When I was singing that song

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” 9th century, Latin

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
to those who are grieving
in this holy season.

Come to watchers of an empty chair,
to those cannot bake, much less taste
the sweetness in cookies,
to those embarrassed by tears
in public places,
tossed sleepless when alone,
and counting days till the season,
soaked like a damned fruitcake in memory,
is finally past.

Come, Dayspring, come and cheer,
our spirits by your true advent –
full of fear and loss,
and your absolute ungodlike fragility.
Sit with us, so we are not so lonely,
or, if we are lonely – don’t feel guilty about it.

Remind us that the manger
is really the ultimate Easter moment,
which is about hay, not lilies —
and that, after Bethlehem,
death no longer even had a chance!
amen

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Stations of the Crèche Communion — December 4, 2022

Many thanks to Mark Saline who wrote describing a service he called, “Stations of Christmas.” That, I am sure was a more encompassing service, but the suggestion inspired me to write using multiple voices and the images of the Crèche, stuck for a Communion liturgy. There are twelve very small speaking parts … A faith community could invite twelve people to speak or six people to speak twice, four people to speak three times, three people to speak four times, two people to alternate, or one person to lead while one other lifts up objects from a crèche. Hard to ask for (organize) more readers in this busy season? I suggest giving it as a second responsibility to those lighting an Advent wreath or singing in the choir.  

Stations of Welcome (Three speakers)

1)Come to this table, for you are welcomed by a star,
that guides even those who feel lost,
even those who feel distant from the oasis of “church,”
and those who need someone to receive their gifts.

2) Come to this table, for you are welcomed by an innkeeper,
who recognizes that no “room” always means
finding another kind of space,
and who can do magic with life’s leftovers
to feed hungry, tired shepherds.

3) Come to this table, for you are welcomed by a manger,
friendly beasts in the story – cow, dove, donkey, lambs,
any holy memory of a companion animal you’ve known.

Stations of Remembering (Three speakers)

1) On the Advent journey, we remember a family said, “yes” –
Mary, who would feed the Child of God,
as we are fed by this sacrament,
and Joseph, who loved her,
and built tables like this one for a whole town,

2) On the Advent journey, we remember
Elizabeth who sheltered Mary
in a time of rejection
and Zechariah who learned silence,
as they carried their own God-given child,
We let Communion
nurture our hope and teach us love.

3) On the Advent journey, we remember
the Magnificat,
how Jesus lived that song in ministry
and the indiscriminate love
of a Passover bread and cup for all.

Prayer of Consecration (One speaker)

Word made flesh and gift divine,
who offers us hope, peace, joy and love,
all the year long,
we pray for your Spirit
of starlight and Gloria,
upon these gifts which are ours and yours,
even as our lives are yours and ours,
today and always. amen.

Sharing of the Elements (One or Two speakers)

This gift is more precious than gold – eat this bread and be rich inside.

Amen

This gift is poured out like myrrh – drink this cup and know you are precious in God’s sight.

Amen.

Station/s of Thanksgiving (Three speakers or as one prayer in unison)

1) Gracious God, we give thanks for your messages that feel like angels, care that is like a shepherd, and the joy to the world in gathering around this table in this season of waiting.

2) Strengthened by this meal, may we notice and care for all those who are rejected, unhoused, fleeing for their lives from danger without and within.

3) As we go forth, O Holy One, may it truly be by another way. amen.

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Prayer for Indonesia in this time of earthquakes

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For all of those grieving family and friends,
the at least sixty-two people,
who have died in the West Java earthquake,
and for those who are searching
for so many who are missing.
Tuhan dalam belas kasihanmu, dengarkan doa kami

For five thousand who have been displaced
and more than two thousand homes destroyed
in Cianjur alone.
Tuhan dalam belas kasihanmu, dengarkan doa kami.

For more than seven hundred injured
and especially those still trapped,
and for all who are working to free them
or care for them in hospitals.
Tuhan dalam belas kasihanmu, dengarkan doa kami.

For those hurt unhoused, without work,
those in care facilities, in schools, traveling,
through sixty-five slightly weaker earthquakes
of the last twenty-four hours,
and those who worry where the next tremor
will crack the earth.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Amen.

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A Simple Advent Wreath Ceremony for 2022

For house gatherings or church gathering … or anyone late, like me, in preparation anywhere … this photo is Second Christian Congregational United Church of Christ in Kittery, Maine from an earlier year, focusing on “telling the story.” In 2022 the liturgy lifts up the numbers of weeks and candles and how we come to this season, alone, with those dear to us, with church or faith connections and as all the world.

