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Advent 1C

 

Dec. 2

 

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Scripture  (from the Revised Common Lectionary, with links provided by TextWeek.com – a source for thoughtful worship and preaching throughout the year):

 

Click on Scripture Lessons below for study links and resources:

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

 

Advent Candle Lighting Rituals  from 2014

 

Sundays of Advent – a Sampler  Structure for use of  Advent Candle Lighting  Republished from 2014

 

Hanging of the Greens  for use on Advent 1, if desired

see also: Preparing for the Great Preparation

 

Suggested Hymns from Chalice Hymnal

119: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

125: Come, O Long Expected Jesus

708: My Lord, What a Morning

124:  Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

398: Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread

121: Prepare the Way of the Lord

 

More hymn suggestions, as well as helpful references for use of the arts in worship, are available from the United Church of Christ website.   

 

Advent Hymn by David T. Chafin, 2013

 

Hymn of the Day  from Rev. William Flewelling (© 2018, William Flewelling; All rights reserved)

On Jeremiah 33:14-16

 

The promised day is coming,

the day fulfillment dawns.

It comes in noble wonder

in righteousness’ employ.

The day arrives in honor,

the consummate delight:

the day of satisfaction

when all is come to joy.

 

That promised day of wonder,

the day relief arrives,

when wonder sprouts, alarming

and satisfying hope –

that day fulfilling justice

for those whose hope is thin;

it answers in righteousness,

the longing and the dread.

 

Upon this day of promise,

upon the hope of joy,

we find ourselves committed

unto the Lord on high.

For in God’s promise is found

security in love

and all is supplied: our Lord

is our righteousness now.

 

7.6.7.6.D        Suggested tune: Llansglaffan

 

Dealing with the Psalm of the Day:

Since Chalice Hymnal does not provide a complete Psalter, there will be occasions when suggestions may be made for alternate Psalm use (or hymn equivalent).  A metrical version of the Psalter, for those Psalms not provided in Chalice Hymnal, is being prepared by Rev. David Chafin.  Where practical, these may be offered here as well.  You may also want to visit http://lectionarypsalms.org/   

This week:  Psalm 25 is not in the hymnal.

 

Concerning the Following Items: Except where otherwise noted, items are created or adapted by the editor.  If you are aware of source notations which are missing, please bring them to his attention.  No copyright infringement is intended, but is sure to happen.

 

Call to Prayer  ©2007 David T. Chafin (tune: Hyfrydol)

Come, O God, commune here with us, as we lift to you our cares.

You, our hope and our deliv’rance, promise to receive our prayers.

God of love and understanding, you alone know heart and soul.

Listen to our intercessions, recreate us, make us whole.

 

Call to Worship   

(adapted by the editor)

L: The Spirit and the church cry out:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus.

L: All who await Christ’s appearance pray:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus.

L: The whole creation pleads:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus!  Renew the whole creation!

 

Also: see Chalice Hymnal 120 (the “O Antiphons”) 

 

OR

Today is God’s day of hope—hope for us, hope for all humanity.  The darkness that surrounds us will not overtake us, for God is light; and in God there is no darkness at all.  Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 

Invocation or Prayer of Approach  

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we would be open to your presence, O God.  Free us from the seasonal sentimentality that turns our attention from the sometimes painful decision to pursue peace and justice.  Through this worship, nudge us toward seeking reconciliation rather than revenge, the well-being of all rather than the victory of the few.  Speak to us of peace, O God, and hear us as we pray.   (Now we join with the confidence of your children to pray as Christ has taught us to pray, “Our Father…”)

 

OR

We rejoice in you, O God our hope, for in Jesus Christ you enter our world to bring to life your new creation.  May our lives be remade by the glory of your appearing, and may we lift up the name of your Son in our worship, our work, and our leisure; for we pray in his name (as he taught us saying, “Our Father…”)

 

OR

Prepare your way within us, O God, as the new year of life in your Church unfolds.  Make of us a people ready to receive you, to learn from you, to receive your gifts, and to live out your calling in mission.  Prepare your way within us and fill us with hope, we pray, through the name of the Coming One, Jesus Christ our Lord  (who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”)

 

Act of Confession (adapted by the editor)

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, to be our advocate in heaven, and to bring us to eternal life.  Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith, firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments and to live in love and peace with all. (Common Worship)

Because we have seen pain without being moved, because we forget your love with solemn pride, because we pass by comfortably before poverty and sadness, Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

For speaking of love without loving our sister or brother, for speaking of faith without living your word, for living as people who do not recognize our own sinfulness, Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

For our tranquility in our affluent life, for our great falsehood in preaching about poverty, for wanting to make excuse for injustice, Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Hear the good news, people of God!  The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  He bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might be dead to sin and alive to God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.  Glory to God.  Amen.

 

Pastoral Prayer – Prayers of the People – Intercessions

How strong your voice, O God.  How it thunders across the lands, calling forth blossoms from parched earth and turning back waters from flooded ground.  You stand at the world’s door and knock; who can withstand the sound of your voice?

 

How soft your voice, O God.  How it murmurs in the morning, calling life forth from its bed and hastening the night to its own.  You come to us, walking in the garden in the cool of the day; who can hide from the sound of your voice?

 

Tarry with us, O God.  Let your word love our eyes into seeing all those around us.  Let it love our ears into hearing the voices calling to us.  Let it love our hands into healing with the gifts you have granted your children.  Let our words be words of love as we pray for those who are in greatest need…

 

In these days of Advent, may our voices ring with joy, with peace and with hope.  Wherever you send us, may we be diligent in following.  For we are ever in search of your salvation, even as we continue to search for the child, the Christ, our Savior in whose name we sing for joy and offer our prayers.

 

Prayers from Common Worship*

Collect

 

Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness

and to put on the armour of light,

now in the time of this mortal life,

in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day,

when he shall come again in his glorious majesty

to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal;

through him who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

 

Post Communion

 

O Lord our God,

make us watchful and keep us faithful

as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;

that, when he shall appear,

he may not find us sleeping in sin

but active in his service

and joyful in his praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Additional Collect

 

Almighty God,

as your kingdom dawns,

turn us from the darkness of sin

to the light of holiness,

that we may be ready to meet you

in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

 

Collect of the Day (from Book of Common Prayer, 1979**)

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 of the Day  from Rev. William Flewelling (© 2018, William Flewelling; All rights reserved)

Luke 21:25-36

 

Unto the pensive Advent of our Lord, O God,

we look with tentative and furtive anxiety.

For the uncertainties abound

and our waiting finds us

mid stride in this world

while walking, waiting still

in your revisionary call.

Bring us in your strength and joy

to the Advent of our Lord, our life, our joy.

 

Service of Table  

While all of our congregations navigate the Sacred Board in a different way, it seems, there are common elements in most, which are provided here.  We would love to hear if your congregation has variations to these elements which we might address in the future. 

 

Offertory / Invitation to Give

As God has seen our need and provided for us all things in the coming of Jesus into our world, let us look at the world in need around us, and realize that in Jesus we have all that is needed to meet the world with life, hope, and wholeness.

 

OR

God is at work in the world, renewing, remaking, resurrecting, bringing hope through the faith, the gifts, and the work of the church. We trust in God, and together we work for peace and justice through God’s Spirit as we offer our tithes and gifts. Let us rejoice in our God-given opportunity to share in God’s work.

 

Offertory Prayer

May these gifts indeed give light to those in darkness, hope to those in despair, and justice to the oppressed, as we bring them to you as an act of sharing your love with the world. Here the proud are brought low, and the poor and broken lifted up. May it be so in all your kingdom, we pray, as we dedicate ourselves to you. Amen.

 

OR

Thank you, God of hope, for the promise of this season. We are grateful for the generosity aroused in us by Christ’s coming into the world. May these gifts represent a new spirit of joyous sharing among us, for the sake of all your children everywhere. Amen.

 

Invitation to the Table

With hope and expectation, we draw near to the Table which God has set with the fruits of righteousness and promise of life. May God now send the power of the Holy Spirit upon these gifts and upon us as we receive them. Make Christ’s presence known among us, and in all the world, as we look to the coming of Christ whose reign shall know no end.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving (Prayers for Bread and Cup)

(The following may be offered as one prayer, or broken between two Elders, if that is the tradition to be followed)

 

from William Flewelling, adapted

Lord God, in memory and in anticipation we draw near together, drawn in faith to the life and to the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord.  We are thankful, Lord God, for the opening of life for us in Jesus of Nazareth. Our Lord gave us his heart, his love that in him we too might be bold to give our hearts, our love. He opened wide his arms for us in blessing and in death, death on the cross. He breathes on us the gift of Holy Spirit.  He feeds us as he fed his own on broken bread, and on a cup of wine, the new covenant.  O Lord God, seal in us your covenant of love and grace; give in us your including Spirit; make of us one people. And, O Lord, Come now upon us  to fulfill in us your love and your beauty; in Jesus Christ our Coming Lord.

