Christmas Prayer 2016

img_1767When Christmas falls on Sunday, it’s not just any service. It’s not just any Sunday service, and it’s also not just any Christmas service. Though every worship experience should connect with the heart and soul, Christmas truly demands it, and it also demands that we step outside the “usual” – since God did precisely that by coming to Earth in Jesus.

Thus this song, which was the pastoral prayer this morning. Mele Kalikimaka – Merry Christmas!

[Chorus]
Come to us, Christ Child
With the wailings of a newborn
Interrupt our sleep with an infant’s shrill demands.
Let us clothe your flailing arms with hope for all tomorrows.
Let us feed your hungers for deep peace around the world.
Let our arms enfold with the tender love of mother.
Let us sing a lullaby of joy
As our Christmas prayer:
As our Christmas prayer.

Your family fled from Herod
So we pray for refugees
May the ones oppressed by rage and fear
Soon shout that they are free.
You were given gifts by magi
So we pray we might be wise.
When we turn away from suffering
Redirect our eyes.

[Chorus]

As you grew from child to teacher
So we pray for all to learn
The depth of your compassion
And the love for which we yearn.
From your first hours in the manger
To your triumph over the grave,
Give us hope and confidence
You were born on Earth to save!

[Chorus]

Let us sing a lullaby of joy
As our Christmas prayer,
As our Christmas prayer,
As our Christmas prayer

A Musical Prayer

On November 13, 2016, Church of the Holy Cross UCC celebrated “Sing Praise Sunday,” a service with very little speaking and plenty of music. Children sang, the choirs sang, the people sang (their favorite hymns, so they sang right out!), and the pastor couldn’t quite see speaking a pastoral prayer, so, there was this:

 

Here are the lyrics:

Creator God be with us.
Send us rain and shine upon us all.
In steadfast love incline our hearts to justice.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.

Savior Christ be with us.
Heal all those suffer, those who sigh.
Forgive us when we serve ourselves, not justice.
Raise us to eternal life on high.
Raise us to eternal life on high.

(Chorus)

God, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear our prayer.
Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.
Bring your grace
To your world.

Holy Spirit be with us.
Guide us as we find our way.
Fill us with the fire of your compassion.
Inspire your children as we pray.
Inspire your children as we pray.

(Chorus, repeat third verse)

Song: “Holy Cross at 125”

hilo-japanes-christian-church-1891Author’s Note: I wrote this song for the celebration lunch of the Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo, Hawai’i, which was founded in 1891 to serve newly arriving immigrants from Japan. Most of them came as contract workers, spending 3 years on a sugar plantation and returning home (or staying and making the Big Island their home). Originally known as the “Japanese Christian Church,” the congregation took a new name in 1942.

I wrote and perform this song on ukulele, by the way.

They followed the summons of a man across the sea
To plant and to weed and to cut
Some returned to their homelands, some stayed in Hawai’i
And with them, the cultures of Japan.

When Jiro Okabe came to serve in Hilo Bay
He led a new church from his home.
He gathered the Workers Mutual Aid Society
To bring good works to the town.

[Chorus]

They had a vision
To bring good news to the poor
They had a mission
To bring good news to the poor
Poor in substance. Poor in spirit.
Poor in hope. Poor in dreams.
They had a vision.
They brought good news.

The sands of time flowed and the Christian Church grew
They took as their name Holy Cross
Through war and tsunami they lived out their hope
To raise up the lowly and lost.

[Chorus]

We march to remember those whom illness forgets
We help the poor build new homes.
We care for the dying and for the hungry
We worship the God of All.

As each era offers its challenges and change
We look ahead in awe:
A world beckons there both familiar and strange.
There we hear Christ’s call.

To have a vision
To bring good news to the poor
To have a mission
To bring good news to the poor
Poor in justice. Poor in freedom.
Poor in faith. Poor in deeds.
We need a vision…

Let’s seize a vision
To bring good news to the poor
Let’s seize a mission
To bring good news to the poor
Poor in substance. Poor in spirit.
Poor in hope. Poor in dreams.
Let’s seize the vision.
Let’s bring good news.

Courage in the Candle

I’ve been asked (okay, by only one person) to post the lyrics to this song, so here they are. The song was written on Sunday, December 16, two days after a gunman slew his mother, six educators, and twenty first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before taking his own life. The recording comes from a prayer service held December 16th at First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, CT.

Courage in the Candle
by Eric Anderson

Our voices rise up as from Ramah.
Oh God, from where will comfort come?
Rachel cries out for her children
Who will not be coming home.
We wait and hear only of horrors
And we ask how once again
This violence erupts among us
Leaving anguish, grief, and pain.

(Chorus)
Into the shadows Bear a candle
A tiny spark Against the night
Into the sorrows Of an uncertain world
Raise the promise of your light.

Though the cause of evil prosper
Yet ‘tis love alone is strong
Though innocence is placed in danger
And power exercised for wrong
God is waiting in the shadows
Where human grief and sin shall cease
A holy light shines in the darkness
And heaven’s children find their peace.

(Chorus)

I will not accept the darkness
As my predestined home of woe
I will not despair of loving
Although its losing grieves me so.
I will take courage in the candle
And hold its flame before the night
Where God is waiting in the shadows
Together, we will shine with heaven’s light.

(Chorus)

This song copyright 2012 by Eric Anderson