Pandemic Liturgy for Advent

If you read my newsletter, you may have already clicked over to these painting advent videos and wondered what might be done with them. I started thinking about them again last week as I drove over the mountains here in West Texas listening to someone at the local university imagine how art might be shared during homecoming. She made the statement that artists were still sculpting, painting, composing and scripting while in isolation. Somehow that struck me.

It made me wonder about all of the angst that I felt reading about THE GREAT THINGS that people were going to do in lockdown when I was just trying not to go insane raising two toddlers. It also made me wonder about what creative edges are missing for us in this season apart, especially as we dare to imagine the creative forces that come together with such force in the Prologue of John. I wanted to create a simple liturgy that would lead through these four Sundays where preaching would be completely optional. Inspired by these evolving paintings, I wanted to make a space for our creative hope.

The first video is the only one that is uploaded to YouTube and so it is embedded below. The following videos appear as links. All four videos can be downloaded for free here. A donation to Level Ground Mennonite Church is strongly encouraged for this gift.

First Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer
Inspired by Mark 13:24-37

Come, O God,
into the deep hues
of wonder. Brush
beside us with brilliant
yellow because in
these days it only feels dark
With impossibility.
So dark that the moon
does not glow and
we do not know
what will happen.
We wait.
We wonder
and we wait.

Waiting Song

Lighting the Advent Candles

Reading from Scripture Isaiah 64:1-9
Prayer for the Waiting

O God, we are waiting
for your creative spark
to ignite us
and transform us.

We are waiting for
your healing and comfort
for lives taken by the coronavirus
for the damage done
to our earth
and the violence
has ripped through
too many communities.
O God, we wait in hope.

We are waiting for
your justice
to sway the rich and powerful
to care for the poor,
the lonely, the orphaned
and the immigrant
but also know
that our hearts and hands
must act for change.
O God, we wait in peace.

We are waiting for
the whole world
to tilt away from
death and destruction
toward play
and imagination.
O God, we wait in joy.

We are waiting for
love to come
remind us
again that it does not
require any talent to
do you work.
O God, we wait with love.

Help us, O God,
to paint and dance
to sing and scribble
to use our hands
to create your realm
even as we wait.
Amen.

Waiting Song

Closing Prayer
Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Do not quench
our spirits, O God.
Do not limit
our creativity
but dare us
to rejoice always.
Call us to prayer
again and again
as we try to hold
onto what is good
and filled with wonder.
May we be surprised
our hands can do
as we watch and wait.
Amen.

Second Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer

Come, O God,
and look at the mess
we have made.
Look at the trash
full of crumpled paper
and frustrated scribbles.
We wait, O God,
to summon the courage
to find beauty
in what feels so broken.
We wait, O God. We wait.

Waiting Song

Lighting the Advent Candles

Reading from Scripture Isaiah 40:1-11

Peace Video Download

Prayer for the Waiting

O God, we are waiting
for your creative spark
to ignite us
and transform us.

We are waiting for
your healing and comfort
for lives taken by the coronavirus
for the damage done
to our earth
and the violence
has ripped through
too many communities.
O God, we wait in hope.

We are waiting for
your justice
to sway the rich and powerful
to care for the poor,
the lonely, the orphaned
and the immigrant
but also know
that our hearts and hands
must act for change.
O God, we wait in peace.

We are waiting for
the whole world
to tilt away from
death and destruction
toward play
and imagination.
O God, we wait in joy.

We are waiting for
love to come again
and remind us
again that it does not
require any talent to
do you work.
O God, we wait with love.

Help us, O God,
to paint and dance
to sing and scribble
to use our hands
to create your realm
even as we wait.
Amen.

Waiting Song

Closing Prayer
Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Do not quench
our spirits, O God.
Do not limit
our creativity
but dare us
to rejoice always.
Call us to prayer
again and again
as we try to hold
onto what is good
and filled with wonder.
May we be surprised
our hands can do
as we watch and wait.
Amen.

Third Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer

Come, O God,
to bring color
to our world. Come
into the chaos of creation
to paint new wonders
in this world.
We wait for you,
O God. We wait.

Waiting Song

Lighting the Advent Candles

Reading from Scripture Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Joy Video Download

Prayer for the Waiting

O God, we are waiting
for your creative spark
to ignite us
and transform us.

We are waiting for
your healing and comfort
for lives taken by the coronavirus
for the damage done
to our earth
and the violence
has ripped through
too many communities.
O God, we wait in hope.

We are waiting for
your justice
to sway the rich and powerful
to care for the poor,
the lonely, the orphaned
and the immigrant
but also know
that our hearts and hands
must act for change.
O God, we wait in peace.

We are waiting for
the whole world
to tilt away from
death and destruction
toward play
and imagination.
O God, we wait in joy.

We are waiting for
love to come again
and remind us
again that it does not
require any talent to
do you work.
O God, we wait with love.

Help us, O God,
to paint and dance
to sing and scribble
to use our hands
to create your realm
even as we wait.
Amen.

Waiting Song

Closing Prayer
Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Do not quench
our spirits, O God.
Do not limit
our creativity
but dare us
to rejoice always.
Call us to prayer
again and again
as we try to hold
onto what is good
and filled with wonder.
May we be surprised
our hands can do
as we watch and wait.
Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Opening Prayer

Come, O God,
reveal your dreams
in our muddied palettes
and the layers of paint.
Help us to see
With your heart
how much is possible.
Color our hope
with bright red
ribbons of compassion and love.
We wait, O God. We wait.