 

OR

With hope and expectation, O God, we draw near to the Table which you have set with the fruits of righteousness and promise of life. Bless now this bread which we break that it may be for us Christ’s body, and this cup which we lift, that it may be his blood. Send now the power of your Holy Spirit upon these gifts and upon us as we receive them. Make your presence known among your people, we pray, and in all the world, as we look to the coming of Christ whose reign shall know no end.

 

Conclusion:  Through him, with him, and in him, in the power of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor be to you, O God, now and forever. Amen.

If not previously offered: “And now with the confidence of your children, we offer the prayer our Savior taught us, ‘Our Father…’

 

MORE…

Resources from the Jubilee Fund: This stewardship ministry serving the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) offers weekly emails for each Sunday’s service.  Visit http://www.thejubileefund.com/ to learn more.

Rev. Tim Graves offers Liturgy Bits with valuable, culturally sensitive and creatively contemplative works, well worth your time.

You may also want to visit Worship Connection at MinistryMatters.com, which offers numerous helps, including electronic versions of print resources for worship and preaching planning.

Intercessions and other helpful planning materials geared to the Lectionary (using Roman Catholic version, but normally quite useful for all traditions) for preaching and worship are supplied for several weeks in advance at The Sunday Website of St. Louis University. 

 

Common Worship Almanac and Lectionary for the year beginning Advent Sunday 2018.  Calendar for 2019

Sun 2 Dec 2018. CW* Almanac and Lectionary 2018-19. Common Worship Almanac and Lectionary. for the year beginning Advent Sunday 2018. Compiled by Simon Kershaw August 2018 from the Common Worship Calendar and Lectionaries

using Almanac Maker. compilation © Simon Kershaw 2018 Almanac Maker © Simon Kershaw 2010-2018.

 

Book of Common Prayer (1979), Public domain.

 

NOTE:  We hope you return to this posting often (and are subscribed to the feed by email, on Facebook or your favorite reader), since the content of each week’s posting may change several times before Sunday.  We’d also like to include your content, even after the fact, since everything will roll around again in 3 years, and your contributions may find new life in the great cycle of the lectionary.  Send your comments or content here.

 

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With the coming of Advent on Dec. 3, the Church celebrates a new year, as we shift from year A to year B in the lectionary.  Advent B postings will follow. 

The beginning of the season (and for some churches, the close of the previous one, on Nov. 26) affords the opportunity to “dress the church” for Advent.  Offered below are two services centered around “Hanging of the Greens,” one of which is gratefully borrowed, with reference, and the other accumulated from many places through the years. 

There also follows a Chrismon service, which may be adapted and added to any period during the season if Chrismons are used in worship.  Please advise us of what your congregation does to welcome the season, and keep us advised of references you may add to the adapted materials below.  –David Chafin, ed.

See also:

Advent Hymn by David T. Chafin, 2013

Advent Candle Lighting Rituals

 

Hanging of the Greens (from Advent 1C)

Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lighting of the Altar Candles

The significance of the candles

Organ Prelude

Call to Worship

L:  As quietly as the winter steals upon us, the season of hope approaches.

P:  We wait for our redeemer, for god’s promise to be fulfilled.

L:  The day is coming quickly. The God of mercy draws near.

P:  Therefore, we wait with hope, attentive to all the signs of his coming.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Hymn of Praise:  Lift Up Your Heads, O Mighty Gates

Invocation and Lord’s Prayer

 

THE ADVENT WREATH

The First Lesson:  Jeremiah 33:14-16

The significance of the Advent Wreath

The Lighting of the Candle of Hope

The Litany of Hope

L: Christians around the world begin this day to await the advent of Christ.  We join a joyous and hopeful throng in lighting the Advent candles, symbols of our faith and signs of God’s love.

P:  We gather as a people of hope.

L: Christian people around the world stand together in breathless anticipation of a miracle that has been

repeated for hundreds of years, yet that astounds us anew each year.

P:  Our hope springs anew, from an ancient vision.

L:  As we light the first Advent candle, let it stand for hope            based not on wishful thinking, but on deep conviction.  We believe, we have seen, we have received the Prom  ise and the Great Gift, and therefore, in the midst of darkness and imperfection, we hope.

P:  We gather expectantly, joyfully, and with deep commitment, for we have heard that a special child is to come, that god is to be among us, and that soon we will see a new creation on earth.  We are a people of hope.

The Hymn of Hope:  One Candle is Lit, verse 1

 

Children’s Lesson:  The Holly and the Ivy

Solo:  The Holly and the Ivy

 

Congregation at Prayer

meditation:  Creator of the Stars of Night verse 1

response:  Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2

 

The Second Lesson:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11

 

Sermon:  “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas

 

Hymn of Discipleship:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Communion:  Come, O Long Expected Jesus

 

Offering

 

Dismissal  When God is a Child,  verse 1

 

Full Text for Service Above

Significance of the Altar Candles (as the candles are being lit)

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries.  The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as a part of their Feast of Lights.  Since Jesus has been referred to as “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship.  Some early Christian leaders stated that the body of the candle represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as a “light to lighten the Gentiles.”  As we light these candles upon the altar we symbolize his coming in the world of darkness, sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and death.  He came to bring hope and help to those who were held captive by oppression, and to guide them to personal peace and joy through the illumination of the love of God.

Invocation

O God, in the weeks to come, our attention to this blessed and holy event, the birth of your Son, will be continually distracted.  help us to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and to remember the true meaning of our joy and excitement.  Help us to refocus our minds and hearts on your loving and most precious gift to us, your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray as he taught us, saying, Our Father….

Advent Lighting:

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season.  The flame of each new candle reminds the worshiper that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season will not be complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve.

The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness.  In that day candles were placed on the edge of a horizontal wheel.  As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light.  Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.

There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath.  The three purple, or white, candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David.  He is coming as the King of Kings as well as the Prince of Peace.  the pink candle is lighted on the third sunday of the Advent season.  This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin church which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.

A progression is noted in the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath.  The first symbolizes expectation and hope.  The second reminds us that we are involved in a season of preparation for peace in the coming of Christ.  The third candle is proclamation, as we proclaim that Christ brought joy to the world when he appeared.  The revelation of God’s love for all humankind is portrayed by the lighting of the fourth candle.  The culmination of the season comes on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, as the Christ candle is lighted.

Let us join now in this season of expectation and hope as we light our first candle, the Hope Candle, and join in our Litany of Hope.

 

Chrismon Service

Today we celebrate with joy and Thanksgiving all that God has given to us… the love of family and friends; the beauty of creation and good food to sustain us.  And we also come on this last Sunday before Advent celebrating with thankful hearts the Christ ‑‑ the King of all that was and is and will be.

So it is appropriate in our celebration this morning to reflect with hearts filled with hope and faith on the symbols that represent the Christ which will stand before us throughout this joyous season.  Hear these words from the 22nd chapter of Revelation:

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.  And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

The tree as a religious symbol takes us back to the very beginning of history.  The Tree of Life enjoyed great popularity as a symbol for many centuries.  There was one in the Garden of Eden along with the Tree of Knowledge which caused the fall of Adam and Eve.  In the Middle Ages, the Cross was regarded as the Tree of Life.  We use evergreens at Christmas because of their representation of eternity ‑‑ always green even through the coldest winter months.  The lights which we hang are constant reminders of the hope that is ours in Christ, the Light of the World.   (light tree)

Anthem:  O Christmas Tree

Chrismons are monograms or symbols telling about the life, work and meaning of the life of Christ.  There were used by early Christians to show who they were and where they stood.  They often adorned tombs, jewelry, utensils, doors and other places.  In modern times, the symbols have been adopted and adapted by churches for the decorating of trees during Advent and Christmas to help us remember.   The Chrismons are traditionally white, symbolizing our Lord’s purity and gold , symbolizing his majesty.

Matthew 16: 13‑16:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?  And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Christ is the title for the Messiah whom God sent to redeem his people.  The Greek monogram of the first letters of Christ ‑‑ Chi and Rho ‑‑ was one of the most widely used early Christian symbols.  Those who recognize Jesus as their Lord and Savior still use the Greek Chi, the X to identify themselves as his followers.

