The Celebration of Christmas

Our Embodied God

 

Opening

As we are present to this unimaginable good news, may it wholly permeate us.

 

Invitation

Compassionate God, open us to all the ways your love and presence come to us.

 

Reflection

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-14

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Read “Our Embodied God” a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase where you are drawn.

 

Our Embodied God

Into the darkness of night, the light comes.

It expands and covers everything.

Love is born in the Christ child,

who enters our mess to be present to us:

in each of the places we find ourselves,

into our sorrow and grief,

our pain and our angst,

into our questions and our doubts,

and into our brokenness.

The joyful shouts cry out,

“Glory to God in the highest Heaven.”

They cry out to the God who sees us,

The God who hears us,

who comes embodied as one of us,

human and yet Divine.

Emmanuel, God with us,

lovingly walks beside us,

joyfully resides within us.

Glory Hallelujah to this

incarnated expression of love. Amen.

© 2021, Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff

Leaning Into Hope

Fourth Week of Advent

 

Opening

As the darkness deepens, the promise of light grows. Awaken us to your presence in this time and within us always.

 

Invitation

God of Hope, keep us attentive to you, leaning into you as we wait.

 

Reflection

Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Read “Leaning into Hope” a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase where you are drawn.

 

Leaning into Hope

As the darkness extends,

we continue to wait for so much:

for peace in our world;

for an end to the virus

and a world without the necessity of masks;

for the ability to gather easily with loved ones;

for an end to racism and injustice;

for an end to all isms;

for sorrow to give birth to joy;

for our hearts to be comforted;

and our spirits lifted up;

to see more of You dear God;

lived out and expressed among your people.

Mary carried Hope within

as it was embodied in you

Elizabeth recognized it and gave expression to it.

So while we wait in Hope

we are met with the promise

that you come and meet us where we are.

While we wait in Hope

we are reminded

that sometimes you are carried and expressed

through those with skin on.

God of Hope,

may we be those people

who carry you and give expression to you

in all ways everyday.

And when we are weary from the journey,

may we like Elizabeth find ourselves

met by someone with skin on

who reflects you.

And like Mary, may we lean into you

for you too, are embodied in us.

© 2021, Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff

Advent Invitation

Third Week of Advent

 

Opening

As the darkness deepens, the promise of light grows. Awaken me to your presence in this time and within me always.

 

Invitation

God of Hope, keep me attentive to you, leaning into you as I wait.

 

Reflection

Scripture Reading: Luke 3:11,16

“And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”…John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Read Advent Invitation a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase where you are drawn.

 

Advent Invitation

Source of Life,

This season throws us.

While the darkness deepens,

the waiting aches for more.

And yet,

It is within this aching, this grieving

that something is being born.

You invite us

to watch and wait,

to listen and follow you.

As we ask “what then shall we do?”

we wait for your answer.

We trust that as life begins

in the darkness of the womb

so your light grows in the darkness within and around us.

Therefore, we follow wherever you may lead,

even when it is hard to find our way,

for we know you lead us by the hand

towards the light that comes. Amen.

Advent Light

Second Week of Advent

Opening 

Source of Life, as I sit here I breathe deeply, aware of your presence within me. Awaken me to your presence in this time and within me always.

 

Invitation

God of Hope, I quietly pray your name as I enter this time.

 

Reflection

As we begin Advent, we may feel disconnected because of all we and the world have been through in the last year. There is so much we long for, for ourselves, our loved ones, the community, and the world. We bring all that with us to this season and to the One who holds us close. 

 

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:68,  78,79

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.By the tender mercy of our God,  the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

 

Read Advent Light through a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase where you are drawn.

 

Advent Light

There are seasons when we strain our eyes

to see the light of your presence.

There are moments 

when the darkness encircles us 

and it seems like it is all we know.

When we struggle to glimpse the light

remind us that we are not alone

in the darkness,

but to look within

where you reside.

Train our unseeing eyes

for we carry the light of 

your presence within.  

And when we struggle still,

remind us 

that your tender mercy

ushers in the dawn

carrying with it your peace.

May it seep 

into the corners of our being.

And may it radiate through us

spilling out on those around us.

Amen.

 

Advent Longing

First Week of Advent

Opening

Divine One,  as I sit here with you, quiet my swirling thoughts, as you calmed the sea. Soothe my aching heart. Help me to know the comfort of your presence at this time, as I seek you.

 

Invitation

Take a moment or two and breathe in God’s name, “Emmanuel.” Inhale “Em-ma” and exhale “nuel”  Do this for a moment or two.

 

Reflection

As we begin Advent, we may feel unconnected or disconnected because of all we and the world have been through in the last year. There is so much we long for, for ourselves, our loved ones, the community, and the world. We bring all that with us to this season and to the One who holds us close. 

 

Read Advent Longing through a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase on where you are drawn.

 

Advent Longing

Loving One,

As we begin this season

We do so as those who are straining through the fog

To glimpse a light to illuminate our path.

We are weary and overwhelmed with all that has been.

We long for your presence 

To be experienced in tangible ways.

This Advent,

Awaken us to notice you within us and around us.

Enfold us in your compassionate embrace

and remind us that in you, we are home.

 

Prayer

Thank you loving God that you love and receive us as we are with all we bring. Remind us and center us in that we are so loved by you. May it fill us with hope and peace. Connect us to each other as living expressions of your love in the world around us. Amen. 

A Betwixt and Between Thanksgiving

Our Source of life,

This Thanksgiving we find ourselves so changed.

The last two years have marked us, scarred us,

And left us wondering what is the new normal.

As we envision our thanksgiving table or gathering,

We are poignantly aware of those who don’t join us.

We have lost so much and so many.

The loss has knocked the wind out of us and yet

there is so much more that has splintered us,

There is so much more that has 

torn us away from our safe harbor

Knocking our moorings loose

setting us adrift.

Ideologies divide us more than ever before

White supremacy still takes life and abuses power

We have forgotten how to love.

We are stuck in this betwixt and between place

Removed from what was, not sure yet, what will be.

Divine Creator,

You who created the world and each one of us

awaken us to you within and around us

recognizing you in each other’s eyes

No matter what our name or where we call home.

Reach us and reach through us

With your compassion that makes room and space for all.

May your love and presence knit us together 

For the common good, as we heal together

And extend the table

To hold all whom you gather here.

Thank you Giver of Life

For the ways in which 

You keep on giving

We lean into you 

To show us the way

Beyond this place to the new normal.

~Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, Executive Director

Resurrection Morning

Resurrection Morning
April 4, 2021

Opening
Open our hearts Resurrected One to all the places within us and around us longing for life.

Reflection
This last week and year we have known so much grief.
In this pandemic time with so many lives having been lost,
we have been touched by death in a pervasive way.
It has hung over us like a fog that hovers and clings to us.
Jesus entered that deep place of grief and death for us,
to bring us to today, to speak life and healing
into all the grieving and broken places within us.
He emerges from the tomb to offer life and hope
and Divine Companionship in ways we couldn’t imagine.
Hear the Good News.

Invitation
Scripture: Mark 16:1-8
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

Prayer of Response
Dear Resurrected One,
Thank You for the light that shatters the darkness
and permeates every corner where death and loss are found.
Thank you for the gift of life that is a resurrected one
and not a resuscitated one,
a life that is new and moves us beyond everything we have known.
For although this world still knows dark and broken places,
the life we know in you is like the sun’s beams
breaking through the clouds and shining its light as a healing balm within.
You shed your loving, healing, light into every space and place.
Thank you for your love that did not and does not stop.
Your love and light reach to us covering us
in a beautiful display that will not let us go.
May we be healed by it.
Grant us strength and hope through this unfathomable gift.
And shine that healing and permeating light
through us into the world around us.
Glory. Hallelujah, Amen.

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff,
Founder and Executive Director

Entering the Darkness

Holy Saturday
April 3, 2021

Opening
My heart is humbled and drawn to silence as I meditate on the events of this week.

Reflection
Holy Saturday, often overlooked, is a holy day, the day Jesus lies in the tomb.
Darkness and grief, doubts and questions, wailing and mourning fill this day for Jesus’ followers. Let us not rush past it. Let us meditate on and worship the One whose love permeates every place, even the tomb.

Invitation
Prayerfully imagine that you are there as the story in scripture unfolds.
Enter the story slowly. Take it in through your senses.
What sounds capture your attention?
Can you smell the perfumed ointment and myrrh? What sights draw you in?
Gently, as you are able, try to take it in. Notice the grief around you and within.

Scripture: John 19:38-42
“Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”

Prayer of Response
Loving, Compassionate One,
This day is filled with grief and such deep mourning!
Broken hearts, questions, and lost dreams,
fill and swirl around those who loved and followed you.
They did not yet know the life being born in darkness,
for Your love enters every place and space,
even the darkness of the tomb.
You know intimately the depth of grief and heartbreak
as you entered the grave for us.
There is nothing of our experience
you do not know, not even death.
You entered all the places we mourn,
as our tears were found on Your face.
As hard as this day is,
we need this day
to realize the expansiveness of your love
which reaches everywhere.
Let us keep vigil
even as we praise You most merciful God.

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff,
Founder and Executive Director

His Eyes Took Us In

Good Friday
April 2, 2021

 

Opening
Holy God, quiet us this day and deepen us that we may be present to you in it.

Reflection
Oh Lord, how do we begin to take in the day’s events? Make us like the women who journeyed with you to the cross and remained there with you.

Invitation
Read the scripture through slowly, pausing where you are drawn. Take as long as you need. Imagine you are there as one of the women who journey with Him there. As you read, keep your eyes on Jesus. Listen to His words. Imagine His face as He speaks. What do you see in His eyes? Watch His actions. How does He respond? Stay focused on Him as you read. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your prayerful reading.

Scripture: Read John 19:1-6, 14-19, 28-30
“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him…Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews… After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Prayer of Response
Oh God to whom we belong,
our hearts are full and heavy within.
Your heart, your eyes were ever on us.
Even in your darkest hour
Your eyes, your love took us in.
Our tears were on your face.
Oh such love we cannot comprehend.
We sit in silence, and gratitude for all of it.

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff
Founder and Executive Director

Love Without Limits

Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday
April 1, 2021

Opening
Lord, as we accompany You in these last days, make us evermore present to you.

Reflection
As we walk through these Holiest of days, may we be drawn ever closer to the One who loves without limit.

Invitation
Read the scripture slowly. Through prayerful imagination, put yourself in the story as an observer or as one of the disciples. Stay close to watch Jesus, his actions, his words, his responses.

Scripture: John 13:1- 5, 12,-15, 34, 35
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you… “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Prayer of Response
Compassionate One, It is hard to fathom these words, “Having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Are there such moving words anywhere other than these?
You know us in our very depths, our innermost secrets, our deepest thoughts, the ways we fail You, ourselves, and others, and yet, You love us to the end. Beyond our fears, beyond our doubts, You love us to the end. These words heal and transform. They inspire and encourage. They instill in us the desire to be more. They free us because we know Your love is without limits. It forgives and restores. Your love holds us always on both our darker days and our brighter ones like a child tenderly held by his/her parent. So let us come freely to You knowing nothing can separate us from your love for us. Glory be to God, Amen.

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, Founder and Executive Director