Sunday, December 28, 2008

Prayer - December 28, 2008

O God of Christmas Joy … for the birth of your Son, we give you thanks … for coming to us - rather than asking us to find you somewhere, you have found us … you have come to us in grace and peace … in a way that frightens no one … just a baby wrapped in simple blankets … in a place out of the way … a gentle place, a place that asks very little of us, and gives so very much.

We join the heavenly chorus … Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom God favors …

And is there anyone, O God, whom you do not favor?
Any human being so low that your hand cannot reach?
A soul so devastated that it’s beyond redemption?
A life so wasted that there’s no hope?

You favor all the world, O God …
You are at work in all things for good …

And though our world seems filled with demons …
The hatred of a man killing family and friends … and ending his own life …
The smoke of war hanging over Gaza this morning …
Pakistani troops massing on the border with India …
Folks losing their jobs …
Losing their homes …
Sadness for so many …

LORD, we’re not going to pretend …
Because you don’t pretend.
You’ve never pretended about this world of ours.
You’ve never worn rose-colored glasses …
You’ve never stuck your head in the sand …

That’s why you came to us, O God …
Prepared to give the greatest gift of all …
Your life offered up for our life …
A love so divine …
A love so pure …
A love to make all things new …

LORD, we’re a part of that effort …
We give our lives anew to you …
Each one of us, as best we can …

Deliver us from fear and frustration …
From loneliness and suspicion …
From anger and anxiety …

LORD, we do not ask that such things never come our way …
They will, and they do …
But only ask your help …
That such things not overwhelm us …

Nor do we ask for a faith greater than these things …
That would be too much …
We ask only for faith the size of a mustard seed …
For such faith is more than enough …

May all gathered here this day be encouraged …
May the young find a light to follow for the rest of their lives …
May the aged find fresh purpose … and a great hope for the glory still to come …
May the tired find some strength …
May those who’ve been hurt by others find some healing …
Make us adequate, we pray, for the needs of the day …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come …

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 21, 2008

It’s Advent, LORD, and we’re waiting … waiting as your people of old … we’ve counted the weeks … today is Advent 4 … the end is upon us … this week brings us to Christmas … and how our hearts sing with the ancient choir that greeted and startled the shepherds in the hills …

We, too, are startled by it all … that you, the Great God Almighty, set aside your robes of blue to be wrapped in simple blankets and laid in a manger … a simple setting to frighten no one … no pomp, no circumstance … a kindness beyond all measure … so that everyone, from shepherds to kings, from the common to the uncommon … from the powerful to the powerless … would all be welcomed … a place for everyone … no one intimidated, no one embarrassed for want of position or wealth …

We thank you for such grace … a place for each of us …

Help us all, we pray, to be Christmas people … to hear the sounds of angels … to see the guiding star … to bow the knee to the child of Bethlehem … to worship and adore … to follow his journey …

From Bethlehem to Nazareth … from Nazareth to the Jordan … and on to Jerusalem … to the cross … to the darkest regions of the heart … as far away as hell itself … to bring light and peace to every realm …

With Mary his mother, our souls magnify you, and we rejoice in our Savior … for he has looked with favor upon us …

O LORD our God, we are yours … though a thousand gods lay claim to our life, a thousand needs and a thousand dreams … we are yours … and we wouldn’t have it any other way …

In your goodness, we find our goodness …
In your light, we see light …
In your love, we become loving …

We pray today for your church … that her message be clear and her faith be strong … that your people be drawn together in a greater unity … that in these days of danger and opportunity, the gospel of hope may inspire us all …

Send us out from this high hour of worship to be fearless and faithful citizens of your kingdom … bearing witness to the grace of Christ our LORD …

Like the shepherds of old, O God,
Come and visit us we pray …
We’re ready and we’re needy …

And we’re ready to follow …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 14, 2008

To be a people of hope, O God … that’s our prayer … to live deeply into your love, to cast our burdens upon you … to trust you in all things, to trust you for good …

But even as we confess our faith and celebrate your love, O God, we’re not na├»ve … we don’t live in an imaginary world where love always wins and faith conquers all … it’s not that way, LORD … you know it, and we know it, too.

We’re bound together, not only by joy, but in suffering, too … life has so many dark chapters; help us, O God, to be real … to be real … for one another, and for ourselves, LORD … to offer sympathy and understanding to our own soul … to be kind to ourselves … and kind to one another …

Help us, we pray, to be real in our faith, hope and love …

To know that you came to us … to be with us along the way – in the best of times, of course … but in the worst of times, too … God with us … Emmanuel … born in a stable, visited by shepherds … not princes and places, but just plain people …

LORD, there are times when our faith stumbles, when we can barely hang on … but we came here this morning … because something inside of us doesn’t give up … there’s a song in the deeps of our spirit …

A miracle … you hang on to us … though our faith wanes, your love for us only grows stronger … your love, unconditional and without requirement … always and forever.