John 20: 30‑31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

As early as the second century, Christians were using the fish as a symbol for the Christ.  Early Christians used the fish widely as an easily made and recognized secret sign.  During the times of the persecution of the church, Christians could find each other by using this simple password.   To the outsider the fish was a mere decoration; to the Christian, it was an affirmation of faith in the Christ.  The Greek word for fish ‑‑ ichthus, is an anagram on the first letters of the Greek words: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.

An ancient symbol appropriate to the themes of Advent may be found in the two Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet.  Advent prepares us for the beginning and the end of the Christian epoch.  In Revelation 22 we read:                                                     Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”      This verse makes the word a title of Christ and a fitting symbol to represent his first and second comings.

Christ is the Word.  “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:2‑3).  The orb, the round ball, represents the world, and Christ’s activity in creation and in the world around us.

These four symbols, the chi rho, the fish, the alpha and omega, and the orb, remind us of the one who is the Christ, who comes into the world in hope.

Let us sing together verse 2 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful  witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Rev. 1: 5a.   One of the most common symbols of the trinity is three entwined circles representing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  While there is no direct reference to the trinity in Scripture, there are many references to the one who is and was and is to come.

The concept of wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 8 and this made possible the application to Christ, the wisdom  from on high through whom all things were made.  A burning lamp is a traditional symbol for wisdom and for the Christ hearkening back to Psalm 119:  Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Although the Gospels do not say that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ while he was in the water, the scene is frequently pictured that way.  The Gospels do tell us that when Jesus had been baptized he went up out of the water, the heavens opened, and then he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.  The descending dove then represents most frequently the baptism of our Lord.  Other doves are also seen frequently either resting or in flight and quite often represent the dove of peace, or the dove which reminds us of God’s covenant with the people of the earth that was made with Noah.  All are symbols of hope and the love of God.

The eight‑point star was a pre‑Christian figure that was adopted by Christians as a “concealed Chrismon during the Roman persecutions.  The crossing lines reveal Chi’s Rhos, and crosses to the initiate.  Then this design is used, one remembers that it was not always easy to be a Christian.  In today’s usage, the eight ‑pointed star generally refers to regeneration through Baptism in Christ.

Symbols of baptism, wisdom and the trinity ‑‑ may they all serve to remind us of the love of Christ which comes to each and every one of us.

Let us sing together vs. 3 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

The symbol of the cup is certainly no stranger to us.  Out denomination adopted the chalice as its symbol, because of the centrality of communion in the our worship services and in our lives.  But the cup also is a reminder of the cup of suffering, remembering Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane:  My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Jesus’ suffering is also deeply symbolized for all of us in the cross ‑‑  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

There are many forms and representations of the cross.  This one, the Greek cross that we hang on our tree this morning, has all arms of equal length.

One of the earliest symbols for the church was a ship:  indeed many churches were built to represent ships, at least one that is turned upside down.  the ceiling then becomes the hull of the ship; the pews the seats for those who rowed the great ships, the pulpit (which in early days was often raised) the wheelhouse or captains areas to oversee the rest.  It takes all persons on the ship to make it go and it takes God’s grace and wisdom as well.  Together we can sail into the world and serve the one who is the Christ.

Our last symbol is the cross over an orb ‑‑ the cross over the world, representing Christ over the world.  Jesus said, “God into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

Even at Advent we are called to do the same, through our Advent decorations we are continually reminded of the events in the life of Christ, of Christ’s victory over death, and of Christ’s call to each and every one of us today and every day.

If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is no time like the present;  or if you are seeking a church home, a community of faith to go through life with you, we invite you to come forward at this time, confessing Christ and uniting yourself with this part of Christ’s church, that we may grow and learn and live together in hope and in faith.

Hanging of the Greens: First Sunday of Advent

adaptation by Jeanyne Slettom

The Hanging of the Greens is a service for the first Sunday in Advent. It is based on the English tradtion of decorating the home with wreaths, garlands, a Christmas tree, and evergreens for Advent and Christmas. In a church setting, it readies the sanctuary (and church members) for the season. This service assumes a Protestant setting. It is adapted from an unknown source to reflect a process-relational theology.  Suggested hymns may be replaced by your favorites or appropriate anthems from a choir.

Prelude

Hymn  “Once in Royal David’s City”
Call to Worship – (Responsive)
How shall we prepare this house for the birth of Jesus?
            With branches of cedar, the tree of excellence and strength.
How shall we prepare this house for the eternal Christ?
            With garlands of pine and fir, whose leaves are ever living, ever green.
How shall we prepare this house for the prophet of Galilee?
            With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of his passion, death and resurrection.
How shall we prepare our hearts for this revelation of God?
            By hearing again the words of the prophets and the promises of God.
For in the story of Jesus we see revealed the transforming power of God
We are reminded anew of God’s vision
of wholeness, justice, and peace for all of creation.
            Thanks be to God.

Passing of the Peace

Choir Anthem

Pastor’s Time with Children
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them today. [Note:These paragraphs are posted on several internet sites.]

Organ solo/choir anthem/vocal solo “Los peces en el río” [Children arrange plants.]

The meaning of the service

Almost 2,000 years ago, the story goes, a clutch of sleepy shepherds were watching over their sheep on a star-brightened hillside in Palestine. It was a still, uneventful night. Suddenly the darkness was filled with a strange light. The stillness was broken by angel voices singing “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, goodwill to all.” So begins Christmas, the most beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Christian calendar.

Christmas actually begins with Advent, the season through with we are moving. Both the seasons of Advent―the season of “going toward” the birth of Christ―and Christmas have a long history. These seasons and their customs have developed through many centuries and many countries. Old customs and observances are refined, renewed, replaced; new ones are added. Some of our customs have pagan origins but have been “converted” by redefining their meanings. What is significant for us is not what they may once have meant but rather what they mean for us today.

This morning our church building will begin to wear its Christmas apparel. For the first time our Christmas trees stand in the sanctuary. This day for the first time its lights will shine for us. As we make ready for the birth of the child by preparing this sanctuary, we make ready ourselves and the sanctuary of our own hearts. We are mindful that, although it is not Christmas yet, it will be here soon, very soon.

As we decorate the church, not only will we explain the history of the symbols of these special seasons, but we will rededicate these symbols―and ourselves―to the service of God. Let us prepare by listening an ancient hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Solo:   “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” [Verses 1,3, &4]

Significance of the colors [paraments]

The cycle around which our worship revolves is the church year. Today, the first Sunday in Advent, marks the beginning of a new church year. Paraments, which cover our communion table, pulpit, and lectern, are something like drapes and curtains in a home. With the changing colors of the church year, they attract attention, add variety, and point to the significance of the season or festival being celebrated. The traditional color for Advent is purple, a color that signifies the sacred, and spiritual fulfillment. Some traditions use blue, which represents anticipation and promise. As we prepare our communion table, pulpit, and lectern with the paraments, let us sing verses 1-3 of “We Hail You God’s Anointed.”

Hymn  “We Hail You God’s Anointed”  [Place paraments on the communion table, pulpit, and lectern.]       

God Will Send a Light to the Nations [Advent wreath & candles]

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 60:2-3     Reader:______________

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries. The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as part of their Feast of Lights. Light has been used by many religious groups to symbolize truth, while the darkness of night has been the universal symbol for evil. Since Jesus was called “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship. Some early Christian leaders stated that the wax of altar candles represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. Candles made from pure beeswax were used to signify Mary, since this wax comes from virgin bees. This has resulted in the practice of some churches to burn only beeswax candles upon the altar or communion table. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” From this statement, church leaders have used candles to symbolize the light of Christ shining throughout a broken world. As we light these candles upon the communion table, we symbolize God, Emmanuel, God with us, whose transforming power heals the world of sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and despair. Jesus embodies hope and help for those held captive by oppression. His ministry guides us to personal peace and joy through the illumination of his message of the love of God. As the candles on the communion table are lit, let us sing the first verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel[Communion table candles are lit.]

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season. The four candles provide us with a visual way to count off four Sundays of this season. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season is not complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness. In that day, candles were place on the edge of a horizontal wheel. As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light. Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.

There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath. The three purple candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. The pink candle is lighted on the third Sunday of the Advent season. This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin Church, which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.  Will the children come forward and stand with me as we light the first candle.

The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as the true light coming into the world. In commemoration of that coming, we light candles for the four weeks leading to Christmas and reflect on the coming of Christ. It is significant that the church has always used that language—the coming of Christ—because it speaks to a deep truth. Christ is coming. Christ is always coming, always entering a troubled world, a wounded heart. And so we light the first candle, the candle of hope, and dare to express our longing for peace, for healing, and the well-being of all creation.

