Christmas1A.1.1.2017

Revd Rex A E Hunt

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LITURGY FOR THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE
1 January 2017. Christmas 1A. (White).

The Liturgy includes several options which reflect on the plight of refugees


Butterfly6


Acknowledgement of Country/First Peoples
(An act towards reconciliation)

For thousands of years Indigenous people have walked
in this land, on their own country.
Their relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives.

We acknowledge the (NN) People and their stewardship
of this land throughout the ages.

(NN) is a safe place for all people to worship regardless of
race, creed, age, cultural background or sexual orientation


GATHERING

Gathering Music

Entry into the Celebration
The gong is sounded three times

v2  The joy of the Companion Jesus be with you all.
All
And also with you.

v1  Our God welcomes and invites us
to share in the joy of this day.
v2  We come to experience 
the wonder of love and acceptance.

Let us rejoice and be glad!
All
Alleluia! Praise be to God!

v1 Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

OR

v1   We have gathered here this day to keep faith with the Christmas spirit.
The great day of rejoicing has come and is past.
The everlasting excitement reached its keenest pitch,
and now we live in  the after-glow of that excitement.

v2   For the joy we know in the deepest concern for those we love most dearly,
we are grateful that the demands of the season,
have drawn so keenly upon our inmost heart.
We would cast no regrets upon our extravagances.

v3   For the tender touch of those lives,
gathered about our household during these days of happiness,
we give our thanks.
Precious unto us are those drawn near,
and precious unto us are those yet held afar by duty and distance.

v1   Out of the rich and rivaling splendour of story and myth and legend,
there rises above all our doubting,
the feelings of the heart which make life rich in the fullness of our love.
All  
May these days become holy unto us,
as we seek to capture the Spirit of Christmas,
and so to keep it with us throughout the year
(Bob Holmes/wm)

Lighting of the Community Candle
The Community Candle is lit

v1  We light this Candle on this, the first day of a new year,
Letting go of what has been,
All  Open and hopeful for what may come,
v1   Renewed, restored, ready
To live Life fully anew.
All  May we move forward with intention. (Adapt/Lois Van Leer)

Note: (i) A suggested process for introducing new hymns, called Hymn of the Month, can be found HERE
(ii) Additional
Special Purpose Hymns that cover major international events or themes can be found HERE They include the categories: 1. Bush (Brush) Fire, 2. Tsunami, Storms/Cyclones, 3. Earthquakes, 4. War/Remembrance, 5. Caregiving, 6. God as Mother, 7. Human Trafficking, 8. Disabled, 9. Migration/Refugees

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
Honouring Life(Tune: Metre 87 87)
God of courage, God of wisdom,
with our eyes we long to see
how to love each other fully,
honour our divinity.

Hurtful power, hate-filled living,
break the soul and rend the heart.
Ending human harmful action,
fear and tyranny depart.

Life is sacred, life is precious,
life of each, a gift of grace.
God's own beauty finds expression
in each cherished human face.

When we see all life has value,
healing stirs the heart awake.
Cherishing all human living,
bitter chains of hate we break.

When we claim the power within us
to uphold all human life,
we give birth to love's own kingdom,
peace and justice ease our strife
(© Peggy McDonagh, 2003/Adapt).

OR

Chant for the Seasons(Tune: ‘Praha’, Irreg.)   73 (v4) SLT
Vernal clouds have turned the star-wheel,
summer is upon us. (Repeat)
Gliding are the hawks,
hovering above
the hot and yellow hillside.
Vernal clouds have turned the star-wheel,
summer is upon us.
crickets in the night,
chirping in our ears
the sound of moon-lit music.
Vernal clouds have turned the star-wheel,
summer is upon us. (Mark L Belletini)
Remain standing

Opening Sentences
v1 Do you hear what I hear?
The warmth of the summer sun encourages
travel and fairs and lazy days at the beach.
All
  Rest in heavenly peace!  Rest in earthly peace.

v2 Do you see what I see?
Every moment is pregnant with possibility.
The miracle of each moment awaits our sensual wonder.
All
  Holy life, so tender, yet so wild and free.

v1 Do you feel what I feel?
Our energy and well-being is strong
and our celebrations cherish life together.
All 
Inner calm, outer light.

v2 Do you know what I know?
Discern what gifts you will bring:
compassion, mercy, courage, justice and care.
All  Love’s pure light.  New life, new ideas, are born (Adapt.Ian Lawton/C3 web site)

Act of Awareness
We have gathered in this sacred place, again.
May we continue to create here a circle of love,
ever expanding,
ever growing.

