Since there are knee-high drifts over ice and blowing snow, we’re not gathering for corporate worship at BBUMC. There’s nothing quite like gathering together in one space in worship; however, here’s a brief private service of worship and devotion. It seeks to follow the general order of worship.
For an alternate to what follows below, here are two great devotional practices I enjoy regularly: Pray as You Go (this is a guided prayer and scripture practice).
And now…let’s worship.
God with us, we knew the day would come, when your presence would come in full.
Let our lives sing with praise for Jesus, our Emmanuel!
We knew he’d be Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Mighty God, and in Jesus he has come!
Let our lives sing with praise for Jesus, Emmanuel!
Jesus, Living Word and Light of God, has come. Long-awaited, God’s united heaven and earth in him.
Let our lives sing with praise for Jesus, Emmanuel!
First Reading – Isaiah 63:7-9
I will recount the Lord’s faithful acts;
I will sing the Lord’s praises,
because of all the Lord did for us,
for God’s great favor toward the house of Israel.
God treated them compassionately
and with deep affection.
God said, “Truly, they are my people,
children who won’t do what is wrong.”
God became their savior.
During all their distress, God also was distressed,
so a messenger who served him saved them.
In love and mercy God redeemed them,
lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.
Second Reading – Matthew 2:13-23
When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.
When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:
A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she did not want to be comforted,
because they were no more.
After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.
Reflection & Pondering
This morning in worship, we had planned to hear a testimony from a person of BBUMC. We may be able to hear this person share on a future Sunday. Here are a few thoughts regarding this passage.
There’s a great little devotion on this passage from the General Board of Discipleship here.
Then, there’s Pulpit Fiction, that has an extended devotion on this passage.
Here are a few thoughts I had prepared as an introduction to the special speaker:
Immediately after the miraculous events surrounding Christmas and then the wise men’s visit, there’s tragedy. Because we read this passage the week after Christmas, it feels like it happens right away.
That collision of joy and heartbreak is sometimes part of life, and it can make life and faith difficult, to say the least. And yet, the tragedies of life that we experience don’t lessen the impact of Jesus being God with Us (Emmanuel).
- What collisions of joy and heartbreak are you experiencing, or have you experienced?
- What led you to add your weeping and cries to those of in the gospel passage?
- How did you experience God in that time?
- How do you see God’s presence in that time now, after the fact, if it was in the past?
When we have these experiences, one of the ways to draw closer to God, for comfort strength, hope, and vision, is telling and retelling our experiences of God. The Isaiah reading picks this up and encourages us to remember and recount who we know and have experienced God to be, so that we can trust God when the bottom falls out of our lives.
Testimony has a way of inspiring us by reminding us of how we’ve experienced God in the past, and who we’ve experienced God to be. By remembering, sometime of God can take shape in us again, in our current life situations. And this can empower us to live faithfully in the midst of whatever collisions we’re experiencing today.
You could consider talking about your experiences of God with someone else in your home, or calling someone today as part of your devotional practices.
Responding to God as God’s People
In worship, we hope to encounter God. Having experienced something of God’s presence, comfort, assurance, guidance, and blessing, we respond in multiple ways: prayers for ourselves and others, and offering ourselves and our gifts for God’s mission in the world.
Here’s a guided prayer, adapted from a prayer by Robert Hamilton III.
God, heaven and earth are met in the newborn Child, Savior of the world. We celebrate Jesus’ birth; for in him you come to be close to us, that we might be close to you. We give you thanks, Holy One, for the light that has come into the darkness of our world, for the truth illuminated, for the pathway that has opened, for the rejoicing of your people…
We give you thanks for the feet of those who bring good news, friendship, comfort, food, shelter, and medicine for healing…
We give you thanks for the church of Christ Jesus and for all people of faith whose attention to the way of peace tears down walls that keep us apart…
We give you thanks for this country and for every nation where wisdom reigns…
We pray that world leaders would work for the well-being of the poor, so that no one is hungry or homeless, and every child is valued and nourished – without qualification or exception…
We pray for all who work and watch this snowy day: for those in hospitals and positions of public service; for those serving our country here and around the globe; for those in airports, train and bus stations; for those who work in shelters, hotels, and other places of hospitality…
We pray for all who suffer today: those who are sick and those who are dying; for those who are cold; for those who are lonely or grieving; for people who are hungry and thirsty; for all who struggle with addiction; for those who fear the next round of bombs or gunfire will be the last sound they hear alive…
We pray for families and friends: for those who are with us and those far away; for those who are traveling; for those who especially need your guidance in this season; and for those in our memories who now dwell with you…
We pray for those whose flesh is harmed: by poverty, sickness, and cruelty of any kind, that the Word-made-flesh may fill your world with the power to heal, and that all people would be made strong and whole…
We pray for the knowledge and courage to be good stewards of all that you have given us: ourselves, our neighbors, the strangers among us, the oceans and rivers, the air and soil, creatures large and small, that we may continue to be blessed with health and life…
And we lift up our other prayers, concerns, and joys this day…
We commend all these things to you, Incarnate God, and offer you our thanksgiving,
trusting that what we have left unsaid, your holy wisdom can unearth; in the name of the One who came among us and taught us to say, when we pray…
You can pray the Lord’s Prayer as you know it here. You can also play either version below. Both have their own variations. They can be acts of prayer and praise as the Spirit leads.
God bless you.
May you go on with your day, as witnesses of God’s goodness and grace.
Incidentally, I really preferred James Taylor’s version of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” but I couldn’t find a version with lyrics.