Two Prayers Based on Luke 1 and 2

summer in the scriptures luke

Mary’s Welcome
Based on Luke 1:26-38, Mary and Gabriel

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

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

Rest on Me
Based on Luke 2:22-38, Jesus is Presented in the Temple

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. – Luke 2:25

There was also a prophet, Anna… She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38

Holy Spirit,
as you rested on Simeon and Anna,
so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Fill my speech with stories of your praise and glory

Holy Spirit,
You reveal salvation to every person
reveal it again to me
Shine your light on every motivation,
on every hidden thing
Pierce my soul
so nothing I say or do opposes you

Holy Spirit,
as you guided so many that first Nativity,
so guide me
Continue to point me forward
eyes open, steady, and true

Lead me to a faithful end,
so I may rest in peace forever with you
with others
and with my true self

I trust and pray in the name of the Promised One
Jesus Christ
my Savior and Savior of the World
Amen
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For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.

You’re most welcome to read along and to join the Facebook discussion group, Summer in the Scriptures. You don’t need to be a Methodist or attend a Methodist church. All are welcome and all means all.

As part of the Facebook group, I’ve been supplying prayers based on the day’s reading. Feel free to post your prayers and observations based on the readings here or there as well.

May the grace of the Gospels, the challenge, and the call, inspire us to great faith and great good works in Jesus’ name. – Lisa <

Mary’s Welcome © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Rest on Me © 2010 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.

Rejoice Greatly (Luke 2)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

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

Message 2 of 4: Rejoice Greatly
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/22/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field and Glory to God
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion

At the end of the first part of Handel’s Messiah, the text shifts from mostly quoting the prophet Isaiah to the more familiar Christmas story found in the New Testament.

So what text is chosen first?

  • Caesar Augustus calling for a census?
  • Mary and Joseph, the human heroes of the story?
  • Herod, the villain of the story?

Nope. Charles Jennens, who compiled the scriptures which make up Handel’s Messiah, chose the story of the shepherds.

Who from the Christmas story most inspires you? Why? I usually choose Mary, the first and best disciple, and I usually gloss over the shepherds. I thought of them as side characters. I often don’t even read their whole story. I stop with the angels singing to them.

But this year, they’ve captured my heart thanks to Handel’s Messiah.

In Messiah, a solo soprano acts as the narrator and angel of the Lord for this part of the scripture…
Luke 2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

 A choir acts as the heavenly for this part of the text
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

The choir is followed by a solo soprano doing vocal gymnastics in an incredibly difficult and exuberant version of Zechariah 9:9-10. Is the soloist the prophet rejoicing that the Old Testament promises are in the birth of Christ? Or maybe it’s a shepherd or angel overcome with excitement.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen. Rejoice greatly.

How will you receive the coming of Christ? Will you receive Jesus with great joy?

How is your Christmas season going? I’ve never been so absent. I had the chance for some vacation with husband. Pastors never take a vacation in December, but this year it was the only time we had between Ed’s jobs. I got back from vacation and then got sick. Multiple days in bed. How about you?

How are you receiving what is meant as “Good News with Great Joy”?

Receive with Fear– The angel says, “Do not be afraid” (aka I’m not going to hurt you) because their appearances are so surprising, startling, unexpected. That’s how many experience this season, fear-full because the feelings and triggers are surprising, startling, and unexpected.  Everything feels out of control.

Receive as an interruption, and intrusion- I’ve got to watch the sheep. Let me get back to work. Bah humbug. It’s all a bother.

Receive as a chore/burden– Now there’s even more on my to-do list. I’ve got to find someone to watch the sheep. Then I have to walk all the way into Bethlehem in the dark. Then I have to search for a baby in a food trough.

Are you open to receiving the Good News of Christmas with Great Joy? Not great happiness. Not great success.

The angels do.  They are lighting up the night sky with their celebration, flooding it with singing and worship and the promises of God.

Mary does. Her celebration is quieter. She treasures it, ponders all in her heart. You could have both public celebrations and private wonder.

