Advent prayer

 

Advent quilt and candles

 

Loving God, in this third week of Advent, we praise and bless your name. Together with the prophet Zephaniah, we sing aloud, we shout your praise, we rejoice and exult with all of our hearts to praise your name.

Loving God, we thank you that you are our strength and our might, that you are the source of our salvation, as the prophet Isaiah wrote.

We thank you for your loving kindness and for your mercifulness.

(pause)

We confess to you Gracious One, that for many of us this Advent season has been difficult, filled with anxiety and worry as well as grief and sorrow.

(pause)

We long for the appearance of the Christ Child. We long for your loving presence. We confess to you now our longings.

(pause)

We thank you Merciful One, for your listening, loving presence. We thank you for your continual forgiveness.

(pause)

We bring before you our requests, our concerns for others around us:

During the Advent and Christmas season we read the biblical story of Elizabeth and Mary, of Mary and Joseph, of the shepherds and the wise men.

We also read of the turmoil surrounding these people‑‑ foreign government occupation, mass relocation on account of the census, genocide of infant boys.

We are reminded that turmoil continues today throughout the Middle East. We are tempted to stop praying for peace because of the centuries‑old conflict, because of our weariness of praying for the area, because of our own lack of hope.

God of Peace and God of Justice‑‑again we pray for peace in the Middle East. We pray for an end to the fighting, the deaths, the homelessness of a people. Again God, we ask you to move on behalf of our requests‑‑we pray for your justice and we pray for your peace.

We pray for our country and for the conflicts we have here, particularly the racial divides that plague our nation. God of Peace and God of Justice‑‑we ask you to heal the racism in this country. We ask you to heal the racism in our communities. We ask you to heal the racism in our Church.

Compassionate God, we thank you for listening to our requests and moving in this world on behalf of our prayers.

(pause)

We thank you that you are in our midst, that you rejoice over us with gladness, that you will renew us in your love, and you will exult over us with loud singing.

We praise and bless your holy name.  Amen.

(Photo by Kevin Driedger. Advent quilt by June Mears Driedger)

Getting my (quilting) groove again

“A finished quilt is better than a perfect quilt.”  —Beth Ann Williams

I am in the midst of the great sewing room purge. It’s been a chaotic mess for a few years and I was resorting to creating pathways between stacks of fiber arts, quilting magazines, and piles of other stuff.

sewing roomThis corner of my sewing room isn’t quite as cluttered now.

As I was sorting through a stack of papers I came across the notes and directions from the “Storytelling in Fabric” retreats that Beth Ann Williams and I co-led for a few years. The above quote was scribbled across a retreat schedule—I remember quickly writing it after I heard Beth Ann say it. Anyone who has studied with Beth Ann knows she has a treasury of quotable quotes regarding quilt and art making. She also has sage advice on nurturing our creativity:

  • Nurture your creative spirit.
  •  Don’t neglect responsibilities, but remember that you also have a responsibility to your creative self.
  • Chores don’t always need to come first.
  • Cherish the joy of creating – whether you are preparing a meal or painting a future masterpiece.

I am also finishing up two quilts. One quilt is pieced and ready for me to pin it to the quilt batting and back.  The other quilt is for Advent and I am hand-quilting parts of it and will machine quilt the rest. My goal is to have hanging above our Advent wreath before the second Sunday of Advent.

Advent quilt WIP photo-1

It feels good to find my quilting groove again.

Also, clearing and cleaning my sewing space is giving me room to breathe and ponder new ideas for further quilts and art quilts. I’ve heard that “making a clearing” in one’s living space allows room for something new or fresh to enter or emerge. I don’t know if this is true but I am willing to open my heart to find out. 

Pinning our hopes on you, little baby (a Christmas Eve prayer)

blog post--12-24-12baby photo

We bless you, our God,
mighty sovereign power,
gentle caring mother.
You do not forget your children.

We bless you, our God,
for your great gifts to us:
creation–fragile and fascinating,
Scripture–revealing your truth.

And you bless us . . .
with your forgiving love,
with the vision of your kingdom,
shedding light in our darkness.

Bless us and disturb us God
with that vision of your kingdom,
and as we voice our hopes to you now,
may they strengthen us,
reassure us
and move us . . .

We pray for those caught up in wars around the world;
soldiers, refugees and those who hold fast
to the reasons for the fighting . . .

(Silence)

We pray for the homeless
–excluded from what the rest of us are doing,
cold, struggling to keep a hold of who they are . . .

(Silence)

We pray for those who are ill,
coping with pain, fearing the worst,
and for health professionals who plan for the future . . .

(Silence)

We pray for those people struggling in relationships,
especially at this “family time,”
when the cracks are kept just below the surface . . .

(Silence)

And for the deepest hopes of our hearts, we pray now . . .

(Silence)

Into the mess of this world a fragile child will come
yelling in the night for his mother,
needing milk and clean linen . . .

