Growing old

Growing old tutors us in what Jesus taught.
To let go, to let go.
To surrender things, control,
the power to make things as you wish.
To rely, and be grateful.
To know the blessing hidden in being
poor in spirit, with diminished powers,
trusting a greater power, unseen;
to be meek, unlikely to outgun the strong,
and know what you have;
to know mourning, and the comfort that outlives grief;
to hunger for a world
yet to come into its righteousness—
hunger that is strength.
And the blessing that endures. It endures.

To let pain be a teacher and weakness a coach
and failure a school that never lets out.
To leave your works for your heart.
To forgive yourself and others as one.
To renounce what anybody thinks of you.
To be able to see the long story of love,
how it has shadowed you.
To have found a center reliant on nothing
but the everlasting.
To know that your legacy shall be unknown;
that loveliness is not in your face but behind it;
that beyond the Mystery
all is gathered in capable arms;
that all is grace.
To know that when you have lost everything,
when there is nothing left of you

you are still you,
strong and beautiful, worthy and beloved.
And how to see that when others don’t.
To let go, and to let go.

And to trust that if you have loved
you have lived.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Listen to the audio recording:


You probably won’t hear a healer by the lakeshore,
with the backup choir of seagulls singing,
gentle waves patting the boats you’re about to leave.
You probably won’t hear.
You’ll suspect.

More like falling in love,
only scarier and more freeing, an inward leaning out
toward something that feels more like coming home.
Despite the nets you leave behind,
a feeling it’s something you’re being given,
even as you yourself are given.
Like the tropical island the bird migrates to,
and the way to the island, only it’s not a place.
A way of being, a direction your life will flow.
A freedom you’re being led toward, step by step,
accompanied all the way, because
it’s not a call to a thing but a person, a friendship.
You go with someone who’s made the journey.
There will be missteps, falterings, wrong turns. All blessed.

There’s no voice, but a certain fullness in the silence.
You hear, and you go. Moment by moment, you go.
Something in you trusts:
the river knows the way.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Holy Trinity – Part III

See how they love each other.
How they include each other.
How they empty themselves into each other.

How they move together, dancing
(perichoresis, they call it, dancing around),
how they make space for each other.

They are not just a being, but being,
not merely existing but flowing,
like electricity—only love, all love.

See their delight in each other,
how none is whole without the others,
each surrendering to each other.

They are infinite, yet intimately present,
eternal, yet coming into being in this moment,
coming into being in you, as you let them.

Yes you, my lovely, are not merely a being
but a being-in-holy-being.
They want you.

They include you.
They are not complete without you.
You are the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Holy Trinity – Part II

How easy it is to worship our image of God
instead of God.

The Trinity is not a doctrine, it’s a koan.
It’s a way of slippery=izing our images of God:
God is This, the Opposite of this, and None of the above.
God is More Than One Thing. And The One Thing.
God is beyond our knowing or pinning down;
yet known, revealed, embodied.

The Intimate Beyond, the Infinite Companion,
and the Immediate Arising.

God is mostly mystery, and all love.
Your understanding is fog.
Your certainty is noise.
Your belief is irrelevant.
All there is is love.

Let the Loving Mystery confuse you,
the Unknowable know you,
the Unspeakable do the speaking.

the Lover, the Beloved and the Love Flowing,
holds you.
Let it be so.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Names of God

The Holy Trinity is not a doctrine
but a mystery, a koan,
the paradox of three persons in one,
a meditation on the names of God.
Meditate on the mystery.
Pray with the names. Let them speak.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Mother, Child, Love Between.

Creator, Christ, Holy Breath.

Lover, Beloved, Love flowing between.

Source of all Being, Eternal Word, Living Spirit.

Abba God, Only Begotten, Spirit of Love.

Infinite Parent, Infinite Sibling, Infinite Self.

The One Beyond, the One Beside, the One Within.

Transcendent Mystery, Healing Presence, Emergent Energy.

