Because You Are

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer
Emmanuel, God with us, we give you thanks and praise for who you are and all you have done.
In these moments, help us to soak it in, that we may be filled with joy and the awareness of your presence within.

Invitation
Christmas soon approaches. Some of you may be connected to the joy it brings. For others of you, grief may be intensified. Wherever you find yourself, with questions and heartache, or with joy and promise, may you sense Emmanuel, God with us, coming to you right where you are.

Because You Are
Giver of Joy and Promise
We pause to take in
This wonder of wonders
Beyond our imaginings
That You come as one of us
To know what we know
To experience what we do
To share your life with us
Your life within us

Because You are
Hope is realized
For you bring hope from despair
beauty from ashes
Comfort from sorrow
Honor from shame
Transforming our pain
Giving us life anew

Because You are
Joy comes in the morning
Because you come to us as we are
Calling us by name
Lifting our face
That we may gaze in your eyes
And see your love and acceptance
reflected there

Because You are
Love heals us
For You come
Embracing us to yourself
Imprinting upon our hearts
That we are your beloved
Made in your image
Each one of us

Because You are
We are restored
For You walk beside us always
Your presence healing and renewing
Because You came
Because You are
Because You are
Emmanuel, God with us.

Amen.

(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2019)

While We Wait

Third Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer
Gracious God, as we sit with you, may your presence illuminate us with light and warmth like that of a glowing fireplace. We draw close Lord.

Invitation
As you read the poem below, notice the ways in which Emmanuel, God with us, comes to us, comes to you, even in the waiting.

While We Wait
While we wait,
Longing for answers
and for hope realized
We slow our step,
Pausing and paying attention
Noticing and Pondering
Signs of your presence
Around us
We quiet ourselves
Listening for your whispers
Reminding us we are your beloved
For You leave us not alone
And so
Pausing and paying attention
Noticing and Pondering
We seek to recognize you
In the faces we meet
And in the little gifts received
A warm smile
Shared tears
Children’s laughter
The words of a friend
While we wait
Longing for answers and for hope realized
We seek to recognize you
In the many ways you come to us
Reminding us
We are your beloved
And You leave us not alone.
Amen.
(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2019)

Waiting in Hope

Opening Prayer
Gracious God, as we sit with you in these moments,
fill us with your peace.

Invitation
In God alone, our soul waits in silence.
Sit for a moment or two and breathe in God’s peace.

Reflection
Advent touches all the places in our lives
and in our world where we wait.
All the prayers waiting for answers. All the aching waiting for good news. All the dreams waiting to be realized. All the waiting for a new start, a new season.
Sometimes all we can do is cry out.
Waiting is draining. Hope can seem elusive.
In our waiting, in our crying out
for ourselves and for our world,
May we find ourselves met by God right where we are.
May we find comfort and hope right in the midst of it.

Read the poem below a couple of times.
Pause where you are most drawn.

Waiting
We are in a season of waiting
for good news
for comfort in our mourning
for hope in the midst of despair
to get on the other side of whatever it is
with which we struggle
We are waiting for peace
to calm the chaos within
for a glimpse of light in the darkness.
We are waiting for joy to return
for longings to be realized
for promises to come to fruition
We wait but not without hope
We wait in remembrance
of who God has been
and what God has done
for the uncountable moments of:
God’s presence by our side
when God’s tears have merged with ours
when our prayers have known answers
and our joy has been reborn
We wait in remembrance of the miracles of all sizes
We wait in hope
because of who God is
because of who God has always been
That hope allows us to keep walking toward the light
It keeps us believing and moving forward
It keeps us loving and reaching out to others
offering what we have received.
We wait in hope
because we know Emmanuel, God with us
has been felt by our side
and will be again.
Amen.

(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2019)

Advent Begins

Opening Prayer
Lord, it seems hard to quiet my heart and mind. So much is swirling around and within me. In these moments, please quiet me within. I need your peace of heart and mind to have strength for the day. Hear me Oh Lord, I pray.

Invitation
Pause for a moment or two to quiet your mind, heart, and body. Take in a few deep breaths. Inhale God’s peace and release any tension. Do this a few times. Breathe in deeply God’s peace for you.

Reflection
As we begin Advent, so many troubles and heartaches in the world clamor for our attention. Climate Change has reached a state of emergency. Children continue to be separated from their parents at the border. Power and privilege continue as weapons to hurt others. Too many people are still without their basic needs. Racism still oppresses. LGBTQ lives are still not honored with value. If ever we longed to connect to the hope of Advent it is now.
Read the poem below through a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase on where you are drawn.

Advent Begins
Longing and yearning
Stretching and straining
Desiring with all my being
Your light in the midst of the encompassing darkness
Heartaches cover my vision
And dim the light within
I cling to Hope to wrap myself in
like a soft warm blanket
Lift my eyes above and beyond
All that aches without and within
May the light of hope kindle a fire
Bright to warm the hearts of all who gather
Radiant to fill our eyes with your vision
Ablaze with your hope and your life
We gather you within and around
Just as you gather us in
And embrace us with yourself.
Amen.

