Like our sister Mary, a Christmas Affirmation

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Like our sister Mary, we say yes

Yes to your favor
Your presence
Your blessing

Yes that we are enough just as we are
Where we are

Yes to your calling
and the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us to fulfill it

Yes to bearing and birthing
Your Word and your Promises and your Kingdom
in this time and place

Yes to all things being possible with you

Like our sister Mary we say
Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant
As you have said, let it be done to me
in me
through me

Like our sister Mary we sing and celebrate you
Our God, Our Liberator
For though we are your humble servants
You have noticed us

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This affirmation is offered for all, but especially for those who lead God’s people during the holy-days of Christmas. It can be an weary and stressful time. It’s easy to miss the wonder and grace of God’s intimate presence with so much responsibility. The stakes feel sky high. Breathe, trust, receive brothers and sisters. The promises are for you as well.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

Like our Sister Mary © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Based on Luke 1:26-48, The Voice translation

Learning to Pray- Three P’s for a Richer Prayer Life

Praise Proclaim Promise

The longer I seek God, the more there is to find. It seems I get my head around one aspect of God’s character and another mystery appears. I feel the welcome of God’s tenderness and patience. Then I start discovering the rest of God’s protection and encouragement. Next, it’s learning to walk in God’s strength and guidance.

But what am I to do with God’s transcendent power and holiness and glory.
What am I to do with WOW?

“Wow means we are not dulled to wonder. … Wonder takes our breath away and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.”
– Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow

To wonder, to WOW, is to be alive. It’s having eyes to see and hearts to thrill and souls quickening to respond. It’s Isaiah overwhelmed by a vision of God seated on the heavenly throne. (Isaiah 6:1-8). It’s Moses encountering God in a burning bush, a presence so near and divine he must remove his shoes for even the ground is made holy. (Exodus 3:5-6)

WOW is also found in small things, like the tiny toes of a baby or the stillness of a deep blue night, or a belly laugh spewing mashed potatoes across the diner counter.

The “size” of the inspiration doesn’t matter. What matters is how it awakens us. How it connects us to being fully alive. How we pause to acknowledge the One who makes it possible.

Classically, acknowledging God in this way is called praise. It’s often accompanied by proclamation and naming/claiming God’s promises. (3 P’s)

Don’t let the fancy church words intimidate you. Your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be profound or formal. It’s as simple as finishing a sentence.

Finish this sentence. God, you are… 
This is how we praise God. We acknowledge who God is by naming God or an attribute of God. This can come from the scriptures or you can create it yourself.

God, you are the Light of the World. God, you are King of Kings. God, you are mighty. God, you are loving. God, you are near. 

Now finish this sentence. God, you have…
This is how we proclaim God’s power, goodness, and blessing. It’s a form of testimony, of bearing witness. It may be something you read in the scriptures, saw in the news, or heard from a friend. It may be something you witnessed firsthand.

God, you have heard the cry of the needy. God, you have made a way in the wilderness. God, you have brought me healing and hope.

Finish this last sentence. God, you will…
This is how we claim God’s promises. We’ve acknowledged who God is and what God has done. Now we acknowledge that God will continue to be God and will continue to work all things for good. The promises of the scriptures and the testimonies of others are for you and for all.

God, you will never leave me. God, you will hear the cries of my heart. God, you will walk with me all my days, you will raise me to new life now. God, you will lead me home to heaven. 

David Crowder in his book Praise Habit sums it up this way.
Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your hands and let them clap of His goodness. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to ground, trembling with life and awareness that we are found by a holy God.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, dear ones. In the comments, share how you’re finishing these sentences. May these simple sentences bring you fully alive now and all year long. – Lisa <><

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This is the third in a series of posts on Learning to Pray. Click here for the first post, God, Please Help. Click here for the second post, Thank You, God.

Learning to Pray- God, You Are © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
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.

Lift Up Your Voice- A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

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Lift Up Your Voice
Readings and Reflection for the second week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Matthew 1:18-23
Isaiah 40:6-11
Luke 1:39-56

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • How are you intentionally sharing the good tidings of Christmas?
  • Make three invitations this week to worship or another Christmas gathering.

