Advent 2- December 4, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s scriptures speak of God’s coming justice. Isaiah 11. 1-10 imagines a ruler from Jesse’s family tree who shows us how to live: with a spirit of wisdom, judging not by appearances, but by the spirit; and providing justice for the poor, until nonviolence prevails over all the world.

Psalm 72 celebrates a ruler who administers justice, defending the poor and needy and eliminating oppression.

In Romans 15. 4-13 Paul prays that our hope may lead us to live in harmony with one another, even outsiders (Gentiles). The ruler from Jesse’s family will bless those outsiders, too.

In Matthew 3. 1-12 John the Baptist tells of one who is coming, and exhorts us to prepare the way in repentance. He criticizes the Pharisees who rely on religious trappings without living changed lives and speaks of pruning unfruitful trees as an image of repentance.

Preaching Thoughts

Preaching around Christians often celebrates that Jesus has come to “save us.” Today’s texts remind us that Jesus isn’t coming to save certain individuals, but to save the world. Themes like “healing” and “salvation” are never merely individual: they’re about human society as a whole. In the prophetic message salvation isn’t about God rescuing us from the world’s threats, it’s about re-creating a world that’s not so threatening. Salvation is God’s work; but we have to cooperate in that transformation. We have to seek and establish and maintain justice— just relationships among all people.

God’s justice doesn’t mean everybody gets what they deserve, but that everybody gets what they need. In particular this means care for the poor and powerless and the inclusion of those who have been exuded from resources, safety, power and belonging. It means nonviolence; and the eradication of the abuse of power and discrimination against outsiders. Both Isaiah and the Psalmist emphasize nonviolence and justice. When Paul encourages harmony with Gentiles he doesn’t just mean non-Jews; he means outsiders: everyone who we consider “not one of us.”

Society, clearly, is a long way from justice, so we need to change our ways. We need to repent. So when John the Baptist speaks of the Coming One he talks about repentance and justice— both personal and social transformation. His agricultural images are of change and growth in our lives. The image of trees cut down is not a warning of the fires of hell (please!), but about working with growing plants to produce more abundant crops. The image of the threshing floor is not so much about separating “good people” from “bad people” but about sifting our lives to bring forth what is fruitful and discard what is not. The images of cutting trees and burning chaff are not images of judgment and destruction but images of growth, change and fruitfulness.

When we’re expecting guests to come satay with us, we clean the house. So we prepare for the Coming One by “cleaning house,” clearing out unfruitful stuff, establishing fruitful habits, and engaging in just and life-giving actions. We repent. Repentance isn’t just self-criticism. It’s change. There’s no such thing as repentance “in general.” It’s change in specific behaviors. We repent of specific actions, habits or attitudes. To make of your life a welcome manger for the living Christ, how do you need to repent? What do you need to clean up? Despair? Selfishness? Self-doubt? Worrying too much? Caring too little? Ignoring God’s cries for justice? Trying to save the world all by yourself? Each of us has a different mess to clean up, different stuff to throw out, different dead branches to prune. (What are yours?) The gift of God’s God’s grace is that the very things we need to change to prepare for Christ’s coming are the very things Christ changes in us—and is in us, already, working that transformation. Cool, huh? The Coming One is already present, and helps us prepare.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Eager for the coming of Christ,
we behold the mystery of God’s dawning presence among us.
All: God of mercy, we long for your grace,
to heal the sin of our lives and the brokenness of this world.
We trust the miracle, that in this world of fear and injustice
a shepherd comes, both mighty and gentle, bearing mercy and power.
Loving God, we open our hearts to you,
and await your gracious coming.
Come, O Love! May your grace be born in our hearts.
Come, O Savior! May your peace dawn on our world. Amen.

2.Leader: Loving God, bless your people, who turn to you in faith.
All: Bless the waiting, where there is space for you to come.
Bless the darkness, that we may wait with hope.
Bless the silence, that we may listen for your coming.
Grant us stillness, that with patience and courage
we may prepare room in our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ.
Come, O Savior, Come! Amen.

