Saturday, December 25, 2021

"Keep the Lights On", Christmas and the Holy Family by Rev. Richard S. Vosko, An Inspiring Sermon about an Expanding Definition and Experience of Family

 

Tyler Nix- Unsplash


During this past week the Associated Press released an article that read: “In the darkest days of the year, in a very dark time, there is a longing for illumination. And so, all around the world, the holiday lights go on — some of them humble, some of them spectacular, all of them a welcome respite from the dark.”


Whether it is the luster of Christmas trees in our homes or the gigantic displays in parks and streets across the globe the radiance casts a glow of cheer and hope. The bright lights offer us a brief but much needed break from the fears, the sadness, and the darkness caused by the gloom that surrounds us everywhere.


The gospel (John 1:1-18) for today’s Christmas liturgy today reminds us that Christ is the word of God in the world. John wrote: “What came to be through [the birth of Jesus of Nazareth] was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 


Christians will find ways to unwrap the light of Christ burning inside them, to “enlighten everyone.” In the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-16), the unknown author challenges us: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, God has spoken to us [my emphasis] through the Son .…” 1


This summons, to act for justice on this fragile planet was echoed at the Vatican Two Ecumenical Council regarding Christians and their momentous task in modern societies. They “are not only bound to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit, but are also called to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society.” 2 


Responsible citizens of heaven and earth have much to do in these United States. We are exasperated by myopic self-serving politicians, a new unconscionable military budget, reluctance to build back America, disagreements over climate control, unrelenting pandemics, and the sad fact, according to the Forbes magazine, that over 42.5 million families are trying to survive while living below the poverty level.


New Testament scholar, Gayle R. O’Day 3 stressed that today’s gospel promotes relationships among humanity. It is a call for human beings to emphasize blessings, peace, and justice. She wrote, [the gospel] is about the “purpose of Jesus’ ministry … to create a new family of God …. People who have no families, who come from destructive families, or who are alienated from their birth families” can become children of God.


The liturgical celebration of the Holy Family this weekend is a fitting complement to the Nativity narratives; and it raises more questions for us who are called to be luminaries in our communities. 


Simply the word “family” cannot be defined in one way. Relational experiences are overriding the traditional — wife and husband with children — household. How do we greet and treat emerging familial associations?


In his commentary on defining family Dan H. observed that many families today are blended and extended, a mix of stepparents, half siblings, and couples without children. For some, family is made up of people who are not related to them. Rather than biological ties those relationships are rooted in loyalty, love, and shared responsibilities. 


In the United States the number of single parents is on the rise. Same sex partners, married or not, are birthing, adopting, and raising children. Partnership without a marriage certificate is a rewarding relationship for more and more couples. Countless LGBTQI and transgendered persons find caring companionship with those they love. Immigrant families seek to be reunited.


The second reading for the Holy Family liturgy, from Colossians 3:12-21, is the switch that could turn on more light in the world. It begins with a list of virtues that the community should “put on” — heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another .…”


This letter has baptismal overtones. The charge to “put on” refers to the early Christian initiation practice of disrobing before entering the water and then dressing with new clothing after being baptized. To be baptized is not about saving one’s soul. It is about joining a community that practices the social gospel in the public square.


All of us who are baptized Christians are members of God’s holy family. This is not an exclusive club. It extends beyond denominational roots. In communion with other religious and non religious members of the human family Christians are humble and loving luminaries casting light on their respective communities.


As we ponder familiar biblical stories this holiday weekend, the James Webb telescope will be launched into space. It is designed to capture the light of some of the first galaxies that coalesced after the “Big Bang.” It will explore a wide range of questions to help us understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.


Nothing stays the same. Scientific advancements and our life experiences tell us that Christ is always being born and reborn and is constantly emerging in new electrifying ways throughout the cosmos and our lives. The radiance of Christ will continue to shine as long as we keep the lights on. 


