Category Archives: Advent

It comes this night

It comes this night.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

Above the roar
of anger and hatred,

Above the howl
of prejudice and bigotry,

Above the maelstrom
of systems and structures,

Above the crash
of violence and war,

Above the groan
of doubt and despair,

Above the dis-ease
of heartache and heartbreak

Above the tumult
of turmoil and trouble

Above the clamor
of struggle and strife

Above it all,
despite it all
because of it all,

It comes.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

A baby’s cry,
proclaiming
life and
love and
justice and
peace and
hope,
this night
and all nights.

24 December 2016
Goochland, Virginia

 

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Favorite Christmas songs

Lion and lamb

Each year, there are three songs I make a point of hearing several times during the Advent and Christmas season. While they may not appear on the list of classical Christmas carols or music, they speak of the hope and possibility and peace of the season.

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon

The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne

Like the First Time It’s Christmas Time by Tommy Sands

What makes your list?

See you along the Trail.

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Dear fellow Presbyterians

The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice-moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has posted a call to Presbyterians to “stand up and demand more, both of ourselves and others” in responding to gun violence. Her words apply to all of us; the resources she cites may be used by anyone.

Dear friends and colleagues,

You have seen the facts: we’ve had more mass shootings this year than there are days, we are 5% of the world population and account for 1/3 of its mass shootings, and that there was not one but two shootings in our country on December 2 (and that’s what made the news).

I spent much of last night posting overtures and reports from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I didn’t do this just because I am the vice moderator and feel as though I need to inform others about the resources that our at our fingertips. Each Sunday when I opened the bulletin of my church, I would read, “We are all ministers of the church.” I didn’t really think that much about the statement growing up. There is not a hierarchy. There isn’t a boss who demands certain actions. We are all ministers doing the work we are called to on this earth.

We are a denomination of words. We’re great at policy making and debate. Some would even say experts! But as I watched the news unfold yesterday and today, I am reminded that we are all ministers.

It’s time for us stand up and demand more, both of ourselves and others. We have the policies and words to back us up. We know what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states about gun violence. It’s now up to us to do something about it. We can no longer avoid the tough conversations with our neighbors in the pews, leave the messaging to the preacher in the pulpit, rely on our pastors to do the leg work in our communities or believe that a statement from the denomination will be enough.

We are all ministers. We are all the Church.

We’ve engaged in a churchwide conversation about the identity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I want us to continue to engage in policy and statement making because it’s a way that we have a voice in the national conversation. But I also hope that our identity involves the local congregations to presbyteries to synods to the national leadership doing the hard, tough work of educating/engaging one another and our politicians in demanding changes to address gun violence. I want to be a part of a denomination that recognizes the historical reality of America that racializes others when faced with fear and decides to respond with love; we need to look no further than the Japanese internment, a black teenager wearing a hoodie, a Sikh man questioned about his Muslim beliefs, or news outlets that yesterday said the shooters names sounded, “foreign.” I want us to remember the photographs of Aylan Kurdi washing up on the Turkish beach and we open our doors to welcome more Syrian refugees because others pull back in suspicion.

Let’s not just talk about who we are as a denomination…let’s live it.

Gun Violence Prevention from 221st General Assembly (2014)

Gun Violence Policy from 219th General Assembly

Resource created for congregations based on the policy from 219th General Assembly

“Trigger” (A film created by David Barnhardt based on the policy from 219th General Assembly. It includes 4 lesson discussion guide if you purchase from PDS)

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Filed under Advent, Antiracism, Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

An invitation to “Choose Welcome”

I have posted one of my sermons about refugees as well as sermon from the Rev. Randy Clayton. Here’s a post from the blog of the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent Christmas in my own home as an adult. We have shared that day with grandparents and other family. In a pre-Amazon era, we hid presents among the luggage and spent those days on the road just like Joseph and Mary. But of course I knew that my bed was there to welcome me when it was all over.saint mark presbyterian church holding a sign saying we choose welcome

Right now the United Nations says there are more than 60 million people displaced on our war-weary planet who will probably never see their home again. That’s the largest number ever recorded. They have left their homes because of violence, poverty, and fear. There is a story repeated around the world. Some armed men come to your house. They demand money from the parents. They demand that the son joins their gang. They want to sell the daughter into the sex trade underworld. You can’t go to the authorities because the gang is the authorities. What do you do as parents? You flee with your family.

