content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
During Advent-Christmas 2020 season we join the ancient Hebrews calling out to God for the restoration of a nation. We also join them in rejoicing as we recognize God’s triumphant response as it begins to unfold. Content aligns with Year B Advent-Christmas lections.
Shifts in Content Postings
Instead of the complete worship content I’ve been posting weekly for in-home or remote worship, this Advent-Christmas season I’ll be offering content differently. This posting contains themes and scripture for five Sundays, plus Christmas Eve and Christmas Day offerings (November 29 through December 27 in 2020). Soon, Advent Wreath Readings will post. I may provide additional content, but can’t commit at this time. Thankfully, I’ll be taking a much-delayed vacation the first two weeks of December. God bless you and those you serve!
This year’s Advent-Christmas journey is “psalm forward.” Currently, these are my favorite translations:
The Psalter: A faithful and inclusive rendering from the Hebrew into contemporary English poetry, intended primarily for communal song and recitation. Liturgical Training Press ©1994. Note: Verse selections (mine) and numberings (LTP’s) may differ from the translation you usually use.
Psalms for Young Children Marie-Hélène Delval, writer. Arno, illustrator. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 edition in English. © 2003. French: Les Psaumes pour les tout-petits
Note: Please support independent booksellers. In the San Francisco East Bay, we adore Sacrada in Oakland.
Advent: Restore Us!
This Advent is like no other in our lifetimes. Yet, this season of vast challenges and unrequested opportunities is not unlike other times in human history. This year we dive into the psalms and other song-scriptures of the Advent season to join the human chorus crying out to God for a Messiah who will save a people.
I’ve packed up the classic Advent and Christmas themes this year to listen for the Still Speaking God’s invitation into a new way into and through the holiday season during a global pandemic and massive civil turnings. May God’s Holy Spirit guide us, collectively, as we make our way forward in health and hope seeking true revitalization along the path of humility and companionship with our Ever-Good, Ever-Faithful, Ever-Guiding God.
Advent 1: Restore Us, Shine Upon Us. National restoration begins with relationship with God. Text: Psalm 80:2-4; 18-20 (LTP)
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
leader of Joseph’s flock.
From Your throne on the cherubim
shine out for Ephraim,
for Benjamin, and for Manasseh.
Gather Your strength,
come save us!
Restore to us, God,
the light of Your presence,
and we shall be saved.
Rest Your hand upon Your chosen one
who draws strength from You.
We have not turned from You.
Give us life again
and well will invoke Your name.
Restore to us, Lord God of might,
the light of Your presence,
and we shall be saved.
Advent 2: Restore Us to Goodness. Aligning to God’s Dream, examining our character and values. Text: Psalm 85: 9-14 (LTP)
I listen to God speaking:
“I, the Lord, speak peace,
peace to My faithful people
who turn their hearts to Me.”
Salvation is coming near,
glory is filling our land.
Love and fidelity embrace,
peace and justice kiss.
Fidelity sprouts from the earth,
justice leans down from heaven.
The Lord pours out riches,
Our land springs to life.
Justice clears God’s path,
Justice points the way.
Advent 3: Restore Us to Abundance. Looking back in sorrow, looking forward with joy. Text: Psalm 126 (LTP)
A song of ascents.
The Lord brings us back to Zion,
we are like dancers,
with songs on our lips.
Other nations say,
“A new world of wonders!
The Lord is with them.”
Yes, God works wonders.
Rejoice! Be glad!
Lord, bring us back
as water to a thirsty land.
Those sowing in tears
reap, singing, and laughing.
They left weeping, weeping,
casting the seed.
They come back singing, singing,
holding high the harvest.
Advent 4: Restore Us to Justice. We join Mary praising God’s Dream for Humanity. Text: Luke 1:46b-55 (NRSV, adapted)
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of this servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who revere God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength of arm;
Scattering the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
Bringing down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly,
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sending the rich away empty.
God has helped the servant nation,
in remembrance of divine mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants forever.”
This Christmas season, also, will be like no other in our lifetimes. Thankfully, we can join the ancient Hebrews as we celebrate God’s promises to provide the human community incarnate, divine leadership. This Christmas, we celebrate God’s Dream for us through songs boldly sung, safely, in our personal households. We will rejoice from different places united as one human community, a collective of faith, united by the Holy Spirit.
As we sing favorite carols and Christmas songs, let us also invite God to put new songs in our hearts and new words in our mouths. If you have not before, consider singing the psalms – with ancient melodies or spontaneous tunes. Let us praise the God of all peoples, of all beings, of all times, and of all conditions. We rejoice with fellow human beings, with the cosmos, and with our rising hopes for humanity.
Christmas Eve: Rejoice! Newborn Hope. The Prince of Peace Emerges from Suffering. Text: Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV, adapted)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness –
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
You have increased its joy;
they rejoice before You as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
You have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors,
and all the garments rolled in blood,
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
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 Parent, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Christmas Day: Rejoice! Singing New Songs. God Brings Order – All Creation Sings. Text: Psalm 96:1-3, 7-13 (LTP)
A new song for the Lord!
Sing it and bless God’s name,
Tell the whole world
God’s triumph day to day,
God’s glory, God’s wonder.
Proclaim the Lord, you nations,
praise the glory of God’s power,
praise the glory of God’s name!
Bring gifts to the temple,
bow down, all the earth,
tremble in God’s holy presence.
Tell the nations, “The Lord rules!”
As the firm earth is not swayed,
nothing can sway God’s judgement.
Let heaven and earth be glad,
the sea and the sea creatures roar,
the field and its beasts exult.
Then let the trees of the forest sing
before the coming of the Lord,
who comes to judge the nations,
to set the earth alright,
restoring the world to order.
1 Christmas: Rejoice! All Beings Praise. Cosmic Celebration of the Living Christ’s Birth. Text: Psalm 148 (LTP)
Praise the Lord!
Across the heavens,
from the heights,
all you angels, heavenly beings,
sing praises, sing praises!
Sun and moon, glittering stars,
sing praise, sing praise.
Highest heavens, rain clouds,
sing praise, sing praise.
Praise God’s name,
whose word called you forth
and fixed you in place for ever
by eternal decree.
Let there be praise:
from the depths of the earth,
from the creatures of the deep.
Fire and hail, snow and midst,
fruit trees and cedars,
wild beasts and tame,
snakes and birds,
old and young,
praise, praise, the holy name,
this name beyond all names.
God’s splendor above the earth,
above the heavens,
gives strength to the nation,
glory to the faithful,
a people close to the Lord,
Israel, let there be praise!
Online Publishing Date: November 24, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting any effort to uplift your neighbors. Here in the SF Bay Area we’re encouraging donations to the Alameda County Food Bank. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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