Advent 1

December 1, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 33.14-16 — A righteous branch

Psalm 25.1-10 — Teach me your paths… do not remember the sins of my youth…consider my troubles ad deliver me

1 Thessalonians 3.9-13 — May God strengthen your love, for the coming of Christ.

Luke 21.25-36 — Signs in the heavens… as with the fig tree you know: the Coming is near. Be alert.

Preaching Thoughts

       Popular culture thinks Christmas is the weekend after Thanksgiving till Dec. 25. So it’s jarring for people steeped in that culture to hear on this Sunday scriptures so un-Christmas-like. But jarring is what we need. Our longing for a sentimental Christmas, saturated with tradition and pleasant memories of the past, masks our deeper yearning for a new world. In a world of war and violence, suffering and injustice, climate change and environmental suicide, we long for God to break in and change things. Jarring indeed.
       Jesus was talking about our own times. “Signs in the heavens and the roaring of the waves” sounds a lot like climate change. This is a time of “fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” People may whine about it some, but we tend to bury our deepest dread for the world and not talk about it. Well, Advent is a time to talk about it. Bring our fears out and put them on the table. In the light of our unacknowledged thoughts about the future, we need Jesus and his strange predictions. Because he’s not talking about some dramatic Hollywood Second Coming loaded with CGI special effects. He’s talking about the radical change love can bring about in the world, if we let it. Advent is a time to be honest about “the hopes and fears of all the years,” and allow for the possibility of God’s grace breaking in on that and changing it. It’s a time to practice hope.
       We’re accustomed to thinking of hope as wanting something. We hope our team wins. We hope it doesn’t rain. But true hope isn’t wanting something that isn’t there, it’s trusting in something that is here, right now, thought mostly unseen, something whose outcome is not yet seeable. So I hope the sun will rise. People say to me, “What do you mean you hope? Of course the sun will rise.” Exactly. That’s what hope is. Trust in what is at work unseen. Sure, I also have wishes on top of my hope. I wish for a sunny day. But I hope in the coming of day. We wish for world peace, but our hope is in the power of peace that is already at work in the world. To sustain our hope we just have to keep our eyes open to watch for signs. So hope is less about dreaming than about paying attention.
       That’s what Jesus is talking about. An as alternative to the world’s despair at the storms of life and our power struggles— “signs in the heavens”— Jesus commends a spirit of inner watchfulness, being alert for signs of God’s presence like we watch for spring. Be alert. You know that the realm of God is near. So watch for it. Watch for little signs, like tiny spring leaves of the fig tree. Little outbursts of love and peace, of healing and justice, of courage and beauty. There is evidence of the grace of God, the power of love, the basic energy of unity and peace that holds the universe together. It’s our confidence in these things that helps us “escape all these things that will take place.” It’s the knowledge that God is already here that gives us hope that God is yet coming in new ways. Stay open. Be alert. God is not done with us yet. So we enter into Advent watching, waiting, expecting, preparing.

              Click here for Advent Candle lighting prayers, Advent Wreath prayers,                and music including Eucharist and other resources.

Call to Worship / Lighting the Advent Candle

Note: For musical responses to the lighting of the Advent candle see The Promises of God and Sleeper, Awake, Advent Blessing Songs and Awaken Us, a collection of responsorial verses. (Click on titles to view the songs.)

SCRIPTURE (Jeremiah 33.14-16)
The days are surely coming, says the Holy One, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up from David’s line; a ruler who shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “God is our justice.”
SONG The Promises of God
Leader: A new world is coming, according to the promises of God.
The time is coming.
        All: We light a candle in hope, watching the clock.
We cannot hasten the future. But we wait with intention.
        Deepen our longing, God, and bless our waiting.

[Luke 21.29-31; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-13]
Leader: Look to the leaves of the fig tree. When they sprout and begin to grow,
you know that summer is already near.
       This Advent wreath is a sign of hope for us, O God,
       For like a tree that is bare in winter, we await the coming of your grace.
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all,
and strengthen your hearts that you may be confident at the coming of our Lord.
       As we light this candle, kindle in our hearts the hope in your coming
       that bears fruit in love and joy.
       Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen.

Leader: A righteous branch will spring up from David,
a ruler who will bring justice and peace to God’s people.
       All: We await your peace, O God, according to the promise of your prophets.
       May the peace of Christ transform our hearts,
       as we prepare for his coming.
he peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
       As we light these Advent candles, Lord,
       kindle in us your spirit of peace.
       Grant that we may prepare for his coming
       in simplicity and joy,
       in peace and reconciliation with all. Amen.

4. (Jeremiah 29.11-14)
Reader: Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile

Leader: Gracious God, hope of the world, as we light this Advent candle,
waken our minds to your Word.
      All: Waken our hearts to your promise.
Open our eyes to your coming.
      Open our arms to your presence.
      O come, O Come, Emmanuel. Alleluia!

5. (Revelation 21.22-24, 22.5, 7a)
Reader: I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Holy One, God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the rulers of the earth will bring their glory into it. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, “See, I am coming soon!”

God of light, as we light this candle in this season of darkness,
our hearts ache for your presence.
     All: Dawn upon us and be our light.
Spirit of hope, in this season of waiting we turn to you.
     Bless us with your patience, and grant us your hope.
O Loving Christ, we pray for one another, for your church, and for all Creation.
     Come, Lord Jesus, come, and grant us your love. Amen.

