Lord, we come to your Word with squashed dreams, devastated visions, and tremendous fears about the future. Breathe hope into our lives. Guide us with the light of the Hope Candle into new beginnings. Burn away the darkness with Hope today, Amen.
Advent Candle Readings
Note: I’ll be using these at my Midnight Mass service for 2016. They could be used in separate services, however, for future years. Please feel free to edit the places of conflict mentioned under the Candle of Peace.
We light this candle in hope.
Hope for salvation from apathy and hatred.
Hope for change in our hearts and minds.
Hope for holding hands instead of holding wounds.
Hope to warm us in the dark of night.
We light this candle for peace.
Peace for hearts shell-shocked with grief.
Peace for places like Aleppo, Mosel, and Yemen.
Peace for Police and Protester.
Peace to shine in the dark of night.
We light this candle for joy.
Joy for a family finding a place for the birth.
Joy for a baby born in a stable.
Joy for shepherds sharing good news.
Joy to comfort in the dark of night.
We light this candle in love.
Love for Emmanuel, God with us.
Love for Jesus, Savior born this night.
Love from God; Love come down.
Love to bring light in the dark of night.
Light this candle for Christ.
Christ, the Child who gives us Hope.
Christ, the Promised Prince of Peace.
Christ to whom the Angels sing – “Joy unspeakable!”
Christ, God’s Love. Emmanuel. God with us.
Jesus, Love divine that came down from heaven.
Jesus, Joy that awakens each heart this night.
Jesus, Peace to quell the fears and wars of humanity.
Jesus, Hope in this darkness.
God lights this Candle for you and me.
God lights this Candle giving us the best gift possible.
God lights this candle to comfort us in the warmth of hope and joy.
God lights this candle to shine peace and guide us to love in the dark of night.
God light this Candle for Christmas, and may its flame never extinguish.
(CC) 2016. Worship’s Wake, Nathan Decker
Rising above Terror from Daniel 7:1-7, 15-18
When I grew up, the dinner table was a sacred place. If dad was not working, my sister and I knew that meant we would be eating at the table. No TV trays. No watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. No musical background to jam our food into our mouths to. If my Pa were home, we’d be sitting around the table and no one was allowed to leave until everyone was finished eating.
And it was a good thing, it was a great thing, it was a family event that made it sacred time. Around the table I learned about family connections. I heard stories about my parents’ days and lives. But every now and then the sacred would become scary.
Every four years an outside force would come in and the conversations around the table became about these strange creatures called candidates and this process called an election. My parents are independents. My parents for most of my life have always seemed to vote for opposing candidates. And yet, no matter how heated the discussion got, no matter how disgusted they became with one another, they never left the table until everyone was done eating.
In any election year, our nation gets divided; to the winners go the spoils, etc. What if we looked at it a little differently? What if we looked at today through the eyes of the Saints who are already fully in God’s kingdom?
In today’s lectionary scripture reading (as in I didn’t pick this out just for today), Daniel has a dream or as the message translates it, a Nightmare Vision. Daniel was known for his dreams and his ability to interpret them. In this vision he sees the whole world in a storm of chaos. Wind from all four directions is coming at the same time. And four beasts rise up from the sea doing ungodly things to the people of earth, devouring, raping, and stomping on them.
Daniel and the Jewish nation in captivity grieve the realization that their political situation is not going to improve.
When looking at the Biblical Imagery it is often helpful to consult scholars and historians. Scholars tell us this portion of scripture was written in the middle of the second century before Jesus during a Jewish revolt against the descendants of the Greek King Antiochus. In other words, the community that wrote this was in a political pickle. Historians help us see there are nations and kingdoms attached to these four beasts that rise from the ocean. The four beasts are meant to be representations of four kingdoms that will rise and fall in succession.
The lion with eagles wings is Babylon.
The bear with ribs is Media.
The leopard with four wings and four heads in Persia.
And the beast with iron teeth is Alexander the Great and his Greek-Macedonians empire that eventually becomes King Antiochus.
Daniel and the Jewish nation in captivity long for the Kingdom of God. They desire a return to the Promised Land. They desire a return to the way things were. Daniel weeps because his vision doesn’t show the best options. Daniel weeps because his dream offers little choices. Daniel weeps because he doesn’t see God’s kingdom on earth.
And then he consults with “one of those standing beside the throne.” He asks: “What does this mean? Where is God in all of this?” And there Daniel is given the word of hope.
In the end, the holy people of the Most High will be given the kingdom, and they will rule forever and ever.
Church, every four years we’re given anxiety by an outside force – earthly politics – and perhaps this year is worse than previous. There will be calls for prayers for God to help pick the right one or the best one or at the very least, the least crooked one, the least racist one. There will be promises to be the Christian candidate, the pro-life candidate, the pro-middle class candidate, I’m sure there is even a pro-Methodist candidate. What they really are about is power and influence. What the candidates really want is power and influence.
Church, I know that makes you weep…
- Because we don’t see the best options
- Because we seem to be offered very little in the way of choices
- Because no matter what, this doesn’t seem like God’s Kingdom on Earth
Church, I know that makes us all feel like Daniel – captive and hopeless – but remember that’s not the end of the Scripture
Remember there is Good News!
If we look today through the eyes of the Saints who are already fully in God’s Kingdom…
If we, like Daniel, consult with those “standing beside the throne…”
If we really take a breath, and allow the Holy Spirit of Peace in our hearts…
We realize that we are first and foremost not of this world.
We’re the holy ones… God’s people… Citizens of the Kingdom of God! Holy here doesn’t mean perfect. Holy in this text translates as “other” or “set apart.”
We realize that we are not of this world, but we are called to participate in the salvation of this world through Jesus Christ.
“Kings and Kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.”
God calls us to have a Kingdom vision for this world. Christ’s Kingdom will not come about through elections, nations, and power struggles. Christ’s Kingdom will come through the lives we’ve touched by handing out candy at a parking lot and inviting them to experience God’s love. Christ’s Kingdom will come through our raising up our voices to make sure our community has the best possible school system that offers hope and opportunity to those in poverty. Christ’s Kingdom will come as we gather at the table, talk through our conflicts, and refuse to leave until everyone has been fed. Christ’s Kingdom will come through serving, loving, and showing the light that cannot be extinguished by the darkness.
Someone will win this election. Some laws will change or stay the same. Yet, God’s Kingdom will continue marching on… Christ’s salvation will continue to break open hearts and change lives… The Spirit of God will continue to guide…
Today is All Saints Sunday. Allow the light of these candles to glow within your living for Jesus.
God is still God. And Grace will still be God’s gift to the world on the day after the election. Amen.
This may be used all together or spread out within the service among the carols, prayers, scripture, sermon, and communion.
LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE