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

Advent 3 – December 11, 2002

Lectionary Texts

In Isaiah 35.1-10 the prophet foresees God’s redemption in the form of healing of nations, of societies, of individuals, and even of Creation. Deserts will blossom, the blind will see and the disabled dance, and people who have been outcast will find joy and belonging.

In Luke 1.47-55 (called the “Magnificat” for the opening word in Latin)Mary sees evidence of God’s grace both within herself (“the Mighty One has done great things for me”) and also the world around her: God has lifted up the lowly and also brought down the powerful—a vision of radical social re-ordering.

James 5.7-10 tells us to wait with patience, like a farmer waiting for the growing season in trust and confidence.

In Matthew 11. 2-11 John asks if Jesus is the “one who is coming,” that is, the messiah. Jesus simply points to the evidence: as Isaiah promised, the blind see, the immobilized walk, and the poor receive good news.

Preaching Thoughts

New Creation. The prophet Isaiah had a vision that God would come and save the people from their enemies. Political conquerors are not the only “enemies” God saves us from. God will also save us from the enemies of disease and poverty, from oppression and violence, from racism and greed, from lives that are dry and lifeless like deserts. God fights against the enemies of our ignorance and injustice. God’s salvation will not only heal individuals, it will heal the whole community. Relationships will be healed, and people’s hopes will be healed. The poor and powerless people will be lifted up, so that society as a whole is healed. Even Creation itself will be renewed, as if it is being created all over again.

Powerful evidence, joyful patience.
We wait for the coming of Christ not with anxiety, but with joyful patience, because we see evidence of God’s powerful grace. Like plants that bloom as a sign of spring (even in the desert!), even as we look for signs of Christ’s coming, we ourselves become those very signs. Our hope is not wistful wishing about the future, but confident trust in the grace of God that is already present in the world—and in us. People who wonder if God is real, if Christ is actually alive, if grace is really coming into the world, need to be able to look at us and see signs that the good news is true. So we prepare for Christ’s coming by engaging in the kids of mercy and justice that he did.

Justice gets real. Mary’s Magnificat is an icon of what justice might look like. God not only looks on lowly individuals, so that they are called blessed, but also examines the systems of society as a whole—and upends them.
         God has looked with favor on the lowliness of this servant…
                  God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
         God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                  and lifted up the lowly;
         God has filled the hungry with good things,
                  and sent the rich away empty.

Jesus’ response to John’s question points to this evidence of God’s mighty mercy. The hungry are fed, the broken are healed, the poor receive good news.

The theology of the Magnificat. The Magnificat is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry. More than that’s it’s a world-shaking manifesto of justice and mercy. It’s not only a revolutionary call for the re-ordering of society; it’s a theology of revolution, seeing in God’s will not merely the reversal of fortunes but a social embodiment of death and resurrection. Of course the hard thing about resurrection is the death part. The trouble with Justice is that it upends the status quo and offends, or even enrages, people with power. If we really are to share, it’s not just that the poor need to get more, it’s that the rich need to have less. It’s not enough for the lowly to be lifted up; the mighty need to be “brought down.” They powerful need to share their power. Insiders need to make room for outsiders. Of course the rich, powerful insiders aren’t going to like that. Witness today’s political climate, in which rich, powerful people ( including the “people” who are corporations) spend great sums of money to defeat measures that would help regular people but give themselves less money or power. In the real world, resistance to justice ends up in crucifixion. But of course in the world of the Gospel where things “end up” is never where they actually end. That’s the transformation that is resurrection. The Magnificat doesn’t mention any of that—but in speaking of one who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty, the Magnificat brings to mind not only Jesus’ ministry but the resistance he will face. It foreshadows crucifixion—which, in our faith, foreshadows resurrection.

That may seem like a heavy load for Christmas preparations, but that’s what Advent is really all about. Jesus is not coming just to make your life better. He’s coming with healing for all of society. That, and nothing less, is what we’re preparing for.

Call to Worship

[Isaiah 35.3-4]
Leader: Friends, the Beloved is coming.
All: We are longing. We are looking.
The prophet says: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.”
We are hoping. We are praying.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God. God will come and save you.’”
We trust in your promise. We worship with joy.

Lighting the Advent Candle

1. [ James 5.7-8]
Reader:
Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Promised One. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Promised One is near.
Leader:We praise you, O God, for this wheel of time
that marks our days of preparation for Christ’s advent.
All: As we light the candles on this wreath,
open our hearts to your will,
that we may welcome with joy your renewal of all Creation.
Enlighten us with your grace,
and prepare our hearts to receive a new Creation in the Spirit of Christ.
Kindle within us the gift of faith through Christ the Beloved,
whose coming is certain and whose day draws near. Amen.

2. [James 5.7-9]
Reader:
Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Promised One. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Chosen One is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!
Leader: God, we light this candle as we await your coming,
trusting that already you stand at the door.
All: We cannot see you, yet you are here,
and so we open our hearts and give thanks.
We await your coming like the farmer awaiting the crop.
We cannot see you, but your seeds are already planted,
and so we open our hearts and prepare for your coming.
You who are here with us, we await your coming.
You who are coming, we rejoice in your presence.
Bless us, that we may prepare for your coming in hope and trust. Amen.

