A Word from DS Laura Merrill- 12.02.21

I’m not sure there’s a more multi-layered time than the cusp between November and December, especially for those of us in the church. The image of Christ as King overlaps with Thanksgiving, and I always see in my mind the image of a king in velvet robes and jeweled crown at the head of the table, carving a turkey surrounded by too much food. Then Thanksgiving overlaps with Christmas, as many busy ones try to “get the tree up” over the long weekend, to get it done and be able to enjoy it. If you have a Sunday gig, you try to relax and enjoy your family or friends over the weekend, while most years, Advent 1 is hanging out ahead of you, with its distinctly non-Christmasy, apocalyptic tone. Finally, Advent begins in darkness and simplicity, in the midst of a culture that’s already well wound up, complete with blinking jingle bells.

It’s just a lot. And that’s not counting Covid! It doesn’t count any of the other burdens of the day, either, which are many.

I found a prayer for this first week of Advent, the work of Black women clergy. It’s based on a reading from Dr. Wil Gafney’s A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church.The prayer itself is written by Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley, an American Baptist pastor in New York.

Psalm 71:4-5

My God, rescue me, from the hand of the wicked, from the clutch of the cruel and the ruthless. For you are my hope, Sovereign, WORTHY ONE, my trust, from my youth.

Worthy One,

Very few things truly merit our worry: yet we carry them anyway. Some of us worry out of habit or obligation, as if it’s the right thing to do—to signal we are paying attention. We certainly do not want to turn a blind eye to the concerns of the world or ignore personal tests. However, our worries sometimes compete with our faith.

Sovereign God,

We know the activity of the wicked is real; escaping the clutches of cruel and ruthless forces requires foresight and grace. Impart in us the ability to see that which is truly evil against that which is simply a nuisance. Through your Grace, may we know the difference.

Holy Rescuer,

Our true hope is in no other but You. May we gladly put our trust in Your ability to see and guide us through all of life’s circumstances.

Like the flame of hope that burns on the Advent wreath, may Your hope ignite our spirits. May it never be extinguished!

In the name of the One in whom our hope is built. [i] Amen.

[i] Phrase from the hymn, “Our Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote

(Advent 1 reading from A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church: A Multi-Gospel Single-Year Lectionary, Wilda C. Gafney, Church Publishing Incorporated)

I’ve heard some good preaching in this district lately. I’ve read of your creative approaches to worship and ways of engaging people with the season of Advent. I’ve gathered with youth workers and heard how young disciples have served their neighbors during Covid. One youth leader said, “It’s in service that our youth really shine.” It is true that there is anxiousness and trouble all around, and too much of everything but peace and rest. But I want to say that the presence of Christ in you is the candle that lights up the night. It is the seed that grows in the nurturing dark. I take hope in the spirit I see in you and in your churches, and I pray that our time of waiting for our Servant King, the Holy Child, will grow in us love, wisdom, and faithfulness.