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
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.