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Liturgy for a Pandemic Christmas

Published on:
December 15, 2020
Read time:
3 min.
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O meek and suffering Child,
Our God-King, tiny and frail in Your mother’s arms:
We kneel beside Your manger bed
And bow our heads,
Humble in the straw-dust and stamping hooves,
As we lift our hands in desperate need
For Your gentle and lowly presence in the midst of our meekness and suffering.

O Christ of the first Christmas,
Our hearts are heavy
With the weariness of those who have traveled far to kneel here.
As Your angels sang out in the darkness of Your first earthly hours,
So in the midst of this year-long night,
We seek even a whispered note of hope
Against the dark backdrop of sickness, separation, and sorrow.

Together:
O Emanuel, God with us,
Quiet our hearts this night
With the memory that You do not look down at our brokenness,
An aloof and unconcerned King,
But join with us in the sorrows and birth-cries of our human existence,
Lifting us from the darkness of despair to the brightness of hope
Through Your compassionate suffering and sacrifice,
With us and for us.
Amen.

This year, O Lord, we are separated from those we love,
Our traditions full of holes,
Tattered by the loss or absence of family and friends.
In love for each other, we gave up the closeness of warmth and touch
To gaze at each other from behind a screen,
Investing with tears in the hope of a future Christmas where all are present,
Healthy and safe once again.

Jesus, You left your Father behind that first Christmas,
Sojourning in a land far from Your heavenly home,
Investing with tears in the hope of a future Christmas where all are present,
Healthy and safe with You for all eternity.
In our separation from loved ones, Emanuel,
Be with us.

This year, O Lord, we are gripped by sickness,
Our thoughts far from celebration
As we struggle to draw our next breath.
Isolated in our homes
Or lying helpless in hospital beds,
We are surrounded by people,
Yet we are desperately alone.

Jesus, You drew Your first human breath in a dusty manger,
Crying out for oxygen as You opened Your newborn eyes.
You did not hold Yourself back from the most vulnerable parts of our humanity,
But fully entered our lived experience:
Lungs, heartbeat, tears, mucus, pain:
You took on Yourself the full likeness of our frail flesh to become our Righteousness and Hope.
In our sickness and in our dying, Emanuel,
Be with us.

This year, O Lord, we are afraid,
Gazing at the wreckage of our certainty and control,
The curtain of busyness torn away from our deepest fears.
The future we each predicted has dropped away into uncertainty,
And we walk as if in a mist, unable to see beyond the end of a week or a day.
Our questions press into the darkness with relentless insistence:
Will my business survive? Will my family? Will I?

Jesus, You are not a God Who feels fear;
Yet Your first night on Earth, You cried out and sought Your mother’s embrace.
So this night, we seek Your comforting presence,
The reassurance that You still see our future
And walk before us into it.
In our fear and in our need, Emanuel,
Be with us.

O meek and suffering Child,
Our God-King, tiny and frail in Your mother’s arms:
We kneel beside Your manger bed
And bow our heads,
Humble in the straw-dust and stamping hooves,
And we lift our hands in desperate need
For Your gentle and lowly presence in the midst of our meekness and suffering.

Together:
O Emanuel, God with us,
Quiet our hearts this night
With the memory that You do not look down at our brokenness,
An aloof and unconcerned King,
But join with us in the sorrows and birth-cries of our human existence,
Lifting us from the darkness of despair to the brightness of hope
Through Your compassionate suffering and sacrifice,
With us and for us.
Amen.

Jessica Merzdorf
Jessica Merzdorf lives in Maryland with her irrepressible cat, who regularly disrupts both her professional science writing and her after-hours poetry and fiction writing. Her passion is beauty - finding echoes of God's kingdom glory in nature, people, and stories, and through language, inviting others to be refreshed and encouraged by them. She dabbles in nature photography on Instagram.

Cover image by Kelly Sikkema.

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