Lighting the Advent Candle

1. Isaiah 11.1-10
Leader: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.
The spirit of God shall rest on them,
the spirit of wisdom and reverence for the Holy One.
All: They will delight in obeying God.
They will not judge by appearances or hearsay,
but will act with respect toward the poor,
and choose for the well-being of the powerless.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and a little child shall lead them.
No one will harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Beloved
as the waters cover the sea.


2. [Romans 13.11,12; 15.13]
Leader:You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.
All: For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.
The night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

3.
Reader: (Isaiah 11.6, 9)
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.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of God
as the waters cover the sea.
Leader: This candle represents our hope for peace.
All: We live amidst violence, but God promises peace.
We bear bitterness and judgment toward one another, but God calls us to love.
Christ comes among us to lead us to gentleness and compassion.
May the Christ child lead us to lives of justice and courage.
May the Christ child be born in us, the child of peace.
God of mercy, rule over us with righteousness,
and remove all oppression and violence.
Help us to repent, and to bear the fruits of your love.
Come, Holy Child, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Leader: The world is busy! We are in a hurry! Our lives are cluttered and beyond our control!
All: God of peace, break into our chaos. Prepare a way among our desires. Clear a path straight to our hearts. Grant us grace to make room for your coming. Speak, for we are listening. Amen.

2.
God of mercy, your Realm has drawn near.
Help us prepare a Way for you to enter our minds and hearts,
a way for you to enter the world with might
for the sake of justice, mercy and peace.
Help us repent. Grant us hearts of faith. Amen.

3.
God of mercy, a cry for healing arises from a hurting world. Your Spirit moves us to respond, for only by the grace of your Word in us do we reach out. Come to us; speak to us; give us good news that we may bear to the world. By the presence with us of Christ and your redeeming love, may we make gentle this wounded world. Amen.

4.
God of love, a little child comes among us. You ask us to pay attention. You invite us to follow. You lead us to become like him. We open our hearts. Help us to listen, and be changed. Amen.

5.
God, you who are coming, grant us grace to prepare a way for you with courage and honesty. Help us to see ourselves clearly. In our darkness be our light. In our ignorance be our truth. In the silence, speak to us. God, you who are coming, we are still. We are listening. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy Child, help us to repent,
to become people of peace and compassion.
Loving God, you birth new life within us.
With open hearts, we await your coming.

Poetry


Annunciation

      
An ordinary life you have,
like baked bread, the aroma of love,
like old wood, edges worn from kindness.

In a moment’s pause, a small step aside
from the rush, the proof—
the abyss opens. Heaven inhales.

Deep, wordless, you sense
wings, breathing, Presence.
Silence speaks.

Sunlight on a plain rock,
music of a flower not usual
for this season: You are Beloved.

The Infinite names you, adores,
finds in you, in your flesh, your voice,
your hands, a place to live.

What is within you is holy.
What is of you is of God, Mystery
spiraling out from you like a nebula, a child.

You will not cease being ordinary,
nor feel different. You will bear
the Divine made infant into the world

if only moment
by moment you say
Yes.



Prepare Your Way

God,
prepare your Way in me.

Open a way to enter
the grim wilderness of my heart.

Create a Way in this
severe, unforgiving desert.

Make my rough places smooth;
the crooked make straight.

Lay your hand at my root,
and help me bear fruit.

Come and empty my heart
of all things but you.

Sever me from my proud little treasures,
and burn them up in your truth.

All that is chaff, burn away.
Set me on fire with your Spirit.

God, I am willing to change.
Prepare your Way in me.

Come, savior,
prepare your Way in me.



I prepare a place

Holy Child of mystery,
I prepare a place for you.
I remodel the inn of my heart.
I clear a room
and let go of many things.
I fashion a crib of finest wood.
I make a space that is just for you,
and open it up each day,
and in stillness I wait—
until I find that in darkness of night
beneath my knowing or waking,
in cold and poverty,
without place at all,
you have already come
and lie waiting in some
unexpected manger.


An Advent Prayer

O Coming One,
give me a steadfast spirit
to wait for you with grace.

Give me patience to listen
for your breathing
in the breath of your people.

Give me courage to trust
your continually blossoming presence
even in the unseeing darkness.

Give me wisdom to see
your manger in rough places,
your star in dark nights.

Give me gentleness
to receive you as a child
amidst the shouting of kings and warriors.

