God of honey and harvest of grain and grape of ocean and orchard: This harvest time may we both praise and pray; praise you for the abundance and pray that this harvest is not just shared but shared justly.
God of beehives and breadbaskets of living webs and the weaving of life of ecosystems and economy: This harvest time may we both praise and pray praise you for the wealth of the harvest and pray that this harvest is not just a promise but is full of promise for all.
God of bumble bees and blue whales evolution and environment ice-field and star-field: This harvest time may we both praise and pray praise you for the sheer wonder of the world and pray that this harvest is not about our wealth but the wealth of our generosity. Amen.
1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this reading? 2. What delights or comforts me in this reading? 3. What stories or memories does this story stir up within me? 4. What is God calling me to do or to be in this reading?
Prayers of the People
The Lord’s Prayer
God of harvest, gardener supreme, you place us at the centre, feed us, equip us and, having provided for us, look to a different harvest— a fruitfulness of lives in service to you and others. God of harvest, feed us prune us harvest us that our lives might bring glory to you. Amen.
We begin by creating a holy space. We light a candle to recognize the light of Christ, present with us during worship. We ring a singing bowl or bell to give us time to breathe and fully arrive, and to remind us to listen for God’s voice speaking to us during this holy time.
Confession and Forgiveness: Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy God, we confess that we do not always love our neighbor. We confess that we have despised others, even to the point of hatred. We confess that we have been hurt by others. We confess that forgiveness and reconciliation at times are just impossible for us. We know that nothing is impossible in You. We come to You, seeking healing and wholeness for us. Help us, whenever possible, to live in peace with others, to seek reconciliation and healing and forgiveness. For Your Son came and lived among us, was betrayed and denied, abused and put to death. He rose again, and came with the message of peace to those who had denied him and abandoned him. May we walk in his ways. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
(inspired by Matthew 19:26, Psalm 139, Romans 8:31-39) For nothing is impossible with God. There is no place you can go, no end of the earth you can run, where God cannot find you. There is nothing on earth or beyond death that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are reconciled to God. Go and live with the love of God. Amen.
You can use these questions to discuss the Bible story with those in your household, with your study group, or on your own in a journal.
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions 1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about? 2. What delights or comforts me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why? 3. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? What does it remind me of? How does this story connect to the story of my life? 4. What is God up to in this text? What is this living Word calling me to do or to be?
Song of the Day (changes each week)
Prayers of the People
Holy God, may we hear your voice In the stillness of night, in clatter of day You call us, and we respond, Here I am! May we follow you Holy God, May we love as you love.
Holy One, through trials and turbulence Make us steady, your hands Holding strong the fragile and weak Holy God, May we love as you love.
Gracious God, may the fruits of our lives be food for the hungry, bread clothing, shelter, fire, water, Word Holy God, May we love as you love.
God of justice, remove the barriers Of our lives that keep us from One another, barriers we construct Based on skin color, religion, or gender May we hear, and follow, graciously. Holy God, May we love as you love.
Loving God, take this day our fears our Worries, distractions, and all Turn them into grace and mercy, And, following the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all your Saints. Holy God, May we love as you love. Amen.
Giving God, Following the example of the magi, we offer our gifts to you, our gold, our worship, and our time in relationship with you. Use our gifts for the healing of the nations, in the name of Jesus, Amen.
by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes
Sending Song: We are Marching in the Light of God
May our Epiphany God, Who appeared by the light of a star, In the rending of the heavens and the flight of a dove, In the miracle of water turned to wine, bless, keep, and call you forth, both now and always. Amen.
by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes
Sending: God, You Are Calling
Gentle and patient, God, you are calling. Careful and persistent, God, you are calling. In grieving and in praise, God, you are calling. Through dawn and midday, God, you are calling. Unexpected and planned, God, you are calling. In a still small voice and in power, God, you are calling. Spontaneous and prepared, God, you are calling. Willing or protected, God, you are calling.
Our God is eager to share with us, wherever we are in our journey. May we be diligent to listen. God, you are calling.
Go in peace, called into God’s marvelous Light. Thanks be to God!
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19 NRSV)
The pianist Kaleb Brasee is a stellar resource for Christmas songs to sing along to. If you would like to see the lyrics, choose “open transcript” from the menu that comes up after the three dots at the bottom of the video. Many blessings on your Christmas celebrations!
Our Lord Emmanuel, we thank you for coming down to us on Christmas. Shine your light into our darkness, and open our hearts to your way of love and peace. Amen.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold (Luke 1:26-38 NRSV) 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:18-25 NRSV) 18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7 NRSV) In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels (Luke 2:8-20 NRSV) 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The Visit of the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) 2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The Word Became Flesh (John 1:1-5,9-14 NRSV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
On this holy night, let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people throughout the world, and for all those in need of prayer.
O God of Courage, we pray for those who, like Mary, need some courage today. Strengthen them in their courage, and give us a measure of your own. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O God of Encouragement, we pray for those who, like Elizabeth, encourage others. Open their hearts and minds to those who need your help and care, and encourage us in the path where you lead. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O God of Mercy, we pray for those who, like Joseph, are merciful. Help them to know how to do what is right, and help us to extend that mercy towards those who need it. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Light of Light, we pray for the church. For unity in division, for strength in adversity, for hope in despair. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Root of Jesse, we pray for the earth. For rest for the land, for clean water, air, and soil, for good stewardship of all you have given us. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Prince of Peace, we pray for the world. For peace among nations, for peace among peoples, for peace in our homes and communities. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Key of David, we pray for those who cannot be here with us today. For compassion for our neighbors in need. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Source of Wisdom, we pray for those in need of prayer. For health, hope, healing, and wholeness. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Mighty Lord, stir up your power and come among us. For those things on our hearts and minds which are known only to you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God with us, we thank you for this time to worship you. As we go from here, help us to be your light in all the dark places of our homes, our communities, and our world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Lord, remember us in your kingdom, and teach us to pray…
THE LORD’S PRAYER
OFFERING: MISSION OF THE MONTH
Blue Valley Home Foundation Becoming a partner with Blue Valley Lutheran Homes allows us to continue to provide the highest quality nursing care to our residents, who are elderly, disabled or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Your gift greatly impacts the lives of the residents we serve! Blue Valley is a serving arm of the Nebraska Synod ELCA. Learn more about Blue Valley Home Foundation here: http://bvlh.org/foundation-for-blue-valley-lutheran-homes-nebraska-nursing-care-homes/
As we celebrate the coming of your Son, O God, we thank you for the blessing of your generosity and forgiveness. We give you thanks for our many blessings, signs of your gracious love. Strengthen us to be generous and forgiving, that we may share our gifts with the hungry and all who look for your justice and mercy. Grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen.