A New Year's Prayer of Confession

Penitence by Larry Poncho Brown

As the new year is born,
We remember and regret…

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we keep You at a distance
When we defy your bidding
When we make it harder
for people to know you

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we deny our weakness
When we wallow in our weakness
When we take advantage
of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we refuse Your counsel
When we waste your gifts
When we withhold Your compassion from others

Silent Confession

As the new year is born
We labor to look forward
Our hearts fill with hope
For you are making all things new
even us… Amen

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Click Here for another worship resource entitled Prayer for a New Year

A New Year’s Prayer of Confession © 2012 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 Eve- Lighting the Advent Wreath

The following liturgy was compiled for the lighting of the Advent Wreath on Christmas Eve. The first part comes at or near the beginning of the service. The second part comes near the end of service. – Lisa <><

The special property of a flame is that it can kindle another without being diminished. Proverbs teaches that the soul of a person is G-d’s candle. So today – ignite another soul with a word, a message, a look, a touch. You will not be lessened, but enhanced. Move toward the new year with more light. -Rabbi Wolpe

Lighting the Advent Wreath
Part One
READER ONE:
A reading from the prophet Isaiah concerning Jesus the Messiah:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

A candle is lit as each name for the Messiah is read:
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NRSV)

READER TWO
We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World,
Open our hearts and minds to worship you in spirit and in truth.

ALL SINGING
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
United Methodist Hymnal, #196

Part Two
READER ONE OR PASTOR
For weeks we’ve been lighting more and more candles on this wreath in preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Tonight we light the final candle, for Jesus, the Light of the World, has come. God has kept the prophetic promise:

READER TWO
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. (Luke 1:78-79)

ONE SINGING
I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
United Methodist Hymnal #206, verse 1
Light the Christ Candle during the song

READER ONE OR PASTOR
It’s now our turn. Accept the Light, share Him with others, and carry His peace forth from this place

The light is passed from person to person as all sing Silent Night (United Methodist Hymnal #239). At the close of Silent Night, sing the following a cappella
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday dear Jesus
Happy Birthday to You

Follow this with the closing Benediction and/or Postlude

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compilation © 2011 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 music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Door 12: Two Simple Prayers

Psalm 85:10-11 by Anna Elkins

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 12 Reading: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

For a description of today’s art by the artist, click here

Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
From Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill

O Beloved,
how gracious You are to your people;
You restore their souls time and time again.
You forgive their iniquity
when they wander far from you;
You give them new life.

Listen, O people, in the silent chapel of your heart
And the Beloved will speak of peace to you,
To the hidden saints, to all who turn their hearts to Love.
Surely new life is at hand for those who reverence Love;
O, that harmony might dwell among the nations.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will embrace one another.
Wisdom will spring up from the ground and truth will look down from the sky.
Yes, the Eternal Giver will grant what is good, and the lands will yield abundantly.
Mercy and compassion are Love’s way,
And will guide our footsteps upon the path of peace.

So where do we see the qualities of God at play in our own day, in our own imaginations? In art, in writing, in liturgy, in the daily living out of our desire to follow Christ, how does God appear around us and within us? Where do we witness the meeting places of mercy and truth, of peace and justice? In this season of celebrating the incarnation, how do we open our own selves to be a meeting place for the qualities of God? – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

When I first became a Christian, I only prayed for others. I never prayed for myself, thinking it was somehow selfish or prideful. I was trying my best as a teenage girl to flee those character traits and the only way I knew how to do it was to avoid anything and everything that might be tied to them.

A wise woman reminded me that it was important to include myself in my prayers. If you want to build a relationship with someone, you need to reveal yourself. In excluding myself I was avoiding honesty and intimacy with God.

My concern was legitimate, but I had thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water. In order to avoid the pitfalls of self-promotion, she suggested two simple prayers.

God, help me to be faithful.
Make me a woman after your own heart.

