Advent 4 – December 18, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Isaiah 7. 10-16 the prophet gives king Ahaz a sign: the birth of a child who will be named Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Psalm 80 speaks out of the people’s suffering, imagining Israel as a vine that God has planted but then abandoned, crying, “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”

Romans 1.1-7 says that Jesus is descended from David and also the Son of God. Through him we have received grace and are sent to bring his good news to the whole world (“all the Gentiles”).

In Matthew 1. 18-25 an angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Mary as his wife, even though she is pregnant with a child that is not his. He consents.

Preaching Thoughts

Emmanuel. Isiah certainly did not think he was predicting the coming of someone centuries in his future. (That’s not much of a sign, is it?) And he’s not speaking of a miraculous “virgin birth.” The Hebrew word often translated as “virgin” simply means “young woman.” It’s a prophetic symbol, like Jeremiah’s image of a potter remaking a pot: an image of God’s action in the world. Isaiah’s point is not that someone is coming in our future, but that God is with us in the present. Isaiah was promising to king Ahaz God’s blessing in challenging times. The same is true now: as we struggle for justice, face a climate crisis, resist racism and the assault on democracy, God assures us: I am with you now.

Joseph. Joseph has one of the fascinating cameo roles in the Bible. He makes his appearance at Jesus’ birth and disappears. We see him have a dream and obey its invitation to marry Mary; we see him go to Bethlehem, and take his family to Egypt and return, and later, the background, search for Jesus as a 12-year old. But that’s all we ever see or hear of Joseph. He never speaks a single word. Still, he can be a model for us of humble obedience, of trust in God’s promises, of faithful acceptance of God’s guiding, of committing to what God is committed to even though it looks unpromising. Notably whenever Joseph appears he is in a supporting role for Mary, who is the leading actor. He can be a model for men to take the back seat and let women have center stage. But maybe most of all Joseph is an image of an unremarkable person through whose ordinary life God does remarkable things, primarily in the people Joseph supports. When we speak of Christ being born in our hearts, you may not be called to be a Mary; maybe you’re a Joseph, supporting Christ’s birth in those around you.

Call to Worship

1.People of God, the angel promises that Jesus is near.
We wait with hope.
The angel call us to faithfulness.
We serve with love.

The angel promises salvation.
We worship with joy.
Come, dear Jesus, come!


2. (Or for lighting the Advent Candles)
Leader: Light of God, rising in our dreams, awaken us to your promises.
All: By your revealing light, may we see with faith and respond with courage.
Light of Christ, rising even in our pain and our struggle, awaken us to new life.
By your renewing light, may we see a new way to live, and follow confidently.
Spirit’s light, rising in our hearts, awaken us to the gift of peace.
By your resurrecting light, may we see ourselves through your grace,
give ourselves to your purposes,
and serve you and worship you with all our hearts.
We await your coming with humble serenity,
that you may guide our feet in the way of peace.
Come, Beloved Jesus, come! Amen.

Lighting the Advent Candle

1. (Isaiah 7.14)
Reader: Look, the young woman is with child
and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
All: The light of your promise, O God,
shines in our hearts like the coming of dawn.
Light our way, and grant us your peace. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: We light this candle in the spirit of joy.
All: In the darkness of our hearts, the light of your love shines, and we rejoice.
In the darkness of mystery, your grace leads us, and we follow
.
Dear Child, prophet of the most high, grant us love and joy.
By your tender mercy, may your dawn from on high break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.


3. (Isaiah 7. 14)
Reader: The Holy One will give you a sign.
Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son,
and shall name him Immanuel.
All: Gracious God, your promise shines light in our darkness.
Your presence gives warmth in the cold.
Holy One, You Are. And you are coming.
We waken with wonder; we open our eyes with delight.
We listen for your Word. We look for your glory.
You kindle in us the holy wonder of open hearts.
O come, Emmanuel, and be with us, in your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Light of God, rising in our dreams, awaken us to your promises.
By your revealing light, may we see with faith and respond with courage.
Light of Christ, rising even in our pain and our struggle, awaken us to new life.
By your renewing light, may we see a new way to live, and follow confidently.
Spirit’s light, rising in our hearts, awaken us to the gift of peace.
By your resurrecting light, may we see ourselves through your grace,
give ourselves to your purposes,
and serve you and worship you with all our hearts.
We await your coming with humble serenity,
that you may guide our feet in the way of peace.
Come, Beloved Jesus, come! Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of Mystery, we have heard the promise of your grace; but we find it hard to trust. Speak to us again, that we may hear, and know, and trust in our bones the coming of your blessing and your sure presence among us. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Amen.