3.
Leader: We light this candle as an act of hope.
All: In the darkness and gloom the light of your coming rises.
Even in the mysterious darkness,
the light of your healing moves along roads and rivers and nerves,
deep within silent places.
In the darkness you are here.
Come, O Light, and make us whole.
Dear Child, prophet of the most high, grant us healing and forgiveness.
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.

4. [James 5. 7-8]
Reader:
Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Promised One. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Chosen One is near.
Leader: This candle represents our patience.
All: In darkness we await the light; in brokenness we long for healing.
God of hope, grant that by this light we might see your presence even now.
We ache for those who struggle against tyranny and who seek abundant life.
God of love, you are present among those who suffer, and those who wait.
Grant that by our faith we might see you in our midst,
trust the unfolding of your grace,
and serve as signs of your coming.
Come, O Christ, and transform us by your Spirit. Alleluia!

5.
Light of God, rising upon the world, awaken us to your delight.
By your renewing light, may we see your presence in the world and rejoice.
Light of Christ, rising among your followers, awaken us to your confidence.
By your healing light, may we notice the good news around us, and give thanks.
Spirit’s light, rising within us, awaken us to the gift of joy.
By your transforming light, may our blind eyes see, our deaf hearts hear,
and our wounded souls dance for joy at the sound of your voice.
May we prepare for the dawn of your coming with joy and gratitude. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: In the shadows, light!
All:In our longing, hope!
Along the struggle for justice, a way!
To those who are broken, joy!
God, may the promise of your advent give us courage.
May the dawn of your coming light our way.
With patience, we wait, and we trust.
With glad hearts we work and we pray.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, we await the coming of your justice and mercy. As you did with Mary, you place the world-changing power of your grace in our hearts. Bless us, that we ourselves may be the way your justice enters the world. Speak your Word to us; may it be with us according to your word. Amen.

2.
Our hearts in solitude cry out,
O God, show us a sign of hope.
May we listen with the ears of our hearts;
may we see with eyes of mercy. Amen.

3.
Creator God, like John the Baptist, we are looking for the coming of the Messiah. Come to us, speak your Word to us, and shine your light is us, that we may see and trust, and that we may bear your good news to the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

4.
Eternal God, John the Baptist asked Jesus, “Are you the One?” So we ask; so we wonder; so we look for your grace in this world. Help us to see. Help us to trust. Help us to live with patience and faith. Speak your Word to us, and guide us. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, the prophets promised your coming, and the deserts blossomed in confidence. Mary heard your promise and awaited your coming with joy. As we hear of your coming, may our hearts flower with hope. Shine the light of your dawn upon us, and awaken us to the deep joy of your coming. 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.

Poetry

            Wondering

God comes among us in human form.

How is something this plain so mysterious?

How is something so cosmic this particular?

How is something so mighty so fragile?

How does this earth so become heaven?

How is something so coming so here?

We can’t know. But we must not cease wondering.



             Even as I wait
Snow falls in the open meadow.
Roots and seeds are buried now

all greenness cloistered
in silent retreat.

Snow’s blessing waits in branches,
on rooftops, in beauty.

What is coming is already here
in an unforeseen form.

Even as I wait,
I am deeply satisfied.


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.



Listening Prayer

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

Leader: Gentle One, even as we ache for your coming,
you are present in our longing.
All: Loving God, you birth new life within us.
With open hearts, we await your coming.

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

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 Mystery, Heavenly Lover, we give our thankful hearts to you.
You create us in beauty, claim us in love, and guide us with faithfulness.
You judge the forces of oppression and set all your children free.
You heal the broken, and feed the hungry.
You open the eyes of those who are oblivious.
You empower those who are disabled.
We have seen your grace in our lives, and we are in wonder.
We are in awe. And we are grateful.
So with all Creation, we sing your praise.

     —Sanctus—

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who taught and forgave, who fed and healed.
Crucified and risen, he is always with us, and always coming anew.

In him we see the gracious signs of your presence,
your Word made flesh.
In Christ you have renewed your Covenant
to be with us forever in love, and we give thanks.


     (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:
in lives of love and forgiveness, mercy, healing and justice,
living signs of your coming.
     
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 / Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (your grace.) / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As you did with Mary, you have conceived in us your vision of justice. You have made your Word flesh among us. Send us into the world as vessels of your mercy. May it be with us according to your Word. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for (your grace.) / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Blessed by these gifts, may we see with love, practice mercy, and do justice, as signs of your coming to all who sit in darkness and shadow, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for (your grace.) / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Open the eyes of our hearts to see your presence and your grace in all things, so that we may be signs of your coming. We pray in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In bread broken and wine poured out you enter our lives and sanctify them. Send us into the world to embody your presence, to be your broken bread for a broken world, and to enter into the unfolding healing of all Creation, trusting in your coming with love and patience, in the spirit of Christ, who is among us, and who is coming. Amen

4.
Gracious God, we thank you for (your love.) / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Created anew by your grace, strengthened to prepare your way, and tasting the joy of your coming, we dedicate our lives to your will. Send us out with confident patience to work and to pray and to live for the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ, who is coming. Amen.