We praise you, O God, for this circle of light
that marks our days of preparation for Christ’s advent.
     As we light the first candle on the wreath,
     rouse us from sleep, that we may be ready to greet our Christ
     coming like spring with hands of healing.
Enlighten us with your grace,
and prepare our hearts to welcome Christ with joy.
     Kindle within us the gift of hope through Christ our Beloved,
     whose coming is certain and whose day draws near. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of light, in the darkness of this world your dawn is rising. Your love is at work. Waken our hearts. Keep us ready to see you. Open the ears of our hearts, ready to hear you. Speak, for in the dark, we are watching. We are listening. Amen.

In this dark time of year, God, we long for your coming. When darkness falls upon the world, we long for your peace. For healing, we wait. For justice, we hope. Strengthen our hearts, that we may be steadfast in faith, constant in love, and radiant with hope even when times are dark. In the name of Christ, who is coming, and who is always with us, we pray. Amen.

Loving God, you promise more than we see. You intend more than we know. You lead us more than we trust. Awaken our hearts with your Word. Stir up your Spirit in us to wait for the dawning of your delight among us with grace and faith. Amen.

Holy One, we come to you full of hopes and fears. We bear in our hearts deep longing for you, that you would come and be with us. We ask your blessing on our deepest yearnings that are not even known to us, but only faint stirrings in the darkness. Loving God, we are homesick for you. Come to us; speak to us; bring us into the light and warmth of the home that is your Word. Amen.

Stir up your power, O Christ, and come. By your merciful grace, may the light of your presence dawn upon us, that we may see the signs of your coming, and live in hope; for you live and reign with the Creator and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Holy Mystery,
You who are coming and yet here,
You who are our hope,
longed for yet unimaginable,
waken us.
Open our hearts to hold space for you
to hope in us.
We are alert; we are waiting.

Prayer of Confession

The grace of God be with you.
       And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
       Gracious God,
       We confess the darkness and cold in our lives.
       Like barren trees in winter,
       we do not bear the fruits of love
       as you would have us.
       Forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
       and be born in us again,
       that by your grace we may bear your light.
       O come to us, Lord, and save us! Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

Note: Even though it’s Advent people are eager to jump ahead and sing Christmas Carols. I’ve addressed this by putting four whole Eucharistic Prayers and 24 Eucharistic Prayer responses to familiar carol tunes. See also Advent Table Songs for invitation to communion. (Click on titles to view them).

Beloved, God is with you.
       And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
       We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Faithful One, our God.
       It is good to give God thanks and praise.

We thank you, God, for you create us in your image.
You judge the forces of evil and set us free from all that oppresses,
calling us to justice and freedom.
       You promise a new world, dawning just beyond our imagination.
You walk with us through the dark toward the light;
and we rejoice that your presence is the light.
       Therefore we sing your praise with all Creation:

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, who embodied among us the Realm to Come.
       The light of that Realm began to dawn in his teaching and healing,
       in his witness for justice, in the community he gathered,
       in his death and resurrection.

                  [The Blessing and Covenant…]*

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
       Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
       we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
       as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
       as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
                    [Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
       Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
       that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
       in our speaking and praying and acting, living signs of Christ’s coming.

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have placed within us the sign of your coming, your covenant to be with us in faithful love. Send us into the world to live and to serve as those who believe in your coming, that in our transformation others may see signs of the transformation of the world, for the sake of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
In the Word, the bread, and the community we have seen signs of your presence. Guide and sustain us by these gifts that we may always live in hope of your coming, and confidence in your presence. Send us into the world, increasing and abounding in love for one another and for all, that they may see in us signs of your coming. Amen

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view and hear audio samples on the music page.)

        All songs with “Advent” tags, especially:

Child of Promise (Original song)

Child of promise, oh, child of hope, prophets spoke of you:
visions treasured but unfulfilled. Shall our dreams come true?
Help us wait for you.

Child of woman, oh, child of God, birthing us anew,
make a room, oh, make a womb, in our hearts for you.
Help us wait for you.

Child of patience, oh, child of pain, suffering ills we do,
heal, forgive and help us be gentle child, like you.
Help us wait for you.

Child of wonder, oh, child of joy, you make all things new.
Re-create us, come again like the morning dew.
Help us wait for you.

Psalm 25.1-10 (Tune: What Child Is This)

To you, O God, I lift my soul; in you, my trust abiding.
O lead my feet with mercy sweet: my only path your guiding.
Love, make me know your ways, that I may follow all my days.
You, you will save me, God. For you my heart is waiting.

Be mindful of your mercy, God, your love, here from the beginning.
Now set me free and deliver me from wayward fear and sinning.
Love, make me know your ways, that I may follow all my days.
You, you will save me, God. For you my heart is waiting.

How loving and how good you are: you teach the humble and feed them,
and turn their face with steadfast grace toward life, and faithfully lead them.
Love, make me know your ways, that I may follow all my days.
You, you will save me, God. For you my heart is waiting.

         Songs with weekly responses through Advent:

God, We Are Waiting (Original song)
A dialogue between cantor and congregation.

God, we are waiting, watching and hoping.
Come to us and save us and bring us peace.

Cantor, Week 1:
In the face of fear and the world’s distress
look for signs that God is here to bless.
Let your heart not be weighed down with fear:
your redemption’s drawing near.

Tree of Life (Original song)
A dialogue between cantor and congregation.

Week 1:
Look to the leaves of the fig tree:
when they bud, you know summer is near.
So take heart, the Beloved is coming,
healing our sin and our fear.

Tree of life in winter,
stir our hearts with cheer.
The healing of the nations comes.
The one who is coming, coming, is near.

Like a tree in the dead of winter
whose life is a secret within,
God’s hidden grace will appear
to save us from death and sin.

Advent Blessing Songs are ideal for the closing of worship, for the congregation to sing to each other.

For the Hanging of the Greens, Adorning Your House.

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