2.
God of mystery, Spirit of birth,
in dark times you come to us
in scripture, in strangers, in dreams.
Speak to us now.
Let us hear your promise, and trust in you. Amen.

3.
God of Wonder, all is mystery. All is darkness. Your Word is our light. Come to us, be with us, and bless us with your love. Speak to us, and show us the way. Amen.

4.
Loving God, you spoke to Mary through an angel and to Joseph in his dreams. Speak to us in song and prayer, in Word and feast, in dance, in mission and in silence. May your Word come into our hearts. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, you came to Joseph in a dream and revealed your promise to him. Speak to us now, and reveal your will. Help us to hear your promise, to see your coming, and to trust your grace. Amen.

6. Advent prayer
O WISDOM, Truth of God, Word whose gentle speaking
breathes all things into existence:
     Come, open our eyes to what is, and lead us on a path with heart.
O POWER OF BLESSING, Breath within us,
you who reveal yourself to those with open hearts,
     Come and set us free with a strong and gentle hand.
O ROOT OF LIFE, who awakens people, who silences tyrants, who treasures all prayers:
     Come, and may nothing hinder our seeing your coming.
O KEY OF HEAVEN, who opens Blessing to us and no one may shut,
who breaks down the walls we build between us
     Come and save us from the prison of our fears,
and deliver us into one another’s arms
O RISING DAWN, Unfolding Light, radiance of justice
     Come shine on those who dwell in darkness,
and fill the shadows of injustice with light
O RULER OF ALL PEOPLES, the only joy of every human heart,
Breath in whom we all are One:
     Come and finish creating us, whom you form from the dust of the earth.
O PRESENCE, You who Are, ruling us from within,
capturer of our hearts and longing of all peoples:
     Come and return us to life, our God, our Life. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

The angel said to Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
The angel says to us, “Do not be afraid to be faithful to this world.”
“For the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
The love conceived in this world is from God.
She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.”
We will find him in this world, and indeed, love will save us.
Joseph did as the angel commanded him.
We will be faithful, with trust, hope and faith.

Listening Prayer

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

Leader: God of love, kindle in us a holy wonder as we await your coming.
All: Loving God, you birth new life within us.
With open hearts, we await your coming.

Poetry


           Christmas prayer

Infinite One,
depth of night,
breath of galaxies:
come to me.

Holiness within,
gestating heaven,
revealing yourself:
let me see.

Tender One,
not afraid of my death,
gentle amidst the storm:
enfold me.

Holy Presence,
womb-warmth,
life-pulse:
enter me.

Heavenly Lover,
journeying with me,
bearing my life:
marry me.

Child from heaven,
come out
and share my world.
Let me hold you.


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———
[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

———— #1 —————
[This communion prayer includes quotes from Gabriel’s visit to Mary in Luke 1.26-38, Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1.46-55 and Zechariah’s song in Luke 1.67-79.]

Greetings, beloved. God is with you.
And also with you.
Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.
We open our hearts to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.

Our soul magnifies you, O Holy One,
and our spirit rejoices in you, our Savior.

You have looked with favor upon your lowly servants.
We have been blessed, for you have done great things for us,
and holy is your name.
Your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm:
you have scattered the proud in the heart of their thoughts.
You have brought down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and you have sent the rich away empty.
You have helped your servant Israel, in remembrance of your mercy,
according to the promise you made to our ancestors.
Therefore we join with all creation in singing your unending praise.

—Sanctus—

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
Son of the Most High, who reigns over the house of Jacob forever.
Of his kingdom there is no end.

Jesus embodied your Word, loved the poor,
and established with us your Covenant of life:
[ The Blessing and Covenant ]

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, and we prepare for his coming again.
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s sacrifice for us
as we sing of the mystery at the heart of our faith.

—Memorial Acclamation—

As you did with Mary, pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
and on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of the Beloved, Jesus Christ,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
May your Holy Spirit come upon us, and your power overshadow us,
that the presence we embody will be holy.

Renew your Holy Spirit within us, and unite us with all who share this meal.
By the mercy you have shown us, promised to our ancestors,
may we serve you without fear in holiness and righteousness, all our days.

