Category Archives: ADVENT Resources and Reflections

Prayers for Advent Candle-Lighting

L: Come, People of God, let us walk in the light of God!

All: We have come to God’s house, that we may learn God’s ways.

L: Now is the favorable time: now is the time of salvation!

All: We will put off darkness and clothe ourselves in Christ.

The first candle is lit.

L: The light of Christ!

All: Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Holy God, you have gathered us into your presence to praise and thank you. By the light of this Advent Candle, give us purpose and hope. Keep our  hearts awake and watching for the savior you promised, so that when he comes he may find us ready, occupied with the works of peace, and learning war no more. We ask this in his name. Amen.

L: Come, People of God, bless the God who does wonders!

All: Blessed be God, whose glory fills the earth!

L: Let us gather in harmony by God’s grace,

All: And be filled with peace and joy in believing!

Two candles are lit.

L: The light of Christ!

All: Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Give justice to the poor and meek of the earth, O God. By the light of these Advent candles, may we leave old ways behind and witness to the new thing you are doing on the earth, so that the peaceable kingdom you promise may be the inheritance of every creature. Through Christ the savior, we pray. Amen.

L: Come, People of God, return to the Lord rejoicing!

All: We come back singing, joy everlasting upon our heads!

L: Be strong, fear not! Here is our God!

All: Happy are we whose help is the God of ages!

Three candles are lit.

L: The light of Christ!

All: Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Gracious God, thank you for lifting the lowly and announcing good news to the poor. Together we wait in hope for the early and late rain of your mercy, for the harvest of peace. By the light of these Advent candles, make us ready to welcome the savior, and to receive from his fullness grace upon grace. We pray in his name. Amen.

L: Come, People of God, for God is ready to restore our hearts!

All: God gives grace and peace to all who wait in hope.

L: Here is a sign for us: a woman bears a child,

All: And she names him “God-is-with-us”!

Four candles are lit.

L: The light of Christ!

All: Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Gracious God, you send us dreams of angels, visions of salvation, hopes of peace. Give us the courage to welcome your message and to do your will. By the light of these Advent candles, may we learn to refuse evil and choose the good, giving testimony of your love  in all times and places. We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

L: Let us pray.

Other prayers for candle-lighting

Holy God, you call us to your house

to grow in love together.

By the light of this Advent Candle,

make our joined hearts eager and strong.

Keep us on tiptoe,

watching for the One you are sending,

so that when he comes, we will greet him

with hands made holy by the works of peace.

We pray in his name. Amen.

L:  Come, People of God, return to the Lord rejoicing!

C:  We come back singing, joy everlasting in our hearts!

L:  Be strong, fear not!  Here is our God!

C:  Happy are we whose help is the God of ages!

The candles are lit.

L:  The light of Christ!

C:  Thanks be to God!

L:  Let us pray.

C:  Gracious God, we thank you

for the early and late rains of your mercy,

and for the harvest of peace that one day will come.

By the light of these Advent candles,

grant us the joy that never ends,

and give us courage to proclaim

good news to the broken-hearted,

release to captive, and justice to the poor.

We pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

L: Beloved, come! Hear the promises of God!

All: The promise of comfort, the promise of strength!

L: The promise of peace!

All: The promise of light!

L: Our God is still speaking!

All: We long to hear God’s voice!

The candles are lit.

L: The light of Christ!

All:  Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Most merciful God,

by the light of this Advent Candle,

open our hearts to your Word

and set our open hearts ablaze!

Melt away our despair!

Refine in us a new hope,

new life, and new songs,

so that in this world you love

we might be the praise of your glory

now and forever! Amen.

L: Out of Bethlehem will come a savior!

C: From something small, something great!

L: Our shepherd is coming to gather us in!

C: We will live in safety: he will be our Peace!

The candles are lit.

L: The light of Christ!

C: Thanks be to God!

L: Let us pray.

All: Holy God, prompt our hearts

to leap for joy at the coming of our Peace.

By the light of the Advent candles,

help us also to find our way to each other.

May we welcome your life into our lives

and proclaim your justice to the world.

We pray in the name of Jesus,

who is coming soon. Amen

Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Advent God,

you are always coming to us

To open our hearts,

To heal our lives,

To refresh our spirits,

And to make a glad way

Through valleys of sorrow.