_________

1 In another letter Paul writes to the Philippians 2:15 and states that the believers [in Christ] are luminaries in the world.

2 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, December 7, 1965, no. 43

3 O’Day, Gayle, “The Gospel of John” in Women’s Bible Commentary. C. Newsome,  S. Ringe, J. Lapsley (editors), Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 517 ff.

Pastor Dawn Hutchings: Christmas Sermon -LOVE Comes By Here and Our Weary World Rejoices!

 

The following is an excerpt from Love Comes By Here and Our Weary World Rejoices!!  

In a world gone mad, in a world where we have yet to learn just how to love one another, Christ comes to us. When we are hurting, when we are in pain, when our world is darkest, Christ comes to us. When we are sick and tired. Christ comes to us. When we have given up and can no longer bear to hope.  Christ comes to us. CHRIST is our GOD which is the LOVE taking on flesh and dwelling among us. Christ laughs with us, cries with us, rejoices with us, suffers with us, heals with us, walks with us, shouts with us, struggles with us and loves with us. That beautiful parable of Jesus’ birth in the midst of deep darkness is the story of a child born to liberate people from fear. In that beautiful parable of Jesus’ birth is the Cosmic truth of LOVE’s power to burst forth even in the darkest of times.

For our GOD is the LOVE in which we live and move and have our being. Our GOD lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us. LOVE lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us. LOVE comes to us in each and every person who is working right now to keep us all safe and healthy, the doctors, nurses, orderlies, delivery drivers, retail workers, scientists, lab technicians, politicians, bureaucrats, paramedics, police, public health workers, vaccinated people, people wearing masks, people staying at home, people cancelling events, every single person who is doing their part to take care of their neighbours, is the way our GOD comes to us. As we feast during these Holy Days and when the feasting is done, I pray that LOVE will continue to work in us, through us, and beyond us to heal our weary world, for we are ONE with the LOVE which is DIVINITY and when one of us is suffering, we all suffer. So, let LOVE be born in us over and over again, as often as it takes for all the world to know that LOVE is the SOURCE of ALL, so we need not be afraid.

Have no fear for LOVE is born over and over again, in us, among us, through us, and beyond us. Therein lies the hopes and fears of all the years, met in LOVE tonight. Come by here O LOVE, come by here. Come by here and help us to bring the good news of great joy for all the people. Come by here and help us to sing Glory to God in the highest heaven and on Earth peace good will, and good health to all. Come by here O LOVE.  Come by here. O LOVE come by here.

Do you hear what I hear? It is the sound of the SPIRIT of LOVE breathing in us. LOVE has come by here. LOVE has come by you. LOVE comes into the world day after day after day. Embrace LOVE, so that you can bring Good News of great joy. Joy to the world. For LOVE has come! You are ONE with the LOVE, which IS BEYOND, the BEYOND, and BEYOND that ALSO, our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself! Merry Christmas!  GOD has blessed us everyone! Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christ is Born Through Us: A Christmas Meditation by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP



https://youtu.be/5Zd_c3vuP4M

(Text)

BMM: Imagine that you were present in the stable with Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born.

Be aware of what you see, hear, or feel...

 

Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph who were forced to flee a ruler's terror, Christ is born today in refugee families, fleeing war and violence in their native lands...


Christ is born each day in the hungry, the homeless, the nobodies, the least and the last in our midst....


Christ is born through us when we visit the sick, comfort the grieving, and help those in need...


Christ is born through us when we look at life with eyes filled with child-like wonder... 


Christ is born through us when we gather at table with family and friends to nourish one another...

 

Christ is born through us…when we listen to people with whom we disagree and treat them with respect.... 


Christ is born through us…when we welcome people of every race, nation and gender into a circle of love... 


We rejoice this Christmas that we are Bethlehem where Christ is always welcome, loved and cherished!