Source of Love, Experience of Love, Energy of Love.

Holy One, Holy Many, Holy Us.

Lord of the Universe, Jesus of Nazareth, Heart of my Soul.

Loving Silence, Gentle Word, Abiding Love.

Mystery of Being, Gift of Love, Breath of Life.

Mother, Son, Holy Spirit.

Loving One, Loving One, Loving One.

Holy Trinity, Praise!

Mother, Son and Holy Spirit,
beyond words we bless you,

you who defeat our words, confound
our images, encircle our understanding,

who are not a thing to be described
but Being, Love, Presence, to be met,

Lover and Beloved
and the love that flows between.

You are this, and the opposite of that,
and something else altogether;

Being itself, and source of all Being,
all giving and receiving;

mystery mostly, and all grace,
a little light and a hand on the shoulder.

Your Being enfolds all creation, nebulae,
one heart at a time, in your arms.

No mode of being, no heaven nor hell
nor hidden heart place, is beyond you.

All is within you. The entire created universe
is the smallest beloved embryo in your womb,

and yet you walk beside us, speak to us
each by name, breathe in us, cell by cell,

inviting us into your blessing,
your delight, your future, yourself.

You live in our tininess, share our unknowing,
suffer our pain, tremble in us.

Moment by moment you create all things,
die and rise, enliven and enloven us to holiness.

Eternal mystery, indwelling presence,
infinite grace, we cannot name or picture you,

but only worship you. We cannot divide you,
nor ourselves from you, but only Be.

Mother, Son and Holy Spirit, all praise!
We are present to you in love. Alleluia!

Blue Christmas

For some, Christmas is a mixed blessing, evoking grief over the death of loved ones, or other sorrows. A Blue Christmas service is a serve of hope and healing that is more quiet and reflective than exuberant. It may speak not only to those who bear personal sorrows but also those who lament injustice and broken relationships in their communities or the world. If you offer a Blue Christmas service it’s helpful to have present not only those who are “blue” themselves, but those who would support them. You may want to have people on hand who are trained in listening (like Stephen Ministers), or prepared for healing, praying or other ministries.

Some Suggested Scriptures

(Italicized scriptures are included in various year’s lectionary readings.)
Isaiah 12.2-6 (Year C, week 3) —You will draw water from the wells of salvation)
Isaiah 35.1-10 (A: 3) —The desert shall blossom. Renewal, return of exiles.
Isaiah 40.1-11 (B:2) — Comfort my people; the people fade like grass but God’s Word is forever; God will carry the sheep in their arms
Isaiah 61.1-11 (B 2)— The Spirit of God is upon me to bind up the brokenhearted
Zephaniah 3.14-20 ( C:3) — God will rejoice over you
Psalm 13 —A lament: I bear pain in my soul
Psalm 122 (A:1) — Pray for the peace of Jerusalem
Psalm 126 — May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy
Luke 1.39-45 ( B:4) Mary visits Elizabeth
Luke 1.47-55 (A:3, C:4) The Magnificat. You have remembered me in my low estate
Luke 1.68-79, especially 76-79 (C:2) Part of Zechariah’s song:
                           light for those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.)
Romans 5.1-5 —Suffering leads to hope…
Philippians 4.4-7 (C:3)— Rejoice always… be gentle… peace will guard your hearts)
Hebrews 4.14-16 — Christ sympathizes with us: he’s been through what we’ve
                             been through
Revelation 21.1-4 (The new heaven and new earth)

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, Creator of all, you who make the snow of winter and the darkness of night, the day is yours, and also the night; summer and winter are yours.
      The darkness is yours, and in it we seek your blessing.
Christ, Companion of all who sit in darkness, you came to us on that night long ago, and warmed our night with your presence.
      In the darkness of this night we wait for your coming again.
Holy Spirit, we open our hearts to your light, and our lives to your presence.
      O Come, O come! God, be with us, dwell in our hearts,
      and let your dawn break upon us, and on all who dwell in darkness. Amen.