You are always coming to us,

The delight and desire of your heart.

Allow us now to come to you

To savor your presence,

To know your safety,

To enjoy your love,

To receive your blessing,

And to say our prayer

That your kingdom come,

And your will be done on earth

As in heaven.

Receive us today at your refiner’s fire,

In its light, all hearts are open

And nothing is hidden from you.

Purify in its flames

our desires and our deeds.

Teach us not be afraid of your judgment,

For your judgment is mercy,

And your mercy never ends.

We give you thanks for all the signs

of the coming of your New Age

even in our own day:

every chain that is broken,

every belly that is filled,

every gun that is laid down,

every gulf that is bridged,

every beauty that is created,

every promise that is made and kept,

and every candle lit in hope

against the night.

You are always coming to us,

And so we come to you,

And ask you to bless and heal

All in our company who are sick and troubled,

All who struggle with the ordinary things of life,

And all who are searching for the joy you promise.

Give to us all a good word to say

About who you are and what you desire,

A testimony that rings true

In a world exhausted with empty words.

Make us bold to share with the neighbors we serve

The joy you are for us

And the mercy you have offered us

Through Jesus Christ, our brother and friend,

In whose name we pray:  Our Father….

ADVENT 2A Confession Prayer

 

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God of the root and the trunk,

Lord of the young shoot and the green branch,

we cannot break our own hard shells.

We are buried too deep to be softened by rain.

We do not imagine the light above ground. 

We do not dream of fresh things;

we sigh and fret about the old.

You say, I am coming.

Change your hearts. Turn around.

We say, Help us, O God,

to bear the fruits of Advent.

Give us what we need to crack open with hope.

******

God of the holy mountain,

Lord of the house where righteousness dwells,

we are not like you who knows the heart,

who sees inside.

We judge by what our eyes see and our ears hear.

We do not consider the poor, nor decide for the meek.

We do not know who you are.

We do not inquire after you.

You say, I am coming.

Change your hearts. Turn around.

We say, Help us, O God,

to bear the fruits of Advent.

Give us what we need to be wise.

*****

Lord of the lion, the wolf and the lamb,

God of the leopard, the kid, and the nursing child,

we cannot lie down together in peace.

We tread carefully near the serpent’s hole.

We are afraid of everyone.

We make them afraid of us.

We watch for each other with swords in our hands.

You say, I am coming.

Change your hearts. Turn around.

We say, Help us, O God,

to bear the fruits of Advent.

Give us what we need to make peace.

 *****

God of the threshing floor, the fork and the fire,

Lord of wild honey, of locusts and wild places,

God of the axe and the crowd, 

we do not line up at the river.

We do not wade in.

We do not bend our knee.

We untie no one’s sandal.

We are a crooked road, a stony path, a haughty crowd.

We level no mountains,

 raise no valleys.

We are unprepared.

You say, I am coming.

Change your hearts. Turn around.

We say, Help us, O God,

to bear the fruits of Advent.

Give us what we need to get ready.

Give what we need to begin.

*****

God of Mary, whom you disturbed,

God of her life upturned,

God of the fruit of her womb, Jesus,

who mothered our lives with his mercy,

we are not startled by angels;

we guard against interruptions.

We do not turn and turn again the prism of our hearts,

pondering the whys.

We do not open our hands: we expect so little.

You say, I am coming.

Change your hearts. Turn around.

We say, Help us, O God,

to bear the fruits of repentance.

Give us what we need to desire.

Give us what we need to dare.

*****

God of the One who comes again,

who is always coming,

who is coming soon,

help us to watch for his coming,

help us to know when he’s near,

help us to pray in his spirit,

help us to pray as he taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven…


Blessing and Sending


May the God of all hope

who sends justice down like rain

and summons joy from the depths of the heart;

who keeps promises

and satisfies the desire of every living thing,

be for you courage and grace,

anchor and horizon,

this day and forevermore.

Amen.

 

 

Go in peace, to wait and watch, to serve and work.

Go in peace, to dream and hope, to reach and desire.

Go in peace to sing Good News to all the weary world.

Amen.