(One candle is lit.)

Loving God, as we enter this Advent season, we open all the dark places in our lives and memories
to the healing light of Christ. Show us the creative power of hope. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you, that we may walk in the light of Christ.

As the children return to their places let us all sing verse six of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

God will send a righteous king [cedar]

Scripture Reading  Jer. 23: 5 – 6    Reader:______________

In ancient times the cedar tree was revered as the tree of excellence and endurance. It also signified immortality and was used for purification. We place this cedar branch as a sign of Christ and of the kind of power he wielded: not the the power of might, but the power of transformation. As we contemplate his call to justice and peace, we seek to purify our hearts and “renew a right spirit within us.”

[Place cedar branch on the communion table.]

Hymn     “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”   verse 7

The prophet declares a child will be born (evergreens)

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7      Reader:______________

Have you ever wondered why we talk about the “hanging of the greens?” Or why an evergreen is called an evergreen? And why Christmas greens are traditionally used to emphasize the nativity? Green represents renewal, new life, freshness, and rebirth. Plants such as pine, fir, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not die; through the seasons of the year, they remain ever-green. Ever-alive. It is no wonder then that we deck our sanctuary and halls with evergreens during this Advent season. Advent is the season of preparation for the ever-coming  Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hand this wreath of evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ so eloquently testified, is also without end, and is realized wherever truth, justice, and peace prevail.

[Hang wreaths.]

Hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter”

The fourth servant song [holly]

Scripture Reading Isaiah  53:1-6    Reader:______________

For Christians, this passage from Isaiah reflects the sufferings of Jesus on the cross and God’s transformation of that event into the promise of life. In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Savior, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

Hymn  The Holly and the Ivy
[Place holly sprigs on the communion table.]

The mystery of the incarnation [Christmas tree]

Scripture Reading  John 1:1-5, 9-14     Reader:______________

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World, we light the Christmas tree. During this season of Advent, whenever you see a lighted Christmas tree, let it call to mind the One who brings light to our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.

Hymn  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”   [Note: You may prefer the words, “O eternal love begotten”]
[Plug in tree lights. Children decorate tree.]

Blessing of the Christmas Tree – Unison

Loving God, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose path of justice and inclusivity lights a path for all who follow him. May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nativity scene

The original crib in which the Christ Child was laid was a manger in the stable, a sign of his humble birth. The popular Christmas crèche at churches and in homes creates a tableau of Jesus in the stable crib at Bethlehem, depicting scenes described by Luke and Matthew.

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the first manger scene about 800 years ago. For a people who could not read it was an effective visual aid in telling the story of the birth of Jesus. We have such a scene here. I invite the children to arrange the wise men, shepherds, animals, angels, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

[Organ music.]

[When the children are finished, they assemble to sing.]

Children:    “Away in a Manger”
Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Offering

Doxology
Prayer of Thanksgiving

We dedicate our lives and all that we have to the work of life, of love, of peace. Receive our gifts and lead us in wisdom and courage. Amen.

Commission and Blessing
Take time, in the busyness of this season, for quiet reflection—
For the light of God’s love is discernible everywhere.
            We will let ourselves be surprised by wonder,
            And set aside time to offer quiet thanks.

The good news of Advent is this:
Christ is coming. Christ is always coming.
            We will welcome Christ into our hearts.
            We will let ourselves be guided by his ministry.
            We will go forth from this place in hope.

Hymn    “Come, O Long-Expected Jesus”

Benediction

Benediction Response     “Amen”

Postlude 

Process & Faith is a program of the Center for Process Studies, an affiliated program of the Claremont School of Theology. This site and all content ©2012 Process & Faith, unless otherwise noted.

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From William Flewelling, (c)2016

On James 5:7-10
 
               Be patient for the coming day,
               the day awaited in the Lord,
               the day when all creation will
               arise in unison with joy.
               In all the urgency of life,
               restrain until the dawn of time.
 
               As waiting ever for the fruit
               while rain attends the nurtured ground
               and ever  longer comes the rise
               into the harvest – so behold,
               it is the coming of the Lord
               that lures thy generosity.
 
               It is in patience evermore
               we come to dally for the Lord;
               as prophets who endure allow,
               the weight of glory urges love.
               The judge awaits before the door:
               in joy attend this common zeal.
 
8.8.8.8.8.8.               Suggested tune: Melita
 
 
On Matthew 1:18-25
 
               Run against the grain of longing,
               finishing all too soon the test.
               Mary, his betrothed is pregnant:
               what is he to do with this?
               Certainly the anguish lingers,
               twists and writhes within the heart
               till the satisfaction withers
               and a quiet ebb is found.
 
               Certainly the message echoes
               in the carefulness of heart,
               echoes in the honor urging
               his decisive will to love.
               Never fearing life’s disaster,
               at the dreamt announcement’s theme:
               take her constantly and savor:
               this, the child, is of the Lord.
 
               Remembering long echoes ring,
               of how the woman answers,
               how conception echoes promise
               to endow the coming hour.
               There, in satisfaction sated,
               wakes the witness to the word
               that in honor’s equal stature
               life is certain in repose.
 
8.7.8.7.D           Suggested tune: Rustington
 
 
On Isaiah 9:2-7
 
               The darkness lay upon the eyes:
               now brightly shines this light,
               Deep darkness shrouded all desire:
               now God’s light dawns as joy.
 
               In multiplies, exultant joys
               we come in full delight,
               to sate our moment on the Lord
               who lifts the weighted yoke.
 
               Within this bated hour we prize
               the turn of life aspires
               to find in yearning all release
               into the coming day.
 
               For now is born to us this day
               the child, the son desired.
               To govern in full peace is his
               to hear and to provide.
 
               O zeal of God Most High, attend!
               This is the working day,
               the new surpassing day of joy
               that wreathes the kingdom come.
 
CM        Suggested tune: Irish
 
 
On Hebrews 2:10-18
 
                        Our Pioneer has come
                        to clear the path of love.
                        In his appearance, we
                        attend the promised care.
 
                        In cure of this delight,
                        as Jesus answers life,
                        we learn, O God, thy rich
                        elixir answers strife.
 
                         Become like us, he lends
                        our strides into delight
                        that by this currency
                        of hope we must alight.
 
                        As tempted in the throes
                        of suffering that writhes,
                        we find our faithful Lord
                        our own atoning joy.
 
6.6.6.6.          Suggested tune: St. Cecilia
 

On Matthew 24:36-44

 

               An unexpected hour arrives

               to find the readied heart.

               Expected by adoring lives,

               thy presence sifts this hour.

 

               Imagining the awesome time,

               the swift division comes,

               begins the awed, attentive hour

               wherein the hopeful lend.

 

               For all is as it always is,

               the daily run of toil.

               Yet in the lengthened run of heart

               is found a woven joy.

 

               For all unknowing comes: arise!

               Attend afresh to God.

               For readiness lives in the eyes

               that find life’s bliss sublime.

 

CM           Suggested tune: This Endris Nyght

 

On Isaiah 11:1-10

 

               In the coming of the Savior,

               in the dawn that comes so near,

               rises sheer delight and wonder

               for the measure of your day.

               God, our Savior, bring your Spirit,

               lay it as a mantle here

               that indeed the fresh rejoinder

               of your gracious day appear.

 

               Gone the wary eyes of blindness,

               come the true discernment’s edge;

               gone the rasp of anguished urges,

               come the grace of righteousness.

               All the missing tones of mercy

               seem arisen in his face,

               as the faithful bear the binding

               of the way the wayward come.

 

               With a sudden understanding

               in the realm of startled peace,

               come and find the safe appearing

               of the root of Jesse’s bloom.

               As the scourge of agitation

               and aggression on the move

               finds the dawn of new creation,

               thy mercy, care and favor.

8.7.8.7.D            Suggested tune: Corvedale

 

 

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Hanging of the Greens

The following was designed for use on the First Sunday of Advent

Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lighting of the Altar Candles

The significance of the candles

Organ Prelude

Call to Worship

L:  As quietly as the winter steals upon us, the season of hope approaches.

P:  We wait for our redeemer, for god’s promise to be fulfilled.

L:  The day is coming quickly. The God of mercy draws near.

P:  Therefore, we wait with hope, attentive to all the signs of his coming.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Hymn of Praise:  Lift Up Your Heads, O Mighty Gates #129

Invocation and Lord’s Prayer

THE ADVENT WREATH

The First Lesson:  Jeremiah 33:14-16

The significance of the Advent Wreath

The Lighting of the Candle of Hope

The Litany of Hope

L: Christians around the world begin this day to await the advent of Christ.  We join a joyous and hopeful throng in lighting the Advent candles, symbols of our faith and signs of God’s love.