First Sunday in Advent

Leader:            On the first Advent Sunday, we light one candle.

                        Each one of us comes to Advent and Christmas alone,

                        weary or with worry, lonely, excited, confused,

                        eager for old traditions or new experiences.

Second Leader or People                   

                        We light the one candle of hope, (pause, light)

                        reminding ourselves

                        we embrace a season that is different

                        for each one of us.                 

Leader:            In John’s gospel Jesus tells Nicodemus

                        that we each must be born again.

People / SL     Emmanuel, God be with us, in the week to come.

                        Ignite hope, the most personal emotion there is,  

                        on the wick of each of our lives, so we find others. Amen 
              

Second Sunday in Advent

Leader:            On the Second Advent Sunday, we light two candles.

                        We come to this season with those precious to us,

                        gifts of peace God has unwrapped in our lives –

                        family or friend, near or distant, living or remembered.

People / SL:    We light a candle of our deepest hopes (pause, light)

                        and a candle for the peace we have learned

                        from one or more whom we trust. (pause,light)

Leader:            Isaiah the prophet looks to a time

                        when people who walk in uncertainty

                        will hold hands and walk forward

                        with God’s starlight to guide.

People / SL:    Emmanuel, God be with us, in the week to come.

                        Touch a flame of hope and peace on the wick of our lives

                        so that we may shine all around us. Amen

Third Sunday in Advent

Leader:            On the Third Advent Sunday, we light three candles,

                        celebrating the community of faith,

                        those we know and many we may never meet

                        who turn their hearts to the manger story.

People / SL:    We light a candle of our deep hope (pause, light)

                        and a candle for the peace we have learned

                        from our close relationships, (pause, light)

                        and a candle of sheer joy

                        that God-with-us includes faithful people

                        of all times and places.

Leader:            In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminded us

                        that many would come to table from east and west,

                        north and south, to share a menu of joy.

People / SL:    Emmanuel, God be with us, in the week to come.

                        Bless our hopes, strengthen our peace,

                        stir the embers of joy into a simple smile      

                        and the unexpected laughter of togetherness. amen

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Leader:            On the Fourth Advent Sunday, we light four candles,

                        so bright we see all the world around us –

                        and feel, not crowded but amazingly loved.

People/ SL:     We light a candle of deep hope (pause, light)

                        peace shared, (pause and light)

                        joy like fireworks of the heart (pause, light)

                        and now a candle of love connecting all people,

                        all creatures, earth, air, ocean wave,

                        with the Story of a Bethlehem warming shelter

                        and angel wings. (pause,light)

Leader:            In the gospel of Luke, Jesus called children,

                        welcomed the outcast and the guilty,

                        celebrated those on the edges,

                        and taught with parables of seed and stone.

People / SL:    Emmanuel, God be with us in the week to come

                        lighting hope, peace, joy, and love on the wick of our lives,

                        so that we may all be known as windows

                        for your unconditional welcome for all. Amen.

Christmas Eve – Lighting the Christ Candle (use as many or few readers/leaders)

We have gathered with candles in our homes
and often a wreath in a sanctuary to reflect on Advent.

We claim that Emmanuel, God with us
is the Light of the World,
and that there is no sadness, shame, or grief,
no fear of virus, no loneliness or violence,
no word of unkindness, act of war,
that can quench the Light of the World.

Let us light these candles again on this holy night.

I light the candle of hope,
my deepest hope and your deepest hope
Now there is no place hopelessness can hide. (light candle)

I light the candle of peace,
beginning with trust of another
and reaching out till there is no war
or threat of war. (light candle)

I light the candle of joy,
suddenly every faith community
stretches in a smile, breathes in beauty,
learns to sing and to laugh. (light candle)

I light the candle of love,
and hands are clasped around the world. (light candle)
My friends, we all light the Christ candle. Pray with me.

O Holy God, we light the Christ candle.
It shines on smiles and tears.
It shines on younger and older.
It shines and we hear angels.
It shines and we see a manger.
It shines and we remember the story.

This light cannot be extinguished,
because, Emmanuel,
you are the candle tonight,
and we promise to be world-lighters in your name
for tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow.

Amen.

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Prayer for Club Q shooting, Colorado Springs

Holy One, now is the crown broken
on this Realm of Christ Sunday,
in the terrible loss of your children–

for all the reinterpretation
of how to shape community
is set aside and the lineage
of crucifixion wins,
passing on to those, like you,
who challenge all the narrow loves.

We pray for families and friends weeping,
for those in Penrose Hospital
and UC Health Memorial Hospital
and those who care for them.

