The Visitation- Christmas Reflections for Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1)

old and young hands

Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
– Luke 1:40

There They Stand
There they stand
breathless
belly to belly
the maid and the elder cousin
full of grace and truth

John leaps for joy
Covered in the flesh of Elizabeth
Unborn, yet already at work
In the wilderness of her womb
He will not wait to make the Way known

Elizabeth extends her arthritic hands
One wrapping Mary in welcome
The other in blessing
Encompassing the inexperienced traveler
in affirmation of faith

Worship overwhelms worry
In the sanctuary of her solace
Mary is safe enough to sing

Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said… The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1:38, 49

As You Have Said
Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

Our Steadfast Savior
Mindful of our frailty
Looks on our lowliness
and responds with greatness
Great grace and Greater grace
for us and for all

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory
It is as you have said

Your mercy extends
Floods and Flows
Through time and place
Through need and pain
Body and Soul to
Soul to Soul to Soul to…

You show true strength
Bringing down those who bow the knee to no one
Scattering those who set up their own kingdoms
be it castle or corporation
Revealing it to be ashes
and emptiness

You show true strength
Lifting up those bowed low
Face in the dirt
Bearing the weight of excess and greed
Buried beneath crushing injustice

You show true strength
Raising up
Filling up
Faithful, Covenant Keeper
Remembering and
Re-membering

Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

It is and will be
as You have said
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord

Click Here to read the scriptures for these reflections, Luke 1:39-56

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There They Stand © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
As You Have Said © 2014 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.

Reign and Rain Down, a prayer based on Isaiah 45.8

Rain-Room-REUTERS-Lucy-Nicholson-courtesy-of-n1-865x577

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the LORD have created it. – Isaiah 45:8

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
You alone are God
There is no other

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Let all the earth open to your gifts
New life and right relationship springing up
Budding and blooming in our wasteland

Life comes to our mortality
to our frail clay
to our dust
You hold us and wash us and form us
You flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us

O, the glory of your grace
Grace extending more and more
More and more to us and more and more through us to others

O, bring the reign of redemption and reconciling
Salvation and solidarity
The fullness of your unfailing love

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Creating power flows from you
For you alone are God
There is no other

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Reign and Rain Down © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Cast Your Net Again (John 21)

Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell

Scripture
Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Sermon/Poem
This poem was inspired by Matthew 13:47-50, John 21:1-14, John 12:31-32, Psalms 40:1-3, and the painting Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell. It could be voiced with one or two speakers.

Cast Your Net Again
It’s been a long night of fishing
We smell of bait and salt-
salt from the sea
salt from the sweat
salt from the tears
It’s a strange combination of perspiration and desperation

The sun is about to come up, and we haven’t caught a thing
We downhearted
Not so much because we haven’t caught anything,
But because everything’s changed
He’s gone
our leader
our teacher
our friend
our future
We missing Jesus

He called us from our nets years before,
Come, follow me…
And that’s what we did
We gave up everything we knew
our nets
our lives
“Fishers of men,” he said…

Now he was gone and all that ‘s left is the nets… empty nets…

Children, you have no fish, have you?
                                                                     No, no fish
Cast your net again and you will find some

Cast your net again,
We know this familiar foolishness
So we cast it… we cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Suddenly! So many fish!

The cry goes up with our hope
It is the Lord! It is Jesus!

He sank down to the bottom
Down to the mud and the darkness
Down to the pain and the brokenness
Down to our level

Until he was lifted up- lifted up on a cross
Up went the fists
Up went the curses
Up went the sign
Up went the stares

Down came the hammer
Down came the tears
Down came the blood
Down came the love
Down to our level- buried beneath waves of fear and injustice and sin
Buried beneath earth

He did as he promised
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself

It is the Lord! It is Jesus!
He is lifted up from the earth!
Up from the grave
Up goes the shout
Up goes the sun with the Son

Cast your net again, my Jesus
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up from the bottom with you
Draw us up from the mud and the darkness
Up from the pain and the brokenness and the selfishness and the loneliness
Draw us up from the fear and the hate and the sin and the death
Draw us up from the bottom with you

Draw us up,
Draw us all, my Jesus
Fisher of men and women, sober and addicted, poor and prosperous, infant and aged
Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Healthy and ill, free and imprisoned, questioning and confident
Draw us up, Draw us all
Fisher of nations and galaxies

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Cast your net again into the sea of humanity
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up
Draw us in
We are caught in your saving embrace

“Now follow me,” says Jesus.
“Come, cast the net
Cast the net again and again and again and we will find some more
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
So many, so different, so beautiful
Use all your strength to bring them in
Have no fear, the net will not break.”