Waiting Song

Lighting the Advent Candles

Reading from Scripture Luke 1:26-38

Love Video Download

Prayer for the Waiting

O God, we are waiting
for your creative spark
to ignite us
and transform us.

We are waiting for
your healing and comfort
for lives taken by the coronavirus
for the damage done
to our earth
and the violence
has ripped through
too many communities.
O God, we wait in hope.

We are waiting for
your justice
to sway the rich and powerful
to care for the poor,
the lonely, the orphaned
and the immigrant
but also know
that our hearts and hands
must act for change.
O God, we wait in peace.

We are waiting for
the whole world
to tilt away from
death and destruction
toward play
and imagination.
O God, we wait in joy.

We are waiting for
love to come again
and remind us
again that it does not
require any talent to
do you work.
O God, we wait with love.

Help us, O God,
to paint and dance
to sing and scribble
to use our hands
to create your realm
even as we wait.
Amen.

Waiting Song

Closing Prayer
Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Do not quench
our spirits, O God.
Do not limit
our creativity
but dare us
to rejoice always.
Call us to prayer
again and again
as we try to hold
onto what is good
and filled with wonder.
May we be surprised
our hands can do
as we watch and wait.
Amen.

This is not a complete liturgy. You already noticed that, dear preachers. You noticed the repetition of repeated prayers week after week which might calm the chaos of this year. You noticed it was short and wondered if it might fill your usual hour.

Because this isn’t a full liturgy, you have options particularly for the lighting of the Advent candles. You might choose this poetry-filled liturgy by Martha Spong or opt for this candle lighting that captures the full lament of 2020 by Maren Tirabassi.

You might choose familiar hymns from your favorites for congregational singing for the Waiting Songs. There are so many gems in our hymnals for this time of year but in this new loooong season of coronatide, you might choose from these less familiar tunes:

I have other complete liturgies in the works for the four Sundays of Advent, Blue Christmas and Christmas Eve. I’m also working on a newsletter looking toward Epiphany if you’d like to sign up for News from My Kitchen. That’s where those other full liturgies will appear before I offer them here on my blog. I’ll share more about that soon but I pray this might spark your creative hope for this season.

You are, as always, in my prayers, dear pastors.

Making Things Beautiful Or What Might Otherwise Be Called Nesting

I used to paint watercolors.

I was an art major in college. I thought that making things beautiful would be my life’s ambition until the overwhelming fear that I couldn’t hack it as a full time artist set in. I didn’t want to sell myself. I wasn’t interested in marketing beauty. I just wanted to make it but I never imagined that I would stop creating. Even as ministry and the church fostered new expressions of my creativity, I thought that I would still carry my tiny watercolor set into beautiful places to sit and paint.

My watercolors are packed away in some box now. My brushes have long since been dipped into water. I’m not even sure which box I’d find my watercolors and brushes in if I dared to look. Still, the desire to make things beautiful hasn’t gone away.

I make regular visits to my local ACE hardware store to acquire quarts of semi-gloss paint. Stools, tables and chairs are constantly changing hues in my home.

It’s been that way since I moved into my very first apartment. My brother worked for Sherwin-Williams at the time and got me my first quarts of paint that turned my coffee table bright yellow and the my bedside table a brilliant schoolhouse red. Since then, that $10 coffee table acquired at a church’s rummage sale has been green and is now blue and the bedside table no longer functions as a table.

I’m not painting watercolors anymore but I’m still painting. Layers of semi-gloss paint transform the furniture around my home to something eye-catching and surprising but it’s not the kind of beautiful I once dreamed of creating. It’s not something for a gallery wall or even an object that reorients the participants through the brokenness of life to find hope.

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The IKEA bedside table between coats of paint. Oh, and the other table I painted with the surplus paint.

It’s just a set of bedside tables from IKEA in my garage waiting to be slathered in paint. I spent several days this week hunched down on the floor of my garage attempting to add coats of baby blue paint to these tables. Pregnancy made it difficult to stoop and bend to reach the corners of these tables. My back ached and my belly was constantly in the way but it may well have been pregnancy that created the urgency to finally transform my bedroom.

Nesting is what they call it. The American Pregnancy Association claims that there is an old adage that once nesting begins, labor will soon follow. (Lord, hear my prayer.) It’s an old wives tale like most of the common knowledge about pregnancy but nesting is a common experience among pregnant women. It’s the overwhelming desire to make your home ready for baby. It’s the impulse to take on projects like painting and sewing and scrolling through pages and pages of curtains on the countless websites to create the kind of place that you hope your child will love to call home.

Or if you a military family, you spend extra hours agonizing over whether or not the movers will ruin this new thing you’ve just created with their carelessness in the next move. Will it survive that move? Will it survive the move after that? Will my child even remember any of this?

I lamented once to my dear friend Caitlin that I wasn’t making art anymore. We had spent one glorious summer together in upstate New York daydreaming about our future as brilliant artists. She has since realized that dream with gallery shows and exhibits where I was simply repainting the furniture in my home. She laughed and said that she does it too. Her home is her masterpiece. It’s the work that is never finished and so she keeps on adding layers of paint and moving furniture from here to there in search of beauty.

It’s all beautiful, she told me. There is nothing more amazing than making things beautiful. It will never be perfect but that just gives us permission to keep on creating.