Ash Wednesday DIY Ashes-Making & Ritual • Joel 2:12-13 & Psalm 51:1-12 • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: Kathryn M Schreiber (c) 2019

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

About Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent

We begin the holy season of Lent on Ash Wednesday practicing contrition and confession, spiritual practices for refreshing our relationship with God. Lent is a time to seek ease from suffering and illusions. We practice release and acceptance of actions and ideas to grow in integrity and wellbeing. Lent lasts 40 days without Sundays, concluding on Easter morning. Based on the lunar calendar, the dates of Lent vary year to year.

Traditionally, the dried palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burnt to make ash for Ash Wednesday service. In 2020, many of us did not gather for Palm Sunday, instead we worshipped in our homes due to COVID-19 restrictions. While we may not have the traditional items, we can honor the timeless meaning of these rituals. Burning the “triumphant” palms to make ash is a humbling reminder of the fickle nature of humanity. This year, we adapt!

Making Ashes

Please read through all directions before beginning

Make dried “palms”: Assemble pieces of regular weight paper. Use what you have – used or new paper. You’ll need pieces about the size of your hand — notepad sheets, cut up used envelopes, quartered larger pieces of paper. Invite members of your household to write on the paper whatever they wish to offer to God for transformation, especially regrets or confessions. Honor confidentiality by folding paper, only one fold (ensures better burning).

Prepare to burn “palms”: Select a fire-safe low- or no-wind place outside. Assemble: a votive candle in a fire-proof holder, matches, metal tongs for holding burning paper, a medium to large fire-proof bowl or pot, and folded paper “palms.” Fire safety: have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher at hand.

Prayerfully burn the “palms”: Light the protected votive candle. Play music or sing, if you wish. This is a time to ritually release our burdens to God. Enter into a state of prayer. Using the tongs to hold one piece of paper, light one end of the paper and burn over the fire-proof bowl or pot. Release the paper as the last bit of paper burns (it’s okay if not all the paper burns.) Repeat until all the “palms” are burnt. While it doesn’t take much ash, if you think you need more, or wish to keep offering burnt prayers, burn blank paper or dried plant matter. These “blank” offerings may be offered to God as any sort of prayer.

Making the ash: This part is messy! You may want to stay outdoors. Assemble: a lidded glass jar and a wire mesh sieve or strainer. Place the strainer over the jar opening. Pour some of the burnt ashes into the strainer and push through with a finger. Continue until all the burnt paper has been processed. Whatever bits remain behind in the strainer can be sprinkled over the earth.

Ritual Supplies Needed:

* Candle/s: at least one candle, more to set a mood, especially at night

* Ashes: homemade (see above)  

* Towel: for tidying up

* Setting: intentional space for prayer and ritual

Ash Wednesday DIY Ashes Ritual

Acknowledge God’s Presence (light a candle/s)

God, You are the Source of All Life.

God, You are Embodied as Christ.

God, You are the Animating Spirit.

Sing “Come and Fill Our Hearts” (Taizé chant; many recordings on YouTube)

Scripture

God speaks to us, saying:

“Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to Me, your God, for I am gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; I relent from punishing.” (Joel 2:12-13, NRSV)

We reply to God, saying:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen.” (Psalm 51:10-12, NRSV)

Private Prayer of Confession and Hope

Talk with God about shifts you’d like in your life, in your community. Conclude with The Lord’s Prayer.

Words of Assurance

Take assurance in God’s faithfulness. Burdens placed at God’s feet have been released. Requests made in God’s presence have been heard.

Receive the Ashes

Please note: Some people may not want to be touched on the forehead. You may offer to make the mark of the cross on the top of their dominant hand. If you are doing this ritual alone, you may wish to use a mirror.

We make an ash cross on our forehead/hand to remember our mortality and God’s mercy. We, too, will rise with Christ on Easter morning.

Place a finger in the ash and make the sign of the cross, saying:

(horizontal mark) May God burn away that which harms.

(vertical mark) May New Life spring from these ashes.

art: source unknown

Blessing

May all who enter the holy season of Lent be open to God’s transforming mercy. May we journey together, seen and unseen, spiritual pilgrims on earth and in heaven. Lenten peace upon all beings. Amen.

(extinguish candle/s; the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.

(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, adapted by Kathryn M Schreiber.

Online Image: Kathryn M Schreiber, 2019.

Online Publishing Date: January 21, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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!Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn

“The Hope to Which We Are Called” Ephesians 1:15-19 • Epiphany Call to Transformation through Hope • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

Image: Poet Amanda Gorman, ABC7 news still photo, 1/2/2021

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Types of Hope” We consider different kinds of hope

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

It travels through the wind like a strong bird

uplifting all who watch it sail by,

It pops out from around the corner

when we least expect it

and is delighted to be found,

It reaches out to everyone, everywhere

inviting every being

into new circles of reality,

It is always tethered to the Great I AM,

always has been,

will eternally be so.