As each of us travels our own road, O God, remind us that you travel with us …

We bring to you this day our world … a cacophony of voices – strident and sweet, weary and winsome, angry and kind …

We’re mindful of the economic stress confronting millions … we feel the pinch, too … it’s disconcerting, frightening, saddening …

But we’re here, LORD, because we believe … we believe in you and we believe in Jesus our LORD … we believe in love and we believe in goodness … and we’ll not give up, LORD, not matter what … because you don’t give up … you know what it is to be rejected … you know suffering through and through … you know the pain of the soul, for your own souls suffers amidst the sorrows of creation … but you don’t and won’t give up.

Touch us, this day, with the gift of your Holy Spirit – your love deep within us – a loyalty to great causes that death cannot stop and wrong will not conquer. Make us the church in the best sense of that word – generous and kind, open and welcoming … Covenant on the Corner … a place for all!

Surprise someone with hope who at this moment has not dared to hope … make radiant some soul that has not expected it … bring life to someone for whom tears have been a companion … and for someone in the grip of darkness, bless them with enough light to get them through the night …

We thank you for this Advent Season … a time of waiting and watching … we know not when, we know not how, but we know and believe that your love comes to us … that every moment is filled with Advent Promise, that watching and waiting will bring its reward …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 7, 2008

LORD of the nations … LORD of the world … to whom all creatures belong, great and small …

We thank you …

For the gift of life … it’s good to be here … to be alive … to love and be loved … to receive and to give …

For the gift of Jesus …
For the fellowship of faith …
For Covenant on the Corner …

For Mary and Joseph, for the Inn Keeper and the Shepherds … for this remarkable story …

O God of heaven and earth, we find ourselves in this story … something important, something utterly good … something eternal and forever … your love for us, and the hope that our love for one another could transcend the boundaries of hatred and fear … that your love for us could change us so that we can change the world …

On this 7th day of December, we remember a moment in time when nation attacked nation … when the demons of war had their way with the world … we’re mindful of all the suffering that day unleashed … and the countless millions who paid the highest price … we remember them today, and continue to pray for those who made it through, only to carry with them deep sorrow and hard memories …

We pray for peace, O God … that women and men around the world will join together for the sake of humanity … to preserve this creation of yours – to be our brother’s keeper – to watch over one another, to lift up one another … to be large-hearted and broad-minded – to see with the eyes of Christ … to see the world from the perspective of the cross … to give ourselves all the more for the sake of Christ and the healing of the nations …

Bless us, we pray, in this season … with conscience … the blessing of a mission, the blessing of a purpose, to take us beyond ourselves …

Bless Covenant, O God, with such purpose … with a vision high and grand … a vision of your world … as it should be, as it will be … and to devote ourselves all the more to following Jesus our LORD, embracing his love and work …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Merry Christmas ... or Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas … or is it Happy Holidays?

There was a time when I was reluctant to say Happy Holidays, but I’ve changed.

Sure, I love Christmas and all that it means … and Christ is very much a part of my life.

But I like the fact that we live in a huge country with lots of different peoples and religions, perspectives and philosophies … and a lot of holidays during this time of the year.

When it comes to language, it’s important for me to be thoughtful and make timely shifts.

Like when I shifted my race language: from Negro to Black, and now mostly to African American.

And when I shifted from “mankind” to humanity, from fireman to fire fighter (a lot more exciting) and policeman to police officer, and so on.

Language changes with the times, and thoughtful people try to get ahead of the times. 

Though we often said to Mr. Lowenstein, “Merry Christmas,” and Mr. Lowenstein said it back to us, we might well say now, “Happy Hanukah” or just “Happy Holidays.” I think it’s easier, and it’s more thoughtful!

I don’t need the world to remind me that Jesus is reason for the season. No, that’s up to me, and it’s up to you, if you’re a Christian. And just saying it because we can, I don’t think that accomplishes very much. I think for some it’s just a power play, and that never feels very good to me.

As for the world, it’s right and good for me to be mindful of my Muslim and Jewish neighbors, not to mention a host of others and likely some who are professed atheists. I bear witness, not by overbearing, but with gentleness and humility; not by saying “Merry Christmas,” but by living it every day of my life.

I think that’s what language is mostly about – whether it be race or gender, or thoughtfulness about other religions and perspectives – as Micah said, “Love kindness.”

Christians can rightly say to one another, Merry Christmas, but when it comes to the salesperson behind the counter, to our neighbor who’s a Muslim, to the stranger on the street, for me, it’s Happy Holidays.

So, dear friend, Happy Holidays, to you, and for this very large world of ours. And if you’re a Christian, a very Merry Christmas!