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Worship Resources for Advent & Christmas

from Ken Sehested, founding director of BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz

ArticlesHymnsLitanies & MeditationsPoemsSermons

Articles

The faux fight for Christmas: Backdrop on the annual year-end culture war
I have to admit it was a bit embarrassing to watch the social media outrage of “progressive” Christians (and no, I’m not fond of the modifier) stirred up by the apparent indignation of “traditional” Christians that Starbucks would serve its brews in plain red cups, with nothing but their logo—a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid—instead of those more hallowed images of snowflakes, snowpeople and snow-scened carolers. More...

Undo the folded lie: Notes on the reckless folly of our season
This Advent I feel more like the dumbfounded cleric Zechariah, of Luke’s nativity drama, than any other character. I have little more to say to supplement the abundance of commentary on this season’s reckless folly. Here are but a few footnotes. More...

Watch night history: Awaiting the quelling word
“Watch Night” services began in 1733 with the Moravian communities in what is now the Czech Republic. By 1740 John Wesley and his Methodist movement within Anglicanism had adopted the tradition, with New Year’s Eve services ending after midnight, marked by penitence over shortcomings in the year past and resolution of greater faithfulness in the year ahead. One of the observance’s functions was to provide an alternative to the drunken revelry common in Britain on that night. More...

Hymns

Another Year Is Dawning
Old hymn, new lyrics
Another year is dawning, dear Abba let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee
Another year of hopefulness, another year of praise
Another year of trusting Thy presence all the days.
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By Love Possessed: A Doxology
Old tune, new lyrics
Oh, Blessed One, choired angels sing
Of life surrendered, offering
The power to bless as blessed we are
To welcome strangers near and far.
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Joy to the World
Old hymn, new lyrics
Joy to the world! Salvation comes. Let earth rise up in praise
Let every heart prepare Christ’s Way
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
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Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
Old hymn, new lyrics
Favor and affection contending
’Til the work of wrath confess
Steadfast love and faith embracing
Righteousness and peace caress
Magi wend their way to advent star aligned
Dwelling place of God earth-consigned
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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Old hymn, new lyrics
O Come, thou fount of Mercy, come
And light the path of journey home
From Pharaoh’s chains grant liberty
From Herod’s rage, confirm thy guarantee
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
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O Little Town of Bethlehem
Old hymn, new lyrics
O wounded town of Bethlehem
How sad we see thee cry
Above thy curfewed, empty streets
The belching tanks roll by
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Silent Night
Old hymn, new lyrics
Silent night, holy night,
threats appear, crouched in fright
Yet Salvation’s hand draws nigh,
sung by angel’s voice on high
Stars erupt at thy voice!
Stars erupt at thy voice.
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We Three Kings
Old hymn, new lyrics
We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star
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Litanies & Meditations

Big band or bluegrass: A litany for worship inspired by Psalm 98
Open your mouths, oh people of praise. Unchain your lungs and unleash your lips. Let joyful noise erupt from every muted tongue, thankful hymns from every muffled mouth. Compose a new song for the Chorister of Heaven. A cappella or symphonic, let the sound rise like leaven.
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Keeping watch: A litany for worship: The angels' appearance to the shepherds, inspired by Luke 2
In that region there were shepherds, keeping watch over their flock by night. Keeping watch. In darkest night. Far from hearth and home, stumbling on slumbering hill. Then an angel stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around, and they were terrified. As are we, in the face of torturing headlines and threatening news. As are we, when our own lives detour into tangled terrain.
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Longing from below: An Advent meditation
Advent is a season of great longing, specifically for those longing “from below.” The longing is a revolutionary one, however, and frightening to those in charge, who have much to lose if existing hierarchies are breached. Such anxiety is what fueled Herod’s terror against male babies. This narrative parallels the ancient scene in Egypt when Pharaoh, sensing an internal threat, orders the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys. (That narrative is the first case of civil disobedience recorded in Scripture.)
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My soul magnifies you: A litany for worship Inspired by Luke 1:46-55
My soul magnifies you, O Lord, and my spirit rejoices in your Saving Presence. Everything in me comes alive when you look in my direction. No longer will I languish among the unnamed, the unknown, the unworthy. Hereafter, for generations, when my name is spoken, all will know it echoes the wonder of your Mercy.
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Poems

Annunciation
Hail, O favored one!
But Mary was greatly troubled
at the angel's erupting, interrupting greeting.
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Advent longing
O Wondrous One,
Who rides the skies
and consorts with the earth,
haunting the heavens,
hounding mere mortals
with the expectation of ecstasy,
come and rouse hungry hearts
wandering this famined land
with the aroma of your presence.
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All flesh is destined for glory
Christmas.
Christemasse.
Cristes mæsse.
Ritual reminder of
a Palestinian promise
announcing Holy Intent in
swaddling attire, manager laid:
All flesh is destined for Glory.
For God
is more taken
with earth’s agony
than heaven’s ecstasy.
Download as a bulletin insert