P:  We gather as a people of hope.

L: Christian people around the world stand together in breathless anticipation of a miracle that has been

repeated for hundreds of years, yet that astounds us anew each year.

P:  Our hope springs anew, from an ancient vision.

L:  As we light the first Advent candle, let it stand for hope based not on wishful thinking, but on deep conviction.  We believe, we have seen, we have received the Prom ise and the Great Gift, and therefore, in the midst of darkness and imperfection, we hope.

P:  We gather expectantly, joyfully, and with deep commitment, for we have heard that a special child is to come, that god is to be among us, and that soon we will see a new creation on earth.  We are a people of hope.

The Hymn of Hope:  One Candle is Lit, verse 1, #128

Children’s Lesson:  The Holly and the Ivy

Solo:  The Holly and the Ivy

Congregation at Prayer

meditation:  Creator of the Stars of Night verse 1, #127

response:  Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2, #127

The Second Lesson:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11

Sermon:  “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas

Hymn of Discipleship:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel   #119

Communion:  Come, O Long Expected Jesus #125

Offering

Dismissal  When God is a Child   #132, verse 1


Full Text

Significance of the Altar Candles (as the candles are being lit)

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries.  The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as a part of their Feast of Lights.  Since Jesus has been referred to as “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship.  Some early Christian leaders stated that the body of the candle represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as a “light to lighten the Gentiles.”  As we light these candles upon the altar we symbolize his coming in the world of darkness, sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and death.  He came to bring hope and help to those who were held captive by oppression, and to guide them to personal peace and joy through the illumination of the love of God.

Invocation

O God, in the weeks to come, our attention to this blessed and holy event, the birth of your Son, will be continually distracted.  help us to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and to remember the true meaning of our joy and excitement.  Help us to refocus our minds and hearts on your loving and most precious gift to us, your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray as he taught us, saying, Our Father….

Advent Lighting:

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season.  The flame of each new candle reminds the worshiper that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season will not be complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve.

The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness.  In that day candles were placed on the edge of a horizontal wheel.  As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light.  Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.

There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath.  The three purple, or white, candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David.  He is coming as the King of Kings as well as the Prince of Peace.  the pink candle is lighted on the third sunday of the Advent season.  This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin church which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.

A progression is noted in the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath.  The first symbolizes expectation and hope.  The second reminds us that we are involved in a season of preparation for peace in the coming of Christ.  The third candle is proclamation, as we proclaim that Christ brought joy to the world when he appeared.  The revelation of God’s love for all humankind is portrayed by the lighting of the fourth candle.  The culmination of the season comes on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, as the Christ candle is lighted.

Let us join now in this season of expectation and hope as we light our first candle, the Hope Candle, and join in our Litany of Hope.

 

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The following materials were adapted from various sources, and built around common texts used during Advent lectionaries.  They offer the opportunity for a number of people to participate at the Advent Wreath, as well as a responsive piece and suggested hymn for use by the congregation.  Any parts may be re-assigned or divided as needed for use in your congregation.     — ed.

——————

Advent 1

The text is divided into 4 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the prophet Isaiah:

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.   Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.   O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

(Isa. 2:2-5)

 

Reader 2

The poet George Herbert once wrote: “He that believes in hope dances without music.”

This is a good picture for a life of faith. To hope in God’s grace is to move to a rhythm that other people may not hear. It is to act out a drama others cannot imagine. It is to glide through life guided by a tune that plays only in your own heart.

The hopes of our faith make no sense from the outside. It’s a rough world, with forces that try to dominate our lives. But we hope in a God of truth and justice to have the final word.

In a world where violence and force always seem to win the day, we hope in a force of love that is the supreme power. In a world where wealth and status seem to have the upper hand over desperate, needy people, we hope that poverty and innocence have God’s special blessing.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 1 candle

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 1)

Reader 3 As the hymn ends…

            Having hope means constantly expecting a different kind of future, even when history seems to confirm our fears. Hope is for those who feel the pain of the world. Hope is for those who agonize at human cruelty. Hope is for those who hear the cries of homeless and hungry children, and cry along with them.

In a world where hope seems so far away, we are a people of hope. We listen for the voice of angels in the wind. We stretch to see the first light of a new day on the horizon. We long for a new birth of grace in every human heart. We wait. We listen. We hope.

 

Reader 4 (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Christ we sit in darkness, but you are our light. We long for your coming into our hearts, into our lives and into our world.

            You are the One for whom all the peoples of the earth wait. Our world has been shaken by fire and earthquake and storm; Our security has been shaken by bombings and wars and uncertainty.

            We wait in anticipation expecting God’s light to penetrate our darkness and radiate within us.

In the midst of our doubts and our insecurities we are reminded that you are never shaken. Your faithfulness reaches to the ends of the earth.

            We watch and wait expecting new light to shine as the season of joy approaches.

You are our rock and our refuge, an ever present help in trouble. Come down, come in, walk with us so that we trust in you and not be shaken.

            We wait in hope attentive to all the signs of Christ’s coming.

 


 

Advent 2

The text is divided into 7 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

Reader 1

Listen to the Prophet Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

ALL:

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, 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 hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

Reader 1 (continues)

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

 (Isa. 11:1-10)

Reader 2

Advent is about peace. And we do so long for peace. We live in a world of chaos and discord. The trademark of our times is violence. In a nation awash in guns, we continue to raise our children on myths of machismo. Our movie heroes are tough-talking, gun-wielding musclemen. Our streets are dangerous. Our civil dialogue has given way to abusive rhetoric. And a routine trip through a busy intersection is often enough to give us a glimpse of at least one other driver’s middle finger. In all of it, we do long for peace.

 

Reader 3

The state of our minds often mirrors the state of our world. We juggle hyperactive schedules, fragmented families, and hypertensive pressures. We worry about our children, we agonize over how to care for our parents, and no job seems secure. Our choices of antacid are outnumbered only by our spiritual options. We grasp for gurus and scan self-help books in serial confusion. Stress is the name of our days. And we do so long for peace.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 2 candles

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 2)

 

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

Surely the peace of our world starts with the peace of a heart. We are reminded that there is a peace of God which passes all understanding. At the core of each of us, if we will only listen, there is a still, small voice which can calm our fears, quiet our lives, and dispel our desperation. At the heart of each of us, if we only seek it, there is a spirit that rests in the grace of God. An assurance at the center of our lives can tame the chaos at the edges.

 

Reader 5

That spirit of God is also the hope of our world. Peace can come only when we can understand each other, knowing that God’s spirit makes us truly one. In the eyes of even a murderer, I can see my own anger. In the face of a terrorist, I can see my own desperation. In the breast of my enemy, I can feel my own fear. Peace is possible because we share that one spirit that rests in the presence of God.

 

Reader 6

Not one of us is a stranger to the other. Every passion or malice that might separate us I can find and recognize in my own heart, and so our differences lose their force. We are one with each other, and one with God, and that is a peace beyond the power of any stress or violence that can assault us. As we await the Bringer of Peace, the peace of God is already with us.

 

Reader 7 (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Prepare the way! The promise is come!

            The lion shall dwell with the lamb.

Prepare the way! The old with the young!

A child shall teach us to stand.

Prepare the way! Make the paths straight!

Earth shall fill her deep valleys!

Prepare the way! Break down walls of hate!

            The Way is approaching! Servants keep watch. Soon we shall see the salvation of our God!


 

Advent 3

The text is divided into 6 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the word of God from Isaiah:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. …Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people…the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 (Isa. 35:1-10)

Reader 2

Advent is about joy. But our times seem little suited for rejoicing. Our culture irritates and entertains, intoxicates and numbs, but rejoicing seems like a foreign idea. You can’t do it on cue. Joy can’t be bought and sold. You can’t plan for it or train for it. It doesn’t fit into a well-ordered life, and it’s not FDA approved.

 

Reader 3:

Joy comes only when least expected. We rejoice only when life has been turned on its ear; when—whatever we feared, whatever we steeled ourselves against–some gift of God has presented itself instead. When we rein in our loves to protect ourselves from pain, when we curtain our hopes from fear of disappointment, when we equip ourselves with cynicism to avoid looking foolish, we do so at the expense of joy.

 

Candle-lighter:  Light 3 candles (in places where a pink candle is available, this should be the 3rd one lit)

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 3)

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

As freedom can only be tasted in all its sweetness by those who know the feel of chains, so joy sings with its most full-throated glory only in spirits enlarged by the weight of despair and softened by the brine of tears. Pleasures floats on the surface of life. Happiness flits across a moment or an hour. But joy springs from the depths.

