Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
—Collect for the First Sunday of Advent
This year, as is often the case, Thanksgiving and the First Sunday of Advent are proximate. As we begin a new liturgical year, making wreaths with one another at 9 am and gathering for a combined service at 10, I am more mindful than ever of gratitude. Gone are the tents of past years as we joyfully gather in Gosnell Hall once again. The new dove gracing that space is a palpable reminder of our resilience as a community. If you missed its dedication during our Come and See weekend, it is made from the salvaged beams from Bethlehem Chapel. It is a reminder that the Holy Spirit has guided this community and will continue to do so.
Advent is a season where we set our intentions on hope and light. The days are shorter, the darkness is more evident, and yet we put on the armor of light. We choose to not let the real terrors of our world be the final word. Like many of you, I was horrified by the shooting in Colorado Springs that targeted the LGBTQ community. As people of faith, we cannot imagine we are not called to speak out against hatred of all sorts. We all deserved a safe place to gather without fear of violence or judgment. Whether an elementary school or a club, we are called to do better. Our faith gives us the strength we need to pursue justice and bear the light of hope to others.
Our Thanksgiving holiday is a time of gathering and celebrating abundance. It is another chance to put on the armor of light. We are reminded to greet one another with the expectation that we will see the Light of Christ in each person, regardless of our many differences. I’ve offered a prayer for Thanksgiving in past years, and I offer this updated one today. I hope it is a blessing for you and those you love.
We gather together today in a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude,
Grateful that you alone sustain us,
In times of plenty and times of want,
Promising to be the Light,
even in the darkest of places.
In times when we realize anew that we cannot bear your Light alone,
We promise to seek out community,
as a safe place to lament as people of faith
and to name that which seems beyond our control.
In that lament we shift to a posture of gratitude,
Thanking you for the space it creates,
When we remember that our illusions of power and control,
only distance ourselves from you—and one another.
We give thanks for the opportunity to remember our connectedness,
For the special calling that comes to us through community,
In the array of gifts that call forth your glory,
And the power of love made manifest.
We give thanks for our differences,
Both in the challenges that stretch us,
And the strength we find in them,
Calling us to unity and a deeper reliance on one another.
Encourage us God,
Make us united—in our common love for you and one another.
Make us courageous—willing to speak out against evil and the powers of darkness.
Make us wise—so that our actions might further your purposes in this time.
Knit us together so deeply in your love that we may cast away darkness and bear your Light
into the places in ourselves that need your healing,
into the relationships around us that are broken,
into the places in our world that cry out for your love.
We ask this as your beloved children. Amen.