Teens

Caught between two worlds
childhood and maturity
striving to be independent
needing to be nurtured
confused and belligerent
a cocktail of emotions

Feeling small and insignificant
sometimes too big for one’s britches
knowing everything
understanding little

Peers become the lifeline
belonging the driving force
behind decisions
wrong turns have consequences
life becomes real

Terrified but eager
Driven by the instinctual need
to leave the nest
teens fling themselves out
into the universe
parents pray they have wings

Some soar
Some tumble
Some teeter on the edge
Some come home again
Some find themselves
Some are lost souls

Forces too strong to comprehend
Winds that scoop up
and thrust down
Impatient to be an adult
Fledgelings in need of guidance
Too proud to ask

A listening ear
affirmation and encouragement
reminders of strengths
cheerleaders not critics
go a long way
to support
these fragile new beginnings

Birth

A newborn
conceived and brought into this world
the result of a myriad of circumstances
utterly dependent and exposed
vulnerable
defenseless

a half blank slate
written on by genetics
born out of God’s own heart
slipped into a world
that will write this child’s history

eyes that will see
ears that will hear
skin that will be touched
a mind to be filled
a heart ready
a soul to be fed

a newborn
placed in our care
sacred responsibility
worthy of our best
open to our worst
trusting
trusting

Baptism Renewal Service

Welcome and Invitation
Water. Each of us is born of water and without it, we would die. It is essential to every living thing on this planet. It is written in the poetry of Genesis, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Before there was anything discernible, there was water. As we explore other members of our galaxy, we first look for water – an indication that something living and breathing might exist outside of the boundaries of earth.

And so it is not surprising, then, that John the Baptist chose water as the medium for baptism; not sand or milk or oil, but water that cleanses and renews, water that refreshes the body and the soul. With this life-giving element, John invites repentance and prepares the people of earth for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. With water, John anoints the Son of God and it is water that symbolizes the outpouring of God’s grace at the time of our baptism.

We are here today to remember and celebrate this sacrament that initiated Jesus into his ministry and began, for many of us, our own walk with God. We will feel the cool water on our skin and we will know that we have been touched by the hand of God, inviting and welcoming us into his kingdom. We will hear these same words that Jesus heard, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” And we will know that we also are loved.

Preparation Prayer
Forgiving God, who lives among us, hear our prayer of confession. We have known what is right but have done the opposite. We have hurt others with our words, causing harm to them and ourselves. Opportunities for service have passed us by, ignored. Wounds and regrets hit us like slings and arrows and we carry them, hidden in our hearts, festering anger and bitterness. Wash us clean with your grace, Holy One. May our repentance bear fruit in how we live and love. May your forgiveness empower us to be forgiving. May we see each person as your beloved child and treat them as such. And may we see ourselves as free from the shackles of the world’s idols and seek only to do your will. Amen.

Children of God, you are forgiven! Live out your forgiveness.
Child of God, you are forgiven! Live out your forgiveness.

Hymn “Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters” RH605

The Baptism of Christ Matthew 3:13-17

Statement of Faith (written by John van de Laar)
We believe in God,
The Creator of all that we see, and all that we do not see.
We believe in Jesus Christ,
God become flesh; in death the Forgiver of sinners,
in rising the Healer of the broken.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
God within us; Comforter, Strengthener, and Friend.

Blessing Over the Water
Holy God, infuse this water with your healing grace. Make this baptismal renewal be for us new life in Jesus. Let his baptism be our baptism into his Spirit, making us one with him. May the water’s cleansing power awaken in us the fervent desire to repent, to love more deeply, forgive more fully, give more generously, and to serve without hesitation. We seek to be the Body of Christ in the world; anoint us, fill us, mold us, and use us to bring about your Kingdom here and now. Amen.

Baptismal Renewal
Water becomes God’s welcoming embrace during baptism. Water scrubs sin away and creates a fresh palette on which to write our future. Water is God’s forgiveness, healing wounds and transforming the broken into wholeness.

Receive now the water of baptism and hear these words from God, “You are my sons and daughters, with whom I am well pleased.”
With open hearts we receive this sign of love from God.

Response of the People (Prayer of Saint Francis)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

Advent Wreath Lighting II

Lighting of the Advent Candles – Lighting the 1st Advent Candle

1st Reader:

Summer is the growing season,
Fall is when we harvest.
Winter is the time of waiting,
cold and dark,
full of mystery and possibilities.

Congregation: All the earth is waiting.

2nd Reader:

The earth and all that call it home
are waiting for us to love it back into health,
into fruitfulness, into its original splendor.
We are the stewards, God’s gardeners and healers;
Without us, the earth as we know it will die.

Congregation: All the earth is waiting.

1st Reader:

What are we to do?
How do we repair the brokenness of the earth?
What will reignite hope back into human hearts?
How will the darkness be pierced by love?

Congregation: All the earth is waiting.