And we pray for all who were there
whose lives will always
be shadowed by fear.

On our annual commemoration
of Transgender Remembrance
for so many killed this year,
this thanksgrieving time
of gratitude for their lives,
and grieving for their loss,

we open our hearts to you,
victim of violence,
risen into hope – appear for those
who wake this morning
with broken hearts.

amen

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“Imagine, if You Will” Guest Post by Rev. Barbara K. Peronteau

                                                                                   

I am so very honored to share this poem by Rev. Barbara K. Peronteau for Transgender Remembrance Day as we hold in our hearts with sadness the memories of those dear to us or unknown to us who have died this year unjustly at the hands of violence.

~ Rev. Barbara K. Peronteau

Imagine, if you will

You are 5 years old

                        It’s a dark and stormy night

                                    It’s your Kindergarten Holiday Party

                                                You’re wearing stiff shoes that do not bend at the toes.

                                                Stiff Corduroys that do not bend at the knees

                                                A stiff white shirt that doesn’t bend at the elbows.

You find the cookies and the punch bowl with Ginger Ale and Red Hawaiian Punch

            with a cookie the shape of a Christmas tree in one hand,

                        and a cup of punch in the other

            The door opens

                        Outside, the leaves are blowing and dancing all over the place

                                    The rain is coming down sideways

            The door closes

                        There stands She in front of her mother

                                      Wearing a chalky blue coat with dark blue faux fur around

                                                            the hem,

the sleeves,

the hood

                        Her mother pulls the hood off

                                    Bends down 

unbuttons the coat and slides it off.

                        She is wearing white patten leather shoes with ruffled anklet socks

                                    Her dress is white chiffon embellished with eyelets

                                    Her hair is the color of gossamer wings

                                    And her eyes the color of a clear blue summer day.

            Imagine, if you will, that in that very moment you knew.

                                    You knew you were wearing the wrong clothes

                                    You knew you wanted hair like Hers

                                                And a dress like Hers

                                    You wanted to be Her

                                                Only to be you  

            Imagine, if you will, what would happen if you told anyone.

                        Imagine the beatings.

                        Imagine the belt.

                        Imagine the anger

                        Imagine the shame.

            Imagine what every dream and every fantasy was like before you went to bed.

                        For the first 10 years after the Lord’s Prayer and all your God Blesses

Before you closed your eyes you prayed

                                                God when I wake up

                                                            Please, please, let me wake up as a girl.

                                                                        Say the word

                                                                        Send your minions of angels

                                                                        Blink

                                                                        Whatever it is that you do to be God – do that

                                    Then, one day, you realize that prayer doesn’t work that way

                                                But still, every night

                                                            The dreams

                                                            The fantasies

                                                            The hopes

                                                            The prayers anyway

                                    Imagine that for the next 40 years

                                                In the back of your mind

Sometimes in the front of your mind

            There was always

                                    Someday

            Imagine, if you will, going clothes shopping for school.

                        Mom takes you over to the boy’s department

                                    As you stare wistfully

                                                            hopefully

                                                                        at the girl’s department

            Imagine, if you will,

                        A tennis bracelet

                                    Dangly earrings

                                                A turquoise sweater dress.

                                                                                    Imagine.

            Imagine being told the deepest part of your identity is wrong

                        Because your inner identity doesn’t match one of your body parts.

                               And so, you live your life in a way that would make everyone else happy,

Everyone but you.

            Imagine living your life like it’s a double exposure

                                    Nothing lines up.

                                                Nothing ever will.

                                                                        Imagine.

Imagine that day

                        When you can no longer put one foot in front of the other.

Something’s got to give.

            Imagine entering the kitchen one morning

                                                                        For Coffee.

                                                                                    All you want is coffee

                        The presence of God fills the room

                                                                        God asks

                                                                                  A simple question

                                                Who do think you’re fooling?

                                    I know exactly who are.

                                                                        Says God

                                                I made you

                                                            I have loved you since your Baptism.

                                                                                                            And I will never ever let you go.

                        Go. Be you.

                                    I knit you together in your mother’s womb.

                                                                        You are awesomely made.

                                                                                                You have Grace.

                                                                                                            You are loved.

                                                                                                                        Go, be you.

Imagine the excitement,

                                    the courage

the freedom,

            the sheer Joy!

Imagine after 50 years of hiding, pretending,

Imagining,

 Praying

                                                            You are free to be you

                                                                        That childhood prayer came true.

                                                                                                            Someday finally arrived.

Imagine, if you will, in the dark halls of men’s minds there is a plot to erase you.

                                                                                    To block you from your very being.

Imagine the ignorance

                        Intentional

                                    Hatred.           

                        You are illegal, they say.

                                    Your parents are abusers, they say.

                                                            You are illegal

                                                                        Your parents are criminals

                                                                                    And so is the medical establishment.

                                                                                                                        For we know better

                                                                                                And, no, you can’t use the bathroom

Imagine you know who you are.

            Imagine your dreams

                        Imagine your hopes   

Imagine being erased by the very institutions

you expect would be there to encourage and protect you.

                                                                                                Imagine, if you will, no more.  

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Reflection on Jeremiah 23:1-6

I want to say, “woe to the shepherds,”
and name the ones who scatter
so many lives so ruthlessly –
the one who declares
a new run for shepherdhood,
and laughs, lips moist,
at a shearing too deep, too often
of those most vulnerable
at the lamb-stew
of so very many lives,

also the one across the ocean
who has invaded with massive death
another sheepfold, focusing often
on the ewes and lambs,
trying to batter
the very sunflowers down,
and whose own sheep flee
rather than fighting …

I should stop my self-righteous
shaking of the crook
and become myself committed  
to the gathering of remnant people
wherever they are found,
naming the safety of all – my safety.

Let me celebrate these beautiful gifts –
the wool that is given,
the lost that are found,
practice peacemaking with wolves,
so often kinder than false shepherds,
listen carefully to angels,

lean on the Branch of strength.

Onderdonk, Julian, 1882-1922. Dawn in the HIlls, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57231 [retrieved November 16, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julian_Onderdonk_(1882-1922)_-_Dawn_In_The_Hills_(1922).jpg.

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Improv on Isaiah 65:17-22

For God will gather many people
to create newly bright skies, clean water,
and partner with earth itself.
The former emissions, violent weather,
damaged environment, ravaging pandemic,
will not be remembered
except as a warning of the past.

There will be rejoicing forever
in what is co-created;
for God blesses all sacred places
of indigenous peoples,
and welcomes everyone to be delight. 
Even in our poor Palestine,
Palestinian and Israeli pray hand in hand.
No more will weeping follow explosion,
gunfire respond to a rock thrown,
or the grieving for children
undo all the scriptures of the world. 

No more will there be in this future
an infant die of RSV,
older person be shunned for dementia,
for vaccines will be available to all,
and everyone honored
for the present, not only the past.

No one will ever be unhoused,
except those who wish it,
and everyone will touch earth
with their hands, eat clean food,
celebrate healthy farmworkers.
There will be no foreclosure, no monopoly,
and food will not be grown only
for wealthy people in countries far away.

For like the days of a tree
will the days of God’s people be,
wide with rings of community,
deep with many roots of faith,
dancing with the leaves of joy,

for both great branches and tiny twigs
will be chosen to grow in the sun.

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Free Short Stories for the Holidays to Come

“I Could Murder a Pecan Pie” and “All I Really Want for Christmas is You…to Avoid a Misdemeanor” are holiday prequels to the novel Death at Fair Havens, published by Brain Mill Press. It is a chance to get to know our two detectives before they start dodging murders. You do not need to have read Death at Fair Havens, but if you haven’t, we hope reading the stories will send you to the library or the bookstore. If you are already a friend to the sleuthing pair, we hope you enjoy getting to know them better and encourage your friends and …well, anyone you meet … to try the stories and read the book!

Death in the Woods, the second in the Rev and Rye Mystery Series, will be released by Brain Mill Press in fall 2023.

The third novel is under contract … no title yet but more news coming.

Purchase your copy of Death at Fair Havens at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BookshopPowells, or straight from our wonderful publishers at Brain Mill Press.

Maria Mankin and I are happy to share a fictional getaway from whatever keeps you busy and wish you joys for the holiday season!

Here is the link to Book Funnel to get your free copy in any electronic format and (for luddites like me) even a PDF for the computer

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/e38tgr80kz

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November 8, 2022

I rose to see the Beaver Blood Moon
and watched the passing
of the lunar eclipse, reflecting
on the people here
who named it – Beaver,
who watched the dark rusty red
like dried blood
cross the surface,
as earth, sun and moon lined up
long before the settler-people came.

Last time till 2025, say news sources,
“unique,” “interesting.”

I watch it to remember times past
when it was seen,
and affirm the descendants
of the indigenous ones
who live in the present.

And I watch it to consider
this lining up of important things
we call an election –
and where the shadows will fall,

and who will be naming
the eclipses of days to come.

Beaver Blood Moon Reuters, public domain

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