Lord, we remember in story and in song the little town of Bethlehem. We pray that you would be with us and our not so little town as the song reminds us that your power and glory comes to reside with even us today…
We sing of “the hopes and fears of all our years,” and we know that the words are just as relevant this day and this season. We pray for those grieving this week and this season. Be with all those who grieve in deeper ways this season, missing loved ones during a time when family seems at the center of everything. And with those who grieve that which never was, those unable to have children, during a season that makes that pain even more acute. For all those for whom the fears seem larger than the hopes this season, we pray.
We sing of “this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still”. We pray for those suffering from the sin of injustice today. Those whose challenges with mental health have left them hurting and wanting, in a town and region that still has some work to do when it comes to caring for their needs. Those who find themselves homeless or precariously housed, due to the simple fact that the income from their job or jobs simply don’t give them opportunity to find affordable housing. Those least among us, the children who find themselves as victims in their earliest years, suffering from traumas that have significant lasting impacts in their emotional, educational, and even physical health, all stemming from experiences in the first few years of their lives.
We sing of the “morning stars gathering to proclaim the holy birth,” and we wonder if we, perhaps, spend too much energy trying to tame Christmas. We make the softness of the hay and the quietness of Mary’s lullaby the only part of the story. Help us to hear again the harshness with which she judges the world in her Magnificat. Help us to see the again the story with its edges and passion and pain. Help us to remember that with all its quietness, it is a story of the might and power and majesty of God come to earth, and that at least one of our emotions this season ought to be fear of the Lord, not just our comfort and ease. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, we ought not tame the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. “The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience. (For) only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness.”
And so, we listen in the midst of the terror and the kindness. For peace. For justice. For hope.
“O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”