That’s a Wrap!

The 3 Magi, on camels, following a star
Thank you for journeying with us through Advent and into the Christmas season. Now, just as Advent (the beginning of the church year) leads to Christmas, the season of Christmas in turn leads to Epiphany.

Have you ever had a moment of sudden clarity? When a truth is revealed to you, even though you have been living with something for a long time? The penny drops and you finally figure out what is really going on or have a deeper insight into what is actually happening. The truth of the matter knocks you over and the fog clears. In other words, have you ever had an epiphany?

Epiphany is a season to mark the revelation and manifestation of Christ, particularly in the child Jesus. We celebrate Epiphany on January 6 (the 12th day of Christmas), with the commemoration of the Magi’s visit to Jesus.

Without Epiphany, there would not be a need to celebrate Christmas. If we did not recognize Jesus as the Christ (the anointed one), we would not need to celebrate his arrival. In fact, many traditions around the world have huge Epiphany celebrations with parades, food, gifts, and water blessings.

Many of us are ready to return to our regular routines once Christmas is behind us. But you can extend your observance of Christmas—and of Epiphany—by keeping a connection to God’s story.

Let’s continue to make room for Christ and the radical, countercultural messages that Christ brings. If there were prayers, resources, or reflections on this site that spoke to you, keep them alive in your life.

“Don’t be afraid,” an angel says. In God’s story, we all have a part.

 

Blessings,
Alydia

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

Body Prayer: Epiphany

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.

Personal Devotions: Watch Night / New Year’s Eve

A glass angel Christmas ornament

Photo: Anne Hoganson

Many Christian traditions have Watch Night services, where 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. People are said to have gathered the night before to await Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1862.

Choose one or more 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)

or

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover God has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. (Ecclesiastes 3:9–13)

Breath Prayer

(breathe in) Our Sovereign, (breathe out) How majestic is your name in all the earth!

 The Prayer of Jesus

The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili (Wendy Gichuru)

Graces and Blessings

How do you hope to improve or enhance your spiritual health this year? What steps can you take to deepen your relationship with Jesus? How do you grow closer to people in your life whom you love? One way to strengthen your spiritual health is to develop a rule of life, which is sort of like a guideline or goal for your daily behaviour. Many have attributed a rule of life from the writings and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. (particularly from his instructions to demonstrators). This rule includes things like: meditate daily on the teaching and life of Jesus, walk and talk in the manner of love, and seek to perform regular service for others and the world. What would be included in your Rule of Life?

Create your own rule and place it somewhere prominent so that you are reminded of it every day.

May you carry the blessings of Christmas with you throughout the year. In God’s world, we can all find our way!
Alydia

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

Body Prayer: Christmas

Happy Christmas! Jesus is born. Take a few minutes to 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.

In God’s story, we all have a part! Christmas Video

Everyone is ready.

(Children’s voices: Advent means to me, happiness all the time. I think Advent means time to prepare for Christmas. I think Advent means, when Jesus was born. I think we can get ready by hanging out with family and praying. I think we can get ready by going to church and praying.)

Christmas is here. Are you ready?

Mary and Joseph are ready.

The shepherds are ready.

The animals are ready.

The Magi are ready.

“Don’t be afraid” (an angel tells us). In God’s story, we all have a part.

Are you ready?

Suggestions for Use

  • The Advent Candle Lighting Liturgies (pdf) have been written to incorporate these videos. Many churches choose to begin their Advent and Christmas services in this way. You might also adapt them for a ritual at home.
  • Explore the story of Christmas using the Advent Unwrapped Colouring Storybook (pdf)—great for young artists of any age!
  • For more Advent Unwrapped videos, visit our Videos page.

 

Personal Devotions: Love

A bee nestled in a pink flower

Photo: Anne Hoganson

God is love, and the greatest of God’s gifts is love.

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)

or

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me. (Luke 1:47–49, adapted)

Breath Prayer

(breathe in) Behold, (breathe out) I have come to do your will. (Hebrews 10:9)

The Prayer of Jesus

The Lord’s Prayer in French (Christian Nguyen)

Graces and Blessings

Send out some unexpected Christmas Cards to people in your life whom you love and appreciate but may not communicate with often. Are there any people for whom you give thanks often, who may not know how much you appreciate them? Send them out a note or e-card with a personal greeting.

Find more family prayers and blessings on our At Home page.