A place of wisdom.
A place of connection.
A place of hope.

OR

We pray:
God of surprises,
startle us with truth we do not see,
amaze us with your power and grace,
beckon us, and lead us far above
restricted hope and narrow faith (MRose-adapt/sco).
May it be so.

Hymn Christmas is Real(Tune: ‘Highwood’, 11 10 11 10. 620 TiS)
Christmas is real when the cost that we measure
reaches the manger and touches the skies,
shop fronts give way to divine revelation,
God is among us and selfishness dies.

Christmas is real when the gifts that are given
mirror the love of this God upon earth,
God who is known in self-giving and loving
crowning our poverty, coming to birth.

Christmas still echoed when screams of the children,
slaughtered by Herod inflamed people's fear.
Christmas remains when the trees and the tinsel
make way for news that we'd rather not hear.

Christmas is real when we enter the squalor
mirrored in Bethlehem so long ago;
off'ring the love that was seen in the God head,
total self-giving not baubles and show. © Andrew Pratt 2006
The people sit after the hymn

Welcome
In your own words

A warm welcome is extended to all.
Especially those who are worshipping at (NN) for the first time
or who have returned after an absence.

Your presence both enriches us and this time of celebration together.
Refer to printed liturgy.
Fellowship hour following worship.
Those visiting, please sign our Visitors book.

Silence

Summer is here!
In the warmth and light of this holiday season it is easier
to smile,
to play
to laugh,
to relax…

Our sun-kissed faces reflect abundant sunlight energy.
For a summer christmas is here.

Yet even as we delight in life’s rich pleasures,
we also remember that some of us are in pain…
suffering from breaking relationships or physical hurt,
watching loved ones fade into dementia or slip from life,
battling anxiety from financial fear or addiction’s ongoing grip.

So, this today, let us breathe deeply and embrace life’s gifts.

Let us be gentle with ourselves and with each other,
caressing all our glorious yet often flawed humanity.
Let us find balance as we dive head-first into life’s rhythms.

And let us reach out to support and hold each other close.   (Adapt.Mary Ackerson/SBNR blog site, 2009).
(Silence)                                                                              

Music of Reflection (with liturgical dance)

OR

If in Southern hemisphere. In Northern hemisphere some editing will be required

Recognising the Sacred 
As we gather together for the first time this year
and in these seasons of Christmas and Summer,
may we give thanks for the past,
and celebrate the future, yet unknown,
which shall be woven out of our possibilities and realities,
our hopes and our fears.

v4 Now the earth was formless and empty and
the shadow of a breath caressed the surface.
And the emptiness quivered with potential
and life became known…
A rope circle ‘world’ is placed on the floor of the worship space

v5 The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean.
From it we have learned most of what we know.
Recently, we have waded a little out to sea,
enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles.
The water seems inviting.  The ocean calls (Carl Sagan).

Silence

People face the North
v1
We turn to face the direction North
the season of Summer and the element of water,
and search it for a blessing we might carry into that future.
v2
The gift of the North is love,
for it speaks of great endurance.

Love offers us, above all else, the power of strength in adversity.

v1 May we hold love in our hearts…
All
May we hold love in our hearts…
and bring to our future the gentle power
of strength in adversity.
All
and bring to our future the gentle power
of strength in adversity.

v3 We bring blue, colour of water,
stronger than any obstacle, and place love
in our circle, the world.
A blue cloth is brought forward and placed at a ‘corner’ of the earth rope

Silence

People turn right and face the East
v1
We turn to face East, the direction of the rising sun,
the season of Spring and the element of air,
and search it for a blessing we might carry into that future.
v2
The gift of the East is wisdom.

In the morning light we can see and know and understand more clearly.
it speaks of the breath of new life on earth.
Wisdom offers us, above all else, the confidence
to know ourselves more fully.

v1 May we hold wisdom before us and with it,
All
May we hold wisdom before us and with it,
bring to our future the confidence to know
ourselves more fully.
All
bring to our future the confidence to know
ourselves more fully
.

v3 We bring white, colour of air, wrapping all life,
and place wisdom in our circle, the world.
A white cloth is brought forward and placed at a ‘corner’ of the earth rope

Silence

People turn right and face the South
v1
We turn to the South, the direction of Winter
and the element of earth,
and search if for a blessing we might carry into that future.
v2
The gift of the South is mystery, for,
in the silent darkness of the earth, possibility
stretches toward its future light.

