Thy fair eyes,
Ourselves become our own best sacrifice!

READER TWO: Psalm 51:14-17 (NRSV)
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

ALL SINGING: What Child is This? United Methodist Hymnal #219, verse 3
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

READER ONE: Romans 12:1 (NRSV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

READER TWO: Verse from In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him—Give my heart.

ALL SINGING:
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

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Be sure to check out a reflection on this passage by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled What Led the Magi and a prayer he wrote entitled Prayer of the Magi.

For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here

A Sacrifice Acceptable to God: compilation © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form

Christmas 11b: Active Waiting

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given. – G. Campbell Morgan

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.
– Simone Weil

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.
Peter Marshall

Advent, meaning “the coming,” is a time when we wait expectantly. Christians began to celebrate it as a season during the fourth and fifth centuries. Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done. And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do. But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world. – Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

We wait in confidence and hope not because of who we are but because of whom we trust and believe God is: faithful, steadfast, full of loving-kindness, true to God’s word, and present with us. – Enuma Okoro, Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control. – Henri J. M. Nouwen

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison

Click Here for a terrific post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled Wait based on John’s imprisonment in Matthew 11:2-3.

Waiting for God means power to do nothing save under command. This is not lack of power to do anything. Waiting for God needs strength rather than weakness. It is power to do nothing. It is the strength that holds strength in check. It is the strength that prevents the blundering activity which is entirely false and will make true activity impossible when the definite command comes. – G. Campbell Morgan

Timing is so important! If you are going to be successful in dance, you must be able to respond to rhythm and timing. It’s the same in the Spirit. People who don’t understand God’s timing can become spiritually spastic, trying to make the right things happen at the wrong time. They don’t get His rhythm – and everyone can tell they are out of step. They birth things prematurely, threatening the very lives of their God-given dreams.
– T. D. Jakes

When either waiting or moving forward is done out of a spirit of union and surrender, we can trust that God will make good out of it—even if we are mistaken! It is not about being correct, it is about being connected. – Richard Rohr

Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

For an original hymn text based on the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, click here