A Great Thanksgiving for Christmas

Communion elements with candles, photo by Lars Hammar

A Great Thanksgiving for Christmas
A Great Thanksgiving is also known as a Eucharistic Prayer or Prayer for Holy Communion. It is used to consecrate the bread and the wine/grape juice.

ONE:
Holy One, Eternal and Blessed

ALL:
We lift up our hearts to You.

ONE:
You call the wonder of creation into being
And fill the world with beauty and goodness

ALL:
Receive our thanks and praise

ONE:
We join the heavens,
Your angels, prophets, apostles,
and Your faithful down through the ages
in declaring Your glory and good news

ALL:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!

ONE:
When the fullness of time had come
Your Creative Word, Your Glorious Good News
Became flesh
Humble, human, frail- yet fully divine
Conceived of the Holy Spirit
Nurtured and nourished by our sister Mary
Protected and mentored by our brother Joseph

ALL:
Come, O come, long awaited One

ONE:
The demands and burdens of the day left no place for Your birth.
The poor and the animals made room.
The proud sought Your power and Your death.
Wise Ones sought Your presence, brought You gifts.
The world despised and rejected You.
You responded with grace, forgiveness and new life.

ALL:
Jesus, I am poor of soul and spirit.
I confess my eternal need of You.
Enter in and make me whole.

ONE:
On the night in which he gave himself up for us,
Jesus took bread, gave thanks to You, broke the bread,
gave it to those gathered around the table, and said:
“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for You.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup,
gave thanks to You, gave it to those gathered and said:
“Drink from this, all of You;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for You and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as You drink it, in remembrance of me.”

ALL:
We remember You, and welcome You,
and proclaim Your power:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again!

ONE:
Come Holy Spirit,
Abide with us and in us
And on these gifts of bread and wine
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ
that we may carry Your welcome to all people
and be useful to You in Your saving work.

ALL:
Holy One- Father, Son, Spirit
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
All to the glory and honor of Your Name. Amen.

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For more work by today’s featured artist, Lars Hammar, click here

A Great Thanksgiving for Christmas © 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.

A Few Thoughts on Anger

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. – Frederick Buechner

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. -Mark Twain

Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved. – Marcus Antonius

Whatever the offense, a fundamental rule for processing anger is this: Do not harm yourself or anyone else. We must learn to manage the physical stimuli that grip us after a hurt. Anger can be as challenging to control as a wild stallion. When wronged, we need to let our emotions subside before acting. This may mean taking a break and removing ourselves physically from the situation. During this time-out, it is important not to replay the offense. – Kathleen Fischer, Forgiving Your Family

Matthew 5:21-25 NRSV
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.”

Because true prayer is rooted in surrender, anger is the surest way not only to be distracted in prayer, but also to be defeated in our attempts to pray. Anger gives rise to thoughts and images which poison the soul. This is why Jesus said that we cannot allow grudges to exist when we are worshiping God. This is why we cannot focus on the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in ours. The manner of our praying is first to remove the blockages, so that God’s “water of life” can flow unimpeded into our lives. – Steve Harper, The Manner of our Praying

Making sacred space for genuine mourning over our wounds is essential within the journey of healthy forgiveness. Genuine mourning involves many feelings, including anger and sorrow, which are closely intertwined. …For some of us, it feels safer and easier to rage than to cry. Rage is often our masked tears.
Flora Slosson Wuellner Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey

Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all I’ve not been free in so long. But, when I felt that anger well up inside of me, I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate, then they would still have me. I wanted to be free so I let it go.
~Nelson Mandela upon leaving prison after 27 years of confinement. This quote opens an excellent article by Gail Brenner entitled 10 Life-Changing Facts About Anger

A Blessing for Times of Anger
Your anger is real
Your pain is real
Your fear is real

In the honesty of this moment
May you remember
Your Defender is at hand

Anger’s fire will not consume you
Pain’s waves will not overwhelm you
Fear’s furor will not run away with you

God’s love is stronger
Making all things new
Transforming destruction
From death to life

May the Promise claim you
And embrace you
And empower you to
Surrender revenge
Pick up perspective
and wisdom
and grace
and hope
and freedom
and…

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If you know the artist of today’s featured work please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

A Blessing for Times of Anger © 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 scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Story of Christmas Reading Plan

The Crib “Chromatius” by Marco Soranzo

Have you read the entire story of Christmas? Now’s your chance! Fifteen simple readings will take you from the first visiting angel to the young family returning to Nazareth from their temporary home in Egypt.

