You Are Near, a prayer based on Matthew 1:18-25

mary-joseph-dreamMatthew 1:18-25 NRSV
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, 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:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Prayer: You Are Near
Holy Comforter, you are near when my dream dies. You are near the brokenhearted. Thanks be to you for a new dream and a future beyond my imagining.

Maker of Miracle, you are near when I cannot see your will. When a good choice, even a merciful choice, is not your choice. Thanks be to you for correction and clarity.

Divine One, you are near when I dismiss the holy. When I say no to your call. Thanks be to you for your patience, your persevering grace, and second chances.

O come, O come Emmanuel, strengthen me with the promise of your steadfast presence and saving love, set my heart and step to your righteousness ends. Amen

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You Are Near © 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.

Reader’s Theater: The Magi, The Genocide (Matthew 2)

The Christmas Story readers theaterReader’s Theater: The Magi, the Genocide
Based on Matthew 2 NIV
Parts: Narrator, Congregation, Herod, Angel

NARRATOR
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,
Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,

ALL
Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.

NARRATOR
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

ALL MEN
In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

NARRATOR
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

HEROD
Go and make a careful search for the child.
As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.

NARRATOR
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.

ANGEL
Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.

NARRATOR
So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

ALL WOMEN
A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

NARRATOR
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

ANGEL
Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.

NARRATOR
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

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The Christmas passages from Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 are “tidings of great joy for all people.” A great way to embody this truth is through multiple readers of multiple ages voicing the beloved story. I hope these simple scripts will help you to do just that. Merry Christmas and may the promises of this Holy Season strengthen you throughout the year! – Lisa <><

Click the link for a master pdf of all The Christmas Story scripts
Reader’s Theater The Christmas Story

Adapted from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Reader’s Theater: The Magi, The Genocide (Matthew 2)
© 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)

sunlight bedroom window2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 10 Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream

Joseph, being a righteous man
– Matthew 1:19

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph
Emmanuel
God with us
and for us
and in us

You are there when the plans and promises
detonate and disappear

You are there
in the confusion
the pain
the unexpected and unthinkable

You are there when the dream dies

Help us cling to you
as our brother Joseph did
who laid down the stones
to walk your quiet path

Dignity over publicity
Courage over convention
Solidarity over scorn

Speak in our sleep
Awaken us to
Righteousness
Obedience
Restraint

To trusting your ways
and you

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Click Here for a reflection on this same passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph © 2014 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.

Reader’s Theater: Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

Jacob’s Dream by Marc Chagall

A few thoughts on Genesis 28:16-17 from Richard Rohr
“You were here all the time, and I never knew it!
This is nothing less than the house of God; this is the very gate of heaven.”
– Genesis 28:16-17

  • The gate of heaven is everywhere. This is what I mean by the great democratization of God and the total accessibility and availability of God.
  • God is as available and accessible as the very thing we all do constantly—breathe.
  • All of our faults and ego possessions are just heavy and burdensome luggage that keep us from walking through the always-open gate—or even seeing it in the first place.
  • It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. The here and now has the power to become the gateway and the breakthrough point to the universal.

Reader’s Theater: Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
Based on Genesis 28:10-22 (NRSV)
Version with three speakers


Click here for a PDF of this script

Click here for a PDF of this script for one speaker

Play instrumental music in the harmonic structure of We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder under the Scripture reading (but not a recognizable tune)

NARRATOR
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. Music stops so the following line and verse are in silence

And he dreamed…

CHOIR OR SOLOIST
We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, verse 1 a cappella
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
Soldiers of the cross.

Instrumental music continues under the Scripture reading.

NARRATOR
Jacob dreamed there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him

THE LORD
I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

CHOIR OR SOLOIST
We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, verse 2 with instrumental support
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Soldiers of the cross.

Instrumentalist transitions to the chorus of Surely the Presence of the Lord during the Scripture reading.

NARRATOR
Then Jacob woke from his sleep

JACOB
Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!
Fearfully How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

CHOIR OR SOLOIST
Surely the Presence of the Lord, chorus, with instrumental support
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel His mighty power and His grace
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings
I see glory on each face
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

Instrumental music continues under the Scripture reading.

NARRATOR
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow.

JACOB
If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.

ALL SINGING
Surely the Presence of the Lord, chorus, with instrumental support
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel His mighty power and His grace
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings
I see glory on each face
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

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Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, traditional Afro-American Spiritual. United Methodist Hymnal #418.

Surely the Presence of the Lord, by Lanny Wolfe © 1977 Lanny Wolfe Music. United Methodist Hymnal #328. CCLI #7909.

Compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Contact the compilers for posting and publication considerations.

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

Whisper Day 13: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder by Albert Houthuesen

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 13 Reading: Genesis 28:10-22

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”- Genesis 28:16 (NRSV)

Observation
Jacob is on the run, the result of selfish choices. He’s tricked his father Isaac and his twin brother Esau, stealing both his firstborn birthright and blessing. Esau is ready to kill him, so Jacob literally flees for his life. God reaches out to Jacob in the midst of his ambition, deceit and self-centeredness. God isn’t a part of Jacob’s plan, but Jacob is a part of God’s plan.

God surprises this exhausted and isolated young man in the middle of the wilderness in the middle of the night. In a dream, God recognizes Jacob as the heir to the covenant, promising to fulfill the all the promises made to Abraham through Jacob and his descendants. Jacob is awestruck. He responds by setting up a pillar of reverence and making his own vows.

As Jacob with Travel was Weary One Day
traditional, English Carol (ca. 18th century)

As Jacob with travel was weary one day,
at night on a stone for a pillow he lay;
he saw in a vision a ladder so high,
that its foot was on earth and its top in the sky:
Refrain: Alleluia to Jesus, who died on the tree
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me,
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me.

The ladder is long, it is strong and well-made,
has stood hundreds of years and is not yet decayed;
many millions have climbed it and reached Zion’s hill,
many millions by faith now are climbing it still. Refrain

Come, let us ascend! All may climb it who will,
for the angels of Jacob are guarding it still;
and remember, each step that by faith we pass o’er,
many prophets and martyrs have trod it before. Refrain

And when we arrive at the haven of rest,
we shall hear the glad words, “Come to me all the blest,
here are regions of light, here are mansions of bliss.”
Who would not want to climb such a ladder as this. Refrain

Application
God reaches out to us, even though we are far from expecting it and far from being worthy of it.

Jeremiah 29:11
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Prayer
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
God of me
Your grace is deep and surprising
Your mercy is awesome to discover
Thank you for reaching out to me even in my most selfish moments
Thank you for reaching out to me when I choose sin and foolishness
Thank you for reaching out to me when my actions put me in danger
and when they result in broken relationships with you and others
Forgive me and set me aright
Mend my ways
Help me to forgive myself so that I can move forward with you
Bless you
Thank you
Amen

Day 14 of the Whisper Reading Plan is set aside for worship and rest.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

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