Lessons and Carols and Poems service

Donated to the liturgy library by Collegiate UMC in Ames, IA for whom this service was originally crafted as a custom liturgy request

Opening prayer 

Spirit of Love,
We welcome you.
We celebrate your coming to abide with us.
And we remember the ways you have been faithfully companioning us since the beginning.
It was you who wove all life together.
Your glory is painted across all of creation.
Throughout history, over and over again, you have taken on flesh,
in the ordinary and the extraordinary,
in the vulnerability of infants,
the fierce proclamations of prophets,
the enduring hope of those who persevere under evil’s threats.
Where there is grief, where there is holy rage,
where there is fear or sacred imagination growing,
You abide across the ages.

Bless our time together, as we remember again the still-unfolding story of your love:
A love that comes to dwell among us.
A love that surprises and disrupts.
A love that reveals the way of liberation.
May it be so among us.


Hope Candle

  • A poem from Nayyirah Waheed on hope:

    “i don’t pay attention to the
    world ending.
    it has ended for me
    many times
    and began again in the morning.”
  • Candle lighting: The hope of God is honest. It names forthrightly the struggles of our shared lives – the evils and suffering that make hope both difficult and necessary. It reaches to us in the places bare, vulnerable, tender, and tired. And hope says hang on. Keep on. Press on with purpose. What feels impossible can become possible with God. As we light this candle, we reflect on all the small ways hope has taken on flesh around us this year.

    – Brief moment of silence.
  • Scripture reading (adapted NRSV): Luke 4:16-21

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his regular practice. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Jesus unrolled the scroll and found where it was written:

“The Spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to those held captive, and restoration to those who are broken open, and let the oppressed go free, to proclaim liberation, and jubilee.”

And Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then Jesus began to say to them, “Today, with your witness,  this scripture has been fulfilled.”

Song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Peace with Justice Candle

  • An excerpt from a poem by Joy Harjo:

    Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
    Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
    You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
    Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
    Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
    Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
    Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
    Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
    Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.
  • Candle lighting: Peace is the gift of God that follows practicing care for each other and living with moral integrity. Prophets bear testimony to the barriers of to peace among us. They chant faithfully in response to histories and present realities of racist violence, “no justice, no peace!” They echo the scriptures calling for justice and peace to rise and kiss. As we light this candle, we take a moment to reflect on an injustice that keeps people and communities from resting into the peace of God and calls us to deepen our engagement in the coming year.

– Brief moment of silence.

  • Scripture (adapted NRSV): Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf shall live in peace with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the newborn goat,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the viper’s nest,
and the weaned child shall put her hand on the adder’s den.
They who can kill so easily will not hurt or destroy any life;
for the earth will overflow with Divine Wisdom,
as the waters saturate the sea.

  • Song: Come Through Long Expected Jesus, v. 1

Joy Candle

  • A poem by Mary Oliver:

    “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
  • Candle: Joy does not keep us from grief or hide the world’s pain away. It brings its own offerings of delight, beauty, laughter, and sits them beside sorrows. Joy is the eternal abundance of small miracles that tether us to God’s aliveness even when death surrounds. As we light this candle of joy, we reflect on the sources of plenty in our lives – the feasts of holy abundance that sustain our spirits.

    – Brief moment of silence.
  • Scripture (NRSV adapted): Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out, and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s geeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you, and blessed is the life you are bearing forth. And why is this happening to me, that the mother of the Annointed One comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believes that the possibilities whispered by Spirit would come to be.”

  • Song: Joy to the World

Love Candle

  • A poem by Rupi Kaur:

most importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
means nothing
this page
where you’re sitting
your degree
your job
the money
nothing even matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them

  • Candle: The greatest commandment – the one through which everything else must be interpreted: Love invites us, challenges us, changes us. Love is intimate and love is collective – it seeks a world of flourishing, within and without, for all life. As we light this candle, we reflect on the barriers that keep us from living out our full capacity to love and celebrate the freedom God has given us to break down those barriers together. 

    – Brief moment of silence.
  • Scripture (adapted NRSV): Luke 1:46-55

“My soul magnifies God,
and my spirit rejoices in our Creator,
for God has looked with favor on me, one who has faced disrespect and degradation.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Divine has done great things through me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who know awe, and joy,
from generation to generation.
God’s power has scattered the oppressive ones, perpetuating injustice.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped us, God’s people, in
remembrance of God’s merciful promise—
a promise made to our ancestors, and extended to us,
and to those who will come after us, forever.”

  • Song: Love Came Down at Christmas

Divinity enfleshed – Christ candle

  • A poem by Padraig O’ Tuama

And I said to him
Are there questions to all of this?
And he said
The answer is in a story
and the story is being told. 

And I said
But there is so much pain
And she answered, plainly,
Pain will happen. 

Then I said
Will I ever find meaning?
And they said
You will find meaning
Where you give meaning. 

The answer is in the story
And the story isn’t finished.

  • Candle: The incarnation of God comes to us in the most surprising of ways and places. Unsettling the expectations of the powerful and breaking wide open the hopes of the weary, salvation is born among us. As we light the Christ candle, we reflect on our presumptions about God, the world, ourselves and each other, and open to the mysterious and scandalous way of Love enfleshed.
  • Scripture (adapted NRSV): John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God.
The Word was present to God from the beginning. Through the Word all things came into
being, and apart from the Word nothing that has come into being could have come into being.

In the Word was life, and that life was humanity’s light—a Light that shines in the darkness, a
Light that the darkness can never fully overcome.

Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify
about the Light, so that through his testimony others might come to know the Light of Life. He
himself wasn’t the Light; he came to testify about the Light—the Light which illumines

The Word was coming into the world—was in the world—and though the world was made
through the Word, the world didn’t recognize it. Though the Word came to its own realm, the
Word’s own people didn’t accept it. Yet any who did accept the Word, who knew and believed,
were empowered to become children of God. And the Word became flesh and came to dwell
among us. We saw the Word’s glory, the care a parent gives their child, full of grace and truth.

  • Song: Silent Night


As we go forth into our “one wild and precious lives,”
And into the sacred darkness of this holy night,
may our hearts be vulnerable to beauty,
and to the pain of each other.

May our minds be open to truth,
and questioning injustice.
And may our hearts and lives be centered
in what is true,
and liberating,
and life giving,

so that each and every life,
and everything that births love,
may be nourished, and flourish.
With the assurance of God’s abiding presence,
go with peace and with joy.

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