I have already moved into Advent. I made the leap. The Christmas carols have been turned on though I’m refusing to put the tree until after Thanksgiving. It feels like it has been Advent for months already though, doesn’t it? Still, the huge uptick in COVID-19 cases across this nation mean that any worship plans to be together have most likely changed…. again.
My dear friend and pastor at my sweet Texas church wanted to provide something different. Something that allowed the community to experience this season in a new way while still being connected to the physical space of the church, even if that physical space was outside in the garden, outdoor chapel and labyrinth instead of inside the sanctuary. She asked me to help and so I’m thrilled to finally release Keeping Watch Under Pandemic Skies for all of the changed plans of 2020.
I’m really excited about how this turned out and hope that it might be a blessing to all of your changed plans. It’s meant to be simple though there is a bit of legwork in getting yard signs set up along the two different paths you create on your church property. The meditations unfold over Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons with music, reflections, prayers and actions to take. I’ve included sample yard signs in the bundle and even an outdoor Christmas Eve service. Order your bundle here.
I will be taking a break from writing weekly prayers in Advent so you won’t see new prayers for weekly worship here next week, but I do have a few other things up my sleeve so be sure to sign up for my News from My Kitchen so you don’t miss out. That said, I have a prayer for this week. It’s not my favorite but it’s something for the weird cacophony of this Sunday. It feels like too much to me every year. Too many things at once as we try to honor the Reign of Christ, Reformation Sunday and the end of the church calendar. It’s too much especially when I just want to bellow into the unknown future.
I want to know what will be. I’m hoping that the hatred and contempt so embedded in our national life right now will change. I’m longing for hearts to change and hoping that God will be known in new and wonderful ways. I’m hoping for a vaccine but hesitant to name that prayer too loudly.
Prayer for the Wondering Inspired by Matthew 25:31-46 O God, tell us what can be where we divided and separated like sheep from the goats. On the right and on the left, we need blessing and grace. Our foundations have been shaken. We never imagined that this would be our reality. Here we are, O God, wondering what could be. Speak to us in sacred story and modern parable so that we can see your place in every thing. We need to know that you are in every thing, O God. Fill our jagged edges and open questions with your presence so that we can wonder what will be with you. Amen.
At the same time, I’m thinking about gratitude because that’s supposed to be something we are feeling this month. Maybe that’s for only when we are not in the third wave of a global pandemic. My first call was in Maine that marked that occasion with joy of pilgrims. We know better now, I hope. We are working harder than ever at learning from our mistakes and our implicit bias. I think that requires a new language of gratitude that is not tied to that childhood tale of strangers becoming friends around a table of abundance. We will be isolating this year. We won’t be with our families. Gratitude can’t be found in the familiar. At least for me, it’s a little bit sassier.
Prayer for Pandemic Gratitude Inspired by Deuteronomy 8:7-18 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 O God, bring us to that good land full of your living water and the abundance of good things. Bring us to that place where we might be full and satisfied because this nagging feeling is exhausting. This constant agonizing feeling that nothing will get better and nobody cares because we can't agree on what love looks like now just needs to stop. We are not cheerful. Don't ask that of us, O God, because we don't have that in us. Sorry. It's true. Skip ahead to the part where we give to the poor and multiply the seeds for the farmers and bread bakers except that we've confused what we can do in this great and terrible pandemic wilderness with what you can do. Remind us that gratitude doesn't have to turn over every table but only had to turn our hearts to notice the indescribable wonder of living in your love. O God, with every breath in our bodies, help us to live in our love enough to praise you with thanksgiving. Amen.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, dear pastors. I’m praying for you as always.