Below each reading you will find reflections to take you deeper into it’s wonder and meaning. Some days have only one reflection and some have more. Just click on the blue links.

If you would like to read about the birth of Jesus (Day 6) on Christmas Day, start this reading plan on December 20th with one scripture reading per day.

As you read, I pray you will experience the wonder of the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us. Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

Day 1: Luke 1:5-25
Zechariah and Gabriel

Day 2: Luke 1:26-38
Mary and Gabriel

Day 3: Luke 1:39-56
Mary Visits Elizabeth

Day 4: Luke 1:57-80
Zechariah’s Prayer
The Covenant Continues

Day 5: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream
Mary and Joseph
God With Us

Day 6: Luke 2:1-7
Jesus Is Born
Making a Home for God

Day 7: Luke 2:8-14
Angels and Shepherds

Day 8: Luke 2:15-20
The Shepherds’ Visit
Ring the Christmas Bells

Day 9: John 1:1-18
Jesus, The Word of God
Vulnerable God
Jesus, The Light, Has Come
Praising God’s Marvelous Light

Day 10: Luke 2:21
Jesus is Circumcised

Day 11: Luke 2:22-38
Simeon and Anna
Active Waiting

Day 12: Matthew 2:1-12
The Wise Ones
The Star
Gift Giving

Day 13: Matthew 2:13-15
Run for Your Life

Day 14: Matthew 2:16-18
Herod’s Genocide

Day 15: Matthew 2:19-23
Returning from Egypt

Click here for another Christmas related reading plan entitled The Advent Door Reading Plan.

The Advent Door Reading Plan: Preparing for Christmas 2012

Last year I spent the weeks before Christmas exploring my friend Jan Richardson’s e-book entitled Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition]. It’s structured in the style of a classic Advent calendar, with twenty five scripture reflections, each with an original piece of art.

My goal was to set aside a few moments to read and reflect every day between December 1 and December 25. I read the entire book, but only blogged the first half of the readings. (The pressure of posting can hamper reflection. You will find links to last year’s posts below.) This year, the plan is to read it again and blog the last half of the book. (Yes, this is one of those book you want to read again. It’s that good.)

This is a book to savor, not just the words but also the art. Through it you will find space for blessing and centering. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey. – Lisa <><

PS- You might be asking, where did these readings come from? Mary, Joseph and company don’t appear until Door 19.

First, it’s important to understand what Advent is. Advent is a deep season of preparation which helps us keep Christmas in the right perspective. Advent means coming, so its a time of reflection on the coming of Christ as the babe of Bethlehem and the coming of Christ in at the end of the age.

(Click here to learn more about Advent. For a Christmas Reading Plan, click here)

For her book, Jan uses the classic Advent readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. The Revised Common Lectionary is a three year cycle of weekly Bible readings. Each weekly reading contains four Scripture readings: one from the Old Testament, one from the Book of Psalms, one from the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament), and one from the Epistles (basically the rest of the New Testament).

Door 1: Christ Will Come Again
Matthew 24:36-44

Door 2: New Creation
Mark 13:24-37

Door 3: Strength to Stand
Luke 21:25-36

Door 4: Yearning and Resistance
Isaiah 64:1-9

Door 5: Let Your Face Shine
Psalm 80:1-7; 17-19

Door 6: Extending Blessing
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Door 7: Threshold
Mark 1:1-8

Door 8: Reversal and Repentance
Luke 3:1-6

Door 9: Rubbernecking or Responding
Matthew 3:1-12

Door 10: The One Who Carries Us
Isaiah 40:1-11

Door 11: The Covenant Continues
Luke 1:68-79

Door 12: Two Simple Prayers
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Door 13: To Know and Be Known
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Door 14: I Am Not, Therefore I Am
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Door 15: Preparing the Way
Luke 3:7-18

Door 16
Matthew 11:2-11

Door 17
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Door 18
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7

Door 19
Luke 1:26-38

Door 20
Luke 1:39-56

Door 21
Isaiah 9:2-7

Door 22
Luke 2:1-20

Door 23
Luke 2:1-20

Door 24
John 1:1-14

Door 25
John 1:1-14

God’s Presence and Our Presence in Darkness

1 Kings 8:6, 10-12
Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. … And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.”