“It” is hope – Holy hope

the hope to which God calls us.

Let us be united in sacred hope

however it greets us this day.

Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Song: “This is a Day of New Beginnings” Words: B Wren; Music: C R Young; Published by drolas94 (Chalice #518)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God. Turn toward God in honesty, however is best for you today. Release what is too heavy to keep on carrying. Hand over to God what needs to be set down. Also gather up precious moments to cherish as ever-good, ever-blessed. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift into simply being with God, silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

All relationships are circular; we impact each other. This is true of our relationship with God, too. The more we attempt to be aligned with God, the more God can do with, though, and to us.

St. Paul affirmed the faith of Jesus’ followers in Ephesus and called them to continual transformation – “sanctification” – by God. We, too, through God’s grace, are called to sanctification. St. Paul invites us to trust God to fill us with wisdom and enlightenment.

Pause for a moment and consider… a thought that popped into your mind that was surprisingly uplifting; a calming spirit of cooperation moving through your community or family; a moment of deep assurance despite challenging current circumstances… these are all evidence of God’s grace flowing. Praise be to God!

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:15-19 (NRSV)

(St Paul is writing to the disciples in Ephesus)

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Quotes from Rev. William Sloane Coffin, beloved UCC pastor:

“Hope is a condition of the soul, not a reflection of one’s surroundings.”

“Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.”

Community Sermon: “Hope Harvest”

Reflect upon the hope to which God has called you. Where do you feel hope? What makes you hopeful – not just for yourself and loved ones, but for everyone? What hope do you believe comes from God, a Big Hope? Share your “hope harvest” with others. Together, this collection of hope can assure us God is at work. May we see, together, how God is inspiring us to live more fully into God’s Dream for all being.

Special Music: “Amazing Grace” Written by J Newton; Performed by Lori Marie Key at COVID Memorial. 2021. (Chalice #546)

We Pray

Prayers of the People and The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Hope is just one of the many blessings that flow from the perpetual fountain that is God. May holy hope touch all beings. Amen.

We Continue in Hope

Song: “My Life Flows On, How Can I Keep from Singing” Written by R Lowry; Performed by Audrey Assad. (Chalice #619)

Benediction

(from “The Hill We Climb” by US Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, recited at the Presidential Inauguration1/20/2021)

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy

and change our children’s birthright

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,

we will rise from the windswept northeast

where our forefathers first realized revolution

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,

we will rise from the sunbaked south

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it (ag)

May we go forth in hope with peace. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Worship Resources:

All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.

(ag) Amanda Gorman. “The Hill We Climb” ©2021. Text appeared online on CNN:https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/amanda-gorman-inaugural-poem-transcript/index.html

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

Note: (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms’ publishing requirements.

Online Image: ABC7 news still photo, 1/2/2021.

Online Publishing Date: January 20, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” • Genesis 4:9 • Epiphany Call to Social Transformation • Beloved Community Sunday • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork by Paul Gauguin

worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.

Time for Children of All Ages

“The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Kid President” This MLK Day, celebrate the promise of change.

Worship Service

We Gather

Call to Worship

Beloved Community, though our hearts be weary or heavy, God uplifts our souls with hope.

Beloved Community, as we listen to each other’s honest stories, God opens our hearts to solidarity.

Beloved Community, when we love each other as we would like to be loved, God blooms among us as Christ.

Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Gathering Song “His Eye Is on The Sparrow” Words: C D Martin; Music: C H Gabriel; Performed by Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:9 (NRSV)

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

Cain said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“We must come to see now that integration is not merely a romantic or aesthetic something, where you merely add color to a still predominantly white power structure. Integration must be seen also in political terms, where there is shared power, and where black people and white people share power together, to build a new and a great nation. In a real sense, we’re all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” – The Other America, 1967.

Historic Reflection “The Other America”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 speech at Stanford addressing societial inequalities in the US and the legacy of racism. Text: https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/the-other-america-speech-transcript-martin-luther-king-jr Video: https://youtu.be/dOWDtDUKz-U (min 47:48)

Contemporary Reflection “A Single Garment of Destiny”

(will post on YouTube channel “Kathryn Schreiber” before 1/17/2021)

Special Music: “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” (Dr King’s favorite hymn) Words and Music: T A Dorsey. Performed by Dinjimeel Rye Mariquit & Larah Claire Sabroso.

Prayers of the People

The Lord’s Prayer

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God. Turn toward God in your honesty, however is best for you today. Release what is too heavy to keep on carrying. Hand over to God what needs to be set down. Gather precious moments to cherish as ever-good, ever-blessed. Prepare your spirit to receive Holy Communion. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen” with gratitude in your heart.

