Holy Communion Liturgy for the Second Sunday in Advent, the Sunday of Peace

December 6, is the second Sunday in Advent, often called the Sunday of Peace. In the United States the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery is remembered on this date. One appropriate song might be “O Holy Night,” which was specifically imported to the United States from France (where it was banned because the lyricist was a communist and the composer was Jewish) by John Sullivan Dwight, an abolitionist, because of its third verse:

Truly Christ taught us to love one another –
broken are chains in the Gospel of Peace.
The one enslaved is Christ’s sister or brother,
and in love’s name, all oppression shall cease …

(adaptation to match original intent is mine to lyrics in public domain)

 The other deeply appropriate song would be “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and the lyrics were written by Philip Brooks in the midst of his depression after the Civil War and leading the memorial service for Abraham Lincoln.

 This communion liturgy is shared freely to churches that offer virtual worship or a hybrid sanctuary with both home tables and some people practicing distancing and caution in an outdoor setting. This is my ninth month of offering Communion liturgy to celebrate how Sacrament transcends circumstance. Feel free to use any pieces of this service helpful to you and add freely language, music, gestures and practices.  

Announcement … for Sunday, November 29, or Monday, November 30

Next Sunday, December 6, we will share Holy Communion in morning worship. Those who bless and receive the sacrament at home, please prepare a slice or roll of bread, a corn tortilla, Naan, or rice cake and a cup of juice — perhaps grape or cranberry — or wine, with or without alcohol. For those who will be receiving the sacrament in a physically distanced gathering, the elements will be prepared for you / or please bring the elements you have prepared for yourselves from home.

Celebration of Holy Communion for the First Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 40: 1, 11

Invitation to Communion *

The story is told that during the Blitz in World War II Britain, when the city was strafed and bombed, Operation Pied Piper evacuated many children to the country, but some remained in London and many of those were orphans. Some were sheltered in a Jesuit order of brothers, who noticed the children had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, night after night. When the children were being put to bed one night, one of the brothers guessed the children’s problem was that they were anxious because of uncertainty in their lives, and gave each child a small piece of bread, saying something like this –

“Hold on to your piece of bread while you are sleeping. Remember  when you woke up this morning, we fed you and took care of you. When you wake up tomorrow, and we will be here for you. Let the bread remind you of this. Good night, children.” The children slept.

Come, to be comforted
in the story of Bethlehem,
and in this the House of Bread.
Come to be comforted at this table
by a handful of bread
and a cup of love,
that will stay with you always.

Words of Remembering

O, we remember God’s promises
of Emmanuel, and a branch of Jesse’s root,
of Leader, Wisdom, Monarch,
Key of all that is locked,
and Dawn of every morning.

And we remember the sacred story,
that happened in the House of Bread  
for a new mother
and a fostering father,
sheep and shepherds,
a few wise travelers with gifts
and many, many angels.

And we remember that the baby
named Jesus,
grew up to heal people,
and teach them with strange parables,
that made people angry.

At Passover he broke unleavened bread.
and poured wine and love freely.
that all may live in peace,
and be comforted,
and be led in peace,
and also hope and joy and love,
with all the world.

Prayer of Consecration

 Emmanuel, God with us,
in our lonely nights, under our guiding stars,
with the hopes and fears of all our years,
we come for comfort,
for peace of mind and peace on earth,
for a blessing on our hands and the bread in them,
on our lips and the cup we lift to it.

 (in silence or with music playing –
breaking, touching or lifting the bread,
pouring, touching or lifting the cup)

May this bread and cup be your holy Life,
that we may ponder in our hearts,
and pray in our community …

 Prayer of our Savior … Amen

Sharing of the Elements

Leader:            The Holy Child of Bethlehem descends to us,
Unison:           and is born in us in these days.
Leader:            Let us share the bread.

Unison:           We hear the Christmas angels  
                          their great glad tidings tell. 
Leader:            Let us drink deeply, Christ abides with us.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

 God, we give you thanks that you have come to us – in the child of Bethlehem, in this bread and cup, and in your answer to all of our hopes and your offer of peace, deeper than any truce, truer than the upheaval that surrounds us. You have comforted us with your promise and your presence so that we too may spread the welcome wings of your good tidings. Amen.