In this season as we prepare for the coming of Christ
we sing of joy, yet we also bear pain and grief.
      Come, dear Jesus, and be with us in our pain.
In this season we sing of peace, yet we also know anxiety.
     Come, dear Jesus, and be with us in our struggle.
In this season we sing of light, yet we are also in the dark,
unknowing and uncertain.
      Come, dear Jesus, and be our light in the night,
      our trust in the mystery, our way in the dark.
In this season we wait for your coming, yet you are also already here.
      We thank you for your presence,
      listen for your Word, and open our hearts to your love. Amen.

Listening Prayer

Gentle God, from the beginning you promised to be our God, and to be with us always. In Christ you come to share our darkness, to bless our days and our nights, our joy and our sorrow, our living and our dying. Come, O gentle Savior, be with us, show us the way, and embrace us with your Spirit. Amen.

Creator God, from the beginning of time, when only chaos and darkness existed, you have been with us. In the fullness of time, you sent your light into the world as Christ, to bless our days and our nights, our joys and our sorrows, our living and our dying. Come now, enter into our hearts, anoint us with your Spirit, and comfort us with your healing love. Amen.

Bidding Prayer

Loving God, we thank you for the many blessings you have given us. We remember with grateful hearts our loved ones, and all who have blessed us through our years.
     God of grace, we give you thanks.
We hold in your light what is no longer ours: loves and dreams that have passed, friends and hopes that have died. We hold in your light our struggles, our darkness, our emptiness.
     God of grace, be with us in the night.
O come to us, God, and walk with us. Grant us your consolation, strength and renewal. Enter into the rough stable of our lives so that here, by your presence, there is healing, and hope, and joy.
    God of grace, grant us light.
Gentle God, for all who suffer we ask your blessing. For all who are lonely we ask your presence. For all who struggle we ask your Spirit. Come to us, receive our wounds, dwell with us, and strengthen us by your spirit.
     God of grace, grant us your peace.
God of mercy, we mourn the world’s injustice, and pray in hope. Bless those who suffer oppression. Bless those who work for justice. Bless us, that with hope and courage we may shine with your light even in the darkest night.
     God of grace, grant us your hope.
Spirit of healing, fill us with your grace that we may shine with your light in the darkness, that we may bear your healing to others, that we may be living signs of your coming.
    God of grace, grant us your peace. Amen.

A Litany of Remembrance

Leader: As we near the longest night of the year, we light this advent candle of hope. We pray for all those who suffer—mentally, physically, emotionally, and ask your blessing upon them. Open our eyes to those who are lonely, afraid, and forgotten, that we might be to them a comforting and hopeful presence.
All: As the candle shines through darkness,
may we be your light to those in need of hope.
       Response— O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, verse 1

As we light this advent candle of love, we remember with grateful hearts all those who have blessed our lives with love. We pray for our loved ones who are no longer here with us. We remember their names, their voices, their lives. God, may your eternal light surround them.
As the candle shines through darkness,
may we be your light to those in need of love.
       Response— O Come, Come, Emmanuel, verse 2

As we remember that dawn defeats darkness, God, we light this advent candle of joy. As we experience times of loss—the loss of our health, our jobs, our relationships, our hopes and dreams, God promises to be with us and to lead us into a deeper joy.
As the candle shines through darkness,
may we be your light to those in need of joy.
       Response— O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, verse 3

Though we live in times of conflict and division, we light this advent candle of peace. In a world of unspeakable violence, you came to us as a baby—vulnerable, precious, and pure, offering to us the gift of your love. May your peace, which surpasses all human understanding, fill our hearts, and heal our world.
As the candle shines through darkness,
may we be your light to a world in need of peace.
       Response— O Come, O Come, Emmanuel verse 4

Psalm Meditation

(Psalm 85, paraphrased)