Silent Prayer

Shift from “doing” to “being” simply being with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

St. Paul has assured us that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Not any act of hatred or system of favoritism; not any wound or trauma. No matter what we have done or not done, no matter what has been done to us or not done with us, God’s healing radiance flows to us. May the Beloved Community receive the grace of God’s everlasting love and affirmation.

We Receive

Communion Song “Who Is My Mother, Who Is My Brother?” Words: S D Murray; Music: J Schrader; Performed by: Heather Featherstone. (Chalice #486)

Invitation to Holy Communion

Though we are staying safe by staying apart, through the Holy Spirit we share this meal intentionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to share this meal.

Consecration of Elements

Place your hands over or upon the cup and the bread and pray:

“Holy God, this is Your Table where everyone is welcome,

where every hunger for justice is welcome,

where every hunger for healing is welcome.

Fill this cup and loaf with Your Abiding Presence. Amen.”

Sharing the Elements

Jesus’ Table is open to everyone. Everyone is welcome! No matter where we are physically, in this blessed moment we are assembled with Jesus and the Beloved Community.

Jesus lifts up the loaf, thanks God, breaks the bread, and offers it, saying: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

We who believe in freedom* receive holy nourishment. (eat) The Beloved Community has been fed.

Jesus lifts up the cup, thanks God, and offers the cup, saying: “Drink this, everyone! This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

We who believe in freedom* receive holy forgiveness. (drink) The Beloved Community is forgiven.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

On this Beloved Community Sunday, Most Righteous God, we receive these gifts alongside the eternal souls of Brother Martin and Civil Rights martyrs. May we inherit their hunger for justice and their courage to repair the breeches in our nation. Amen.

Special Music: “Let Justice Roll Down” Written by Aileen Vance; Performed by Lea Morris. 2021.

We Give Thanks

Offering

We are God’s children. We are siblings. Though false doctrines have separated us, though cruel actions have wounded us, we are forever one human family. Let us praise God who makes us one! Amen. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope “We Shall Overcome” African American Spiritual. Performed by Shades of Yale. 2020.

Benediction

It is the Creator who weaves us into a single garment of destiny.

It is Christ who awakens us to our inescapable network of mutuality.

It is the Holy Spirit who guides us in the building of a great nation.

May the blessing of these eternal realities give us comfort and hope.

May we go forth with peace. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Note:

*”We who believe in freedom” is a line from “Ella’s Song” written by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources:

All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements.

Online Publishing Date: January 14, 2021.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  as racism and injustice are still very much with us, please offer your support through prayer, affirmation, and donation to a non-profit that teaches a nonviolence way of dismantling racism. 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

Epiphany 2021

drawing: Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber, (c) 2021

Hello Dear Ones,

I’d planned to post this holiday greeting and image today on the Feast of the Epiphany with no idea of how violence would manifest in Washington, DC. I hope that you and your household are well, safe, and strong enough. And I pray that you will continue to do what you do to bring about God’s Dream for Humanity.

Today, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany/Día de los Reyes/Three Kings Day. It commemorates adoration of the Christ Child by foreign magi (royal scholars). We Christians celebrate God’s love for all humanity given to all cultures, ethnicities, races. We also celebrate the diversity of Christ’s Church and the gift of awakenings – “epiphanies” when we see with God’s eyes.

Back in November I began sketching St. Mary singing “The Magnificat” seen through the lens of 2020. I envisioned a Christmas Card with a Black Mary singing for justice with great faith and hope:

“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 lifting up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent 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.” (Luke 1:46b-55; NRVS adapted)

As I reflected on the text, much resonated with what I’m hearing young women saying today. Thus, “The Hashtag Skirt.” I hope you’ll add your preferences. And if you don’t know these movements, please check them out:

#CoronaHeroes #IntheBigLove #SaytheirNames #nonviolence #halfby2030 #WaterisLife #ParisAccord #AAPISolidarity #StandAgainstHated #Peace #Homefulness #Justice&Mercy #PoliceReform #BlackLivesMatter #ProScience #NoFence #Corona-1619 #GreenNewDeal #GirlPower #LandBack #doctorSusanMoore #LoveWins #NomorestolenSisters #gogreen #EveryVoteCounts #BetheChange #MeToo #Love (some capitalizations changed for visual appeal)

The radiant light/energy waves are inspired by Stevie Wonders’ fabulous album cover for “Songs in the Key of Life” (1976), a source of great spiritual care when I was a young adult.

This is a sacred illustration, a proclamation of faith. I hope there is something here that speaks in a true way for you. May this image be a statement of hope that 2021 will be filled with many epiphanies for us on all levels. God is still speaking. God is still calling us into fullness of being for the well-being of all beings.

In the Big Love,

Kathryn

Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber

Berkeley Chinese Community Church, UCC

Berkeley, CA, USA

P.S. If you’d like, you’re welcome to copy and print the image for personal use, including as a coloring project. However, I ask that you do not reproduce and share without my permission. You are welcome, however, to freely share the link to this page. God bless you and yours. Thank you!