O Blossoming One, you are the love
with which I wait tenderly
for the coming of your love.

O Holy Child, come to me
that I may fall in love with you,
and become wholly yours,
in faith, in love, in steadfast hope.
Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

———Sung prayers———
Here are four Eucharistic prayers set to familiar Christmas tunes: “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Rocking, Rocking,” and “What Child Is This.”

“Longing Night,” an original song (see below), includes music for sung Eucharistic responses.

———Spoken prayers———

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]
1.
God, the Beloved, is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our thanks and praise.

Loving One, our hearts swell with gratitude.
You give us life, provide for us, and call us as your own.
In the words of prophets and the cries of your people
you call for justice.
In Jesus you have shown us your justice and your mercy.
You have come among us to give us courage to change our lives,
to set us free from all that oppresses,
and to empower us to do justice.

Wonder of wonders: the Coming One whom we await is already among us!
Alleluia! With joy we set the table;
in hope we prepare our lives;
with all Creation we sing your praise!

[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who transforms our lives, in whose grace the wolf lies down with then lamb.
As John the Baptizer promised,
Christ opens our hearts to prepare for what is coming.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and established justice for the outcast.
He is the vine and we are his branches,
and we gladly prune what does not bear fruit,
so that what does bear fruit may bear it abundantly.

[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 the grace of this meal, feed what is weak in us,
and burn away what is unfruitful.
Empower us to do justice, to live mercifully,
and to be ready for your coming, in peace and joy.


[Amen]


______________________
2.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our thanks and praise.

It is our delight to give you thanks and praise, God of love,
for you create us in your image, call us as your people,
and make Covenant to be our God.
When we are oppressed and enslaved
you condemn the forces of injustice and set us free.
When we wander in despairing wilderness and live in lonely exile
you bring us home.
When we betray your image in us
you call us to repent and become again the people you create us to be.
As you have promised, you came to be with us in Jesus.
For this grace we praise you, together with all Creation:

[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He taught and healed with love, and called us to repentance and faith.
He gave us his love, love that defies empires and defeats death.

[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.
Transformed by your grace, may we repent and bear the fruit of your love,
for the sake of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ.
All glory and honor is yours, mighty and merciful God, now and forever.


[Amen]


____________
* 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 of Dedication / Sending

1.
A benediction: [Romans 15.5-7, 13]
Leader: Dearly Beloved, accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you,
for the glory of God.
All: May God, the source of all of strength and encouragement,
grant us to live in harmony with one another,
in accordance with Christ Jesus,
so that together with one voice
we may glorify the God of our savior Jesus Christ.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for your grace. Bless us that your gift of self-giving, your Word of love and your community’s blessing may stir us to repent and live new lives of love for your sake. Send us into the world to bless without reserve, to love without fear, to serve without holding anything back. Beloved Jesus, you have come to us in our worship. In our lives of love, come again, dear Jesus, come! Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with the banquet of your peace. You have given us gifts that make us your children. Send us into the world to do justice, to love mercy, and to follow the leading of your Holy Child, as we await your coming. We pray in the name of the Holy Child who is coming, and who is yet within us. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have strengthened us to prepare a way for your coming in holy and mindful living. Send us into the world with your spirit of wisdom, to serve your call for justice and peace, until the earth is full of the knowledge of you, as the waters cover the sea. We pray in the name and the Spirit of Christ, who is coming. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(All songs with “Advent” tags, of course, but especially these. Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Christ, Begotten of the Love of God
         (Tune: DIVINUM MYSTERIUM, Of the Father’s Love Begotten)

Christ, begotten of the love of God, here before the world’s first day,
Christ the Alpha and Omega, Christ the source, the end, the way,
Christ, the promised One, still coming: come, O Light, and show the way,
evermore and evermore.

Christ, we waken to your coming at an unexpected hour,
bringing love and justice with you, with divine grace and power.
May our waiting be our praising; in our hope may courage flower,
evermore and evermore.

Christ, your glory fills the universe, blessing us with joyful mirth;
and your grace renews our spirits, granting us a second birth.
Come, O Christ, and rule among us, bringing peace to all the earth,
evermore and evermore.

Christ, we bring our gifts to honor you, and we come on bended knee,
offering our hearts and living, that to you the glory be.
May your light adorn and guide us, now and in eternity,
evermore and evermore. Amen.