According to Matthew

Epiphany-Josephat-Rest-Gentile_da_Fabriano_030-e1356892384419

–Joseph Sleeping, Gentile da Fabriano

According to Matthew, angels do not sleep: in the small hours they intervene, scattering the sleep of others.

They harry exhausted fathers and tip off shrewd men who hail from far away.

According to Matthew, the world is a place where good people’s dreams bulge with warnings, and hope is barely one hard breathing step ahead of tyrants bent on harm.

According to Matthew, there is an inexhaustible supply  of tyrants.

Angels have to work overtime; even then children die.

Only one escapes this time.

He will grow to be the sort of man who accepts angelic ministrations in wilderness and garden, but no more intervention.

Even forewarned, he will not flee; not even put up a fight.

It’s O and O and O

mmt215620

O, O, said God, when at one word

the day burst forth from night:

O light, O lovely, God declared,

astounded by the sight.

 mmt215623

O, O, cried Mary in alarm

when God begged her assent:

O mystery, O yes, she said,

unknowing what it meant.

mmt215620

O, O, the kneeling sages wept,

their tears with stars entwined:

O love, O ken beyond the ken

of star-pursuing minds.

mmt215623

O, O, the longing church has sighed

through all things ill and well:

O Day, O Mystery, O Lord,

O come, Emmanuel!

mmt215620

And when our healing comes at last

we’ll hear a word we know;

for heaven makes but one sweet sound:

it’s O and O and O!

O Antiphon: Clavis David

20 Dec O Clavis David

O Key of David,

and scepter of the house of Israel,

you open and no one can close,

you close and no one can open:

Come and rescue prisoners

who are seated in darkness,

and the shadow of death.

 hands

If you’ve ever spent any time in a prison in the United States, you will not read this antiphon as a universal desire for Christ to come and break down barriers and walls and liberate us all from the things that keep us bound.

If you’ve been in prison, on one side of the bars or the other, you will not gentle-down or spiritualize this plea. In a country where locking the cell door and throwing away the key is a national pastime, to reduce this antiphon’s desperation to the longings of our inner selves or for generic freedom is an evasion worthy of divine reproach.

The church that utters this cry from the most desolate regions of its soul knows about real prisoners in real prisons. It has languished in them itself, after all. One powerful strand of its history is nothing less than the history of outlaws and jailbirds.

This church knows that prisoners don’t need kindness or pity or understanding or even better conditions, although all that would be good. What they need is rescuing.

Rescuing from their own brokenness and despair and anger and violent impulses and whatever else it was that got them locked up in the first place.

Rescuing from the zealotry and self-righteousness and racism and unreasoning fear and inequality of our justice and penal systems.

Rescuing from the bloodlust of too many citizens who think prison is too good for prisoners, that they should be tormented, strung up, flayed alive, disappeared forever in some horrible way, not allowed to live, and even to live it up (they believe), in country clubs, while the law-abiding pick up the tab.

Rescuing from the willful aversion of the eye that never sees the fact that many prisoners are getting exactly what the bloodthirsty among us want them to get: torment, a living and indescribable hell.

Rescuing from the ordinary relief of citizens like you and me who, thanks to all those who are willing to throw away the keys, can go about our business, most of the time, without giving any of this nasty, vexing, implacable problem a single serious thought.

None of this is to deny that many prisoners are dangerous, implacably bent on harm, perhaps even irredeemable insofar as social rehabilitation is concerned. It is not to say that we should breezily unlock every cell, let everyone go, and inflict their harm on the law-abiding. It is not to forget victims of crime and their families, whose own sentences are indescribably unjust, life without parole.

No, this is not to romanticize prisoners. It is to dare to name them kin and children of God, as Jesus commanded, and to acknowledge that the darkness and the shadows of death in which they sit is not only of their own making but also of ours, and that we deepen the darkness and thicken the shadows by our forgetting them. By our being glad we can forget them. By our rarely, if ever, praying with tears for them. By our throwing away the key and going about our lives loving other neighbors and even other enemies, but not these. Anyone but these.

We refuse to know, or care very much, because we are implicated; implicated not because we played a role in their incarceration, although honest analysis might show that we all do; but because whether we like it or not, we share a human life and the human lot. If what prisoners need is to be rescued, then so do we. As they are rotting away in jail, so are we.