This was exactly what I needed. I had been aiming for perfect, when in reality faithful was a far better goal for me. Perfect is a fine goal, even Biblical. (Matthew 5:48) Yet in my mind, being perfect was entangled with my strength and will power in a way that came with a great deal of baggage. Faithful felt like God and I working together. It recognized that following God was a lifelong process of becoming more Christ-like. Intentional, ongoing transformation. Faithful was freeing.

And there was more! A woman after your own heart. This phrase tapped into a place with God that felt safe and at the same time awesome and challenging. The heart involved the deepest desire… essence… my very being. Heart spoke to compassion as well as justice, peace as well as righteousness, truth as well as love.

David had been a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) Mary had treasured things in her heart. (Luke 2:19) There was something about their interior lives and my own interior life that I longed to discover and that God wanted to reveal.

God has been so very faithful to answer this prayer. May it be useful to you as you open yourself to be a meeting place for the fullness of God.

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.
– Cleland B. McAfee

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, 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.

Advent Door 11: The Covenant Continues


The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 11 Reading: Luke 1:68-79

For a worship resource based on this scripture passage, click here

Scripture Summary:
Zechariah’s song of blessing to God and to his infant son, John.

Zechariah sings. Full of wild hope, he sings. Knowing the state of the world, he sings. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

Have you ever noticed the parallels between the stories of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis and Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke? Today was the first time I did. Wow! All I can do is marvel at God’s constancy over thousands of years. I am so very thankful God remains steadfast and faithful in the midst of this ever changing life.

Like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed with a son in their old age. Both sons would serve a key role in the fulfilling of the covenant. The connection is not lost on Zechariah, who praises God for remaining faithful to the covenant with Abraham.

Both couples receive news of their child from heavenly visitors. One spouse believes the announcement (Abraham and Elizabeth) while the other does not. (Sarah and Zechariah) The unbelieving spouse is quick to reveal their disbelief with their responses. Sarah laughs in disbelief when the heavenly visitors reveal she will have a son. (Genesis 18) Zechariah is ministering in the holy of holies of the Temple when the angel Gabriel reveals Elizabeth will bear a son. Zechariah’s questioning of Gabriel reveals his disbelief. (Luke 1)

Zechariah’s disbelief results in a ten month verbal time out. His imposed silence reminds us of the previous 400 hundred years of silence experienced by God’s people when there were no prophets in Israel. The return of Zechariah’s voice foreshadows the return of a prophet, his son John the Baptist. John’s prophetic preaching ministry in the wilderness would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ – the Word of God made flesh, the Promised Messiah, the Fulfillment of Covenant.

God tests Abraham by asking him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. As Abraham’s knife plunges towards the boy, an angel stops him and shows him that God has provided a ram (male sheep) for the sacrifice. Later, John the Baptizer would identify Jesus as the Lamb of God, the One God provides to be the ultimate sacrifice for all sin for all time.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NRSV)
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

The heavenly visitors tell both families what to name their sons. Abraham and Sarah’s son will be named Isaac, meaning laughter; a constant reminder of Sarah’s reaction to the birth announcement and God’s joy at doing the impossible. Zechariah and Elizabeth will name their son John, meaning God is gracious.

God establishes circumcision as a sign of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. (Genesis 17) Zechariah’s silence is broken at the circumcision and naming of his son, John, when he agrees to name the child as God had directed. John would make the way for Jesus to establish baptism as the new sign of the covenant, where we are named and claimed by God.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NRSV)
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

In the Old Testament, God reveals the covenant promises. In the New Testament, God fulfills those promises in the coming of Jesus the Messiah. God didn’t stop there. Even today, God continues to remember, rescue, and redeem. As God’s people for today, we have the chance to continue the long line of those who join God in extending that blessing and salvation to the nations. Will we?

Come, let us use the grace divine, and all with one accord,
in a perpetual covenant join ourselves to Christ the Lord;
Give up ourselves, thru Jesus’ power, his name to glorify;
and promise, in this sacred hour, for God to live and die.

The covenant we this moment make be ever kept in mind;
we will no more our God forsake, or cast these words behind.
We never will throw off the fear of God who hears our vow;
and if thou art well pleased to hear, come down and meet us now.

Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, let all our hearts receive,
present with thy celestial host the peaceful answer give;
to each covenant the blood apply which takes our sins away,
and register our names on high and keep us to that day!
– Charles Wesley

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, 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.

Advent Door 10: The One Who Carries Us

Title and artist unknown. Please notify me with the information so I can provide the proper credit.

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 10 Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11

Scripture Summary:
God provides a word of comfort and the promise of redemption to those who cry out for God’s help.

Writing to a people in exile, this author promises a pathway that will lead to redemption and return. The transformation of creation that he describes with such vivid imagery will envelop the people as well: within the community, within the individual, the interior landscape will change utterly, and through it will appear a road for the God who will come to redeem and restore. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

God understands our journey is full of frailty- the frailty of our bodies and our faith. Our bodies blossom and wither. Our faithfulness flowers and fades. We want to stay the course, true and constant, but often fail. We find ourselves bent low beneath the burden of guilt and the consequences of our choices. We wonder if we ever had any faith to begin with.

God’s response is “Comfort, O comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1) The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) God will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. (Matthew 12:20)

Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you,
Everything is fleeting, God alone is unchanging.
Patience will obtain everything.
The one who possesses God, wants for nothing.
God alone suffices.
-Teresa of Avila

Over and over again in the scriptures, the compassion and mercy of God are compared to the bravery and sacrifice of a good shepherd. Most of the time, sheep are able to follow the shepherd. But there are times on the journey when the shepherd must carry them. Maybe they’re too young to navigate a dangerous river. Maybe they’re lost or injured. Maybe they’re too ill to make it home on their own.

Isaiah 40:11 (NRSV)
He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 28:8-9 (NRSV)
The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever.

Luke 15:3-7 (NIV)
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

What is your need fellow sheep?
What would it be like to allow the Good Shepherd to hold you? to carry you?

The Taste of Death
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
I am held captive by downfall and falsehood
or I am held by Christ
whose outstretched arms free me from fear and captivity

Who holds me? Death or Christ?

Great Love bends low to us
Suffers with us and for us
Tastes death so we might be free

What does death taste like?
Amniotic fluid and stable hay
Breast milk and sawdust
Bread broken before sour wine
Salty tears, bitter fear
Ashes to ashes, mud pie
Blood and water served on a centurion’s spear
Linen, spices or stone?

It’s hard to taste anything when your lips are cracked and bloody
Your tongue swollen and stuck to the roof of your mouth

Word made Flesh
Flesh made Mercy
Embodied Love
Wondrous Love
Sacrificing Savior
Compassionate Christ
Taste and see that the Lord is good

I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
Hold me, Jesus

For an incredible video of Phil Keaggy singing Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins,
click here

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

poem © 2011 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 scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Door 9: Rubbernecking or Responding?

Pharisees by Karl Schmidt Rottluff

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 9 Reading: Matthew 3:1-12

Scripture Summary:
John the Baptizer is forthright and bold as he confronts the people and the religious leaders so they may properly prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

The path through these days is not one that we can fashion from our striving and our skill. When John the Baptist comes over that wilderness horizon, smelling of camel’s hair, his lips dripping with honey and with fire, he is pointing us toward a way that we can make only by what we give up, what we shed, what we let go.- Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

John the Baptist isn’t a feel good preacher. I imagine him a wild, unflinching force of nature whose voice rips open the apathy, hypocrisy and false teaching of his day. His message cuts like a plowshare through hard soil, “The time is now. The ax is at the root of the tree. Confess. Repent and bear fruit worthy of repentance.” His message seems harsh, but it’s actually the rescue light of God shining in the darkness.

People came for miles to hear him, desperate for a word from God. It had been four hundred years since a prophet spoke truth to power. They were weary of the condescending stares and complicated rules of the religious leaders; beaten down from years of Roman oppression and corrupt puppet rulers. The One who will gather and clear and burn and set it aright is near. This is good news and they are ready to lay down whatever is necessary in order to be ready.

