Friday Prayers: Epiphany

“May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.” (Psalm 72:3)

Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season. It is the day when we celebrate Jesus’ identity being revealed to the magi, the wise ones, who followed the star to find Jesus. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus was a small child when they found him, which speaks of a search that lasted quite some time. The search represents a hope that Jesus will be the one who will change the world as they know it—they have followed a great light to find him. It is by no accident that he too is called “the Light.”

Psalm 72, Prayer for Guidance and Support of the King, reminds us that, as with Jesus, with great power comes the need for great kindness and love. It is a psalm that speaks of a great leader being one who shares justice, mercy, and peace, one who gives of themselves to be in service to others. People in positions of power have choices to make when it comes to how they treat those around them. This time of year reminds us that we have the same choices that are influenced by our faith as we seek to follow Jesus’ example of what a leader can be, in our families, in our communities, and in our world. The journey of the magi shows us that we must change direction, going by another route, if we want to be such leaders.

May we follow Jesus so that the decisions we make are not just for our benefit, but are for the benefit and love of all creation.

Body Prayer: Epiphany

Download this prayer with illustrations [PDF]

Repeat the following prayer, using the actions to inspire movement as you are able:

Holy One (reach up and out)
May your light (flick fingers open and shut 3 times)
Dwell within me (keep fingers open, place hands on chest)
May your light (flick fingers open and shut 3 times)
Shine through me (reach hands over head, bring them down with hands open)
May your light (flick fingers open and shut 3 times)
Shine into the world (circle hands over head, bring them down to sides)
AMEN (head down, hands at prayer with palms together)

The Rev. Catherine Stuart ministers at Bedeque United Church, Prince Edward Island.

Posted in Devotional, Family

Sunday Blessings: Watch Night / New Year’s Eve

For the 1st Sunday after Christmas and the Week Following

Many Christian traditions have Watch Night services. Communities gather to pray, reflect, and renew their covenant with God before the start of the new calendar year. For people of African descent who were brought to the Americas via slave ships, Watch Night is a particularly meaningful day.

Although the abolition of slavery across the British Empire came into effect August 1, 1834, in the United States, the long act of emancipations started with Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1862. I’ve been told that people gathered on December 31, 1861, to await President Lincoln’s signing of the document. Even though Watch Night originated in the United States, many Black communities gather on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of the long road to freedom that we must continue to travel until all are free. It is particularly fitting that Watch Night always happens in the middle of the Christmas season as a reminder of the liberating love that baby Jesus calls us to participate in.

Prepare

Where do you find the spirit of Christmas? Each newborn child is reliant on others to care, protect, and love them into their best selves. I wonder if little baby Jesus is any different. For me, Christmas is a powerful reminder that just as a child is reliant on their community, Jesus’ kin-dom, his dream for a better world, is reliant on all of his followers. I am needed to help care, protect, and love little baby Jesus, wherever I might meet him, and however colicky he might be, until heaven meets earth. We are all dependent on each other.

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Watch for the Spirit of Christmas this week. Record each day places where you have experienced God’s hope, peace, joy, and love. Be creative! You can record with pen and paper, via social media, in a song, or in your evening prayers. Just make sure to share the good news of Christmas, God in our world, with others!
  • Learn about the history of slavery in Canada. It’s not that easy. Much of Canadian history about enslaved people of African descent focuses on the Underground Railroad, neglecting Canada’s history of enslavement. To start your search read “It happened here, too” on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights site   or watch the story of Mary Joseph Angélique (Note: may not be suitable for all ages).
  • Have you experience hope for a better world this Christmas? Where? Make a “songs of hope and freedom” playlist to listen to and share with friends. Some suggestions: “Better Days,” The Goo Goo Dolls; “Redemption Song,” Bob Marley and the Wailers; “Ella’s Song,” Sweet Honey in the Rock; “People Get Ready,” The Impressions.

Pray

Choose one of these prayers to pray daily this week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Breath Prayer

(breathe in) Christ Child (breathe out) I will help your kin-dom come

The Prayer of Jesus

Download the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili

Graces and Blessing

Sing the last verse of “Away in a Manger” each night before bed

Be with me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children, in your tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with you there. (author unknown)

Christmas blessings,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Christmas

Friday Prayers: Christmas

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4)

Christmas is the culmination of the season of Advent, the remembering of all of God’s gifts that come to earth with the birth of Jesus, God with us. A season unto itself (from December 25–January 5), Christmas is a call to celebrate who God is in our lives, and acknowledge that Jesus lives within each of us so that we can then be gifts to each other and our world.