The shepherds do. I imagine them as big balls of enthusiasm. Like frat boys- rough and tumble, out in the middle of the night doing their thing in the dark, caring for the sheep. The angels come and they say, “Yea, let’s go!”

Enthusiasm- en theos, God with and God within, full of the Spirit

ENTHUSIASTIC, JOYFUL CELEBRATING
Dancing on the cruise ship – They danced all day long. Line dancing, cha cha lessons, Zumba, dancing before and after dinner. We’re the people of God, why aren’t we dancing?

Lisa, did you dance? No, I watched from the balcony and smiled. I don’t do that. I don’t know-how. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I missed out worrying about what other people think. Be a fool for Christ and rejoice.

Choir singing outside of Publix- Christians in the wild singing the Good News. People are singing along and smiling. There’s a joy and eternal quality to the sacred songs which is different than the secular songs.

Lisa Elyse Christmas headbandsThe bright, sparkly Christmas headband my mom and sister made me for Christmas. What would it be like to wear it every day between now and New Year’s?

I’m going to do it. I’m going to let my little light shine. I’m not going to be embarrassed my Savior is born and born again in me. I’m tired of being an incognito Christian. In camouflage, in hiding. This is our season. This is our story. It’s time to dance and sing, celebrate and rejoice. We have no reason to be ashamed of celebrating our Lord.

MORE ABOUT SHEPHERDS
One idea is that they were special shepherds who raised the sheep to be sacrificed in the temple, which was only about 4 miles away. They had a special cave they used for birthing sheep. A spotless male lamb would be quickly wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger till it calmed down and could be with its mother.

If this is true, when they heard the angel describe Jesus’ birth they knew exactly where to find Mary and Joseph, in the birthing cave. They knew exactly who Jesus was- the Lamb of God. The way Jesus was wrapped foreshadows his burial clothes for he would be the sacrifice to save us all.

This is beautiful and theologically rich. But what if they were just regular ordinary shepherds going about their regular ordinary tasks? Shepherds who are lowly, uneducated, migrant workers, dirty jobs kind of people, not the most trustworthy. What if this is who God chooses. It sounds just like God.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

The shepherds are full of enthusiasm. They don’t overthink it. They don’t over plan it. They are fully present to God and the Good News.

17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News. The first to see the long-awaited, long-promised Messiah. The first to affirm Mary and Joseph who were probably feeling and thinking so many things.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News.
The first to see the Messiah.
The first to affirm Mary and Joseph.
The first to share the Good News.
The first to rejoice- glorifying and praising God.   

And so, beloved of God, let the shepherds inspire you to receive and rejoice
Rejoice with an indescribable joy.

Inexpressible. Unspeakable.
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy.

Loose. Liberated. Boundless.

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth, of a living hope
A joy anchored in The Imperishable, The Eternal.
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you.

Destined for you.
Sanctified, sprinkled, and saved for you.
By the Merciful One. The One Who is With You.
Receive and Rejoice!
~ Receive and Rejoice, by Lisa Degrenia

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Receive and Rejoice © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Come, O Come Emmanuel

Harpers_Magazine,_Christmas_1898-cropped

Harper’s Magazine, Christmas 1898 by Harvey Ellis. Via Wikimedia Commons.

First Verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Matthew 1:20-23
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

Come, O Come Emmanuel
Root of Jesse
Light of the World
Grace on grace on grace

Come, O Come Emmanuel
You who are flesh
Vulnerable and Lowly and Small

Come, O Come Emmanuel
You who are Great
Holy and Powerful and Forever

Come, O Come Emmanuel
The Fullness of God with us
Make your home in our heart
Replace the stone with your throne

Come, O Come Emmanuel
Save us
Ransom us
Heal us and Raise us

Come, O Come Emmanuel

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel © 2019 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 leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Advent and Christmas Bible Reading Plans

There are so many preparations for Christmas- decorating, shopping, cooking, gatherings. It can feel overwhelming and stressful, even lonely. It sounds cliche, but it’s easy to miss “the reason for the season” in the rush of pressure and consumerism.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. We can prepare our souls in the midst of the other preparations. You have time for this. It just takes a plan.