Leader: God of life, the land has blossomed with your favor.
You have restored your people;
you have forgiven us,
all of our brokenness a thing of the past.
In our suffering there was your grace,
your fierce protection.
All: We listen for your voice, O God,
for your compassion draws near. …

Restore us again, O God of our salvation.
Heal our fear of you.
How long will we go on distrusting of you,
keeping our distance for generations?
Awaken us from our bad dreams
and renew our joy.
Show us your steadfast love,
and grant us whole and vibrant life.
We listen for your voice, O God,
for your compassion draws near. …

We listen for your voice,
for you speak peace.
We turn to you in our hearts.
Even in the darkness, unseen, you are near.
We listen for your voice, O God,
for your compassion draws near. …

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
justice and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up like green plants;
solidarity with one another
will spread over us like the sky.
God will give what is good,
and the earth bloom with joy.
Compassion will walk through the world
and make a way for God to enter.
We listen for your voice, O God,
for your compassion draws near. …

Suggested songs

(Available on the music page. Click titles to view song.)

Come Again, Poor Jesus       (Tune: In the Bleak Midwinter)

When our souls are wint’ry, when our hearts are cold,
come to us, dear Jesus, as you did of old.
When our hearts, unsheltered, feel the winds above,
come to us and warm us with your gentle love.

In the dark we wander, searching for our way,
waiting, lost, and longing for the light of day.
Dawn upon your children; fold us in your grace.
Child, be born among us. Show to us your face.

Shepherds on the hillside, poor, without a friend,
kept their watch in silence, vigil without end.
But then in the darkness, angels brought the word:
“God has not forgotten, and your prayers are heard.”

To the simple, poor ones, Jesus came that night.
Come again, poor Jesus. Bless us with your light.
Lamb of God, be with us in our joy and pain,
and companion us, Love, to new life again.

Come, Gentle Jesus
(Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Come, gentle Jesus. Come, to be here with us.
Come, be the light in our darkest night.
Show where we’ve gone astray; come, be our blessed Day.
Come, change us with your healing light.

Come, mighty Jesus. Come, and work your will in us.
Bring forth our gold with refining fire.
Make our hearts pure and clear; come, set us free from fear,
to sing your praise with heaven’s choir.

Come, blessed Jesus. Come and live your life in us.
Let us be your manger here.
Come, be born in us, flowing with love through us.
Oh, savior of the world, draw near!

Drawn by your light

(Tune: Away in a Manger)

In darkness we gather, God, drawn by your light,
your glorious presence that blesses the night,
the light and the deep peace that Jesus imparts,
the Spirit’s bright radiance that burns in our hearts.

The light of Creation that made the first dawn,
the pillar of fire that led Israel on,
the star that led magi to where Jesus was
now draws us to worship with alleluias.

Your light shines so even the darkness is blessed
this night as we wait for the coming of Christ.
God, shine your light warmly in us by your grace,
that we may bear healing and justice and peace.

Savior, In this Holy Darkness
(Tune: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)

Savior, in our longing darkness,
waiting in our deepest night,
come and grace our hunger and yearnings;
for we live by hope, not sight.
Christ, we long for you. Come bless us.
Help us all to walk in the light.

Savior, in our lonely darkness
come to us who inwardly mourn.
Raise the love that lies a captive;
mend the cloth that has been torn.
Come to us, O God, with holy love:
wake us with the light of morn.

Savior, in our wounded darkness,
shadowed by our evil ways,
fear and anger and injustice,
violence that shutters our praise,
come, O Christ, and heal our broken lives
with love’s gentle, dawning rays.

Savior, in this deepening darkness,
how we long to see your face!
Yet you move, unseen among us
with your mercy and your grace.
Give us eyes of faith to see you,
hidden in each time and place.

Savior, in this holy darkness,
no one sees the flight of the dove.
No one hears the song of the angels.
Yet there shines a lone star above.
Grant this joy, to know your presence here.
Come and fill our hearts with your love.

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