Mystery offers us, above all else, the courage to dream
and wait and dream again.

v1 May we hold mystery in our depths of our being
All
May we hold mystery in our depths of our being
v1
and bring to our future the courage to dream
and wait and dream again.
All
and bring to our future the courage to dream
and wait and dream again
.

v3 We bring green, colour of the earth,
fertile with possibility, and place mystery
in our circle, the world.
A green cloth is brought forward and placed at a ‘corner’ of the earth rope

Silence

The people turn right and face West
v1
We turn to the West the place of the setting sun,
the season of autumn and the element of fire,
and search if for a blessing we might carry into that future.
v2
The gift of the West is beauty,
for it speaks of great peace and serenity.

Beauty offers us, above all else, the freedom to live
in wonder and gratitude.

v1 May we carry beauty in our lives
All
May we carry beauty in our lives
v1
and bring to our future the freedom
to live in wonder and gratitude.
All
and bring to our future the freedom
to live in wonder and gratitude
.

v3 We bring red, colour of fire, dancing
and casting light, and place beauty
in our circle, the world.
A red cloth is brought forward and placed at a ‘corner’ of the earth rope

v6 Look at this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.

In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
the bliss of growth,
the glory of action,
the spendour of beauty.

For yesterday is but a dream,
and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today, well lived, makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day. (Sanskrit)
(MTWinter/wpws. Adapted by Gretta Vosper & Rex Hunt for the Common Dreams2 Conference, Melbourne 2010)

EXPLORING

Readings from our broad Religious Tradition
Some readings from our broad religious tradition shall be read by (NN).

From the World Around us:
“Problem and Promise”
By J Donald Johnston. Beginning Now/6.

Life must be shared.
The demand comes from deep inside us.
Our bodies demand it, our minds require it,
our hearts are starved without it.

Yet each one lives alone.
This, too, is deeply rooted in our minds and hearts.

We depend upon one another yet are afraid of one another.
We are independent of one another
yet cannot do without one another.

We can be jealous of our independence
and yet sell it cheaply.
We can be so dependent
that the price of independence seems beyond us.

We are problems to one another and within ourselves.
But between us and within us
there is also promise.

Traditional Gospel:
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23  (Inclusive Text)

After the astrologers had left, the angel of God
appeared to Joseph in a dream and said:
‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you,
and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you,
because Herod intends to search for the child
and do away with him’.

So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him,
left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead.
This was to fulfil what God had spoken through the prophet:
I called my child out of Egypt.

After Herod’s death, the angel of God appeared
in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said:
‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and go back
to Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’

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So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him,
went back to the land of Israel.

But when Joseph learnt that Archelaus had succeeded
his father Herod as ruler of Judaea, he was afraid to go there,
and being warned in a dream,
left for the region of Galilee.

There they settled in a town called Nazareth.

In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:
He will be called a Nazarene.

(For those interested…
You can purchase a copy of the Inclusive Texts/Readings (AU$50) from:
Inclusive Language Project
PO Box 1303
Toombul QLD 4012 Australia)

Contemporary Exploration
• A Sermon suitable for this day can be found in my book, Against the Stream. Progressive Christianity Between Pulpit and Pew.

Silence for Personal Reflection

Hymn Reflection... Sung by solo voice
Matthew 2: 13 – 23, Herod, Holy Innocents, the flight into Egypt. (A suitable tune: 87 87)

Herod waiting, Herod watching, 
Herod grasping, holding power, 
Herod fearful for the future, 
Herod counting every hour.

Now the thing that he was fearing:
love and justice, peace and health,
here embodied in a person, 
God incarnate, heaven's wealth.

This was more than he could stomach, 
human wine skins tear and rend. 
Herod's dream had been confounded, 
human power had met its end.

Many children now were crying,
temper triumphed, babies dead. 
Mary, Joseph made an exit,
every step was filled with dread. 

Into exile they were driven, 
fear would ripple through each life: 
Jesus challenged vested interests.
Gracious love fuelled hate and strife.

And the children still are crying, 
forced to war and harmed by hate. 
Still our world is deaf to hear them, 
still our loving comes too late. © Andrew Pratt 18/11/2010

OR

We who love Jesus (SCORE)

CELEBRATING

Litany for Endings and Beginnings (Optional)
The people stand as they are able

Call us on to the adventure
of your passionate life, Loving God.
All  
Carry us past the boundaries,
the near horizons of our small dreams.