We Are Bethlehem by Alana Levandoski

 https://youtu.be/rLpdfXSIdFo


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Christmas Liturgy, December 24, 2021, Liturgical Team: Presiders: Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, and Peg Bowen Readers: Suzanne Bires and Joan Pesce; Prayer Leaders: Beth Ponce and Elena Garcia , Music: Linda Lee Miller

 MMOJ's Liturgy New Link

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https://i0.wp.com/www.the-exponent.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/6398397231_4e40e27afa_z.jpg


THEME:  CHRIST IS BORN THROUGH US

 

GREETING and WELCOME!


PEG: Welcome to Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community where everyone is welcome to share in our celebration of the Eucharist.  We invite you to pray the liturgy and respond aloud and muted where it says “ALL.” All participants will be muted during the liturgy except for the presiders and readers. Please have bread and wine/juice nearby as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.


Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and of the Christ Presence in human hearts everywhere. Thomas Merton wrote: “Christ is born in us today in order that he may appear to the whole world through us.” We gather at this holy meal to celebrate the Christ Presence born in us and through us each day.


Opening Song:  Cedarmont Kids - Angels We Have Heard on High



https://youtu.be/oSJUwoXciBY


Reconciliation Rite: 

BMM:  Let us recall times we did not see the Christ Presence everywhere.

Pause for several moments of silent reflection as you place hand over your heart.


For the times I failed to see Christ in my sisters and brothers and in creation.  

BMM and ALL:   I am sorry, please forgive me, I thank you, I love you.  


ALL: Sing Glory to God- Linda Lee Miller



https://youtu.be/dgn_8q1UWwk


Opening Prayer:

BMM:  Emmanuel, God-with-us, we rejoice in your birth in Bethlehem and in your coming anew as the Presence of Christ within our souls. We are your dwelling place. We are now your Bethlehem.  Like the angels and shepherds who were filled with wonder long ago, we sing and dance for joy as we welcome you again and again, in the love that flows through us to others. Amen, Alleluia!



LITURGY OF THE WORD


SUZANNE BIRES :    First Reading: Isaiah 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of deep shadows
a light has shone.

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.


For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
They name him Wonder-Counselor, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.

These are the inspired words of the Prophet Isaiah, and we respond 

ALL: Thanks be to God. 



Psalm Response:   When Love Was Born - sung by Mark Schultz




JOAN PESCE:  Second Reading:  Dancing God by Joyce Rupp

Dancing God

passionate leap of creative energy

skipping among the stars

waltzing on rivers

birthing a Universe


Dancing God

tumbling from somewhere in Jewish territory

whirling Spirit

seeing Mary’s womb

with alluring divinity


Dancing God

uncontainable grandeur

kicking and rolling in Mary’s flesh

while untamed cousin

echoes the dance in Aunt Elizabeth


Dancing God

spark of angel’s song

shepherds hurrying like whirling dervishes

gasping in awe

at a surprising child


Dancing God

still passionate today

dynamic movement of love

wooing our hearts

toward oneness and peace

in a tear-stained world


Dance on, Passionate God,

we are your dance now

teach us the tune

show us the steps

it is Christmas

it is time to dance.

These are the inspired words of Joyce Rupp and we respond

ALL:  Thanks be to God. 



Gospel Acclamation:  Alle, Alle, Alleluia with Linda Lee Miller 



https://youtu.be/ID5UGWcS6Ws



PEG:  Gospel: A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 2:1-14


In those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole Roman world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to the town of their birth. And so, Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s town of Bethlehem in Judea, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David; he went to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her delivery. She gave birth to her firstborn and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.

There were shepherds in the area living in the fields and keeping nightwatch by turns over their flock. The angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them, they were very much afraid.  The angel said to them, “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you - tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people. This day in David’s city, a savior - the Messiah - has been born to you. Let this be a sign to you:  you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in high heavens!  And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.

These are the inspired words of the evangelist Luke.  We respond

ALL:  Thanks be to God. 