“Blessed in a Wild Place” • Mark 1:4-11 • Epiphany Call to Personal Transformation • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber (c) 2010

worship format and original content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise, we offer free worship content. We’re exploring format shifts. Bear with us! Take Care!

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Epiphany 2021: God is Still Speaking” God spoke to the magi through a dream to save Jesus

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Beloved, God calls us into the Wilderness of Awakening.

Beloved, God calls us into the River of Forgiveness.

Beloved, God calls us to rise Blessed and Empowered… too!

Light the Christ Candle

Gathering Song “Shall We Gather by the River” Words and Music: Robert Lowry. Performed by Buddy Greene. (Chalice #701)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God however your spirit and body wish. It’s okay to enter into God’s presence uncertain to what is happening, opening to what might happen. However you arrive, God will be delighted.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

Grace is freely given; we cannot make it happen. If we could, it would not be grace. However, we can improve our receptivity to God’s gifts.

This week we remember Jesus humbling himself to John’s ministrations in the River Jordan. Jesus models a pure spirit releasing and being open. While we may not witness the heavens open and God’s voice speak words of direct blessing, there may be times when a “knowing” comes over us and we swell with an inner sense of our beloved-ness. Such a moment of grace is quite holy. Let us cherish God’s grace whenever it comes upon us.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. John proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Quote from Mechthild of Magdeburg, 13c Germany mystic:

“And God said to the soul: I desired you before the world began. I desire you now, as you desire me.  And where the desires of two come together, there love is perfected.”

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection “Blessed in a Wild Place”

John the Baptist was called out of the Temple into the Wilderness to prepare the people for God’s Beloved Son. So, too, we have been called out of our Sanctuaries into our Households to open our hearts to God’s Beloved Ones.

Jesus of Nazareth humbled himself to the waters of the River Jordan and the reinterpreted rituals of his cousin John. So, too, we are to humble ourselves to God’s ambassadors to be spiritually prepared for our future ministries.

The River took what was not needed away. The Heavens offered a Spirit like a Dove bestowing blessing. The heavenly Voice spoke affirming identity, status, and belovedness. So, too, God is working through all Creation to bring the Living Christ into redemptive, relational presence with us.

Now that our religious patterns have been disrupted where are we, as individuals, being called to experience spiritual care? Where are you finding spiritual nourishment? When and where are you safe to be vulnerable and open to new blessings?

I believe one of the strange gifts of this “Stay at Home” time is seeing, more clearly, what truly blesses our souls, especially in times of challenge. This is a time to note the comforting habits we miss AND to acknowledge where and how we are currently being restored and blessed.

This week consider where you have found genuine spiritual uplift these past 9-10 months. Where has God blessed you? Maybe, like Jesus, it has been a “wild” place – a place unlike the holy buildings where you expected to find God’s presence in the past?

Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

(Note: A somewhat related sermon video will be available on YouTube channel “Kathryn Schreiber” before 1/10/2021)

Special Music “Wade in the Water” Traditional African-American spiritual. Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. (Chalice #371)

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

This second Sunday of the year, many Christians recall the baptism of Jesus Christ. Let us also pause to remember our baptism through Jesus Christ. All who proclaim Jesus as Christ are connected, eternally. We are part of “The Body of Christ” one of an uncountable number of souls who reside in fellowship throughout all time. What a blessing!

Let us praise God for this everlasting gift. We are “us” because Jesus brought us, in word and action, God’s redeeming love. Hallelujah! Praise God! (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope “Down to the River to Pray” Written by Philip Lawson. Performed by Alison Krauss and Union Station. 2002. https://youtu.be/swOLCLrqBn8

We Pray

Benediction

God is here in our wilderness time.

God is still speaking –

in breaking clouds and diving doves

proclaiming “Beloved” to all who serve.

Let us journey on in this wild place

filled with a truly Holy Spirit

opening to unpredictable new wonders.

Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources:

All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements.

Online Publishing Date: January 5, 2020.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However,  you may express your gratitude by offering your support – in action or financial gift – to your church or a church you respect. We really need your support right now – volunteers and funds. 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“The First Prayer of 2021”

photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters; taken in Mexico City

“The First Prayer of 2021” written by Rev Kathryn M Schreiber

birds sang the sun up

this first morning of 2021

listening to their joy

I found a new sorrow

the collective silence

of all who died last year

what songs are sung

in Heaven today?

do they grieve with us

here on Earth?

Lord, have mercy upon us.

As of 6:12am GMT 1/1/2021 the World Health Organization reported 1,808,041 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19.

“Paying Homage” • Matthew 2:1-12 • Epiphany Call to Discernment • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

artwork: (c) 1998, Ashley Bryan, “Carol of the Brown King”

worship format and original content: (c) 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise, we offer free worship content. We’re exploring format shifts. Bear with us! Take Care!

