We hope this liturgy written by Upstream's Bradley Bell is an encouragement to you. This may be prayed alone, but it could be more beneficial alongside fellow petitioners. Items in bold should be spoken together.
"A Liturgy for Missionaries During the Holidays"
O God who is both near and far,
‘tis the season again
and yet here we are so far away.
Be near to us now
as we celebrate and as we grieve.
This is the holy work
of holy days.
You do not call us
to empty ourselves
before we approach your throne.
Instead, you invite us
to be unwrapped,
revealing what’s hidden inside.
And so we come.
Grief is like a black diamond
with a hundred different facets
that all reflect the same sorrow.
Sometimes it is obvious, like tears on tap.
Sometimes it is mysterious, like knots in the gut.
Sometimes it is delirious, like
all mixed into one.
You are acquainted with all our grief.
We confess our hesitancy to fully acknowledge such grief
for fear that it might flood us
and carry us from the very field
to which you have called us.
But it is through grief that you remind us, Lord,
there is something of worth to our souls.
And the loss of a worthy thing hurts—
it really hurts.
Yet you are not a Father who scolds his child
when her balloon floats away,
but, rather, draws her into your arms
because you measure her losses not by your standards,
So by our trust of you,
we take the risk of unwrapping before you
our aching absences:
The favorite dish
The festive decor
The glory of family
The glow of gathering
The change in pace
The change in weather
The church singing together
The community celebrating together
The traditions we knew we would miss
The traditions we didn’t know we would miss
The ability to look at our lives without drowning in self-doubt
The ability to look at others’ lives without drowning in self-pity
Let the supplicants now take courage and speak the specific losses they are grieving. If possible, use names, places, events, things, experiences, and descriptions.
O God of all comfort,
our hearts have eulogized these gifts of grace
that cannot be unwrapped this season.
There is no healing when we minimize,
we choose to share in your sufferings,
and you in ours,
that we may also share in your comforts,
and so know you.
You, who left a land
of perpetual holiday
that left a hole
of continual pain.
You were the Lord of longing
that we might be a people of waiting,
wholly delighted with the best of creation old
holy dissatisfied until the harkening of creation new.
Grant us now
the reminders that:
all is not perfect back home
all is not imperfect over here.
Let us endeavor
without fear, guilt, or shame
to subdue the earth
by creating new traditions
by making new memories
by forging new adventures
in the midst of our “field family”.
And may this testify to a Father
who gathers his children wherever we go.
And let us entrust to you,
without being fixers,
those back home
who are grieving the loss of us,
believing you can use our sad absence
to reveal your good presence.
Now, in the juxtaposition of being
both near and far,
And in the contradiction of being
both grieved and graced,
Wrap us up in you,
O God, we pray,
wrap us up in you.
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Bradley is a missiologist, pastor, and trainer. He has been at Upstream since 2014, producing blog and social media content, authoring The Sending Church Defined and Receiving Sent Ones During Reentry: The Challenges of Returning "Home" and How Churches Can Help, and serving as a board member. He is also the lead pastor at Antioch Church. As a former global sent one, Bradley reflects on missions and formation at Broken Missiology.