Some of the religious leaders come to see what’s going on down by the river, too. John doesn’t greet them with the respect they are accustomed to receiving. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to prepare for the change that is coming?” John could see their motivation. They had no interest in making the turn of repentance, in giving up their positions of authority, in shedding their traditions and prejudices. They were keeping up appearances. They were rubbernecking at the spectacle. They came to watch the wild man of the wilderness and to plot how to cage him.

There’s a great divide between rubbernecking and responding. God comes near and invites us to engage. Worship is a verb, as is praying, following, repenting, forgiving, serving, believing…

John was sent ahead like a voice before a word, a lamp before the sun, a herald before a judge, a servant before his master, the best man before the bridegroom. … Let us, too therefore, prepare a way for the Lord who is to come into our hearts. Let us remove the barriers of sin by confession and repentance; let us straighten the paths of our life which for too long have been undirected and devious; let us pave the way of true faith with good works. Let us rid ourselves of all arrogance and lift high our fainting hearts. Then, when all is in order, smoothed, and brought into harmony, we shall see the salvation of God as he is, for “his home is in peace and his dwelling in Zion.” -Rabanus Maurus

Am I engaging? Responding with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Do I worship God or only watch the worship leaders like a person watching the lions at the zoo? Do I join Christ’s work of healing and justice in my community or only ride on by shaking my head at the misfortune? Do I respond to God’s direction and correction or hold on to my agenda and plan?

What point of pride or apathy is God inviting me to shed this holy season in order to fully respond to the call to new life?

A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!
– Charles Wesley

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Click here for another reflection on Matthew 3 by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The Ax at the Root of the Trees.

This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, 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.

Advent Door 8: Reversal and Repentance

Coptic Icon of St. John the Baptist

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 8 Reading: Luke 3:1-6

Scripture Summary:
John is in the wilderness when he receives a word from God. He travels throughout the region preaching repentance, forgiveness and baptism, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

One can imagine that John the Baptist, this locusts-and-wild-honey-eating, camel’s-hair-wearing prophet, must have spent his own time of preparation in the wilderness before he began to cry out to people to prepare for the one who was coming. It was only by making himself ready—by straightening the paths within himself and smoothing out all that was rough in his interior landscape—that John was able to do the work that God had called him to do. And so we, too, are called in this season: to attend to and prepare our inner terrain so that we may welcome Christ in our lives and in our world.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

God’s grace, in concert with honest self examination, results in repentance. True repentance is joined at the hip with reversal, a spiritual about-face of motivation and action. In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: shuv (to return) and nicham (to feel sorrow). To repent therefore is to realize our need of healing and forgiveness and to respond by doing a mental, spiritual and physical 180. In cooperation with God’s grace, we turn from our own ways to God’s ways.

Think of repentance horizontally and it’s like making a u-turn. Think of it vertically, and it’s as if our way of looking at the world and responding to the world is turned right side up from being upside down. Self-serving is turned into a heart for serving others. Our trust and use of money takes a dramatic turn, as does our priorities, relationships, values, prejudices….

That much turning can be disorienting, even nauseating, like a dancer doing pirouettes. With coaching and practice, beginning dancers eventually learns to spot- to focus their attention in the midst of the turning on one point of reference. For Christians, our one point of reference is Jesus. With coaching and practice in following Christ, we learn to focus our attention and our living in new directions.

Isaiah described the profound change brought on by repentance as a dramatic reversal in the landscape of life- as a valley being filled, a mountain being made low, the crooked made straight and the rough made smooth. Filling valleys and razing mountains is difficult and complicated work. It takes years to change a landscape that dramatically without destroying everything that doesn’t need to be changed. It requires wisdom, intentionality, and perseverance to see the work through to the end.

The same is true of our interior landscape. So many persons become discouraged because they want the changes quicker or more dramatically. Learning to spot Christ in the midst of our upside-down world takes time. Reversals take time, too. It took almost 30 years to reverse the flow of the Chicago River. How much more precious and complicated is your soul! Be of good courage. Keep leaning into the turn. Keep your eye on Christ. You and God are making more progress than you think.

Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling; all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.

Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
– Charles Wesley

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, 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.