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Carol of the Brown King” Epiphany poem by Langston Hughes illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

That STAR! That brilliant star! Let us follow Holy Light!

That KING! That frightened king! Let us follow Holy Light!

That BABE! That royal babe! Let us follow Holy Light!

That DREAM! That guiding dream! Let us follow Holy Light! Amen.

Light the Christ Candle

Gathering Song “We Three Kings” Words and music: J H Hopkins. Arranged, recorded, and performed by Nathan Drake.

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God however your spirit and body wish. It’s okay, too, just to say “Hi!” to God. God’s delighted you are here.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

Sometimes, God wonderfully interrupts our plans! God offers us new opportunities to realign and change course, something the Magi (Wise Men) knew first hand. Sometimes, God’s grace pours out as a calling to make a significant shift. Maybe God is inviting you to take another road, too? Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 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.” 

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘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.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 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.” 

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. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection “Paying Homage”

The Wise Ones knew what was true and good and what was not. God spoke to them through their experiences and dreams. They had the wisdom to disobey a dishonest and evil king. They practiced “discernment” – the careful, thoughtful, and spiritual evaluation of circumstances.

As this crazy year 2020 concludes and 2021 arrives with its own challenges the ability to “discern” is even more important. Taking time to deeply reflect on next steps and checking in with God before forging on is critical. Two thousand years ago, three traveling scholars practiced discernment and chose not to tell a corrupt leader where the Messiah was. They protected the life of one who embodied divine presence. Would Christianity exist today if the Magi had informed King Herod of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem?

As the calendar year turns, now is a very good time to look back mindfully and to enter the new year prepared to practice discernment. Please consider setting aside time in early January, maybe during this week, to observe a reflective home-retreat. (see video link below)

God is inviting us to listen carefully to attend the wisdom of our souls and minds, to honor the realities of our bodies and hearts, and to enter the future as Jesus himself might say, “Wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

May God bless you as you discern how to honor God – what God has done for you and what God is calling you and yours into in 2021. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Spiritual Practice: Mindfully Turning the Year

This virtual retreat guides us through intentionally shifting from the old year to the new one. Video may be stopped to expand exercises at any time. Setup home retreat space: quiet and uninterrupted, wear layers, soothing drink, notebook or device for writing, spiritual items of comfort, items for release ritual — small paper to safely burn or two bowls, one with small object like pebbles. Practice includes: • Grounding Prayer • Reflection: What to leave behind? • Ritual: Physical Release • Reflection: What to carry forward? • Ritual: Being Open • Closing Prayer.

Special Music “Do You Hear What I Hear” Words by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne. Performed by Gentri.

We Pray

Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer

We Give Thanks

Offering

The Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing three gifts – gold (economic wealth), frankincense (religious devotion), and myrrh (royal anointing) – all extremely valuable items reserved for presentation to royal deities – humans of divine standing. To give an infant this trio of gifts represents the highest value of honor international dignitaries would show a being who embodied God’s presence on earth. Imagine those gifts being given to a child being born in a stable?

On the Feast of Epiphany, (January 6th), we remember the Three Magi’s trip to pay homage to Jesus Christ. They remind us to honor Jesus Christ and to give God the very best and to present our gifts where most needed. (Scholars believe these valuable gifts were used by the Holy Family to purchase their escape to Egypt when King Herod mandated the deaths of all young male children in his cruel efforts to protect his reign as king.) How might we honor God by sharing our gifts this year? (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope “Let There Be Peace on Earth” Music and Lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson. Arranged by Keith Christopher. Adapted and directed by Sarah Grandpre. Performed by Voices of Hope Children’s Choir. (Chalice #677)

Benediction

Let us take off our crowns and bow down.

Let us freely offer our very best gifts.

Let us praise the Holy One wherever we find him.

Let our souls rejoice with joy and hope!

And may we travel on in peace. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

“Nativity explained: the gifts from the Magi,” Michael Trimmer. ©2013. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/nativity-explained-the-gifts-from-the-magi/35146.htm

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources:

All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements.

Online Publishing Date: December 30, 2020.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.

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 a local non-profit that uplifts brown and black children and their families. 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Rejoice! All Beings Praise” • Psalm 148 • 1st Sunday of Christmas with Pop-up Praise Pageant • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

Creation fiber art at All Saints Episcopal Church, San Leandro, California

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020

Worship Note

This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise. A simpler format for a full week!

Preparations

  • In advance, invite folks to prepare outfits/props representing their favorite forms of creation for the Pop-up Praise section. (see A Cosmic Celebration of the Christ’s Birth” below)
  • Read through this service beforehand to assemble other items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Choose songs (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence. White is the traditional color of the season of Christ. We are in the season of Christmas until Epiphany – January 6th.