Behold, the Lamb!
O Lamb of God
fruit of the Spirit
flesh-giv’n of Mary
creation shall hear it!
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Boundary to benedictus: A meditation on Zechariah
Zechariah—
hillbilly priest of the
Abijarian house of Aaron,
himself the brother and mouthpiece
for “slow-tongued” Moses—
What lesion confounds your speech?
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Joseph
Joseph
Obscured brother
consigned to the margins
of Incarnation narrative.
Carpentry-calloused hands
now shield the shame
of sagging face, drooping, disgraced.
Chiseled lines prematurely sculpting
age in youthful countenance.
Thoughts of Mary smudge the heart
as tears smear the face.
Mary. Beloved. Betrothed. Betrayed?
Mary. With child. Whose? How, and why?
Joseph, companion in confusion
over God’s intention.
No multi-colored coat for you as for
your scoundrel namesake of old.
But who dares answer, much less complain?
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Portal of praise: Praise as presage to Advent’s treason
The Manger’s trailhead opens at
the portal of praise and genuflecting
thanks. Not because heaven arises to
piety’s incense. But because Advent’s
brush with mortal flesh is a perilous journey,
fraught with insurrection’s threat,
pregnancy’s scandal, birthed from
stabled bed, and Herod’s foam and fury.
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The baptizer’s bargain
John.
Such a tame name for a man
born to inhabit the wild side
of heaven’s incursion.
You startle children with
your leather-girdled, camel-haired attire,
hot breath bidding the devout
into Jordan’s penitential wake,
the same waters that marked
the boundary of beneficence: of the Hebrew
slaves’ long march from Pharaoh’s provision
(hard, to be sure, but also secure)
to Providence of another, riskier kind,
though laced with promise of milk and honey.
What drove you to this scorched abode,
abounding in wild beasts, hostile foes
and scarce sustenance?
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The Manger’s Reach
Oh, Blessed One, Beloved Abba, whose womb
squeezed forth all that is, humus and human alike,
animate and inanimate together,
sun and moon and galaxies without end.
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The quelling word
Emancipation is (still) coming: A poem inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a

Written against the backdrop of New Year's Eve services, 1862, when African Americans gathered to await news of US President Abraham Lincoln's promised "Emancipation Proclamation."
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The Singing of Angels
Sisters and Brothers,
bend an ear
to the singing of angels.
Not that of seasonal
carolers who pause
at lace-curtained windows:
offering familiar and favorite
tunes in delicious harmony
and frosted breath;
providing splendid distraction
from the agonized arias of the innocent.
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Venite Adoremus (Come and Adore): A poem for Advent
I have given birth countless
Times, too many stillborn
And breathless, despite
Conception in the
Throes of passion and
Patient preparation. Restless
Nights and nauseous days
And stretch marks
Amniotic fluid securing watery
Life, waiting, kicking
Kicking and waiting
Anxious about that
Birth canal’s tumultuous ride
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Sermons

The Baptizer’s Bargain: A sermon for the third Sunday of Advent
Texts: Luke 3:7-18; Zeph. 3:14-20; Phil. 4:4-7
The text and sermon for this week is a continuation of the story from Luke, and Joyce’s commentary last week: the story John the Baptist. Or, more properly, John the Baptizer. (John really wasn’t a Baptist—although, one summer during college I worked as a youth minister in a church whose pastor believed that Baptists can trace their history back to John. If that were true, that means there were Baptists before there were Christians!)
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The Manger's Revolt: Mary's Magnificat
Text: Luke 1:46-55
One of the great political debates of our generation is which phrase is more appropriate this time of year: “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? This is but the latest front in the culture wars fought over whether we should “keep Christ in Christmas.” Like with every cultural conflict, there are multiple levels that we need to sort out, putting up resistance in some places, offering affirmation in others. Let’s look a just a few bits of complicated history regarding the celebration of Christmas.
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Same questions, different outcomes: A meditation on Zechariah
The story of Zechariah, and his wife Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptizer, play a very minor role in most of the church’s stories and songs about Christmas. Think about it: we know a lot about Mary and Joseph, obviously; but also about the shepherds and the Magi. We hear a lot about “no room in the inn” and the bright, shining star and the angels singing. But rarely do we hear much about Zechariah and Elizabeth, despite the fact that their story is as lengthy and dramatic as that about Mary and baby Jesus.
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