Psalm 98, Praise the Judge of the World, is a song of celebration that speaks of God’s steadfast faithfulness and love through all of the seasons of our lives. New life and new possibilities are always being born. The psalm reminds us that no matter how we hear this song, or experience this season, we cannot stay the same because Jesus is born within us. The birth of Jesus brings hope, peace, joy, and love to our lives and causes us to sing—not in a small whisper, but out loud and from the very depths of our souls. It is a feeling that warms us from the inside out in this cold season of winter.

May Jesus be born in us this Christmas. May his Spirit carry us through all that life brings.

Body Prayer: Christmas

Download this prayer with illustrations [PDF]

Repeat the following prayer, using the actions to inspire movement as you are able:

Holy One (reach up and out)
May the gift of Jesus (cradle arms)
Be born in me (circle arms over chest)
So that all might know (one arm at a time, circle out from body)
God’s hope (widen arms)
God’s peace (clasp hands over heart)
God’s joy (put hands toward centre, wiggle fingers)
And God’s love (open fingers over heart)
AMEN (head down, hands at prayer with palms together)

The Rev. Catherine Stuart ministers at Bedeque United Church, Prince Edward Island.

Posted in Christmas, Devotional, Family

Have you filled out our survey?

Our time together is coming to a close for this Christmas season, and we’d love to hear what you think about Advent Unwrapped.

Why did you come, or why do you keep coming back? What parts of the website do you find most helpful? What improvements to our Advent offerings would you like to see? If you haven’t had a chance yet, please take our simple survey and let us know. You have until January 5 to share your feedback.

We’ll also ask a few questions about who you are: whether you’re involved in a community of faith, your age bracket, and where you live. This is one way we’re trying to get to know our Advent Unwrapped audience.

Of course, we’re happy to hear from you in less formal ways as well. You can e-mail comments or ideas that didn’t fit the survey format.

Christmas blessings,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Uncategorized

Video: Moderator’s Christmas Message

Take a moment to remember the Moderator’s Advent message. Moderator Jordan Cantwell reminds us that, in an uncertain and often tumultuous world, God is always present. We need only look closely to see the beauty of what is right in front of us.

Posted in Christmas, Videos

Video: Where Would You Search for the Meaning of Christmas?

Download this video [MP4]
Download the video transcripts [RTF]

We hope you enjoy this video. Where will you search for the spirit of Christmas this season?

Christmas blessings,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Christmas, Videos

Sunday Blessings: Love

For the 4th Sunday in Advent and the Week Following

Get busy, Jesus is coming! Are you ready?

Prepare

Where do you find love? The symbol for love used throughout Advent Unwrapped’s video series is a bird: I call it the “love bird.” Because this love bird is rooted in hope, peace, and joy, it can fly anywhere. There is a freedom symbolized by birds that speaks to the liberating power of love.

What symbol would you use to tell the story of love? What is your understanding of love? Who do you think in your world needs some love? Are you looking for love? Where are you searching? What have you found?

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Practice silence. I know, there is a lot to do, and you are in a rush, but that’s what makes it the perfect time to take mini breaks. Before each meal, pause for at least 30 seconds of silence. Think of these mini breaks as opportunities to prepare room in your heart for God’s love.
  • Watch the video “Contemplating Christmas: Finding Quiet” as you prepare for the coming of Christmas, or watch the video “100 Ways to Show Children You Care”.
  • Have a “buy nothing” day. In a season when there is pressure to purchase more gifts, food, and clothing, pick a day this week when you intentionally buy nothing.

Pray

Choose one or more of these prayers for daily use over the course of the week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“The Word became flesh and lived among us…
full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Breath Prayer

(breath in) God my heart is open; (breath out) please come dwell in my heart.

The Prayer of Jesus

Download The Lord’s Prayer in French

Graces and Blessings

(sing to the tune of “Frère Jacques”)

We are thankful, we are thankful.
We are glad, we are glad,
for the many blessings, for the many blessings
that we have, that we have.
Amen.

(Unknown)

(Note: Next week is Watch Night/ New Year’s Eve, and we shall explore the theme of Joy.)
Waiting with you,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Love

Video: Where Would You Search for Love?

Download this video [MP4]
Download the video transcripts [RTF]

We hope you enjoy this video. Where will you search for signs of God’s love this Advent season?

Check out some more engaging blogs on the theme of love, or revisit our video playlists from 2015 and 2016.

Waiting with you,

Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Love, Videos

Friday Prayers: Love

“I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.” (Psalm 89:2)

How do we come to know love? Love is one of those words that has become so used in the English language that we have almost forgotten its true meaning and importance in our lives. As individuals, as families and communities, love has become aligned with “liking someone or something a great deal,” rather than its much deeper, lasting meaning that is passed from one person to another. Love, in its purest form, is a thread that deeply connects each of us to creation and to our God.