Time for Children of All Ages

No new “Out of the Bag” this Sunday (See “Kathryn Schreiber” YouTube channel for previous recordings)

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

We gather in celebration! Jesus Christ has been born! Let Heaven and Nature sing! May we join the cosmic chorus praising the newborn king!

Light the Christ Candle

Sing-a-long Carol: “Angels We Have Heard on High” Words and Music: Traditional French carol; Arranged and performed by Nathan Drake (Reawakened Hymns).

We Rest in God’s Grace

Releasing and Receiving

How is it with your soul? Check in with God however your spirit and body wish. It’s okay, too, just to say “Hi!” to God. God’s delighted you are here.

Silent Prayer

We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God. (pause)

Be still and know that I am. (pause)

Be still and know. (pause)

Be still. (pause)

Be. (pause)

Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”

God’s Grace 

It is a grace just to be alive. God called us into life just as God called Jesus into life. On this First Sunday of Christmas receive the essential blessing of being called into life. Amen.

Pop-up Praise Pageant

(LTP translation of Psalm 148 adapted by K Schreiber)

Creation Solidarity

With what form/s of creation – cosmic or earthly, plant or animal – would you like to praise God? What human groups do you belong to? Look though the psalm below and see what excites you. Please praise God with as many beings as you wish! If you’ve prepared costume or props, that’s great. Also use your body. How might different beings praise God? Have fun!

“Cosmic Celebration of the Christ’s Birth”

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord!”

Angels: “Across the heavens, from the heights, all of us angels, we heavenly beings, we sing praises, we sing praises!” (sing chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High”) “Gloria in excelsis deo.”

Beings in the Sky:

“We are the sun and moon. We sing praise!” (praise movements and sounds)

“We are the glittering stars. We sing praise!” (praise movements and sounds)

“We are the highest heavens. We sing praise!” (praise movements and sounds)

“We are therain clouds.We sing praise!” (praise movements and sounds)

All Beings in the Sky, together: “We praise God’s name, whose word called us forth and fixed us in place forever by eternal decree.

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord!”

Beings from the Deep:

“We praise God from the depths of the earth!” (praise movements and sounds)

“We praise God from the depths of the ocean!” (praise movements and sounds)

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord!”

All Manner of Beings:

Fire and Hail… (praise movements and sounds)

Snow and Midst… (praise movements and sounds)

Storms and Winds… (praise movements and sounds)

Mountains and Hills… (praise movements and sounds)

Fruit Trees and Cedar Trees… (praise movements and sounds)

Wild Beasts and Tame… (praise movements and sounds)

Snakes and Birds… (praise movements and sounds)

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord!”

All Manner of People:

Princes, Princesses and Judges… (praise movements and sounds)

Elected Officials and Voters… (praise movements and sounds)

Men and Women… (praise movements and sounds)

Old and Young… (praise movements and sounds)

All Manner of People, together: “We praise, praise, the Holy Name, this name beyond all names!

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord!”

One: God’s splendor above the earth, above the heavens, gives strength to the nation, glory to the faithful, a people close to the Lord — let there be praise!

ALL: “We praise God! Hallelujah! Christ is born! Praise the Lord! Amen!”

Special Music “Jesus, Jesus, What a Wonderful Child” Traditional African-American;Performed by the Good Counsel High School Choirs

We Pray

Prayers of Petition

Lift up prayers of joy and concern

The Lord’s Prayer

Imagine being together with your favorite worship community

We Give Thanks

Offering

Praise is the original offering. Especially now that we cannot “pass the plate” – what a prefect time to reorient the weekly offering as a time of praise? Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Sing-a-long Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Words: C Wesley, Music: F Mendelssohn, Chalice #150; Performed by Bach Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Benediction

No matter the day of the year, no matter the condition of our hearts, every day is a celebration day when Christ appears. Let us hold onto hope and faith, love and wonder. Let us go forth with peace. Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(LTP) 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

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online Publishing Date: December 26, 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 a local nonprofit that supports the health and wellbeing of the natural world. If you would 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Rejoice! Singing New Songs” • Psalm 96:1-3, 7-13 • Christmas Day Rejoicing • Devotional for In-Home or Remote Group Use

Image: screen shot from David Wesley’s (ICU nurse) first virtual choir May 2020

Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020

Worship Note

This devotional is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • Read through this devotional to assemble items needed.
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any candle or object which represents Christ’s presence. If you have an Advent Wreath use it, too.
  • Cue up the music videos before-hand and add your favorites, too!
  • Invite any being who wishes to join in to offer songs of praise to the newborn Christ.

Time for Children of All Ages

Out of the Bag: “Jesus’s Birth” Nativity scene; Where Christ will be born this year

Devotional

Please adapt to make this devotion fit your household.