* I don’t know where the story of the children in London came from. Perhaps it was from my father, a Veteran of the European Theatre in World War II, or from a childhood children’s sermon or some magazine I read when I was new in ministry. I have not been able to trace it online, and understood it as truth, perhaps not fully clothed in fact.

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Thanksgiving, 2020

I am thinking about Martin Rinkart
who wrote the hymn,
‘Now Thank We All our God,’
while trying to be a pastor
during the thirty years war
and a plague
when he prayed the funeral service
for  forty to fifty people a day –
refugees, bodies piling up
from the illness, and his wife.

Among my personal … hearts
and hands and voices,
are my father-in-law,
sitting at our Thanksgiving table
one year and asked
to share a memory of this day,
lifting up
from a deep childhood place

how his sister Mary died,
1918, year of the influenza,
and the city
hung a sign on their front door,
“quarantine, no one enter.”

And I remember a November
when we sang,
“from our mother’s arms
has blessed us on our way”
as I said good-bye to mine
and brought the box of ashes home
to mix with my father.

And yet this year
of the subdued Thanksgiving,
small gatherings,
clouds gathering over the ocean
to darken the very brightness
of cranberries,
and so much loss and fear,

this year when the words –
I cannot breathe,
were what everything meant,

this year we still can count
some “wondrous things,”
small ones perhaps,
for each of us different moments,

and we can know today,
according to
the old weeping hymn writer,
there are countless gifts of love,
when we walk together,
but with compassion’s six feet
between us,
on the blessed path.

I am so grateful to Nancy Arthur Guest for this photograph.

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Guest Post …. Hope by Karen Wallin Usas

During this year 2020, we all have seen many posts, satires, scary stories and cartoons displaying our anxiety as well as our dreams for a better tomorrow. I think the one word that stands out for me in all this turmoil is the simplest one, hope. When we imagine what the meaning of that little word hope might be for each of us, I think we could hear many interpretations.

The Rhode Island flag — Karen is from Rhode Island

Some think hope is best represented by the last golden leaves falling even while the new leaves of iris are poking their heads up through the soil – heralding a glorious spring to come,

Or an artist in front of a blank canvas picking up her paintbrush.

Or perhaps the frantic squirrels burying and reburying acorns and beechnuts – hoping that they will remember exactly where!

Hope is possibly the new vaccine on the horizon which will begin the process of healing for populations around the world.

Hope might be about the reentry of this country into international organizations which tackle common problems like food insecurity, economic inequity and climate change.

What about the cry of a newborn baby or the peaceful protest of black & brown voices, or noisy sparrows at the feeder outside my window,

Or just knowing the certainty of the monarch butterfly’s return migration?

Hope may be the promise of forgiveness in our hearts of all whose families have been torn apart by political rancor and violence.

Sometimes hope is as elusive as whisps of clouds signaling rain in parched lands or as determined as the belief our team can and will win the game.

Or it can be the reaction we have to a wonderous piece of music, the example of a stroke patient learning to walk again, or to the amazing feat of a rock climber on Half Dome.

Hope, like faith, is what we hold onto in times of trouble, … those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

And hope can be found in the story of a child born in a humble manger during very turbulent times over two thousand years ago.

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The Work of Advent (after Howard Thurman)

On Mondays I will be sharing a poem from my new seasonal book, Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems.

I’ve been busy this last week taking books around to Independent booksellers — here is a photo of me in the wonderful Gibson’s Book Store in Concord, New Hampshire. River Run in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and “A Little Something” gift store in South Berwick, Maine, are also carrying it and more will do so when Ingram begins shipping.

I have also been learning Facebook Live where I offer a ten minute reading on Tuesdays at 11:00 EST.

Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems is available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, while some other platforms (Amazon Books, Kobo, Ingram etc.) are still in pre-sale mode for those who don’t mind waiting. For a print book immediately please follow this link https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Christmas-Eve-at-the-Epsom-Circle-McDonalds-and-Other-Poems

These Monday poems hope to give you a preview of the book. The rest of my blog week will continue with my normal posts.

Howard Thurman is the inspiration for this reflection on the work of Advent in this season of coronavirus.

The Work of Advent

When the carols of choirs are stilled,

when so many dear ones are gone
it seems like the stars
have blinked their tears into darkness,

when the year has kept so many home
and endangered the homes
of so many others,

when the shepherds of the year
are health care workers,
and, like those flock-keepers long ago,
those in essential but poorly-honored jobs,

the work of Advent begins:

to find the grieving, the fearful, the lost,

to heal those broken in spirit
with the story of an unexpected hope
in another time of great danger,

to feed, clothe, shelter, employ,
those financially insecure,

to release the prisoner –
especially those
in immigration detention,

to rebuild all the nations,
because the epiphany is
that gifts come
not out of our own chimneys
but from strangers who live far away,

to become stable-makers that shelter
peace, health, wisdom
and care for the earth itself,

to sing the carols in our homes
and teach the words and maybe one tune
to someone, perhaps a child,
who longs for a new harmony.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, 2020

God, we pray today in thanksgiving
for all who are called forth like Lazarus,
born again like Nicodemus,
take off armor that does not fit them, like David,
more than a year caring
for a beautiful body, like Esther,
and, dressed for the street,
yet carrying a water jug,
go among us all like the one who led Jesus
to the Upper Room.

These are your new creation,
and their true being cannot be taken away.

Now we weep, weep, weep,
for those murdered this year,
their lives taken from those who love them,
their future gifts taken from all of us.

We weep, weep, weep,
that in the year
of the unintentional dying by a virus,
human has killed human,
your holy Image in your child,
denied and destroyed.

Gentle Potter, hold these who have died
by violent transphobia in your hands.
Break those of us living
at your wheel, and, moistened by your weeping,
mold us into love. amen

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Improv on Matthew 25: 41-46

Then the One in the story,
never intended for condemnation,
but to teach a new way of living,
said to those who give a bad name
to any of God’s creatures,
but especially the ones with dancing hooves
who love their own kids …

“I was a server with a hungry family,
and, because it was curbside,
you didn’t bother to tip.”

“I was thirsty for a phone call,
but you scolded me for not figuring
out Zoom and livestream
to take advantage of the church’s
wonderful programming.”

“I was vulnerable as a naked child,
and you exercised
your (Satan-given) right
not to wear a mask.”

“I was a teacher
(you knew from your older child
who had hours of after-school help),
but suddenly I was the stranger
you publicly blamed
your seven-year-old’s
virtual school year.”  

“I was in the hospital
and you unfriended me
because, you know, contact tracing.”

“Well, it wasn’t prison,
though it felt that way,
behind my plexiglass shield all day
scanning your purchases,
and you never even said, ‘hello.’”

The ones who were certainly human
said, “When did we see you …
hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick or in prison?”

And the Storyteller said, That’s the point.”

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Follow Your Nose (guest post re-blogged from Tuesday’s Muse today)

This poem makes me so very happy. Willie the beagle is looking at me askance but I am remembering Shady who was with us before Will. She had been cut off a chain where she was a guard dog much abused at a crack house by animal activists who needed to get her out of state. She too was slow to be near, she too raised her nose, she too taught us so much about living. I’ve never tried the “re-blog” before but this poem by Todd Jenkins touched me and I love this for my “guest” post this week.

tuesdaysmuse

   She showed up five years ago, just as our last family canine was leaning hard toward Rainbow Bridge;   keeping her distance at first, wary of us all in the way an abused spouse cringes at the thought of her tormentor showing up at the door in the middle of the night.   Eventually, when our old girl had been relieved of her misery and laid to rest in the tear-stained hole at the back corner of the yard,   she began to slowly sidle up, risking taking a snack or eating from the bowl after we retreated into the house.   Now, it’s hard to remember a time without her, a time when she didn’t take her nose and flip up your elbow if you sat, ignoring her when she needed your attention.   Oftentimes, when we walk through the woods, she stops, closes her eyes, and lifts…

View original post 133 more words

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Thanksgiving song “Bringing in the Sheaves”

Sowing is essential, sowing comes in worship,
when we face the questions other people leave.
Virtual the scripture, digital the offering –
God of every harvest helps us find the sheaves.