Below you’ll find four seasonal Bible Reading Plans to choose from plus some ideas for integrating them into your day. If you have other ideas for using them or other spiritual practices that keep you close to God during the holidays, I’d love to hear about them. Thanks for leaving a comment.

May you find yourself at the end of this season even closer to Christ. – Lisa <><

Ideas for Using the Bible Reading Plans

  • Take time for reading before a meal, before bed, or first thing in the morning with your coffee or tea
  • Gather your loved ones around your nativity or advent wreath for the reading of the day. Wouldn’t it be fun to use your nativity figures to act out the reading!
  • Find a quiet place, light a candle, breathe, rest in God’s Word

Live Hope, Give Hope: A Plan to Share the Goodness of Jesus at Christmas
Readings from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, John, and Psalms
Also includes a sentence prayer and action prompts to Help, Offer, Pray, or Encourage
December 1-31, 6 readings per week

Comfort and Joy: A Simple Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Readings from Matthew, Luke, and Johnbible luke 2
Some of the readings are even repeated so you can go slow and go deep. It also includes a sentence prayer for each reading.
December 1-31, 5 readings per week

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Advent Bible Readings from Old Testament to New
Old and New Testament Readings
December 1-25, everyday
This reading plan highlights the Old Testament names and prophesies concerning the Messiah which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

The Story of Christmas Reading Plan
Fifteen simple readings from Matthew, Luke, and John, will take you from the first visiting angel to the young family returning to Nazareth from being refugees in Egypt. 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.

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You are welcome to use any/all 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.

The Songs of Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 21: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14; John 14:27
These are the notes from a message offered Christmas Eve, 12/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • One of most celebrated men of his age
  • People read and memorized his poems and still do so today

Longfellow was also a broken man, struggling to hold on to his faith in God in the midst of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The celebrity and renown did not help.

Longfellow’s Personal Pain

  • His first wife and daughter both died
  • His second wife died in a tragic home fire. She was working with candlewax and her dress caught fire. He heard her screaming and came running. He was badly burned while trying to save her, too burned to attend her funeral. He grew his trademark beard because he couldn’t shave due to the scars.
  • His son entered into service during the Civil War without his father’s knowledge or permission and was significantly wounded in battle.

Maybe you’ve experienced some personal tragedy as well. Maybe you are feeling the same way as Longfellow

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow’s Painful Culture
• Longfellow wrote this at the height of the civil war, no end in sight
• Neighbor slaughtering neighbor in each other’s backyards
• Written only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg (46,000-51,000 casualties)

Maybe this Christmas you are feeling hate is strong in our time as well. Maybe you are carrying the weight of our divisiveness and brokenness as a nation. Maybe it’s hard to sing Joy to the World this year.

It was hard back when Jesus was born, too. There was the Roman occupation. The people were oppressed. Mary and Joseph had personal troubles. They were forced to travel while Mary was “great with child.” When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room to be found. Jesus is born in the midst of animals. There is no crib. He’s laid in a manger. There is no peace on earth.

And yet what do the angels sing? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth peace, goodwill! God favors you!”

Mary heard it- God favors you. The shepherds, the bottom of the social order of the day, heard it from the angels- God favors you. Over and over again the scriptures tell us you are beloved, you are known.

God made that so real in coming as a babe. God could have come as a king- triumphant, valiant. God could have come as a warrior- laid waste to all the enemies. But God comes as a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who can’t approach a baby? Beautiful, frail, fresh, innocent… into a world that so very much needed it.

God came back then in Bethlehem. God came that Christmas when Longfellow was struggling to hold on to his faith. God comes for us, now. Whether we are joyful and celebrating. Whether we are heartbroken and facing another medical treatment. Whether we are broken and sobbing over the destruction of homes or the building of dividing walls between all of us. God comes.

There’s another stanza of this poem:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Generation after generation is tempted to loneliness and division and shame and hopelessness. But again and again, the bell rings out, the song is sung, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

This is why we can hold on. This is why we can hope. This is why we can sing, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Jesus on the night before he gave himself up for us said to those few gathered around the table with him…

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you
I do not give to you as the world gives
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not let them be afraid

Peace be with you.

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CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. 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, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.