Gospel Acclamation:  Alle, Alle, Alleluia with Linda Lee Miller 



https://youtu.be/ID5UGWcS6Ws



BMM:  Homily Starter:   A Meditation - Christ is born through us by Bridget Mary





https://youtu.be/5Zd_c3vuP4M

(Text)

BMM: Imagine that you were present in the stable with Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born.

Be aware of what you see, hear, or feel...

 

Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph who were forced to flee a ruler's terror, Christ is born today in refugee families, fleeing war and violence in their native lands...


Christ is born each day in the hungry, the homeless, the nobodies, the least and the last in our midst....


Christ is born through us when we visit the sick, comfort the grieving, and help those in need...


Christ is born through us when we look at life with eyes filled with child-like wonder... 


Christ is born through us when we gather at table with family and friends to nourish one another...

 

Christ is born through us…when we listen to people with whom we disagree and treat them with respect.... 


Christ is born through us…when we welcome people of every race, nation and gender into a circle of love... 


We rejoice this Christmas that we are Bethlehem where Christ is always welcome, loved and cherished!


(Silent pause)


Community Sharing:  Share one way Christ is born anew through us/others in our world today. 



Profession of Faith: 


SUZANNE BIRES and ALL: 

We believe in God who is creator and nurturer of all. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who is our love, our hope, and our light. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia, who energizes and guides us to build caring communities and to challenge injustices. We believe in the communion of saints our heavenly friends, who support us on life’s journey. We believe in the partnership and equality of women and men in our church and world. We believe that all are one in the community of creation. We believe that God calls us to live fully, love tenderly, and serve generously. Amen.


Prayers of the Community:


JOAN PESCE: For a deeper realization of the Christ Presence working through us each day, we pray.
Joan and ALL:  May Christ be born anew in us each day.

JOAN PESCE: For good health, energy and vitality for ourselves and all for whom, we pray

Joan and ALL:  May Christ be born anew in us each day.


JOAN PESCE: For healing for the sick and comfort for the grieving, we pray

Joan and ALL:  May Christ be born anew in us each day.


JOAN PESCE: For our loved ones who have passed into God's eternal embrace, we pray. 

Joan and ALL:  May Christ be born anew in us each day.


Joan Meehan shares Prayer Intentions in MMOJ book

JOAN PESCE:  and for what else do we pray? 



BMM: Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, and our own lives to offer. Through this sacred meal may we become your new creation.
PEG and ALL: Blessed be God forever.



PREFACE


BMM: God dwells in us. 

PEG and ALL: And in all people everywhere.


BMM: Lift up your hearts. 

PEG and ALL: We lift them up in the joy of Divine Presence within us.


BMM: Affirm the power of love within you and within all.  

PEG and ALL:  Alleluia


We Are Holy – Linda Lee Miller

 


https://youtu.be/orKBBIj5LZA


EUCHARISTIC PRAYER


BETH PONCE:  Mothering Presence, you brought forth all creation from your Life-Giving Womb. O Giver of all Gifts, you came as Love Poured Out to dwell among us. You revealed yourself in Mary's womb, in a shining star, in humble shepherds, and in a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. 


ELENA GARCIA:  Today, we see the Christ Presence shining forth as pure love in the eyes of the elderly, in the service of care-givers, in the witness of justice-makers, and in the dreams embedded in our own hearts. We give thanks for the Giver of Abundant gifts that nourishes and sustains us. We commit ourselves to be gifts of your goodness and generosity as we serve the needs of the least and the last in our world. 


Invocation of the Holy Spirit:

     (raise hands toward bread and wine for Invocation of the Holy Spirit)


BMM and ALL:  Now, we share the bread of life and lift the cup of blessing at this festive meal as we pray:  come Holy Spirit deepen your Presence within us and in these gifts of bread and wine.

On the night before he died, while at supper with his friends, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat. Do this in memory of me.” 


Pause for silent reflection


PEG and ALL: In the same way, Jesus took the cup of wine. He said the blessing, gave the cup to his friends and said, “Take this all of you and drink. Do this in memory of me.”  