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© 2009, revised 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please, leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: O Holy Night (Luke 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 2: O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Scripture References: Luke 1:49-54 (Mary’s Song); Luke 1:68-75 (Zechariah’s Song) 
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? A person whispers a sentence into a person’s ear, who then whispers it into another person’s ear, and so on and so on until the last person whispers it into the first person’s ear. What usually happens? It’s nothing like what the first said. As things get passed along, they get lost in translation

In our Preschool Chapel, I asked the children what Christmas is about. They responded presents, Santa, lights, reindeer, cookies… It makes sense.  This is the dominant story in our society. Radio is full of Santa Baby and Holly Jolly Christmas. TV is full of Frosty and Rudolf. This same story of sentimentality, gift giving, and you better be good, goes on for months. We start hearing it around Halloween.

zombies in manger cartoon

Our understanding of Christmas gets lost in translation. In the midst of so many other Christmas stories, how do we continue to know and share the Christian point of view of Christmas?

We read the scriptures and sing the story, but it can even happen to beloved Christmas Carols.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

How O Holy Night Came to Be

  • In Roquemaure France at the end of 1843, the organ in the church of St. John the Baptist the Evangelist was renovated
  • To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, to write a Christmas poem which would be set to music by the renowned composer, Adolphe Adam
    • Placide Cappeau was a local poet, lawyer, and wine merchant. He was a free thinker with no interest in Christianity or any other religion

Cappeau accepted the commission anyway. To prepare he read the gospels, especially the Christmas story (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1).

Did Cappeau find something secular and commercial, no
Did Cappeau find something saccharine sweet, no
Did Cappeau find something soft and sentimental, no

  • Verse 1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
  • Verse 2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
  • Verse 3 Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

The sweet, soft and sentimental came with John Sullivan Dwight’s translation of Cappeau’s poem into English.

Cappeau read the Gospels, and this is what he found:

  • Mary the mother of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, magnifying and rejoicing in God her Savior
    • for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (Luke 1:49-54)
  • Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming
    • Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

Cappeau found the Christmas story powerful and prophetic and that’s what he wrote.

o holy night verse 1o holy night verse 2o holy night verse 3

Though he never placed his trust in Jesus, Cappeau had a chance to because he heard the real story. He saw the truth of Christmas-

  • God coming in the flesh to deliver us, rescue us, and redeem us
  • God dying and rising again to break the chains of sin, shame, prejudice, and isolation
    • Especially powerful given O Holy Night was written in the age where many were fighting to end slavery
    • Especially powerful since the song was banned for a time because Cappeau was a nonbeliever and the composer, Adolph Adam was Jewish

Don’t let Christmas get lost in translation.
Take time to read the scriptures, sing songs of faith, set up a nativity. Claim and share this story – the story of God’s truth, grace, and hope. This is why we sing and celebrate the coming of Christ. This is why we bow before him in reverence and faith

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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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O Holy Night reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Eyes to See, based on Isaiah 51.1-3

eye heartGrowing in Resilience
Day 12, Read Isaiah 51
Reflection: Eyes to See, based on Isaiah 51:1-3

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

You woke me
You tore the veil in two
You wiped the scales from my eyes
Eyes now seeing your saving grace
Eyes to see and to follow
To pursue you
To pursue peace and righteousness
Right relationship with you and with others
Right relationship with the earth and myself

I now see you and seek you
The fullness of your grace
Your Kingdom come

What do I see?
I didn’t see it before but now I have eyes
Eyes to see
our wasteland- the dissipation and squandering
our wilderness- the isolation and preying
our desert- dry to the bone

I see
Look at all I see

Lord God, help me to keep looking
To see it all and to see even more
All that was, all that is, and all that is coming

Help me look to the rock
The hardness of who I used to be
Now broken against the cornerstone of your love
Broken for good

Help me look to the legacy
Foremothers and Forefathers of faith
Their following and frailty and victory
I am not the first, I am not alone

Help me look to the promises
The wasteland will be a garden again
The seeds of truth are budding
As are the seeds of justice and hope

Eyes to see your consolation
Eyes to see your redemption and new birth
Eyes to see joy and gladness blooming
Watered from springs of thanksgiving and song

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Eyes to See © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.