December 2, 2007

Prayers of the People

Dana Ferguson, Executive Associate Pastor

We are setting off for a journey today, O God. It is an annual pilgrimage, and so it is a journey that we have taken before. It is a journey you bid us come and make. And yet it is a journey that each year has the power to recreate lives. So let us not take our travels lightly, and let us not attempt to control that to which you have invited us. Many are our inclinations to be fixed upon those things that this world tells us are important—the tree, the gifts, the cards, the trimmings.

Fix us instead upon the parts of the journey to which you have called us—the reflection, the wonder, the awe, the love, the hope, the promise. When we are inclined to pack our days full with lists of to-dos, invoke in us the need to sit quietly and consider the road ahead and your good promises to us. When we are frazzled and inclined to frustration with a line too long or a process too inefficient, give us hearts of grace and gratitude to reach out to the stranger with a kind word or generous gesture that reminds us and them that indeed you have come into this world to change hatred into love, fear into hope, greed into generosity, striving into giving.

In this season, O God, you promise such surprising things—that people shall beat their swords into plowshares and nation shall learn war no more. Convince us, we pray, of your power to make promises of surprises into realities for living. And then convict us to be your servants anew.

In an overcrowded world, where mass poverty threatens rich and poor alike, remind us of your power to close the gap between rich and poor. And then use us to do it.

In a world wrought with politics and power often gone astray, where we spend dollars for defense and pennies for peace, bring us a vision of your world filled with the peace of love and grace aplenty. And then use us to make it real.

In a world fearful of the slow death of faith, bring new life to the relationships between divine worship and human service and healing of the world’s wounds. Then use us to be instruments of it.

Where people’s hearts are heavy with grief and memories of the cherished past, surround them with your power to make all things new. And then use us to usher it in.

As we set out to Bethlehem this day, we would not set out without remembering those who live in that sacred place and those who are caught up in conflict about that land – for those who rise each day to face the confines of a wall too tall and for those who rise each day afraid of what the hours ahead might bring, we pray. For those in sacred lands and forgotten lands and occupied lands, who raise up arms and cower in corners, who live facing a future with what seems little possibility, and for those who face a present so full of loss they don’t know where to begin again, we pray for your comfort and courage. Let your words “They shall learn war no more” be heard again and again and again until all the world’s swords of violence have become the plowshares of healing and hope and the spears of fear have become the pruning hooks of reconciliation and love.

As we depart this day for Bethlehem, send us out to be about your tasks. Go before us to guide us, and stay behind us to prod us. Live within us as God who fashions our being, as Christ who keeps us from falling, and as the Holy Spirit in whose name nothing is impossible. We pray this and all things in the name of the newborn one to come. So hear us as we join our voices together saying,

Our Father . . .