Invocation

On this Christmas Day we rejoice! Around the world, throughout all species, no matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with or whom we are missing… our souls join in a singing celebration as we rejoice in the birth of Christ – holy presence dwelling in mortal flesh!

Christ has come to set the earth alright, restoring the world to order! Let us rejoice! Let us all rejoice together! Amen.

Lighting the Christ Candle

If you have a household Advent Wreath light the four Advent Candles AND the Christ Candle.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 96:1-3, 7-13 (LTP)

Read out loud or sing using any tune that comes to mind.

A new song for the Lord! Sing it and bless God’s name, everyone, everywhere! 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.

Rejoice: Singing New Songs!

Sing along, dance! Enjoy these lively recordings and your upbeat favorite carols.

“Little Drummer Boy” Written by K K Davis; African Tribal Version arranged by A Boye; performed by Alex Boye and Genesis Choir.

“Angels We Have Heard On High” Traditional French carol; arranged by David Wesley; Performed by Virtual Choir #9 — 233 singers and ASL interpreters from 43 countries.

“Carol of the Bells” Original “Ukrainian Carol” written by M Leontovych; arranged and performed by Jennifer Thomas; orchestrations by Glen Gabriel; choral arrangements by Sheila Bateman.

Christmas Blessing

There have always been “different” Christmases – years when our holiday dreams fade, when we cannot celebrate as we wish. The one who was born in a barn because there was no room in the inn reminds us that these are the very years when God is especially close. Let us be open to the miracle of Christmas anew.

May our minds open to receive newborn vision.

May our hearts open to receive newborn hope.

May our souls open to receive newborn faith.

May our communities open to receive newborn blessings.

Merry Christmas! God bless you! Amen.

(the devotion is concluded)

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.

(LTP) 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

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online Publishing Date: December 22, 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 non-profit with a donation or word of gratitude. If you would 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

“Rejoice! Newborn Hope” • Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20 • Christmas Eve Celebration with Advent Wreath Readings & Holy Communion • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: unknown source

content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Note: No “Out of the Bag” message has been prepared for Christmas Eve, but one for Christmas Day may be posted. Please check “Kathryn Schreiber” YouTube channel.

Worship Note

This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.

Preparations

  • Read through this service beforehand and assemble items needed.
  • Assemble Advent Wreath, Christ Candle, and candles to represent distant loved ones.
  • An Advent Wreath can be any configuration of four candles with an additional Christ Candle (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvelGQTEt6M)
  • A “Christ Candle” can be any candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
  • Additional candles may be lit at the close of the service.
  • Assemble household Communion elements – “wine/juice” and “bread”.
  • Choose songs (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
  • If using a couple of readers, please practice beforehand.
  • Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
  • Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence on Christmas. White is the traditional liturgical color, but any joyful decoration is appropriate.

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

The Light Anticipated

Call to Worship/Advent Candle-Lighting (for one or multiple readers)

The Prophet Isaiah, speaking God’s words, said: “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.”

We join the long march of people traveling out of darkness into light. We gather with citizens of heaven and earth joyfully awaiting the arrival of The Great Light. The Light of Christ approaches! Rejoice! Amen.

Lighting the Four Candles of Advent

(Light the Advent Candles lit last Sunday. Do not light the new Christ Candle yet. It will be lit in the next section of the service.)

Candle Lighting Song “O Come All Ye Faithful” Words, Music: J F Wade; Tune: ADESTE FIDELES (Chalice #148); Performed by Martina McBride

The Light Born

Jesus Christ was born about two thousand and twenty years ago during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Caesar Augustus decreed that all residents of the Roman Empire should be registered. So Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, went to Bethlehem – the royal city founded by King David. While in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger. The child was born in a stable because there was no place for them in the inn. (from Luke 2:1-7)

Rejoice! A child has been born for us! Rejoice! God’s son is given to us! Rejoice! The Light of Christ is here! Amen.

Lighting the Christ Candle

(Light the Christ Candle)

Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Words by P Brooks, Music by LH Redner (Chalice #144); Performed by the Gaither Vocal Band

The Light Announced

Beyond the city of Bethlehem shepherds were grazing their flocks carefully watching over them throughout the night. A heavenly light appeared – an angel glowing with the glory of God. The shepherds where were terrified! The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people. Today in the city of David, the Messiah – humanity’s savior – is born. Go to Bethlehem and look for a child wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger.” A host of heavenly beings joined the angel. They praised God, singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” (from Luke 2:8-14)

Carol: “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” Words: E H Sears, Tune: CAROL (Chalice #153); Performed by Maranatha! Christmas 

The Light Witnessed

After the angels left, the shepherds quickly went to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph. Their newborn baby was wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The shepherds told the new parents everything the angels had said. Everyone who heard the shepherds speak was astonished, except for Mary. She treasured these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned to the fields, rejoicing. They glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen – just as the angel had described. (from Luke 2:15-20)

“The First Noel” Music: Traditional English melody (Chalice #151); Performed by Danny Wright

The Light Proclaimed

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV, adapted)

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: 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, O Lord, 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.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

The Light Embodied

Reflection “Christ is Being Born”

Every year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Every year. Our annual celebration is not a birthday party or a remembrance of a person of significance – nor is it a Christianized version of older cultural winter festivals. Spiritually, Jesus Christ’s birthday celebration – Christmas – is a time to be open, again for the first time,* to God’s presence on earth in Christ.