PRAYER:
Jesus, Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission
to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone
~ For Yours Alone, by Lisa Degrenia

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Lift Up Your Voice
A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: Mary’s Welcome (Luke 1.26-38)

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The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…
– Luke 1:35

Prayer: Mary’s Welcome
Holy Spirit, come
Into the smallness of my life
Into the bewilderment of my being
Into fears which must be faced

Holy Spirit, come
Into the backwoods of my world
Into the places people forget
Into places people put down… what good can come from there

Holy Spirit, welcome
Here am I, the servant of the Lord
Let it be with me according to your word
Amen

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Prayer: Mary’s Welcome © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 1 of 5: Prepare the Way of the Lord
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

First three songs of Handel’s Messiah are based on Isaiah 40:1-5, KJV
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are heavy. God is speaking reality through Isaiah about the consequence of sin. In chapter 40, the message turns. The Prophet Isaiah looks past the situation in front of him, the people of God taken into exile and returning from exile, down the highway of time to the coming of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ and past that to the second coming of Christ and the completed victory of God.

Isaiah 40:1-5, NRSV
1 “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

How are you preparing for Christmas?

Steve Garnaas-HolmesPrepare the Way
We prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations; we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life.

As the carol Joy to the World says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” There was no room in the inn, but there can be room in my heart.

Following the first London performance of Messiah, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the excellent entertainment. Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertain them. I wish to make them better.”

Handel’s desire in setting the scripture to music was that it would bring a change in us, that it would bring transformation. Prepare the way of the Lord is about transformation.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way In Me
Click Here for the first week of the Advent/Christmas Devotion which accompanies this sermon series.

We prepare inwardly by setting aside time for regular, quiet reflection with God. Here are two classic reflection questions to ask yourself.

A. This past week, when did I feel closest to God?
This is a question of consolation, of comfort. It’s when we experience the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God into our life. All of a sudden we’re awake, we’re alive in Christ and we notice it.

Isaiah 40:1-2
1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her

When did you experience God speaking comforting, tender words? God literally “speaking to the heart.” This is God’s voice of love and assurance breaking through the pain and confusion.

God is whispering, like the whispering of a lover into the beloved’s ears. It’s that intimate, personal, close. God isn’t whispering sweet nothings. These words are designed to remind you what is good, to strengthen you and help you and remind you how much you are loved.

B. This past week, when did I feel farthest from God? When did I blow it?
Which question is easier for you to answer?

This second question is classically a question of desolation. The sorrow, pain, guilt you are feeling is the Spirit calling you back to the path of life. Don’t let the feelings derail you, let them guide you.

Hear the good news and believe it. Isaiah 40:2 is Grace, Grace, Grace.
that she has served her term
You’ve been in prison and chains long enough

that her penalty is paid,
Jesus paid it on the cross

that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins
Yes, there are consequences for our sins. But this is not saying God is handing out a double punishment. It’s actually a reference to God’s grace. We sin, and God returns to us mercy, forgiveness, and grace. What God supplies is far more than what we deserve. It is double grace, greater than all our sin.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The “all” includes you, even in the wilderness of your soul and the wilderness of this world.

Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas
The wilderness does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way Of Me
Our internal life leads to an external life. God’s word, “Comfort, comfort my people” does not equal us being comfortable. (no troubles, no worries, I pay no attention to the troubles of the world)

The comforting of God is the strengthening and encouraging of God. We are prepared in order to share. There is an expectation of prayer and action.

This passage is full of God’s call and command.
Verse 1, Comfort, Comfort my people! 
Make sure this happens!

Verse 2, Speak… cry out
To those in chains, to those exiled

Verse 3, Cry out in the wilderness
Those lonely places, harsh places, broken places, unjust places

Verse 5, The Mouth of the Lord has spoken 
This is not a suggestion. This is a command. God prepares us so we can be part of the way making.

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Isaiah is preparing the way. Down the road, John the Baptist uses Isaiah’s words to prepare the way for Jesus- The Way, the Truth, the Life. Down the road, it is now us.

Enjoy the season. Feel it fully. Be fully present and go deep. Spend time with God. God, prepare the way in me and through me. We are making the way and we are mending the world.

God breaks into all the systems and places and pain; breaks in to create something new. The mountains where what’s needed is too high, out of reach, brought low. The valleys where there are much darkness and pain are raised up. There is a plain, an evenness, an equity, a justice for all.

Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, as a charitable benefit for 3 charities- prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary. It raised 400 pounds, split between the 3 charities, freeing 142 men from the debtor’s prison. 142 households were instantly transformed.

How will you make a difference this holy season? For making the way where there seems to be no way, for bearing God’s light into the world.

PRAYER:
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth
It shall be done in us and through us and of us.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,
we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
Shall, by Lisa Degrenia

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Be sure to also check out Rev. Magrey deVega’s stunning reflection on this passage in his blog post, Is God on your Christmas List?

Prepare the Way of the Lord © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.