Paint our world in vivid colours so that we see
a whole new vision of your possibilities.
All  
Hold the cup of living water to our lips
and breathe into our souls
the life of your Spirit.

Pour over us the oil of your anointing,
that we may stand tall
as the royal children of your birthing.
All  
Fill us with a fire which burns from a flame of truth,
refining our beings so that we dare to take in our hands
your cross of courage, justice, hope and love.

And plant it abroad in all the earth.
All  
For you have walked this way before us
and we need you until the end of time. (Source unknown)

Sharing 'The Peace
Let us take some time to celebrate each other.

May a heart of peace rest with you (David Galston/q).
All And also with you.
You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours.

The following hymn/song if not used in a previous liturgy...
Hymn 
Carol of the Refugee Children(Tune: ‘Cradle Song’)
Away and in danger,
no hope of a bed,
the refugee children,
no tears left to shed                 
look up at the night sky
for someone to know
that refugee children
have no place to go.     
 

The babies are crying,
their hunger awakes,
the boat is too loaded,
it shudders and breaks;
humanity's wreckage
is thrown out to die,
the refugee children
will never know why.

Come close, little children,
we hold out our hand
in rescue and welcome
to shores of our land -
in *aroha, touching
your fear and your pain,
with dreams for your future            
when peace comes again.  (© Shirley Erena Murray 2016)

*Maori for 'warm embracing love’
alternative line “in touching, in healing'

OR

Birth of a Boy-child…(Tune: ‘Away in a Manager’, 11 11 11 11)   43 RP
The birth of a boy-child, the growth of a man:
his mother's enigma; a part of God's plan?
Uncertain, now standing a part of the crowd;
the still of the water foreshadows a shroud.

The death of an old life, the birth of a new,
as values are challenged, past choices askew.
Fierce currents of feeling, encounters of love,
a man by a river, a voice and a dove.

That voice stills the crowd at the slow river's rim:
'My son, my beloved, now listen to him.
’The birth of a boy-child, the growth of a man:
his mother's enigma; a part of God's plan? (Andrew Pratt)

OR

At the Door of the Year”  (Tune: ‘Kapiti Island, Jim Strathdee)          1 PaT
At the door of the year
when the past meets the future,
let this moment be light
for the roads we will tread;
when the clock seems too fast
or goes slowly within us,
let our faith tell the time –
there are good things ahead!
Refrain:
Welcome in, this New Year,
welcome in, hopeful people!
Make a vow, that somehow,
we will all create peace!

In the sun, in the snow,
in each season of living,
let the faces of peace
show the world how it’s done,
when the lion and lamb
both can lie down together,
think of violence gone,
think of gift, not a gun:
Refrain:

In the smile that we smile,
in the hands held in welcome,
in the catching of joy
like a child’s bright balloon,
let the colours pf peace
spread as far as the rainbow
arching over an earth
where we all sing in tune –
Refrain:    (© Shirley Erena Murray)

AFFIRMING

Offering
Our offerings for the work of ministry in this place and beyond,
shall now be received.

Presentation
We give these gifts as an act of celebration.
All  
With them we celebrate our own new life,
and the worldwide proclamation
of the good news to all people, everywhere.

Reflections and Prayers
Care Candle:
We are people of all ages who enter this space
bringing our joys and concerns.
Joys and Concerns shared

Focused Thoughts:

Listening Response:
In the light and beauty of day
All
We give thanks in awe and wonder.
In the dark and stillness of night
All We dream of healing and hope (Gretta Vosper/wwg)

And so we take a flame and light our special Care Candle…
The Care Candle is lit 

For ourselves, for those named or remembered, and in solidarity with those
who have not the freedom to express their concern or celebration
for fear of discrimination or condemnation.

In all our joys and in all our concerns, may we be ever mindful
of the presentness of the sacred among us,
and to see the new possibilities of the now.

The Abba Prayer: (Optional)
You are invited to pray in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer, and in your original language, as that is appropriate

All O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us - make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now.
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others' guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.

From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews.

Truly - power to these statements -
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow:  Amen. (NDouglas-Klotz/pc)

SCATTERING

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
Come Celebrate…(Tune: ‘Gift of Life’, Colin Gibson)   17 (v1-2) HoS
Come celebrate the gift of life:
creation’s journey from the star
whose first great flaring forth of light
responded to God’s word of power.
Enable us, O God, to see
your living word is in us still;
this vibrant possibility
within our human lives fulfil.