By your Spirit, may we go before you to prepare your ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to your people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By your tender mercy, may your dawn from on high break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
—Amen—

————— #2 —————
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
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 praise.

God of mercy we give you thanks,
for you create us in love, make covenant to be our God,
claim us as your own, and call us to follow in your ways.
When we are lost and captive to powers within us and beyond us,
you condemn the forces of oppression and set us free.
When we are uncertain or afraid, you you are with us, Emmanuel.
For Christ is continually coming, even in our doubt and despair.
You call us, like Joseph, to be faithful to your grace unfolding around us.
As Joseph took Mary as his wife, you are faithful in love to us.
You spread your table of love and invite us to feast on your grace.
Therefore with all creation we sing your praise:
     
—Sanctus

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
As Joseph did for Mary,
he committed himself to this world in love and faithfulness.

In his ministry your promises came alive;
our dreams of love and healing took on flesh.He proclaimed the coming of your reign of mercy and justice,
opening our eyes to the holy in the ordinary,
and your grace even in the face of 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,
born of your love, bearing your light into the darkness of this world.
May we commit ourselves to this world
with the love of Jesus, by the grace of your Spirit.
Amen

—————— #3 —————

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
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 praise.

Holy One, in the darkness, in our sleep, you come to us
in dreams and in promises.
You are faithful, and call us to be faithful.
You give us grace to not be afraid, to dare to be loving.
And in our love there is salvation.
You promise us Jesus, is called Emmanuel.
And you are with us in love and faithfulness.
And so, with all Creation, we sing your praise.

Sanctus—

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
your promise made flesh, your assurance made real.
In the love he showed us we are rescued from the fear that kills us.
He is our salvation. He is your living covenant.


     (The Blessing and Covenant)

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves 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 Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
with open ears to your Spirit and open hearts to your promises,
loving and faithful to this world,
in the Spirit of Christ.


     
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 after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this holy season you make your Word flesh; you come to us embodied. Having received the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ. Send us into the world with your love, in the name and Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for / your grace. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have instilled your promise in our hearts, and your love in our flesh. Send us into the world to be signs of your coming for all who sit in darkness and shadow, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with wonder; we have feasted on glory. Send us into the world to await your coming with grace, to live in wonder and in love, and to serve you faithfully to the ends of the earth, in the name of Christ, who is with us, and who is coming again. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. By these signs we know that your grace is at work in us, for your holy purposes, for the sake of the salvation of the world. Confident in these gifts, may we not be afraid to wait for your coming, to serve you faithfully, and to do live in joy and love. We pray in the name and the Spirit of Christ, who is coming. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As the bread and wine are transformed into our own flesh, may we be changed into the Body of Christ. Help us to prepare for your coming by the renewal of our hearts, that Christ may be born in us, and we may live in peace, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. 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)

Blessed Child of Bethlehem (Original song)

Blessed child of Bethlehem, waiting to be born,
some will bring you incense, and some a crown of thorns.
yet you bear so gently all our joys and harms.
How I long to greet you, and hold you in my arms.

Blessed child of heaven, waiting to be born,
joy of all Creation, delight of those who mourn:
teach us how to worship, teach us how to love,
living in the presence of angels from above.

Blessed child among us waiting to be born,
in whom all are healed, and all our sorrows borne,
help us live in love, in peace and reconciled.
By your birth in us, everyone’s a holy child.

Blessed child within me, waiting to be born,
bringing gifts and wonders with the light of morn,
heaven springing in me, new life yet to grow:
child of holy promise, oh how I love you so!

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. As usual, 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. The congregation’s response remains the same throughout the season. Each week’s (solo) verse reflects the week’s Lectionary readings, especially in Year A. 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:
Courage, now, my people! Rise up and have no fear.
Dare to love with joy! Emmanuel is here.

Come, O Jesus, Come (Original Song)

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

Congregation- Response:
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!
Verse (soloist/Choir)
Blessed are they who humbly trust your promise that they have heard.
Shine on us! May we live in peace, according to your Word. Response


Longing Night (Original Song)

Solo:
Alleluia. Alleluia. Make ready your hearts for the Coming One. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Congregational Response:
In our deepest longing night, dawn upon us, God of light.

Solo:
1. In your dreams God promises: lend your heart and know my love. Response
2. Don’t be afraid; God’s Word is good. A woman shall bear Emmanuel. Response