What happened a couple thousand years ago in the Middle East in a very particular place, among a very particular group of people, in a very particular way continues to grow more diverse in location, culture, and expression. Christ is being reborn all the time. During Christmas we pause not only to celebrate what God has done – but what is God is doing.

Where is Christ being born now? What spiritually dim places are being illuminated with God’s glory? What plundered peoples are hoping for a joyful harvest? Who has been released from confining shackles? Whose war boots and blooded clothing have been burnt to welcome a new era of peace? Who speaks justice with righteousness leading us forward?

Where is Christ reborn this night? To whom are the angels announcing this wonder? Who has left their job to search for the being-born Christ? Who is filled with such wonder and joy moved by God’s faithfulness?

The Eternal Christ is always being born. Christ is right here. Christ is in each one of us. Christ is everywhere. The Great Light is here. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)

Special Music

Do you have a video of a previous Christmas Eve anthem in your sanctuary – playing it this year will be a blessing. If you don’t have such, look for a recording of “Give Him Your Heart”Words: Christina Rossetti; Arrangement:Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It is a beautiful, inspirational piece.

The Light Petitioned

Prayers of Petition

Christmas Eve is a very special time to pray. The cosmos pulses with Christian adoration of God. We are connected to one another through the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. Lift up your prayers. God is listening.

The Lord’s Prayer

Imagine being in your favorite holy place with your loved ones. May your soul fill with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Light Honored

Offering

Christina Rossetti’s beautiful poem “A Christmas Carol” became the beloved carol “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Set in cold, snowy England, the poem captures a genuine moment of adoration of the infant Jesus Christ. Amid harsh conditions, a poor person offers the holy babe their heart. This Christmas, let us again offer our hearts to Jesus Christ. (also see donation footnote)

The Light Received

Invitation to Holy Communion

Though we are staying safe and apart, through the Holy Spirit we can share this meal intentionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to share this meal. (Say names out loud.)

Consecration of Elements

Place your hands on the cup and the bread. Let us pray:

“Eternally being born Christ, may we receive you again this Christmas Eve. Fill this cup and loaf with Your presence. Amen.”

Silent Prayer

Sit with God in the silence of eternal contact. This may be a time of humble confession and earnest hope. Allow your soul to guide you in this silent prayer as you prepare for Holy Communion. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen” with gratitude in your heart.

God’s Grace 

No greater gift has ever been given – the presence of God in Jesus of Nazareth. May the wonder and majesty of this wondrous Christmas present bless our souls. Amen.

Sharing the Elements

Jesus lifted up the loaf, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

In this world of genuine hungers, may we receive Christ’s body given for us. (eat bread)

After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, gave thanks to God, and offered it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

In this world of genuine suffering, may we receive Christ’s forgiveness of sins. (drink from cup)

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Beloved God, giver of every good and perfect gift, on this Christmas Eve may we receive all that You have given us, and are giving us, through Jesus Christ. While we are grateful for Your providence and care, most of all we are thankful for Your wondrous love. May the blessing of this Holy Communion ripple out, touching others with Your Big Love. Amen.

Special Music: “O Holy Night” Music by A. Adam, arr. J. Rutter; Performed by Kings College Choir; Broadcast in the UK on Christmas Eve 2017.

The Light Shared

Often on Christmas Eve a live flame is passed from candle to candle as worshippers sing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” This year we will use our spiritual imaginations to gather with absent loved ones and pass the Light of Christ. Who do you really miss this Christmas, living or dead? Gaze upon photos or mementos of your distanced loved ones; write down their names. While singing, move the live flame from your new Christ Candle to the unlit candles.

“Silent Night, Holy Night” Words: J Mohr; Music: F Gruber; Performed by the Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Chalice #145)

Benediction

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “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.”

The Light of Christ shines upon everyone.

The Light of Christ shines forth from every being.

The Light of Christ shines throughout eternity.

Merry Christmas! Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Notes:

*“Again for the first time”: Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, was one of a handful of ground-breaking books that encouraging historical study of Jesus of Nazareth as a means to Christian faith development.

Resources:

Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995

Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995

HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.

YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results

Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, including narrative from St Luke’s gospel, unless attributed to another source.

(LTP) 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

(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online Publishing Date: December 21, 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 your church or a religious institution you respect. This has been a rough year for all non-profits. Your support, fiscal and emotional, means the world to those who serve God. Thank you! 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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