We pin our hopes on you, little baby,
our God
–pushed out into the world,
through pain and into poverty.

Our God is with us and our hope is reborn.

Amen.

–from Cloth for the Cradle:Worship resources and readings for Advent, Christmas & Epiphany, Iona Community, Wild Goose Worship Group, 2000.

We are not alone in our grief: third week of Advent reflections

Image

The past several days have been painful as we grieve yet another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school involving young children and brave teachers and administrators.

This has been a painful year with a bruising, nasty political season; tragic natural disasters; deaths of friends and loved ones; losses within our own families.

There are other stories of deep pain that don’t usually get shared in public, for instance: some of us struggle with wounds from childhood; some of us struggle with relationships within our families; some of us struggle with despair and depression, particularly during the winter; some of us struggle with great disappointments–in our careers, in our parents, in our children, in our spouses, in ourselves. Then there are the other stories, the secrets, that are so shameful we can barely whisper them to those closest to us, for instance: shared secrets within households that we’ve tacitly agreed to live with but will never breathe outside the walls of our homes; or, even secrets about ourselves that we work hard to keep hidden even from ourselves and from God.

All of these stories we carry with us day in and day out and these stories become heavy burdens that we bring with us to worship on a Sunday morning. Then we hear these Scripture texts on the third Sunday of Advent that seem contradictory.  We read Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  We hear these words as we carry our heavy burdens, our stories of pain and suffering weighing us down, we hear these words and maybe we smirk to ourselves and think, “Yeah, right.” Or, we hear these words and we think, “I am in so much pain there is no possible way I can rejoice,” and we feel worse.

Then in Luke 3: 7-18 we hear John the Baptist say: “You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from judgment and wrath?! Bear fruits worthy of repentance … every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” We hear these words and think, “I can’t hear this. Life is overwhelming enough as it is. These bible verses are too painful, too uncomfortable to hear.” So we check-out of the worship service and think about what we’re going to do in the afternoon or what Christmas shopping still needs to be done.

God is with us in our disasters, whatever they may be, and God tells us, “I am here, with you, you don’t have to bear this alone.”

But let me stop here and say, “Wait, stay with me.  There is good news here–hang on.” In Isaiah 12:2-6, we read together: “Let us turn to God who is our salvation. We will trust in you, God.  We will not be afraid. We will find our strength and our song in you.  In you, we will find salvation.”  Let’s stop for a moment and hold that in our hearts–we will trust in you, God … we will not be afraid … in you, we will find salvation.”

At the end of the Luke text, in verse 18, we read, “So, with many other exhortations, John the Baptist, proclaimed good news to the people.” What is this good news? That God became human and did it out of love. Good news is that even in the midst of our pain, of our grief, of our suffering, the God of the universe, is with us. Emmanuel, God with us. Can you see this as good news?  Can you hear this as good news?  It is good news. God is with us.

The Zephaniah 3:14-20 text reminds us of this: “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, God has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more … do not fear; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory … I, your God, will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.  I will deal with all of your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” Do you hear this as good news?  I do.

Emmanuel, God with us. God is with us when we have to face people who are mean to us, who harm us, and even those who abuse us. God is with us when we face our enemies.

God is with us when we are scared, filled with dread, afraid, and maybe even a wee bit paranoid. God is with us, whispering to us, “Do not fear.”

God is with us in our weakness, whether it is physical weakness or emotional weakness, God is with us.

God is with us in our disasters, whatever they may be, and God tells us, “I am here, with you, you don’t have to bear this alone.”

God is with us when we are vulnerable, frail, when we feel completely alone and outside the inner social circle. God is with us.

God is with us when we feel shame, that shame that rises from deep inside us and floods us with self-loathing and we think, “I am unworthy. No one could truly love me.”  God is with us, changing our shame into praise, into rejoicing, into joy.

Emmanuel, God with us.

God is with us, changing our shame into praise, into rejoicing, into joy.

Yes, God is with us, but we have a choice–do we embrace God or do we keep God at an arm’s distance? God promises to change our pain into joy, but we need to decide if we allow God to do this–do we hold on to our shame and pain or do we allow God to heal our woundedness in order for us to rejoice? Which life do we choose? Which road do we want to be on?  Which road are we on?  Yes, God is with us, but we have a choice–do we embrace God or do we keep God at arm’s distance?

Emmanuel! God is with us! Rejoice! Rejoice! Lastly, Madeline L’Engle wrote this poem: “The First Coming”

“God did not wait till the world was ready,
till … nations were at peace.
God came when the heavens were unsteady.
And prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dines with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. God did not wait
till hearts were pure. In joy God came
to a tarnished world sin and doubt.
To a world like ours of anguished shame
God came, and God’s light would not go out.
God came to a world that did not mesh
to heal its tangles. Shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made flesh
the makers of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is same
to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain.

God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”