Which is the point: In the end, the antiphon is about our spiritual condition. We who live outside prisons are not free unless, paradoxically, we are making decisive moves to get ourselves locked up in prisons alongside real prisoners— locked up spiritually or physically, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is a real incarceration of mind, body, soul; as long as it ends up that we cannot even breathe while things are still as they are in this nation, and this world; as long as we learn how desperately urgent it is that someone with incontestable authority (for that is what the antiphon means by opening and shutting) should come, and come soon, to rescue us all from this madness.

Rescue won’t happen from a distance. The unlocking we beg for in the antiphon is not remote control unlocking, much less a spiritualized unlocking of good thoughts and wishful thinking. It is an unlocking by proximity, by a human hand.

And not just any human hand. The key in the lock is turned by a wounded hand, the hand of an arrested, judged, flayed, gashed, and humiliated man, a death row prisoner, a dead man walking. If anyone has the authority to wield that key, he does. And by extension, we who claim to have died with him do too.

We have the authority. We have the key. But it can’t be done from afar. At least some of us have to go. If the gospel is to have any credibility at all, key in hand, at least some of us have to go.

O Antiphon: Sapientia

17 December

O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come and teach us the way of prudence.

17 Dec O Sapientia

Prudence?

Now there’s an unsexy virtue. Do you know anyone who sets her heart on becoming prudent? Works at it everyday in her spiritual exercises? To become loving, yes, that’s a lovely goal; faithful too, or patient, even humble. But prudent?

The very sound of the word is off-putting. It sounds … prudish. Careful, surveying the scene, looking for trouble to avoid. Who wants to be like that—calculating risks, playing it safe, and sourly disapproving of the bold?

Too bad about prudence. It’s a lonely virtue, like meekness, forbearance, and long-suffering, misunderstood and underrated. But without it, the world would be doomed. Already is, almost, since it is singularly lacking. Which is why we pray in Advent that Wisdom, who appears among us as a Child, will hurry and teach it to us.

So what is it? Prudence is one way to worship God with your whole mind, as the Great Commandment says we ought. We tend to neglect this part of that charge in favor of the more familiar and comfortable loves of heart and soul. (We don’t love God very much with our bodies, either, but that’s a story for another day.) But there it is: love God with your mind, your intellect, your reason.

Prudence is thinking things through and distinguishing among things correctly. It’s telling good from bad, excellent from mediocre, ultimate from penultimate—as well as slogging through the proverbial gray areas, the complexities of the middle ground and the forgotten ground. The prudent person willingly spends time among the perplexities, listening and thinking, and then thinking some more.

Prudence studies the evidence of love and the rumors of life, skimming dross from the surface to reveal glints of gold beneath. Like a skilled shopper at a big department store sale, she sorts through everything that’s on offer until she finds clothes that fit God’s taste and style. These she buys.

All this she does not obsessively, in an anxious effort to get control over life, but “mightily,” as the antiphon says, strongly confident that there is in fact a discernible God-hinting pattern, and that the gift of reason graced by faith will be able to perceive it.

MMstudyingByWeydenPrudence is not content to say, “We shall never know.” It is of course true that we shall never know, completely. But prudence is avid for as much knowledge as she can get by peering intently through the mirror Paul talks about in I Corinthians 13. Even if our seeing is ever only dim, prudence believes that looking will yield something true enough.

True enough for what? To choose. This is the key. Prudence chooses, she decides, she commits, she sets out. And orders things.

This is where the “sweetly” part comes in. Because in that choosing, in the ordering of decisions and actions, in the reorientation of life that deep and godly knowledge directs, prudence is prudent enough to know that despite faithful application of graced reason to the maze of worldly possibilities for making life good, we could be finally mistaken in our judgments and in the choices that flow from them.

Her action is thus as humble as her seeking, which doesn’t mean it is not loud or long or deep or keening or ecstatic or prophetic; only that in all things it is profoundly charitable and meek, in the way Jesus was meek, in the way we are all meant to be foolish in order to be wise. Prudence is, in the end, not so much an egghead, a scholar, a weighty theologian, nor even a conventionally wise person filled with common sense–perhaps she is that least of all. No, she is the one who engages doggedly in a great and necessary folly. Prudence is a great and wise old fool.

After all,

Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:20-25]