Psalm 139:11-12 (NIV)
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

The bright darkness by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
When darkness descends on you,
the unknown enfolds you,
the unseen holds you close,

when you look about for light
and see only shadow,
a way that can’t be found:

know that you have entered
the holy of holies,
the presence of God.

In the darkest regions,
the shady neighborhoods,
places under a pall of gloom

where mercy and justice are hidden:
God is not absent, but cloaked,
and holds her beloved even closer.

Bright mystery, holy darkness,
strip us of knowing too much.

Glory so thick you absorb all light,
bless us, who cannot see.

Isaiah 45:3 NRSV
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

Mystery is rarely comfortable. We want to understand what we are doing here, to see more clearly how God is at work, to know how the future will unfold. This Gospel passage confounds us, reminds us that God works in the darkness as well as in the daylight. (Mark 13:24-37) – Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door

Job 23:8-12 NRSV
If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.

Extended quote by Idelette McVicker from She rises while it is yet night 
I embrace Proverbs 31:15: ”She rises while it is yet night …”

Not necessarily in the 4:30am wake up call kind of way, but in the way of rising into the Night that I see all around me and so often struggle with, even within.

  • The Night that looks like gender inequality, violence, oppression, poverty and suffering.
  • The Night that looks like not having all my ducks in a row and all my themes clearly abstracted.
  • The Night that looks like admitting struggle and anguish, but also joy.

I am encouraged because into this very Night –our own and our world’s– women of valor rise.

Eshet chayil, says beautiful Rachel Held Evans.

So– that blessing, that ode to womanhood in Proverbs 31, for me, speaks to our valor and our ability to rise, in spite of.

  • When we don’t have all the answers yet, to rise …
  • When we don’t know exactly what we are doing, to rise …
  • When we are criticized and ridiculed, to rise …
  • When it seems like Night is winning in the world, to rise …
  • When the darkness wants to overwhelm, we will rise …
  • When we don’t have it all figured out yet, to rise …
  • When we make mistakes and fall down, to rise …

I don’t want to be scared of entering into the process any more. I don’t want to be scared of making mistakes and saying the wrong thing or of being overbearing, because I’d like to imagine that we are listening for each other’s hearts –with ears of Love– and not just for the words.

While it is yet Night –in my own struggle and in our world– I want to rise …
I hope you’ll join me.

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If you know the artist of today’s featured work, please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

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

Prayer Litany for Thanksgiving

Prayer Litany for Thanksgiving
ALL SINGING:
All Creatures of Our God and King, verse 1
All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
O brother sun with golden beam,
O sister moon with silver gleam!
O praise ye! O praise ye!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

ONE
Let us give thanks to God,
Maker of Heaven and Earth,
For the blessings and gifts
so freely bestowed upon us

The instrumental music continues as each petition is shown on a screen for silent reflection and prayer. A printed version will suffice if no screen is available.

For the beauty and wonder
of your creation,
in earth and sky and sea.
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For men and women,
boys and girls
who by their words and deeds,
reveal the image of Christ,
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For our daily food and drink
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For our homes,
For our families and friends,
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For minds to think,
hearts to love,
hands to serve,
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For health and strength to work,
For leisure to rest and play,
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

For all who work courageously
For truth, peace, and justice,
Offer prayers of thanks and praise

ONE:
Above all, let us give thanks
for the great promises and mercies
given to us and all the world
in Jesus Christ our Lord

Offer prayers of thanks and praise

ALL:
Alleluia!
Praise and glory be to Christ
With the Father and the Holy Spirit
Now and forever.

ALL SINGING:
All Creatures of Our God and King, verse 7
Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise ye! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise ye! O praise ye!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise ye! O praise ye!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Click here for a wonderful prayer entitled Thanksgiving by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

The prayer portion of the litany is modified from a prayer found in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

All Creatures of Our God and King is a hymn in the public domain.

If you know the artist of today’s featured work, please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

Prayer Litany for Thanksgiving compilation © 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 resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The S Words: Sin, Sacrifice and Salvation

Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbaran via WikiPaintings

Romans 3:19-25a NIRV
What the law says, it says to those who are ruled by the law. Its purpose is to shut every mouth and make the whole world accountable to God. So it can’t be said that anyone will be made right with God by obeying the law. Not at all! The law makes us more aware of our sin. But now God has shown us how to become right with him. The Law and the Prophets give witness to this. It has nothing to do with obeying the law. We are made right with God by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. That happens to all who believe. It is no different for the Jews than for anyone else. Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory. The free gift of God’s grace makes all of us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free. God gave him as a sacrifice to pay for sins. So he forgives the sins of those who have faith in his blood.

