Do You Hear What I Hear? A Devotional Based on Beloved Christmas Carols

Songs of Christmas 1110 x 624The Christmas Story is full of singing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, the congregation of Coronado Community United Methodist Church in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, will reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs.

You’re most welcome to join us. Just CLICK HERE to download the free resource guide. Our journey will begin Monday, November 29, and continue all the way to Epiphany, January 6, 2022.

Some songs will be old friends. Others will be new. May their beauty and power draw you close to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. – Lisa <><

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Do You Hear What I Hear, the Songs of Christmas © 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this compilation for personal devotions.
Do not publish this work in any form.

Make Your Own Advent Wreath- ideas plus two sets of readings

I’m encouraging every household to create and Advent Wreath for their celebrations this year. Below you’ll find some easy, inexpensive options, many you may already own.

This year, Advent begins Sunday, November 28th.

First, a Little History 
“Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor, as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit.

The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.” – Wikipedia

Ideas for Creating Your Own Advent Wreath
I’m a strong advocate for grace and creativity in Christian practices, especially practices that are relatively new. (Yes, a practice from the 1800’s is relatively new given Christians continue practices dating back thousands of years.)

With that said, now’s a great time to create an Advent Wreath for your home. Yes, you could buy an Advent Wreath. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, you could also create one. Each choice will be intentional, adding to its meaning. The act of creating the wreath will be a prayer in itself. The point of a Christian practice is to help you more deeply connect with God and others. What will help you connect?

COLORS 
Modern Advent Wreaths often use four purple or blue candles plus a white candle in the center. The purple/blue candles can represent many things- repentance, longing, waiting, sovereignty, night, etc. The white candle is often called the Christ Candle, representing Jesus, and isn’t lit till Christmas Eve. Sometimes, one of the purple/blue candles is replaced with a pink candle to represent joy.

Some Advent Wreaths use other colors. The “original” used red and white. What would it be like for the color of the candles to get lighter as you make your way to the white Christ Candle. What if the Christ Candle were gold or silver?

There’s no need to stress over authenticity or getting it right. Symbols are elastic. What colors will you choose? What do they represent for you?

CANDLES
Tapered candles will show the passage of time. Pillar candles are also beautiful. You could even use simple votive candles or tea lights. Be sure to use the needed candle sticks, platforms, or holders for your candles.

NUMBER OF CANDLES
The “original” wreath used well over 20 candles, lighting one a day from the beginning of Advent to Christmas Eve. This connects that wreath to the very popular Advent calendar or Countdown calendar. Most modern wreaths use 5 candles. One for each week of Advent plus the Christ Candle. How many will you use? Why?

SHAPE
Advent Wreaths are often shaped as a circle, a symbol of eternity. I’ve seen “wreaths” shaped like a spiral, a cross, or with the candles in a row like a path. What shape will you choose and why?

OPTIONAL ITEMS 

  • Fresh or artificial greenery. Evergreens, holly, and ivy are often used. How about poinsettia? What do you have in your yard which could be used?
  • Use figures from your nativity set to decorate your Advent Wreath. How about an empty manger in place of the Christ Candle? Replace it with the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and/or place the baby in the manger. I have an olive wood carving from Israel of a pregant woman I love to use. On Christmas Eve, it’s replaced with a carving of a woman holding a baby.

advent wreath with MaryWhat other ideas do you have? Be sure to post your ideas plus a picture of your Advent Wreath in the comments! Don’t forget the explanation of why you chose what you did. 

ADVENT WREATH READINGS
Below you’ll find two simple options for readings to accompany lighting your Advent Wreath. You could also search the web for other readings, use the ones your congregation uses, or write your own.

1. Let in the Light
Four readings, each includes a scripture and concludes with a beautiful prayer by Dimitri of Rostov. Plus readings for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Epiphany.

2. Hope, Peace, Joy, Love
Only four readings. Each includes a scripture from Psalms and concludes with a Christmas carol.

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You are welcome to use either of these resources with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish any of these resources in any form.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Update: This post is from 2019 with a few updates. I recently returned to using Pray As You Go and wondered why I ever stopped. It’s a rich, beautiful resource which never fails to connect me to God through scripture and stillness. I still highly recommend it. 

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered seven days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Come, Sup with God- a prayer poem

bread wine salami

Image by Mandy Fontana from Pixabay

A prayer/poem/lyric based on Matthew 22:1-14, The Parable of the Wedding Banquet. It also includes themes from John 6.

Come Sup With God
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 88.88 (LM)
Suggested tunes:
HURSLEY (United Methodist Hymnal #339) or
GIFT OF LOVE (United Methodist Hymnal #408)

*I’d be very interested in working with a composer to set this to music

Come, sup with God all you who thirst
All you who hunger be the first
Feast on Christ’s Body and his Blood
O taste and see this meal of Love

Come, children, elders, blind, and spent
Come, foolish, able, indigent
Confess, repent, and then receive
Forgiveness flows abundantly

Come often, friend, for here is grace
made manifest in time and place
Christ’s mercy floods our brokenness
with healing balm and righteousness

Come to be changed. Come to be fed.
Come savor Christ, the Life, the Bread.
Drink deep the gift of healing poured
and leave a vessel of our Lord.

Sing Praise to Christ our Host and meal
Whose saving work provides the seal
for us once bound, now freed from death
to live for Christ with every breath

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Come, Sup with God © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

I Thirst- Prayer Prompts for Good Friday

Jesus knows the gift of water

The refreshment of being spoken in the beginning
as waters were separated from waters

Of guiding a rudderless ark on the vastness of the ocean
and a rudderless people through two seas and on to freedom

The warm waters of his birth and the obedient waters of his baptism

He knows the feel of spittle on his hands
while making mud so a blind man may see
and the feel of spittle on his face from those who mock him

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a man seeking answers in the night
Be born again of water and the Spirit

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a cast down woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again

Now, Jesus cries out in the midst of the festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
Let the one who believes in me drink
Streams of living water will flow from within you

Soon he pours himself out for the world… I thirst

I thirst for you
because you cannot drink the bitter cup I must drink
I thirst for you
because I desire that none should be lost
I thirst for you
so that you may drink of me, the living water

Drink deeply
I become in you and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life

Holy Jesus, my Lord and my God,
I thirst for____________
Refresh ___________
Sustain ___________
I drink deeply so that ____________

Finish the sentence again and again…
Leave your prayer below

© 2021
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.