Prepare Your Way In Me(Original song)

Prepare your way in me, Love, prepare your way in me.
1. Make my rough places smooth, the crooked make straight, my Love.
2. Lay your hand at my root, that I may bear fruit, my Love.
3. Come and empty my heart of all things but you, my Love.
4. Guide my feet in your way; fill me with your peace, my Love.


Magnificat (Tune: What Child Is This)

My soul sings out in joy to God,
and glorifies my Savior:
for in my powerless, lowly state,
my God has shown me favor.
Praise! Praise the Mighty one
for all the things that God has done.
Love, love will honor God,
whose mercy lives forever.

God’s arm is strong, and mercy great,
God’s name forever is holy.
God brings the powerful down from thrones
while lifting up the lowly.
Praise God, who feeds the poor,
and leaves the wealthy rich no more.
Praise, praise the Faithful One
who promises mercy forever.


Signs (Tune: O Little Town of Bethlehem)

The night is long; the darkness deep; our childish dreams long gone.
We lie awake with hearts that ache for warmth and light of dawn.
We long to trust the promise the prophets have foretold:
we look for signs of your designs for what the future holds.

In our unknowing and our doubt, O Christ, you speak your Word:
to stay awake and watch and wait for signs unseen, unheard.
Yet in our very longing, your Spirit cries for home:
for you are near, and hidden here, and yet are still to come.

And so in silent stillness now we watch, and as we do
your grace imparts into our hearts the gifts we seek in you.
Our openness transforms us: for now your grace is clear,
that we may shine and be a sign that Christ is drawing near.

Come, O Savior (Original Song)
[May be sung in one piece… or one verse at a time in various points of the service…or used throughout the season of Advent, using one verse each week. The lyrics of each verse correspond to themes of the week’s lectionary readings.]

Spirit of peace, be born in us.
Help us to walk in your light.
Help us be ready, help us be wakeful.
Give us deep gentleness, and a spirit of peace.
Refrain: Come O Savior, Come, we pray.
Come, O Savior, Come.
Come, O Savior, Come. Amen.

Spirit of wisdom, be born in us.
Grant us the fruit of repentance,
that we no longer will judge with our eyes.
Give us deep vision, God, and a spirit of hope.
Refrain

Spirit of joy, be born in us,
grateful for gifts of your healing:
bodies made whole and a whole new Creation.
Give us deep patience, God, and a spirit of joy.
Refrain

Spirit of holiness, come to us.
Grant us the courage to serve you,
trusting your mystery growing within us.
Give us deep willingness, and a spirit of love.
Refrain

Weekly Advent Theme Responses

[These songs are designed to be used throughout Advent, using one verse per week. Each is a dialogue between a soloist (or choir or ensemble) and congregation. Each week’s (solo) verse reflects the week’s Lectionary readings, especially in Year A. The congregation’s response remains the same throughout the season. Below are the current week’s lyrics.]

Come, Holy Dawn (Original song)

Congregation:
Come, morning star, light our way, in our darkest night.
Come, light of God, grant us peace, gently shining bright.
Come, holy dawn, sun of love, fill us with your light.
Cantor:
Change your hearts, my people! Trust, repent and pray.
With the Spirit’s fire bear fruit: prepare the way.


Come, O Jesus, Come (Original song)

Soloist, introduction:
Rise, O people, awake!
The light of Christ is dawning!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Come, O Jesus, come!

Congregation, chorus:
Dawn on us from above. Raise us up in your love.
Awaken our hope with the day, and lead us in your way.
Come, O Jesus, come! Come, O Jesus, come!

Soloist, verse:
The day will soon come of justice and peace; the wolf and the lamb will share.
Repent and prepare the way in love. A child will lead us there! (Chorus)

Longing Night (Original Song)

Introduction- Cantor:
      Alleluia. Alleluia. Make ready your hearts for the Coming One. Alleluia. Alleluia.
Response- Congregation
      In our deepest longing night, dawn upon us, God of light.
VersesCantor:
      Make straight a way for the Promised One. Watch, repent, and bear good fruit. Response
      God shall come to rule with grace. Wolf and lamb shall dwell in peace.
Response