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Do not publish this work in any form.

Order of Worship for a Blue Christmas Service (also known as a Longest Night Service)

blue-nativity

A Blue Christmas Service is offered especially for those hurting during the holidays. It’s often offered December 21, the longest night of the year.

Some come because they are mourning the death of a loved one. Some are far from home. Some suffer from illness, addiction, or estrangement. Some are lonely, struggling financially, or in conflict with another. Some hurt because of the great pain, need, and violence in our nation and world.

The reasons for coming are many. We gather in the midst of suffering to remember God is good. God is strong. God is near. We are not alone and we have every reason to hold on to hope.

Pre-Service Set Up
People to greet and pass out programs
Blue strips of paper in the pews
Evergreen clippings placed at the prayer rail
Anointing oil for prayer helpers
Tissues at the prayer rail and in pews
A table with 4 blue pillar candles and 1 white pillar candle
A box of matches
Blue tablecloth or white with blue runner for the table

Gathering Music

Welcome
This might include a brief explanation of the purpose of the service

Opening Prayer
One or All praying
Merciful God,
In this season of rejoicing, we come to you weary and grieving
In this season of feasting, we hunger for healing and relief
In this season of light, our hearts are veiled in sorrow and shadow
Will this season ever end?

“Yes.” We hear your, “Yes.”
Those who are weary will find rest
Those who mourn will be comforted
Those who hunger will be filled
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.

Lighting the Christ Candle
Strike a match and light the white candle

One voice We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World. In the midst of our suffering, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Scripture Isaiah 11:1-5, The Voice Translation
One voice
On this humbled ground,
a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising, will sprout from Jesse’s stump
a branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment, He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength, He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth
The impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

A brief message of hope is offered based on the Isaiah reading

Candle Lighting
Instrumental underscore- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Light one blue candle
One voice- This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of truth.
There is no need to hide or deny. God welcomes us as we are.

One or All voices
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ~Psalm 86:1

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of lament.
We recognize our wounds and cry out to God.
We accept God’s invitation to express every feeling and question.

One or All voices
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of courage.
Courage to be honest, to seek help, to comfort one another.
Courage to dare to love and dream again.

One or All voices
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ~ Psalm 28:7

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of hope.
God is good. God is strong. God is near,
leading us to a day without tears and pain, without sin and death.
Healing and deliverance are coming; if not now, then on that day.

One or All voices:
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. ~Psalm 65:5

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Cry out to Jesus by Third Day

Instructions for Prayer Time

  • You are encouraged to write your burdens and sorrows on the blue strips of paper and then place them on the table with the candles
  • Following that, make your way to the prayer rail
  • Persons are available to pray with you as you stand or kneel
  • Anointing oil is also available.
  • Please take an evergreen clipping with you as you return to your seat as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness

Instrumental underscore following the instructions

Prayer after everyone is seated.
One person praying as they place their hand on the blue strips of paper.

Jesus, you are full of compassion, you understand our pain. Our suffering changes our experience of you and the celebration of your birth. We are caught between remembering happier times and grieving what might have been. In our loss we feel cut off- disconnected, adrift, alone.

Root us in your steadfast love. Anchor us in your faithful promises.
Hold us, and all who weep this holy season throughout the world-
those who mourn, those far from home, those looking for work,
the lonely, the addicted, the abused,
the estranged, the oppressed, the enslaved,
the poor, victims of war, the sick and dying.
Shelter and sustain us all with your healing and hope, your peace and light.

We love you, we need you, we trust you,
We ask this in your name Jesus, praying as you taught us…

All praying
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

Song
Suggestion- The Only Real Peace I Have by Allison Speer

Affirmation of Faith for Christmas
Adapted from the poem First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle.

One Voice: Christians, what do you believe?

All Voices: God did not wait till the world was ready,
till nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame,
God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh;
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Passing the Peace

Song- Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All singing
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Announce before the blessing- Following the blessing, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. Persons are available to speak with you further about your situation. You are also welcome to set an appointment with the pastor or director of congregational care. (give contact information)

Blessing

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This prayer is printed as a gift for persons to take home along with a piece of evergreen.
I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Enduring

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Blue Christmas Service © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to 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.

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 29th.

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.

*************
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.

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 five 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

1. Home for Christmas: Advent Wreath Readings Plus a Simple Bible Reading Plan
2020’s been a rough year so I created a plan with lots of resources and options. My hope is that this plan will help and encourage households as they worship together at home.

Home for Christmas contains the following:
• Four simple Advent Wreath readings
• Lyrics to five public domain Christmas carols, one for each week of Advent plus Christmas Eve.
• 18 scripture readings from Matthew, Luke, and John. Five readings for the first three weeks of Advent and three readings for the fourth week of Advent. Some scriptures are repeated so folks can savor the reading.
• Each scripture reading is accompanied by a title and sentence prayer
• Readings for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Epiphany which include scripture, prayer, and lighting the Advent Wreath.

CLICK HERE for a pdf for printing this resource as a booklet.

2. 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
This was originally offered in 2016, so you’ll need to adapt the day for “worship and rest” to fit this year’s calendar.

3. 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
This was originally offered in 2014, so you’ll need to adapt the two days for “worship and rest” to fit this year’s calendar.

4. 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.

5. 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.