 

 

Reader 5

Joy is new life beating in a heart that has been broken. Joy is awakening to a fair morning from a nightmare of reality. Joy is a flight sunward on wings you had forgotten you had. Joy is the sound of laughter erupting from a procession of grief. Joy is God’s melody amid the discord of life, a song carrying the rhythm of eternity and touching the chords of longing in our souls.

Hand microphone to Reader 6

 

Reader 6: (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

We give thanks to you, O God, for the promise of full joy that this

            season brings to light.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

            For all the troubles life can bring, you bring amazing possibilities

            that fill our hearts with joy.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Renew in us this day the promises of light after darkness, day after

            night, hope after despair, joy in this and every morning, for our trust

            is in you. Amen.

 


 

Advent 4

The text is divided into 6 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the Gospel according to Luke:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 (Luke 1:26-38)

Reader 2

Advent is about love. Francis Bacon once wrote: “A crowd is not company, faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk is but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.”

We are social beings. That is our blessing and our curse. We long for each other. We long to touch, to share, to bare some part of ourselves, to be understood, to invite others into our lives. We all long to lessen the loneliness that lurks in the background of even our most crowded moments.

 

Reader 3:

We are born alone and we will ultimately die alone, but in between we desperately want to be known, to be understood, to belong, to find some kind of acceptance just as we are—some intimacy of soul. And so we reach out with fragile, delicate efforts of love.

But love is dangerous. We can hurt each other. Hearts can be broken. Rejection can come. If you try to belong, you can be excluded, and that can hurt more than being alone.

Love, and the vulnerability that comes with it, can be the riskiest business of all. But there is no love without such risks. Like hunger and thirst, the longing for love is implanted deeply within us, and God offers us many opportunities to care, to reach out, and to love.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 4 candles

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 4)

 

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

There is some part of this gift of life that can’t be stored up or locked away. Some part of this spirit that God has placed in us will die if we do not spend it or share it or give it away.

 

Reader 5

Love is always a risk, but it is a risk upon which the very heart of our life depends. To love is to touch the heart of God. To look into the eyes of another and recognize our common soul is to see the face of God. Even to feel the ache of a heart broken for love is to discover God’s grace.

 

Reader 6: (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Your love, O God, is great, and the risks you have taken were supreme.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

From the depths of your creating love, you made us male and female.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In the goodness of your covenant, you created us a community of your love.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In the fullness of time you sent us Jesus, a man of love that risked all for the sake of the world.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In your resurrection power, you have revealed your love to all humanity.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

Help us, O God, to reveal your love as we discover anew the tremendous power of the Christmas story and meet again the Christ-child, born anew among us.

Amen and Amen.

 

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With the coming of Advent on Dec. 2, the Church celebrates a new year, as we shift from year B to year C in the lectionary.  Advent C postings will follow, as we are able.  The beginning of the season (and for some churches, the close of the previous one, on Nov. 25) affords the opportunity to “dress the church” for Advent.  Offered below are two services centered around “Hanging of the Greens,” one of which is gratefully borrowed, with reference, and the other accumulated from many places through the years.  There also follows a Chrismon service, which may be adapted and added to any period during the season if Chrismons are used in worship.  Please advise us of what your congregation does to welcome the season, and keep us advised of references you may add to the adapted materials below.  –David Chafin, ed.

 

Hanging of the Greens (from years gone by on Advent 1C)

Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lighting of the Altar Candles

The significance of the candles

Organ Prelude

Call to Worship

L:  As quietly as the winter steals upon us, the season of hope approaches.

P:  We wait for our redeemer, for god’s promise to be fulfilled.

L:  The day is coming quickly. The God of mercy draws near.

P:  Therefore, we wait with hope, attentive to all the signs of his coming.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Hymn of Praise:  Lift Up Your Heads, O Mighty Gates

Invocation and Lord’s Prayer

 

THE ADVENT WREATH

The First Lesson:  Jeremiah 33:14-16

The significance of the Advent Wreath

The Lighting of the Candle of Hope

The Litany of Hope

L: Christians around the world begin this day to await the advent of Christ.  We join a joyous and hopeful throng in lighting the Advent candles, symbols of our faith and signs of God’s love.

P:  We gather as a people of hope.

L: Christian people around the world stand together in breathless anticipation of a miracle that has been

repeated for hundreds of years, yet that astounds us anew each year.

P:  Our hope springs anew, from an ancient vision.

L:  As we light the first Advent candle, let it stand for hope            based not on wishful thinking, but on deep conviction.  We believe, we have seen, we have received the Prom  ise and the Great Gift, and therefore, in the midst of darkness and imperfection, we hope.

P:  We gather expectantly, joyfully, and with deep commitment, for we have heard that a special child is to come, that god is to be among us, and that soon we will see a new creation on earth.  We are a people of hope.

The Hymn of Hope:  One Candle is Lit, verse 1

 

Children’s Lesson:  The Holly and the Ivy

Solo:  The Holly and the Ivy

 

Congregation at Prayer

meditation:  Creator of the Stars of Night verse 1

response:  Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2

 

The Second Lesson:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11

 

Sermon:  “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas

 

Hymn of Discipleship:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Communion:  Come, O Long Expected Jesus

 

Offering

 

Dismissal  When God is a Child,  verse 1

 

Full Text for Service Above

Significance of the Altar Candles (as the candles are being lit)

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries.  The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as a part of their Feast of Lights.  Since Jesus has been referred to as “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship.  Some early Christian leaders stated that the body of the candle represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as a “light to lighten the Gentiles.”  As we light these candles upon the altar we symbolize his coming in the world of darkness, sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and death.  He came to bring hope and help to those who were held captive by oppression, and to guide them to personal peace and joy through the illumination of the love of God.

Invocation

O God, in the weeks to come, our attention to this blessed and holy event, the birth of your Son, will be continually distracted.  help us to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and to remember the true meaning of our joy and excitement.  Help us to refocus our minds and hearts on your loving and most precious gift to us, your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray as he taught us, saying, Our Father….

Advent Lighting:

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season.  The flame of each new candle reminds the worshiper that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season will not be complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve.

The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness.  In that day candles were placed on the edge of a horizontal wheel.  As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light.  Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.

There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath.  The three purple, or white, candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David.  He is coming as the King of Kings as well as the Prince of Peace.  the pink candle is lighted on the third sunday of the Advent season.  This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin church which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.

A progression is noted in the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath.  The first symbolizes expectation and hope.  The second reminds us that we are involved in a season of preparation for peace in the coming of Christ.  The third candle is proclamation, as we proclaim that Christ brought joy to the world when he appeared.  The revelation of God’s love for all humankind is portrayed by the lighting of the fourth candle.  The culmination of the season comes on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, as the Christ candle is lighted.

Let us join now in this season of expectation and hope as we light our first candle, the Hope Candle, and join in our Litany of Hope.

 

Chrismon Service

Today we celebrate with joy and Thanksgiving all that God has given to us… the love of family and friends; the beauty of creation and good food to sustain us.  And we also come on this last Sunday before Advent celebrating with thankful hearts the Christ ‑‑ the King of all that was and is and will be.

So it is appropriate in our celebration this morning to reflect with hearts filled with hope and faith on the symbols that represent the Christ which will stand before us throughout this joyous season.  Hear these words from the 22nd chapter of Revelation:

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.  And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

The tree as a religious symbol takes us back to the very beginning of history.  The Tree of Life enjoyed great popularity as a symbol for many centuries.  There was one in the Garden of Eden along with the Tree of Knowledge which caused the fall of Adam and Eve.  In the Middle Ages, the Cross was regarded as the Tree of Life.  We use evergreens at Christmas because of their representation of eternity ‑‑ always green even through the coldest winter months.  The lights which we hang are constant reminders of the hope that is ours in Christ, the Light of the World.   (light tree)

Anthem:  O Christmas Tree

Chrismons are monograms or symbols telling about the life, work and meaning of the life of Christ.  There were used by early Christians to show who they were and where they stood.  They often adorned tombs, jewelry, utensils, doors and other places.  In modern times, the symbols have been adopted and adapted by churches for the decorating of trees during Advent and Christmas to help us remember.   The Chrismons are traditionally white, symbolizing our Lord’s purity and gold , symbolizing his majesty.

Matthew 16: 13‑16:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?  And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Christ is the title for the Messiah whom God sent to redeem his people.  The Greek monogram of the first letters of Christ ‑‑ Chi and Rho ‑‑ was one of the most widely used early Christian symbols.  Those who recognize Jesus as their Lord and Savior still use the Greek Chi, the X to identify themselves as his followers.