The purpose of spiritual law is to sharpen your own awareness about who you really are and who God is for you. There you will recognize your own radical insufficiency and, in that same movement, find God’s fullness. – Richard Rohr

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz Weber from her sermon
Why the Gospel is More Wizard of Oz-y than the Law

Martin Luther had a way of talking about sin that makes a whole lot more sense to me now. He reminds us that sin is bigger than simple immorality. Sin, according to Luther, is being curved in on self without a thought for God or the neighbor. In that case, sin is missing the mark and it’s all the ways we put our selves in the place of God. It can be alcoholism or passive aggression.  It can be the hateful things we think but never say or it can be adultery or it can be that feeling of superiority when we are helping others.  Sin is the fact that my ideals and values are never enough to make me always do what I should, feel what I should, think what I should.  And anything that reveals those “shoulds” to me is what we call The Law, the Law being the very thing Paul in his letter to the Romans said reveals sin. The “shoulds” in our lives are the things that make us see how far off the mark we are.

No matter what we think the “shoulds” are – personal morality and family values and niceness and conservative political convictions or inclusivity and recycling and eating local and progressive political convictions…there is always always, no matter how hard we try, a gap between our ideal self and our actual self.

Hebrews 10:12-18, selected verses
Christ … offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…. By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified…. The Lord says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Extended quote by Steve Garnaas-Holmes from his blog post Nothing Required
Imagining our relationship with God in terms of sin and burnt offerings may seem archaic, but it speaks to where we’re at. We are haunted deep down by a sense that we’re not “making it,” that we’ve done something wrong, that we’re not good enough, that there’s something we need to do to be OK with God—or for God to be OK with us. But the good news is that this is not true. Whatever shortcoming there is between who we are and who we were created to be, whatever deficiency we feel there is in us, whatever gap is between us and God—God fills it. God in us makes up the difference between who we are and who we are afraid we “ought” to be. We are perfected—just right for God.

This doesn’t mean we’re perfect, or that we don’t need to repent, or that we are not always continually becoming someone new; nor does it mean there aren’t consequences of our hurtful choices. It means that we don’t have to do anything to be acceptable to God. We don’t have to make up for anything or prove anything or pay for anything. We don’t have to do penance. Sure, we’ve done awful things. But God lets go of them. God dwells in the present moment, not the past, and invites us to start fresh each new moment. Of course God has to let go of a lot to do that. That’s the whole point of this “sacrifice” language: whatever has to be sacrificed for us to be close to God, God has sacrificed. We don’t have to. It’s done.

God invites us into the present moment, invites us to be present for God, who is perfectly present for us. Start now. Come as you are. No cover charge, no entrance requirements, no dress code. Just be here. Really, you already are.

John 8:34-36 NRSV
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

Extended Quote by Richard Rohr from his book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi
The common Christian reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”–either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God the Father (proposed by Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109). Anselm’s infamous Cur Deus Homo has been called “the most unfortunately successful piece of theology ever written.” My hero, Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), agreed with neither of these understandings. Scotus was not guided by the Temple language of debt, atonement, or blood sacrifice (understandably used in the Gospels and by Paul). He was inspired by the high level cosmic hymns in the first chapters of Colossians and Ephesians and the first chapter of John’s Gospel…. We all need to know that God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing humans can do will ever decrease or increase God’s eternal eagerness to love.

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Click here for a powerful article by Rachel Held Evans entitled Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony. In it she makes several strong points on the pitfalls of labeling sin/sinners, especially in light of our own prejudices and perspectives.

Click here for an excellent reflection entitled Martyrdom or Atonement by Steve Harper. In it he makes the distinction between a soldier’s death on the behalf of others and Christ’s death on behalf of all.

Click here for a sermon by Nadia Bolz Webber entitled Sermon on Jesus Rolling His Eyes (and also divorce). In it she discusses several ways to understand God’s law including letter of the law vs spirit of the law, law as rules to live by, and the law as means of protecting dignity.

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