Be yourself. In God’s story, we all have a part!
Alydia

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

The Story of Christmas: Meet the Holy Family

The promise that a small child might change the world

The Holy Family
The story of the Holy Family begins with the news of another pregnancy. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, after years of having no children, is expecting a son to be named John. When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to explain that she, too, will have a child, Mary is afraid. But she comes to rejoice that God has chosen her.

Mary goes to Elizabeth, perhaps to celebrate both pregnancies, perhaps to get the older woman’s guidance. When they first meet, Elizabeth knows that Mary is carrying the Lord, and Elizabeth’s baby, still in the womb, leaps for joy.

In the Magnificat—“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46)—Mary expresses gratitude to God and her amazement at God’s work in her. She stays with Elizabeth for three months.

John and Jesus are taken to the temple a week after each is born. Those who witness John’s naming are astounded when his father, Zechariah, who has been unable to speak for months, expresses a great prophecy for his son. Jesus is recognized by two elders as the Messiah and is celebrated for all that he will do.

Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt—terrified of what could happen as their child comes into the world, fearing threats at every turn. And yet also filled with joy, open to what God is up to and ready for the challenge of parenthood.

In these stories, we are renewed in the promise that new life always brings—the incredible possibility that a small child might change the world. Ask yourself:

  • What do you think Mary and Elizabeth spoke of during their three-month visit?
  • What would it be like to have your child recognized for greatness and embraced by a faith community?
  • How much of that feeling is present when a child is baptized today?

Explore the characters in the Christmas story:

And if you like, go back over some previous blogs retelling the Story of Christmas.

—Bronwyn Corlett, Program Coordinator, Ministry Recruitment, The United Church of Canada

In God’s story, we can all find our way! Week 4 Video

Meet the Magi.

(Children’s voices: Advent means to me, happiness all the time. I think Advent means time to prepare for Christmas. I think Advent means, when Jesus was born. I think we can get ready by hanging out with family and praying. I think we can get ready by going to church and praying.)

Christmas is coming. Are you ready?

I wonder if the Magi are ready?

“But it is so far.”

I wonder if they know where to go?

“Oh look, a star.”

The Magi travelled a long distance to visit Jesus and his family.

“Don’t be afraid” (an angel told them). In God’s story, we can all find our way!

Are you ready?

Suggestions for Use

  • The Advent Candle Lighting Liturgies (pdf) have been written to incorporate these videos. Many churches choose to begin their Advent services in this way. You might also adapt them for a ritual at home.
  • Explore the story of Christmas using the Advent Unwrapped Colouring Storybook (pdf)—great for young artists of any age!
  • For more Advent Unwrapped videos, visit our Videos page.

The Story of Christmas: Meet the Magi

Visitors bearing exotic gifts followed a star

The Magi
Do you love a good mystery? What about Matthew’s story of the Magi: Who are these mysterious travellers?

When the Magi appear in the Nativity story, the main characters—Joseph, Mary, and the Christ child—briefly slip into the background. Centre stage is taken by strange, nameless visitors with exotic gifts who have followed a brilliant star.

Magi have been described as both a scholarly group and as a band of enchanters and fortune tellers. They are often identified with the ability to interpret dreams. Some say they were Persian priests; other traditions have named them kings. Since they enter the story reading the stars, a good guess is that they are astrologers.

The Magi might have travelled from Persia or journeyed from Babylon, which had a long tradition of astronomy. The gifts they brought with them suggest they may have trekked from Arabia. One thing is certain: they are definitely foreigners, Gentiles visiting Jewish people who are oppressed by a Roman dictator.

The Magi’s story is that of the whole gospel wrapped in a small gift box! The Holy Mystery that is Wholly Love actively seeks out relationship with us and is revealed in human form.

This takes place in unorthodox ways, in overlooked places, involving unusual people. Those who should notice don’t; they don’t understand it or accept it. Yet outsiders are often the first to understand. The Magi are the forerunners of all who would welcome the good news. Ask yourself:

  • If you could ask the wise Magi one question, what would it be?
  • If you could take a gift to the Christ child, what would it be? Why?
  • Imagine that you are one of the Magi. What do you see in the stable?

Explore the characters in the Christmas story:

And watch for more blogs retelling the Story of Christmas.

—Robyn Brown-Hewitt, Atlantic School of Theology and United Church Chaplain at Dalhousie University

Body Prayer: Love

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.

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