Psalm 89, God’s Covenant with David, speaks of God’s steadfast love, which means a love that is firm or unwavering, something that outlasts and is known throughout time. It reminds us that this self-emptying entity was promised to many generations before us and will extend to those after us as well. And not only is it extended to us, but it is the very state through which all of creation came into being.

God’s love is a gift in which we can trust—it will always be there for us, but God also calls us to share it, even with those who might seem hard to love, with those whom we might not like. It is easier to love those we know and feel comfortable with, and harder to share love with those who challenge or push us. It is important to both know we are loved and to share it so that others know it too, so that our world might slowly be transformed by this amazing gift from God. May you find love in this movement prayer. May God’s love be unwrapped in us this Advent.

Body Prayer: Love

Download this prayer with illustrations [PDF]

Repeat the following prayer, using the actions to inspire movement as you are able:

Holy One (reach up and out)
May your love (cross hands and lower arms over heart)
Be in my head… (touch head) …and heart (touch heart)
May your love (keep touching heart)
Be in my actions (touch eyes and mouth)
May your love (cross hands over heart)
Be in all I say… (touch mouth) …and do (extend hands, or in a group, hold hands)
AMEN (head down, hands at prayer with palms together)

The Rev. Catherine Stuart ministers at Bedeque United Church, Prince Edward Island.

Posted in Devotional, Family, Love

Wednesday Chapel: Love

Family Advent Time for December 20

This is our final Wednesday Chapel posting for this Advent season. We hope it has been a special time for you.

Love

Gather around your Advent Centre or move it to a table or space on the floor. Once again, use the blue cloth and have the 4th Advent candle, the candle of Love, ready (or add the word “Love” to your single candle). Have on hand matches and your special symbol for love. This time, wrap the symbol in gift paper to connect with the discovering concept behind the website’s name, Advent Unwrapped. Also, have a computer or mobile device ready and open to Gifts with Vision. Decide who will do what in your Family Advent Time.

Gathering

We remember our first Advent candle, the candle of Hope. (light Hope candle, or wait if there is a single candle)
And our second Advent candle, the candle of Peace. (light Peace candle, or wait if there is a single candle)
And our third Advent candle, the candle of Joy. (light Joy candle, or wait if there is a single candle)
And now we light our fourth Advent candle, the candle of Love. (light Love candle)
In the light of the flame, we wonder about love.
In the light of the flame, we wait for Jesus to be born.
In the light of the flame, we see one another and know that God is with us.

Storytelling and Wondering

It is finally time for a story about getting ready for the baby Jesus. This story is from the book of Luke (Luke 1:26–55) and is about the time before Jesus was born. Part of the story is about Jesus’ mother Mary, and about something impossible being possible. First of all, an angel called Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was young, likely a teenager, to tell her she was going to have a baby. Imagine the surprise! What the angel said was quite mysterious, but Gabriel said “Nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary decided she was ready to have this very special baby.

And Mary also sang! She sang that she was filled with love for God and the kind of world that God wants us to live in. God teaches us that there is enough for all, but some people have too much and some have too little! The love the baby Jesus represents would form the kind of world God wants us to have today.

I wonder about the “impossible” things in the story. I wonder about people today who have too much or too little. I wonder how we can be part of God’s “impossible” love.

A Special Symbol

It’s time to get that special symbol that makes us think about love. What is it about this object that makes us think about love? Let’s unwrap it, pass it around, talk about it, and then add it to our Advent Centre.

Showing Love this Week

Go to Gifts with Vision and choose a gift or gifts you want to give to show God’s love.

Singing an Advent Song

Sing the following to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” choosing whether to sing softly or loudly, slow or fast, smooth or bouncy.

Love, love, love for you, love for you today.
Jesus comes to bring you love. Love for you today.

Love, love, love for me, love for me today.
Jesus comes to bring me love. Love for me today.

Love, love, love for all, love for all today.
Jesus comes to bring us love. Love for all today.

Waiting Prayer

God of Love, today we pray for love for …. (Pass the Love symbol to the person speaking. A person not wishing to speak will say “Pass.”)
Our waiting is almost over and we are almost ready. (bounce with excitement)
Help us to be open to impossible things. (open hands in front of you)
Help us to show God’s love in as many ways as we can. (arms open wide)
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(All blow out the candle or candles together.)

Donalee Williams is in ministry with the congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church and she enjoys delightful and creative ways of sharing God’s good news. 

Posted in Family, Love
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