(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2019)

New Year Blessing

New Year Blessing
As we enter a New Year,
May you find
Peace in the midst of discord
Comfort in the midst of loss
Hope in the midst of despair
Healing- body, mind, and spirit
Deeper awareness of how greatly you are loved
Acceptance of the gift that you are
Safe places to be yourself
Refuge when you are weary
Renewed purpose in living
Greater cognizance of God’s presence with you in every moment of your day
Rekindled desire to be a reflection of God’s love and creative energy in the world, that loves, accepts, heals, restores, and makes new.
Amen.

God’s Reign

Saturday, December 29- PSALM 96

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it” (vv 11-12)

This psalm uplifts the spirits. It calls us to sing a new song, to bless and praise God, for all that God is, all that God does, for how God reigns.

This week we celebrate Christ’s birth, our Emmanuel, God with us, who shows us exactly what God is like. He shows us the heart of God and what the reign of God looks like.

Jesus extends mercy and forgiveness. He issues peace deeper than all of life’s troubles. Jesus heals, restores, and makes whole. He loves us unconditionally, beyond our imaginings. He comforts the brokenhearted and lifts up the oppressed. He brings the marginalized into the center. No one is unseen. Each person is of immeasurable worth. Grace abounds.

Looking at who our God is, how can we not sing? How can we not praise our God? This is the reign we are a part of, the reign we are to participate in and reflect.

May we be reflections of you and your reign, Lord Jesus. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Enfleshed

Friday, December 28- JOHN 1:15-18

God’s desire to be connected to us was so expansive that God does this amazing thing. God showed us the full expression of who he is, the fullest expression of his love and grace, by sending Jesus from God’s heart to our heart, from God’s side to our side.

Look how much we are loved. We are given grace upon grace, gift upon gift, love upon love. God holds nothing back from us. God gives all that God has to give. God, wanting us to really know Godself chose to have Jesus come, someone with skin on. Someone who could be touched, seen, and heard. Wow.

Jesus knows. Jesus knows the messiness of our lives, our struggles, our ups and downs. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, because he knows.

If you ever wonder if you matter, if you ever wonder if you are seen at all, if you ever wonder if you are alone, know that you are of inestimable worth, and Jesus walks beside you.

Thank you, Lord. May your love permeate our lives. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

 

Love Song

Thursday, December 27- JOHN 1:1-14

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v.1).

John 1, beautifully poetic, draws us into the tender lyrics of God’s love song to us. Since the beginning of time, God has envisioned, desired, and loved us. Jesus the Word and God conceived humankind in God’s own image, thereby imprinting Jesus’s fingerprints on each of us. Think on it. We bear God’s DNA.

Jesus embodies his love for us by being enfleshed as one of us to live and walk among us. Jesus does so because we are God’s own. So he sings over us like a parent sings over their beloved child. His melody brings light into our darkness, peace into our chaos, breathing life into our lives. His is an ongoing, everflowing melody that touches all of humanity and all of our lives. Never have we been so loved.

May his love song bring abiding peace into our lives this day. May its rhythm ring out in our lives.

Thank you, gracious God, for singing your love song over us. Help us to always hear and join in the refrain, Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Attentiveness

Wednesday, December 26 – LUKE 2:15-20

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (v. 14).

The shepherds believed the angel’s words to them. They believed that God had done this awesome thing. They listened. They paid attention. They responded. It changed their lives and they bore witness to what God had told them.

What a good word for us. Jesus is present in our lives and in the rhythm of our days. He speaks to us and is active in our lives. We are invited to listen, to pay attention, to respond, and to bear witness. It will change our lives and the lives of those around us.

There is a spiritual practice called practicing the presence of God. It is about attuning to God in everyday moments. It is conversing with God in an ongoing conversation, paying attention to what God is doing in the moment, and seeking to respond to and with God in the world around us. This is possible because Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. Thanks be to God.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Help us to be attentive to you. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

An Upside-Down Kingdom

Tuesday, December 25- LUKE 2:1-14

Look at the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Under another government’s rule, pregnant Mary, Joseph, and God’s chosen people are forced to register for a census. It is not the best time to be traveling, but this is the backdrop of Jesus’ birth.

Always an upside-down kingdom: Jesus chose to be born into the messiness of our world and lives. Always an upside-down kingdom: Jesus chose to enter our world not as a rightful king, but as an infant, vulnerable, poor, and reliant on our hospitality and care. Always an upside-down kingdom: who was chosen to hear about the birth first? Shepherds on the margins. The angels announced Christ’s birth by giving them a personal concert.

The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist: Girolamo da Carpi (Girolamo Sellari) (Italian, Ferrara 1501–1556 Ferrara)
Date: ca. 1535–40
[Public Domain]

God’s expansive love reaches far and wide into the messiness of our lives, including all to give life to all-God’s upside-down kingdom. What a gift! Look at how much we are loved.

Lord, our gratitude is beyond words.  Thank you for loving us so much. Help us to love you well. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)