Come celebrate the gift of love,
potential in each human soul,
revealed by Jesus as he strove
to heal our world and make us whole.
Enable us, O God, to choose
beyond the inborn needs of self;
in loving, be prepared to lose
our boundaries, and find new life.
Remain standing

Parting Words
Let us embrace the wonder of this week
with expectation and imagination…
The Community Candle is extinguished

As we depart one from another,
let our hearts be secure
through every human season.
All
Let our hearts be secure
in seasons of anguish as in seasons of joy,
in seasons of failure as in seasons of success,
in seasons of uncertainty as in seasons of security.

Let our hearts be secure in this dual reality:
we are worthy recipients of love and support
we can never earn,
All
and we are worthy providers of love and support 
others cannot earn.

Let our hearts be secure,
All
for hearts know and understand
and will respond if invited in. John A. Hobart

Words of Blessing
v1 Go as far as your courage takes you,
for you cannot go beyond the reach of God.
v2 Give as extravagantly as you may,
for you cannot spend all the riches of God.
v1 Care as lavishly as you are able,
for you cannot exhaust the love of God.
v2 Keep journeying as a servant,
for God will always be with you. (BHughes)
All Amen! May it be so!

Hymn (Cont)Come Celebrate…(Tune: ‘Gift of Life’, Colin Gibson)     17 (v3) HoS
Come celebrate the gift of power:
the flow of God within each soul,
which calls us in this present hour
to see creation as a whole.

Enable us, O God, to know
your life is present in all things;
and may our lives, within that flow,
reflect the joy creation sings. (Margaret Bond)
The people sit after the hymn

'This Week' at (NN)
Notices
Birthdays and anniversaries
Significant events
Journey candles

Music

Fellowship
Morning tea is now served.
You are invited to share in this time of fellowship


You are invited to keep this copy of the liturgy and take it home with you
to share with another member of your family, or with a friend

I recommend the use 
LicenSing - Copyright cleared music for churches


Some of the Resources used in Shaping thisLliturgy:
Douglas-Klotz, N. Prayers of the Cosmos. Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus. New York. Harper & Row, 1990.
Duncan, G. (ed). Seeing Christ in Others. An Anthology for Worship, Mediation and Mission. Norwich. The Canterbury Press, 1998.
Holmes, R. H.
The Bob Holmes Worship Materials. Vol 1. Little Falls: Self published, 1972.
(HoS)
Hope Is Our Song. New Hymns and Songs from Aotearoa New Zealand. Palmerston North. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2009.
Inclusive Readings. Year A. Brisbane. Inclusive Language Project. In private circulation, 2004. 
Johnston, J. D. Beginning Now. A Book of Explorations. Boston. UUA, 1970
(PaT) Murray, S. E.
A Place at the Table. New Hymns Written between 2009 and 2013. Carol Stream: Hope Publishing, 2013.
(RP) Pratt, A.
Reclaiming Praise. Hymns from a Spiritual Journey. London. Stainer & Bell Ltd, 2006.
(SLT)
Singing the Living Tradition. Boston. UUA, 1993.
Vosper, G.
With or Without God. Why the way we live is more important that what we believe. Canada: Toronto. HarperCollins, 2008.

Web sites/Other:
Hobart, Hughes, van Leer. UUA Worship Web. Boston. <www.uua.org/spirituallife/worshipweb/>
"Christmas is Real".
Andrew Pratt. UK. Hymns&Books blog. <http://hymnsandbooks.blogspot.com/>
M. Ackerson. SBNR.org blog site. USA.
Ian Lawton. From former C3Exchange web site. USA.  <http://www.c3exchange.org/>
David Galston. Quest Learning Centre for Religious Literacy. <http://www.questcentre.ca/
Shirley Erina  Murray. “Carol of the Refugee Children”. Direct from the author.
Andrew Pratt. "
Herod Waiting, Herod Watching”. Direct from the author.
Colin Gibson. “We Who Love Jesus”. Direct from the author.
"An Australian Christmas Story” cartoon. From Refugee Council of Australia.
Peggy McDonagh. “Honouring Life” From 
St Stephen’s Non-Theistic Project. http://stephen.srv.ualberta.ca/publications/non-theistic-liturgy-resources/#sthash.0Sd5KwzN.wLO2Tlw4.dpbs

rexae74@gmail.com