Pause for silent reflection


BMM and ALL:  Let us proclaim the sacred presence of our nurturing God:
Jesus, you are born again and again in us and through us each day.


BETH PONCE:  We remember the prophet and saints in every age, who, like candles in the night, illuminated the darkness of doubt with faith, courage and wisdom: Miriam and Moses, Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Joseph, and all our beloved family and friends. We recall the spiritual treasures they passed down to us through the ages. 


PEG:  We join in the divine cosmic dance in communion with all that is, all that was, and all that will be. Through Christ, in Christ, with Christ, all praise and glory echoes through the universe as your Spirit leaps for joy within us! 


The Great Amen with Linda Lee Miller 



https://youtu.be/Dy76fpfkNsg



THE PRAYER OF JESUS


ELENA GARCIA:  Let us pray as Jesus taught us. 


O Holy One, you are within, around, and among us.

We celebrate your many names.  Your wisdom come, your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.  Each day you give us all we need.  You remind us of our limits, and we let go.  You support us in your power, and we act with courage.  For you are the dwelling place within us, the empowerment around us, and the celebration among us, now and forever.  Amen. Adapted, Miriam Therese Winter, MMS



THE SIGN OF PEACE


PEG:  Jesus, you said:  Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. May we be the peace we wish to see in the world.  Let us share a gesture of deep peace and justice with everyone in the circle of life as we bow toward you with hands folded, saying together: 

ALL:   The peace of Christ be with you.  Namaste,  Namaste,  Namaste.


LITANY FOR THE BREAKING OF BREAD


BMM and ALL: 

Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power. We will do so. 

Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will do so. 

Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world. We will do so.


PEG and ALL: 

We are the hands and feet of Christ in our world. All are invited to this banquet of love.


BMM:  Receive the Bread of Life and Cup of Blessing. 

BMM and ALL: Amen.


COMMUNION -- Meditation: Silent Night


"Silent Night, Each Holy Child" ~ Shaina Noll



https://youtu.be/8mhXGwctysc


Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright

Round every birthday, each mother and child
Each Holy Infant is tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, each holy child sleep in peace.



PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION


PEG:  Dancing God, we awaken to your love born anew in our world as we share your gifts at our holy table. May your tender presence continue to open our hearts to the daily miracles of Christ Presence that surround us each day. May Christ be born anew through us in our world this Christmas and New Year!
PEG and ALL: Amen.

Welcome, Gratitude, and Announcements

CONCLUDING RITE


BMM:  The Holy One is within you.
PEG and ALL:  and within all.

BLESSING
     (everyone please extend your hands in mutual blessing)


BMM and ALL: 

May we sing and dance for joy as we celebrate every day as Christmas!

DISMISSAL

PEG:  Let us rejoice that Christ is born anew through you and me in our world today. Go in peace and let the service continue.

BMM and ALL: Thanks be to God.

CONCLUDING HYMN: Joy to World - Music (see new words!)

“Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes”



https://youtu.be/CSVdbl-ulJw





Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.

No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.

Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.

Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth;
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians
“Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” calls us to co-create with Wisdom a world of justice, peace, equality, love, freedom, and joy. This Christmas carol comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to change our violent culture and to co-create with Her a peaceful world. Let us join together in our churches, communities, and home in caroling for change."


Liturgy by Bridget Mary Meehan  https://arcwp.org,  https://marymotherofjesus.org


If you want to add a prayer intention to our MMOJ Community Prayer book, please send an email to Joan Meehan.  jmeehan515@aol.com


If you want to invite someone to attend our liturgy, please refer them our website at MaryMotherofJesus.org      


To support our community, please send your check to:

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community

St Andrew UCC, 6908 Beneva Rd, Sarasota, Florida 34238


Additional Inspirational Video your Christmas meditation:

We Are Bethlehem by Alana Levandoski



https://youtu.be/rLpdfXSIdFo