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This was written for a service that will be used in Belleville, Illinois on December 21, 2019.  The term “homeless” is used to describe this day as seen as at NationalHomeless.org, my hope was to be sensitive to the people experiencing lack of housing, hoping to look at “people first.”  Feel free to adapt as needed with attribution.

Opening Prayer
Spirit of God who hovers around all of us-
Whether we abide on the highest peak or in the lowest valley,
Whether we abide in lengthening shadows or growing light-
Fill us with peace that comes from you.

Night has reached its pinnacle,
But the victory has not been delightful.
With it comes the chills of shadows-
The frigid loneliness of grief.

In this season when daytime’s gloom sneers at all of us,
Nighttime’s shadows are anything but cover.
Night has shed it’s duty to its people,
To the ones looking for its stars of hope. 

Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Meditation
Burdened with worry and overwhelmed with joy, Jesus came into the world displaced.  Stories say he was a refugee – on the run to save his life. Later stories say that he spoke to his followers ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ (Luke 9:58)  The one that people have called savior, teacher, friend, beloved found himself living an itinerant life for different reasons at various times.

Scripture: Psalm 91
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,*
2 will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,*
   the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
   no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.

Prayer
For the ones struggling with severe mental health
Who can’t see the world through a clear lens
And exist with a view of the world which is contorted-
A permanent place to stay is not in their path:
May we journey with them to find answers
And places of refuge in the nighttime of their lives.

For the ones with PTSD
Hurt by wars and the world:
May their spiritual wounds heal.
And in this meantime
As their life is lived under stars and clouds
May your light give them promise.

For LGBTQ children who find no place at home
Forsaken by family,
Deserted by friends:
May your light guide them to families of the soul.

For the ones struggling with addiction
Whose life shifted because of this health crisis
And no home fits their current shape of life:
May the power of your love strengthen them
And gift them the courage of newness and health.

For the ones who live in the system of eviction-
Surviving on couches,
Crouching in car seats,
Trying to sleep in spaces so small
And find a place of their own:
May our world work together to lead them to homes
And pathways of hope.

For ones living among violence
Who wonder if every tomorrow will be the end of their journeys:
May our communities find ways to find the refuge of peace they need.

For the ones who have perished by violence, from suicide
From overdoses, from the frigid chills of the air,
From the lack of medicine and lack of food.
For their loved ones who grieved long before their deaths
And will long after-
We pray for their everlasting peace.
We pray for their loved ones’ comfort will cover them during the longest night of the year.

May our systems change.
May our hearts transform.
May we repent and change the ways that have held others back.

We pray this to you, Divine Love, Spirit of Hope.
Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 139
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
   all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
   I come to the end*—I am still with you.

Meditation
They didn’t have the world’s refuge.
They didn’t have overhead protection.
Their blankets were torn.
Their coats light.
There was no refuge, we know this to be true.
And yet God was their refuge.
It’s hard to see this when they often had no cover
From violence, from the chills, from viruses, from medications.
Maybe it’s time for us to answer the call to be God’s refuge.
We may be the ones God’s commanding.
We may be the ones to sit with them in Sheol,
To follow them to the farthest places of the world,
And into the long night of the soul.

Remembering the Ones Lost
Please write the name of your loved one on the paper
And place it within the box.

Prayer
Loving God, we know you accompanied these loved ones to their shadow-filled corners.  No matter how far they could flee in this world, they could never flee from you.

We commend their spirit to you knowing they abide with you forever, knowing they live in your eternal refuge.  May their spirits be free from the pains of this earth, and may they see your everlasting light. Amen.

Benediction
As night recedes
And the days now lengthen,
May we share the light of hope with our neighbors,
May we abide in Divine peace,
May we walk with God, our Holy Sojourner,
And may we embrace the comfort of the Spirit
Who is forever in our company and forever our refuge.  
Go in the peace of the Divine Love.  Amen.

(c) Michelle L. Torigian – free to use and adapt with attribution

Scripture from Oremus Bible Browser – NRSV