2nd Reader:

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
Isaiah 11:1-2

The first Advent candle is lit to remind us that hope is coming, is here, and will never leave us. Hope will sustain us through the winter of life.

Hymn Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus RH196

The Lighting of the Advent Candles – Lighting the 2nd Advent Candle

1st Reader:

We prepare the garden:
thinking, planning, dreaming
of colors, shapes, heights,
depths, and light.
Our minds and hearts grow
excited as we imagine the
possibilities!

Congregation: Prepare the way of the Lord!

2nd Reader:

But first there is work to be done.
Loosening the rich soil,
weeding out what does not belong,
feeding the earth nutrients,
planting the seeds,
watering the growing plants,
watching in anticipation and love.

Congregation: Prepare the way of the Lord!

1st Reader:

What will grow in our gardens?
Will lovely flowers be snuffed out
by weeds because of apathy,
laziness, or forgetfulness?
Or will our efforts produce
a riot of blooms, miraculous and
lovely, just as we had planned?

Congregation: Prepare the way of the Lord!

2nd Reader:

“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
“Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Matthew 13:3-8

1st Reader:

The first Advent candle is lit to remind us that hope is coming, is here, and will never leave us.
The second Advent candle is lit to remind us to spend time preparing the gardens of our hearts for the coming of our Savior. We can imagine and dream of a new beginning, a new life, and a new way of being.


Hymn Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming RH216

The Lighting of the Advent Candles – Lighting the 3rd Advent Candle

1st Reader:

I hold in my hands bulbs –
crocus, daffodils, tulips –
flowers yet to be born,
harbingers of things to come.
Their journey is about to begin…

Congregation: Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

2nd Reader:

I dig a hole deep and cold,
the bulbs’ home for several months.
Dark earth covers them,
sealing darkness.
While the world above whirls
with wind and snow, rain and ice,
they incubate
and I wait,
and wait.

Congregation: Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

1st Reader:

In the soil unseen magic is happening.
Tendrils of roots push down
and green shoots thrust up,
and up, into the daylight.
And, at last, one bright morning,
I see them, their colors of
purple, yellow, red, and pink
blazing amongst the snow.

Congregation: Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning!

2nd Reader:

That moment of recognition is like no other.
My heart bursts with exuberant, expectant joy!
The winter of waiting is almost over;
earth is about to explode with new life!
Can you feel it, the tingling of promise?
The pregnant darkness is giving birth!

Congregation: Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning!!

1st Reader:

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

2nd Reader:

The first Advent candle is lit to remind us that hope is coming, is here, will never leave us.
The second Advent candle is lit to remind us to spend time preparing the gardens of our hearts for the coming of our Savior.
The third Advent candle is lit to remind us that in our darkness, there is an expectation of joy. Inside of us is growing new life in Jesus. This child will redeem us and led us closer to God. Hallelujah!! Amen!

Hymn Hymn of Promise RH707 v.1&2

The Lighting of the Advent Candles – Lighting the 4th Advent Candle

1st Reader:

Where in the world
can peace be found?
Amid the clang and clutter
of everyday life,
where is there
harmony?
When divisions abound
and hatred rules,
where is there
kindness?

Congregation: I’ve got peace like a river
in my soul.

2nd Reader:

In the quiet of the garden,
digging and pulling,
planting and tending,
there is calm.
In the sanctuary of the church,
singing and praying,
listening and greeting,
there is serenity.

Congregation: I’ve got peace like a river
in my soul.

1st Reader:

In the holy place of a manger,
the cooing of the dove,
the breath of the cow,
the sighing of the sheep,
and the suckling of the lamb
fashion a lullaby for the baby,
while the mother rocks
him to sleep.

Congregation: I’ve got peace like a river
in my soul.

2nd Reader:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Matthew 5:3-9

1st Reader:

The first Advent candle is lit to remind us that hope is coming, is here, will never leave us.
The second Advent candle is lit to remind us to spend time preparing the gardens of our hearts for the coming of our Savior.
The third Advent candle is lit to remind us that in our darkness, there is an expectation of joy.
The fourth Advent candle is lit to remind us that we have peace through Jesus Christ, who lives within us, giving us calm assurance that we are loved.

Hymn Away in the Manger RH217

The Lighting of the Advent Candles – Lighting the Christ Candle

1st Reader:

Tonight the heavens clap,
the stars shout,
the moon smiles.
Tonight the animals
make joyous sounds,
the trees wave,
and all earth resounds
with alleluias!!

Congregation: For tonight a Savior is born!

2nd Reader:

Emmanuel is born this night,
God with us,
the divine and human
meld into one.
The Creator walks among us,
talking, eating, teaching, loving.
The gardens of heaven and earth
join in splendid harmony,
a second chance.

Congregation: For tonight a Savior is born!

1st Reader:

The star lights the path
through the darkness
to the manger,
beaconing us – Come!!
Come and behold Him,
this baby born to save.
Come and gaze with adoration,
this child who is both
God and man.
Love is flooding the earth!
Open your hearts and
receive Him!