John 20: 30‑31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

As early as the second century, Christians were using the fish as a symbol for the Christ.  Early Christians used the fish widely as an easily made and recognized secret sign.  During the times of the persecution of the church, Christians could find each other by using this simple password.   To the outsider the fish was a mere decoration; to the Christian, it was an affirmation of faith in the Christ.  The Greek word for fish ‑‑ ichthus, is an anagram on the first letters of the Greek words: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.

An ancient symbol appropriate to the themes of Advent may be found in the two Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet.  Advent prepares us for the beginning and the end of the Christian epoch.  In Revelation 22 we read:                                                     Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”      This verse makes the word a title of Christ and a fitting symbol to represent his first and second comings.

Christ is the Word.  “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:2‑3).  The orb, the round ball, represents the world, and Christ’s activity in creation and in the world around us.

These four symbols, the chi rho, the fish, the alpha and omega, and the orb, remind us of the one who is the Christ, who comes into the world in hope.

Let us sing together verse 2 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful  witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Rev. 1: 5a.   One of the most common symbols of the trinity is three entwined circles representing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  While there is no direct reference to the trinity in Scripture, there are many references to the one who is and was and is to come.

The concept of wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 8 and this made possible the application to Christ, the wisdom  from on high through whom all things were made.  A burning lamp is a traditional symbol for wisdom and for the Christ hearkening back to Psalm 119:  Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Although the Gospels do not say that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ while he was in the water, the scene is frequently pictured that way.  The Gospels do tell us that when Jesus had been baptized he went up out of the water, the heavens opened, and then he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.  The descending dove then represents most frequently the baptism of our Lord.  Other doves are also seen frequently either resting or in flight and quite often represent the dove of peace, or the dove which reminds us of God’s covenant with the people of the earth that was made with Noah.  All are symbols of hope and the love of God.

The eight‑point star was a pre‑Christian figure that was adopted by Christians as a “concealed Chrismon during the Roman persecutions.  The crossing lines reveal Chi’s Rhos, and crosses to the initiate.  Then this design is used, one remembers that it was not always easy to be a Christian.  In today’s usage, the eight ‑pointed star generally refers to regeneration through Baptism in Christ.

Symbols of baptism, wisdom and the trinity ‑‑ may they all serve to remind us of the love of Christ which comes to each and every one of us.

Let us sing together vs. 3 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

The symbol of the cup is certainly no stranger to us.  Out denomination adopted the chalice as its symbol, because of the centrality of communion in the our worship services and in our lives.  But the cup also is a reminder of the cup of suffering, remembering Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane:  My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Jesus’ suffering is also deeply symbolized for all of us in the cross ‑‑  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

There are many forms and representations of the cross.  This one, the Greek cross that we hang on our tree this morning, has all arms of equal length.

One of the earliest symbols for the church was a ship:  indeed many churches were built to represent ships, at least one that is turned upside down.  the ceiling then becomes the hull of the ship; the pews the seats for those who rowed the great ships, the pulpit (which in early days was often raised) the wheelhouse or captains areas to oversee the rest.  It takes all persons on the ship to make it go and it takes God’s grace and wisdom as well.  Together we can sail into the world and serve the one who is the Christ.

Our last symbol is the cross over an orb ‑‑ the cross over the world, representing Christ over the world.  Jesus said, “God into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

Even at Advent we are called to do the same, through our Advent decorations we are continually reminded of the events in the life of Christ, of Christ’s victory over death, and of Christ’s call to each and every one of us today and every day.

If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is no time like the present;  or if you are seeking a church home, a community of faith to go through life with you, we invite you to come forward at this time, confessing Christ and uniting yourself with this part of Christ’s church, that we may grow and learn and live together in hope and in faith.

Hanging of the Greens: First Sunday of Advent

adaptation by Jeanyne Slettom

The Hanging of the Greens is a service for the first Sunday in Advent. It is based on the English tradtion of decorating the home with wreaths, garlands, a Christmas tree, and evergreens for Advent and Christmas. In a church setting, it readies the sanctuary (and church members) for the season. This service assumes a Protestant setting. It is adapted from an unknown source to reflect a process-relational theology.  Suggested hymns may be replaced by your favorites or appropriate anthems from a choir.

Prelude

Hymn  “Once in Royal David’s City”
Call to Worship – (Responsive)
How shall we prepare this house for the birth of Jesus?
            With branches of cedar, the tree of excellence and strength.
How shall we prepare this house for the eternal Christ?
            With garlands of pine and fir, whose leaves are ever living, ever green.
How shall we prepare this house for the prophet of Galilee?
            With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of his passion, death and resurrection.
How shall we prepare our hearts for this revelation of God?
            By hearing again the words of the prophets and the promises of God.
For in the story of Jesus we see revealed the transforming power of God
We are reminded anew of God’s vision
of wholeness, justice, and peace for all of creation.
            Thanks be to God.

Passing of the Peace

Choir Anthem

Pastor’s Time with Children
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them today. [Note:These paragraphs are posted on several internet sites.]

Organ solo/choir anthem/vocal solo “Los peces en el río” [Children arrange plants.]

The meaning of the service

Almost 2,000 years ago, the story goes, a clutch of sleepy shepherds were watching over their sheep on a star-brightened hillside in Palestine. It was a still, uneventful night. Suddenly the darkness was filled with a strange light. The stillness was broken by angel voices singing “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, goodwill to all.” So begins Christmas, the most beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Christian calendar.

Christmas actually begins with Advent, the season through with we are moving. Both the seasons of Advent―the season of “going toward” the birth of Christ―and Christmas have a long history. These seasons and their customs have developed through many centuries and many countries. Old customs and observances are refined, renewed, replaced; new ones are added. Some of our customs have pagan origins but have been “converted” by redefining their meanings. What is significant for us is not what they may once have meant but rather what they mean for us today.

This morning our church building will begin to wear its Christmas apparel. For the first time our Christmas trees stand in the sanctuary. This day for the first time its lights will shine for us. As we make ready for the birth of the child by preparing this sanctuary, we make ready ourselves and the sanctuary of our own hearts. We are mindful that, although it is not Christmas yet, it will be here soon, very soon.

As we decorate the church, not only will we explain the history of the symbols of these special seasons, but we will rededicate these symbols―and ourselves―to the service of God. Let us prepare by listening an ancient hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Solo:   “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” [Verses 1,3, &4]

Significance of the colors [paraments]

The cycle around which our worship revolves is the church year. Today, the first Sunday in Advent, marks the beginning of a new church year. Paraments, which cover our communion table, pulpit, and lectern, are something like drapes and curtains in a home. With the changing colors of the church year, they attract attention, add variety, and point to the significance of the season or festival being celebrated. The traditional color for Advent is purple, a color that signifies the sacred, and spiritual fulfillment. Some traditions use blue, which represents anticipation and promise. As we prepare our communion table, pulpit, and lectern with the paraments, let us sing verses 1-3 of “We Hail You God’s Anointed.”

Hymn  “We Hail You God’s Anointed”  [Place paraments on the communion table, pulpit, and lectern.]       

God Will Send a Light to the Nations [Advent wreath & candles]

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 60:2-3     Reader:______________

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries. The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as part of their Feast of Lights. Light has been used by many religious groups to symbolize truth, while the darkness of night has been the universal symbol for evil. Since Jesus was called “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship. Some early Christian leaders stated that the wax of altar candles represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. Candles made from pure beeswax were used to signify Mary, since this wax comes from virgin bees. This has resulted in the practice of some churches to burn only beeswax candles upon the altar or communion table. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” From this statement, church leaders have used candles to symbolize the light of Christ shining throughout a broken world. As we light these candles upon the communion table, we symbolize God, Emmanuel, God with us, whose transforming power heals the world of sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and despair. Jesus embodies hope and help for those held captive by oppression. His ministry guides us to personal peace and joy through the illumination of his message of the love of God. As the candles on the communion table are lit, let us sing the first verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel[Communion table candles are lit.]

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season. The four candles provide us with a visual way to count off four Sundays of this season. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season is not complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness. In that day, candles were place on the edge of a horizontal wheel. As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light. Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.

There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath. The three purple candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. The pink candle is lighted on the third Sunday of the Advent season. This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin Church, which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.  Will the children come forward and stand with me as we light the first candle.

The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as the true light coming into the world. In commemoration of that coming, we light candles for the four weeks leading to Christmas and reflect on the coming of Christ. It is significant that the church has always used that language—the coming of Christ—because it speaks to a deep truth. Christ is coming. Christ is always coming, always entering a troubled world, a wounded heart. And so we light the first candle, the candle of hope, and dare to express our longing for peace, for healing, and the well-being of all creation.

(One candle is lit.)

Loving God, as we enter this Advent season, we open all the dark places in our lives and memories
to the healing light of Christ. Show us the creative power of hope. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you, that we may walk in the light of Christ.

As the children return to their places let us all sing verse six of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

God will send a righteous king [cedar]

Scripture Reading  Jer. 23: 5 – 6    Reader:______________

In ancient times the cedar tree was revered as the tree of excellence and endurance. It also signified immortality and was used for purification. We place this cedar branch as a sign of Christ and of the kind of power he wielded: not the the power of might, but the power of transformation. As we contemplate his call to justice and peace, we seek to purify our hearts and “renew a right spirit within us.”

[Place cedar branch on the communion table.]

Hymn     “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”   verse 7

The prophet declares a child will be born (evergreens)

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7      Reader:______________

Have you ever wondered why we talk about the “hanging of the greens?” Or why an evergreen is called an evergreen? And why Christmas greens are traditionally used to emphasize the nativity? Green represents renewal, new life, freshness, and rebirth. Plants such as pine, fir, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not die; through the seasons of the year, they remain ever-green. Ever-alive. It is no wonder then that we deck our sanctuary and halls with evergreens during this Advent season. Advent is the season of preparation for the ever-coming  Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hand this wreath of evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ so eloquently testified, is also without end, and is realized wherever truth, justice, and peace prevail.

[Hang wreaths.]

Hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter”

The fourth servant song [holly]

Scripture Reading Isaiah  53:1-6    Reader:______________

For Christians, this passage from Isaiah reflects the sufferings of Jesus on the cross and God’s transformation of that event into the promise of life. In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Savior, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

Hymn  The Holly and the Ivy
[Place holly sprigs on the communion table.]

The mystery of the incarnation [Christmas tree]

Scripture Reading  John 1:1-5, 9-14     Reader:______________

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World, we light the Christmas tree. During this season of Advent, whenever you see a lighted Christmas tree, let it call to mind the One who brings light to our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.

Hymn  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”   [Note: You may prefer the words, “O eternal love begotten”]
[Plug in tree lights. Children decorate tree.]

Blessing of the Christmas Tree – Unison

Loving God, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose path of justice and inclusivity lights a path for all who follow him. May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nativity scene

The original crib in which the Christ Child was laid was a manger in the stable, a sign of his humble birth. The popular Christmas crèche at churches and in homes creates a tableau of Jesus in the stable crib at Bethlehem, depicting scenes described by Luke and Matthew.

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the first manger scene about 800 years ago. For a people who could not read it was an effective visual aid in telling the story of the birth of Jesus. We have such a scene here. I invite the children to arrange the wise men, shepherds, animals, angels, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

[Organ music.]

[When the children are finished, they assemble to sing.]

Children:    “Away in a Manger”
Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Offering

Doxology
Prayer of Thanksgiving

We dedicate our lives and all that we have to the work of life, of love, of peace. Receive our gifts and lead us in wisdom and courage. Amen.

Commission and Blessing
Take time, in the busyness of this season, for quiet reflection—
For the light of God’s love is discernible everywhere.
            We will let ourselves be surprised by wonder,
            And set aside time to offer quiet thanks.

The good news of Advent is this:
Christ is coming. Christ is always coming.
            We will welcome Christ into our hearts.
            We will let ourselves be guided by his ministry.
            We will go forth from this place in hope.

Hymn    “Come, O Long-Expected Jesus”

Benediction

Benediction Response     “Amen”

Postlude 

Process & Faith is a program of the Center for Process Studies, an affiliated program of the Claremont School of Theology. This site and all content ©2012 Process & Faith, unless otherwise noted.

 

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Advent 3B

 

Scripture  (from the Revised Common Lectionary, with links provided by TextWeek.com – a source for thoughtful worship and preaching throughout the year):

Click on Scripture Lessons below for study links and resources:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Roman Catholic reading: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11

Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55
Roman Catholic reading: Luke 1:46-54
Episcopal reading (RCL): Psalm 126  or Canticle 3 or 15
United Methodist reading: Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Suggested Hymns from Chalice Hymnal

Hymn of Praise:  136, 127

Communion Hymn:   160

Dealing with the Psalm of the Day:

Since Chalice Hymnal does not provide a complete Psalter, there will be occasions when suggestions may be made for alternate Psalm use (or hymn equivalent).  Alternate for this week is the Magnificat (included in next week’s Gospel text).

Hymn of the Day  from Rev. William Flewelling (© 2011, William Flewelling; All rights reserved)

On 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Abruptly pied within our dreads

God inserts gracefully

the bold insistent qualities

that spur the heart to joy.

Always rejoice; pray constantly;

give thanks at every turn.

For in this bright inversion found

lies settlement with God.

God, send the Spirit, prophecy:

we shall not quench nor scorn.

For in the moment of your birth

we find contentment’s seal

In you persistence, Holy Lord,

we gather faithfully;

we stagger in the peace you wield

and yield to you our lives.

CM             Suggested tune: Dundee

 

RESOURCES from COMMON WORSHIP

 

Collect

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion

We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts;
kindle in us the fire of your Spirit
that when your Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns now and for ever.

Alternative Collect

God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Common Worship Almanac and Lectionary for the year beginning Advent Sunday 2011.  Compiled by Simon Kershaw October 2011 from the Common Worship Calendar and Lectionaries
using Almanac Maker; compilation © Simon Kershaw 2011; Almanac Maker © Simon Kershaw 2010.   The Revised Common Lectionary is copyright © the Consultation on Common Texts 1992.  The Daily Eucharistic Lectionary is adapted from the Ordo Lectionum Missae of the Roman Catholic Church reproduced by permission of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.  Adaptations and additions to the RCL and the DEL, together with Second and Third Service lectionaries and the Weekday Lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer are copyright © the Archbishops’ Council 1997-2010.  Version 2012-1.2 30 October 2011.  http://almanac.oremus.org/lectionary

 From The Jubilee Fund:

Call to Worship (Responsive)  
Adapted from Psalm 126
L: The LORD has done great things for us.
P: Let us rejoice!
L: When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
P: Our tongues were filled with shouts of joy!
L: As we prepare for your coming, O LORD,
P: We anticipate the arrival with Joy.

Invocation:
(Adapted from Isaiah 61)
Loving and Gracious God, we come with Joy in our hearts and song on our lips.  As we journey through the celebration of your Advent, we long for the year of your favor.  For those among us who are mourning, we ask your comfort.  For those who are oppressed, good news; captives, liberty; and release for all of those who are imprisoned by oppressive things of this world.  We come to sing your praises.  Accept our offerings of praise and prayer with joy.

Stewardship Moment:
Somewhere out there, there might be a church which has never needed resources for a search committee; has never had a conflict which needed someone to coach them through; has never sent a child to camp, a woman or man to retreat; has never needed a fresh set of eyes to look at a challenge.  That mythical church probably doesn’t need the partnership that comes from being a part of a regional church.  We are not that church.  So we set aside our Christmas Special Offering to support the ministries of our region, knowing that we are stronger together than we are apart.  Today, and next Sunday, we ask you to not only bring your tithes to our church, but also a special offering, which will help make the ministries of our region possible.

Offertory Prayer:
Almighty God, we bring these gifts with joy and thanksgiving.  For we know that they are a mere returning of a small portion of all which you have blessed us.  Join them with the gifts of others and multiply them, we pray, that churches throughout our region will be strengthened by them.  We offer them in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Communion Meditation:
Prepare Ye the Way of Lord.  That was the cry of the one in the wilderness, whom John proclaimed himself to be.  As we stand around the table of the Lord, we know that today’s desired journey for Jesus is into hearts of believers.  As we come to this table, let us open our hearts, minds and souls fully, that today’s journey into each of us will be an easy one for Christ our Lord.

PLEASE consider making a gift of fifty dollars or more to the Jubilee Fund for these Liturgical Resources. By doing so, you help empower our ministry of education and support to fight the war on clergy debt.  All material copyright 2011The Jubilee Fund, Inc.  Permission granted to reproduce and use any of the above for Churches and Congregations to the glory of God without requirement of compensation or notification.  The Jubilee Fund, 4230 East Towne Blvd, Suite 261; Madison, WI 53704    www.thejubileefund.com

We also urge you to visit Worship Connection at MinistryMatters.com, which offers numerous helps, including electronic versions of print resources for worship and preaching planning.

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