(Refrain)Bringing in the sheaves, hope and grace received,
some of us believing, some of us bereaved.
Lifting up the sheaves, we cannot be deceived,
Our joy against the virus, we celebrate our sheaves.

Sowing cares for children, giving seeds of loving,
then we reach for weary folk and the ones who grieve.
We feast at smaller tables, but hearts are open wider,
Masked, we live compassion, bringing in the sheaves.

(Refrain) Bringing in the sheaves, every grain retrieved –
folks who feel Good Friday, and others — Christmas Eve.
Apart we’re still together and name our new perceiving –
when we choose rejoicing, our life is full of sheaves!

(Not perfect scan, but a celebration for US Thanksgiving, reaching back to Psalm 126 and the old chestnut of a hymn.)

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Prayer for Central America – Hurricane Iota

God, who lets us track no storm alone,
we pray for Central America,
already devastated by Eta,
and facing Iota’s winds and floods.

We pray for Honduras and Nicaragua,
battered again today,
with more loss and mudslides
and the dangers of shelters in pandemic,
and we pray for the Bay Islands
Providencia and San Andreas,
islands where no hurricane
has ever struck before,
who face this totally unprepared.

We pray for today’s rescuers
where there is flash flooding,
storm surge and fear,
and we pray for those grieving
the hurricane losses of both storms,
in this upheavaled November,

for Florida, the Carolinas,
Virginia, Panama, Guatemala,
El Salvador, the Yucatán, Jamaica
Cuba, the Cayman Islands.

We pray for all the tomorrows
of rebuilding and feeding,
caring for the injured
and those endangered by virus,

for we know that not an Iota,
ever will path away from your love,

which comes with a landfall of hope
for this year of huge storms
and for the smallest child
hunting in the rubble for a toy.

amen

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Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems

I am excited to announce my new seasonal book, Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems.

A few years ago I experienced a “bun and run” Christmas Eve at that New Hampshire establishment before rushing off to lead a candlelight service. Sitting alone, I watched the young workers and a few other diners filled with anticipation and longing to get where they wanted to be that night. 

This year I looked over my recent work to gather poems for a volume that would eventually include as diverse a “menu” as family and congregational memories, naming the no-room of injustices in our time, a personal journey through Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (long time blog readers have seen some of this chapter), and reflections on the pandemic inspired by Narnia, Silent Night, and the work of Howard Thurman. I decided the criteria for choosing would be the feeling of connection with ordinary lives I had that night with the thick shake, fries and a view into other lives.

Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems is available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, while some other platforms (Amazon Books, Kobo, Ingram etc.) are still in pre-sale mode for those who don’t mind waiting. For a print book immediately please follow this link here https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Christmas-Eve-at-the-Epsom-Circle-McDonalds-and-Other-Poems

Beginning tomorrow, November 17, (day 2 of Celtic Advent) and following Tuesdays, I will be reading a poem at 11:00 AM EST using Facetime Live. I will also be publishing a different poem every week on Mondays here, to give you a preview of the book. The rest of my blog week will continue with my more normal posts.

So, my friends, who may need some light-heartedness, this is probably the silliest of my poems, which can, of course, be sung to the familiar tune:

Mask on the red-nosed reindeer

Mask on the red-nosed reindeer,
gloves on the packing elves,
fewer the presents this year –
making happy gifts ourselves.

All of the former christmas’
used to boast of food and toys.
More isn’t always better:
loving doesn’t come with noise.

2020 Christmas Eve
leads us all to say –
“Anyone with heart on right,
guide us to the true starlight.”

Then on a Christmas morning,
wrapped and bowed in simple fun –
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
can be found in anyone.

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