5.
Bountiful God, we give you thanks for (your love.) / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Even as we long for your coming, we see signs of your presence in deeds of love and justice, in miracles of healing and reconciliation. Help us to wait with patience, as a farmer awaits the precious crop, strengthened by your Word, and renewed in joy, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Come, dear Jesus, come! Amen.

6.
A benediction: [Luke 1.78-79]
Leader: By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
All: to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.



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 we are healed and all our sorrows borne:
help us live with 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!


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.

Short Version:

My soul proclaims, “How great my God!”
Rejoice, for God is holy.
God feeds the poor! The rich no more
receive, but those who are lowly.
Praise! Praise the Mighty one
for all the things that God has done.
Love, love will honor God,
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.

            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:
Patience now, my people! God’s promises are sure.
Justice quells the mighty, empowering the poor.

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:
      1. One now comes to prepare the way. Deserts will bloom and the blind shall see.
Response.
      2. God overthrows the mighty with love, spurns the rich and lifts the poor. Response.


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


Spider

Spider, teach me of prayer:
happy with where you work,
flowering shrub or rusting hubcap;
the first leap from here to there,
that suddenly possible connection,
repeated and amplified,
the little knot of hope, extended,
enlarged, layered out
in the architecture of patience,
the ever expanding rounds
more like a window than a door,
the thinness of your lines,
yet how they hold morning dew
and shrug off ripping winds. Teach me
the grace of not getting caught
in your own web,
not thinking or even looking
how your little feet work the tightropes,
on your legs as thin,
well, as thin as prayer.

And then the waiting,
so still,
the still, still waiting,
waiting

for the tiny bug of God.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Monotasking

           “Martha. Martha.
           You are worried and distracted by many things;
           you need only one thing.
           Mary has chosen the better part,
           which will not be taken away from her.”
                           —Luke 10.41-42

Beloved, oh Beloved,
you are distracted.
You have scattered yourself among many things.
Gather yourself into the one thing needed,
which is to be present.
Do what you do, no matter how hard or dull,
with love and attention.
Or do a different thing.
Even with many things to do,
do this one, being present.
Then do the next one.
One thing at a time, fully,
mindfully, giving yourself.
You can both do the dishes and look out the window,
but be fully present to the dishes and the window.
Don’t let wishing, regretting,
or how you feel about what you’re doing
distract you from what you are doing.
Be satisfied with being present.
This is the better part.
Being fully present can’t be taken from you.
You are yours to give.

_________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Green tree

           I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
                           —Psalm 52.8

For 360 million years
in the tree that is my family
I have been learning how to live,
how to live together.
I have rooted tendrils into the hardest soils,
learned to make edible life from the scratch of light,
blessed and been blessed by a sorority of fungal webs,
holding hands unseen with whole forests.
I have fed and sheltered saints and scoundrels,
held fragile nests in my million fingers
and carried untold generations of little ones in my arms.
I have learned to let go
of all the leaves I have accomplished,
mastered the mystery of energy
raised in spring and hidden deep in my roots in fall.
I have stood on mountains and city squares,
through frown of heat and fist of ice.
I have been used to make ships and gallows.
But in all, I have survived; and I have served.
And whether you come to me for shade or lumber
I will praise God in the greenness of my being.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Stories

           Mary sat at the Beloved’s feet
           and listened to what he was saying.

                           —Luke 10.39

We drove through cities and towns,
little burgs and urban stacks of buildings,
suburban developments like giant microchips,
past apartment windows and farmhouses,
cozy neighborhoods and lonely hovels.
Each house a story. So many stories.
None are evident by appearances: the neat estate
may hide a story of abuse and loneliness;
the sagging single-wide a story of redemption.
The people we saw—the people you pass by—
every single one is a story with a beginning and a middle,
and you only know one sentence of it.
The nuanced setting, the alarming backstory,
the various characters and their own story lines,
the intertwining of so many subplots, these you do not know.
And the end? And how it all fits together,
and what the story is really “about?” Ah, wait.
But meanwhile what a privilege it is
to be welcomed into one home,
one story, even to just look around.
What a gift to know someone who is willing to hear
your whole story. And what a gift we have
to sometimes stop and listen.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Marthas and Marys

           Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village,
           where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
           She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet
           and listened to what he was saying.

                           —Luke 10.38-39

We just returned from an 18-day road trip to visit family:
4000 miles, 17 states, 2 provinces, 10 beds, 14 relatives.
There were both Marthas and Marys,
who met our needs for bed and board,
and who offered a place for our hearts.
We cherished both—the feeding and resting, and the listening.

It’s good to be Mary or Martha, or both. Both are blessed.
Mary chose the “better part” for her, not for anyone else.

Food and shelter, and a listening heart.
God offers both;
earth offers both;
good hosts do so.

The Beloved feeds our souls,
then sits and says,
“Tell me your story.”

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net