Congregation: For tonight a Savior is born!

2nd Reader:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17

Tonight all four of the Advent candles are lit – the candles of hope, love, joy, and peace. They remind us that these are the gifts, given to us by God, through Jesus.
Tonight the Christ candle is lit. The waiting is over. The Light of the world has come to live with us…and in us…and in our neighbor. Look around you – the Kingdom of God is near!

Hymn Joy to the World RH246 v.1&2

Advent Wreath Lighting I

First Sunday in Advent – Lighting of the First Advent Candle

1st Reader:

Your people sit in sackcloth and ashes,
Your creation broken,
Cain continues to hate Abel,
Hope has disappeared.

2nd Reader:

Come, bright Sun, and shine your face upon us!
Melt our sin; warm our cold hearts!
Save us from the darkness of our own creation
and lead us back from the brink of our destruction.

1st Reader:

We light this first candle of Advent in remembrance
of the image in which we were made.

(Light one purple candle)

This candle reminds us of God’s love for God’s people and the covenant of God’s salvation.

Congregation sings together “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” #117 in the RH


2nd Sunday in Advent – Lighting of the Second Advent Candle

1st Reader:

Out of the chaos,
Out of the desert,
Out of the wilderness
of our sin…

2nd Reader:

Comes a path,
A way forward
Towards peace
and reconciliation.

1st Reader:

God’s arms are flung open;
“Welcome Home” hung on the doorpost.
A promise of forgiveness
and unending grace is ours.

2nd Reader:

Will we hear when God speaks peace?
Will we recognize the gift God has sent?
Will we accept the baptism meant to heal us?
Will we live out the Good News?

1st Reader:

We light this second candle of Advent in remembrance
of the baptism of water and Holy Spirit.

(Light a second purple candle)

This candle reminds us of God’s provision of salvation through repentance and compassion.

Congregation speaks in unison:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He resoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


3rd Sunday in Advent – Lighting of the Third Advent Candle

1st Reader:

No longer in darkness,
We glow from within.
Our God inhabits our very bones;
God is stitched into our every cell.

2nd Reader:

Salvation comes from a man from Galilee
Who anoints us with his life.
Follow him and we will know
Peace, Joy, Gladness.

1st Reader:

Love will be restored;
The people will know justice.
We will share the bounty of God
with each other.

2nd Reader:

We light this third candle of Advent in remembrance
of how grace can change the world.

(Light the pink candle)

This candle reminds us of what God offers us: the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

Congregation sings together “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” RH #206


4th Sunday in Advent – Lighting of the Fourth Advent Candle

1st Reader:

We wander in the desert
Afraid, hungry, and thirsty.
You feed us and give us water.
You move among us…
And in us.

2nd Reader:

We are in need of shelter;
a place safe and secure.
You promise us a home
and rest from our enemies.

1st Reader:

This is the night
when Your promise is kept.
Into our world You send a child;
a child who will be home for us.

2nd Reader:

This child will be our shelter,
Our place of acceptance and love.
Mercy will flow from his heart
and we will know God.

1st Reader:

This child will be born in a cattle stall;
a Savior for all the people.
He is the Word made flesh;
Emmanuel, God with us.
And his name is Jesus.

2nd Reader:

We light this fourth candle of Advent in anticipation
of the Child who will save us.

(Light the fourth candle)

Congregation sings together “Joy to the World” RH#246


Christmas Eve – Lighting of the Christ Candle

1st Reader:

The child has been born;
the waiting is over.
Joy, joy, joy is felt
everywhere, in everything!

2nd Reader:

We gaze at this baby
and he gazes at us,
eyes full of love,
arms open wide.

1st Reader:

“This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.”

2nd Reader:

We light the Christ candle as a reminder
that Jesus fills our hearts with beauty.
Love, compassion, and kindness flows from Him into us,
healing wounds, making us whole.

(Light the Christ candle)

The congregation sings: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (v.1) RH #234

Awaken

Wake up!
Wake up!
Open your eyes!
Do you see?
Do you see?

There is beauty
in the ordinary;
the plain gives birth
to the magnificent.
Inside everything
is a diamond,
a pearl
ready to burst forth.

Not readily seen,
you must wait.
Patient as the sunrise,
wait for the beauty,
trusting it will emerge.

Your reward
will be gladness
that you were there
to see the splendor,
the presence of God.

Forgiveness

Anger, hurt, fear
burns like a red hot coal
or smoldering ember
in the belly.
Unease pervades the
peace within;
restlessness ruins
sleep.
No longer living
in the moment,
thoughts turn
over and over
to the wrong done.
Like a slow leak,
energy for living
is drained.

The grace of
forgiveness
is the healing path,
a return to wholeness,
given to us by God.
Found deep in our souls,
birthed by prayer,
held like an infant
in distress,
forgiveness is often
a struggle, a
self-revelation
unwanted,
rejected.
When embraced
and celebrated,
peace is restored.