As a church of 1.6 million people we can’t take in 60 million even if our government allowed it. But we can help change the way people talk about the 60 million. I recently put out a Facebook challenge asking congregations to take a selfie with a We Choose Welcome banner. The challenge was to send the photo to their public officials. One congregation that accepted the challenge is St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Maryland. I want to give them a shout out.

Maybe your congregation is not ready to go on record on this issue. But sometime over the next Advent days we are going to once again bash the innkeeper for having no room for Joseph and Mary. So perhaps that can be a teachable moment for all of us.

Thank you Gradye!

See you along the Trail.

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Prayer for Christmas

God of life and God of hope,
we give you thanks and praise this night
as we gather to remember the birth of Jesus
who came as a witness to grace,
who proclaimed peace
did justice
lived love
and walked humbly with you.

In his name, we pray for peace and healing
wherever your world is broken,
wherever violence and injustice reign
wherever your children are in pain.
We ask that we might follow Jesus faithfully
and so become answers to our prayers
for peace on earth,
goodwill for all people,
and wholeness and wellbeing for all creation.
Amen.

Originally written 2009

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On this night we gather

On this night, as we gather,

bellies spasm with hunger
winter seeps into the bones of people with no homes
thoughts turn to Syria, South Sudan and places between and beyond
people plot violence
children watch parents die of AIDS, wondering when their turn will come
relationships fray and come apart
children and women and men endure abuse
economic uncertainty undoes nations and households
walls divide people from their homes
handguns bark and blood flows
racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, and more
privilege some and crush life from others
drugs surge through veins to allow escape from reality’s pain
death comes calling — sometimes welcome, sometimes not
sorrow and suffering spread around the world
trouble and turmoil touch us all
evil stalks the earth

Yet
in the midst of all that
in the face of all that
in spire of all that
because of all that
on this night,

we gather

to sing and pray;
read ancient words and light candles
as we celebrate again
the birth of a child —
— nothing more and nothing less
than the every day miracle —
except that this child — this Jesus —
tells us
teaches us
shows us
life does not have to be the way it is
but that it can be filled
with
hope and
faith and
grace and
sharing and
commitment and
community and
justice and
righteousness and
well-being and
wholeness and
peace . . .
. . . on earth . . .
. . . for all!

May it be so.

(originally written for Christmas Eve 2003; adapted annually since)

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Where I will be on Christmas Eve

This year will bring a different type of Christmas Eve. Here’s what is happening:

Soldiers in World War I impulsively laid down their weapons and sang carols together on the battlefield 100 years ago this Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914. In memory of this famous “Christmas Truce,” and in honor of those seeking peace throughout the world, the bells of University Circle’s carillon will join a global musical event by playing the carol best known to English- and German-speaking troops a century ago, “Silent Night,” this Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014, at 7:14 p.m., or 19:14 in military time. The McGaffin Carillon is located at 11205 Euclid Avenue, in the block between Severance Hall and MOCA Cleveland.

All are invited to bundle up and listen to this playing of the carol from the Church of the Covenant lawn and parking area and Case Western Reserve University’s north campus. Members of the Church of the Covenant Choir will lead singing of the carol afterward. From 7:30 to 8 p.m., University Circle Carillonneur George Leggiero will play a recital of other carols mentioned in soldiers’ diaries and letters about the experience. Enjoy cocoa and cookies from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This is part of the project “Bells for Peace,” in which carillons throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and elsewhere will play “Silent Night” at 19:14 in their time zones. Leggiero’s 7:30 p.m. recital precedes an 8 p.m. prelude and carol sing and 8:30 p.m. candlelight service at the Church of the Covenant.

The Christmas Truce involved vast portions of the war’s Western Front, including German and Austro-Hungarian troops with British, French, Belgian, and Russian forces. Soldiers on both sides observed an impromtu ceasefire, tentatively emerging from their trenches, singing carols, trading gifts from their care packages, and wishing one another well in the other’s language as best they could, with at least one Christmas day makeshift soccer game documented. Bells for Peace is part of the larger Christmas Truce and Flanders Peace Field Project, whose center is the little city of Messines, Belgium, near where a soccer game took place.

See you along the Trail.

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