This blog is a record of the call to worship, Scripture readings, and prayers from our Sunday liturgies. If you are interested in writing something for the liturgy, please email email@example.com.
Call to Worship
Here at the beginning, the Story cycles back.
Faithful God, You are the One Who makes all things new
out of the chaos
of our present age
make us new
Renew us in hope,
That we may be a people
Driven by love and not fear,
Who know that you
Have not abandoned us
God of promise,
Come into our darkness
and leave Light enough to see
Today, we find ourselves in the first week of Advent. If that’s a new term for you, Advent is the season leading up to Christmas where we enter into a drama of sorts. We unstick ourselves in time, stepping back a couple thousand years, in order to allow ourselves to receive the Gift that God is bringing on Christmas as though we don’t already know what we are celebrating at the end of December. It is a season of waiting on God, of looking back on the way that God has been faithful to God’s people, and trusting that God will continue to be faithful to us.
Now, we also stand as particular people in a particular time and place, who can look back a couple of thousand years and know exactly what we are celebrating at the end of December—people who stand in the midst of a story where we have seen just how far God is willing to go to set things right—yet who also know that things are still very broken. As these people, we too look forward, trusting that God will continue to be faithful to us.
Holding both of these identities, we are preparing ourselves to receive a light in this darkness, and to learn what this light has to teach us about who God is and how God relates to the world.
Of this season, N.T. Wright says:
“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream. It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred. It’s nostalgic, cozy, and comforting. But real Christianity isn’t like that at all. Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children. But that misses the point completely. Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St John, and the darkness has not overcome it. Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism. Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of ‘reality.’”
With this in mind, we might think of Advent as taking time to look around to see how dark the world is, and how very badly it needs a Light.
Hope Candle Liturgy
We are reminded in this season of Advent that we live by Hope. Hope in the coming of the Messiah. Hope that God will bring Light into our present darkness. Hope that those pinned in by anxiety will find rest. Hope that those who feel worthless will find their true Value. Hope that the poor, the homeless, and the refugee, will be given the mercy and justice of God. And hope that Love will cast out every fear.
For now, we wait, trusting that God is faithful and redeeming all things. We declare our Hope in lighting the first advent candle.
[Light the Hope candle]
Hear God’s promise of hope from Isaiah 2:2-4:
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
No one knows the hour or the day, not even the messengers in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. As it was at the time of Noah, so it will be with the coming of the Son of Man. In the days before the flood, people were busy making lives for themselves: they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, making plans and having children and growing old, until the day Noah entered the ark. Those people had no idea what was coming; they knew nothing about the floods until the floods were upon them, sweeping them all away. That is how it will be with the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be plowing a field: one will be taken, and the other will be left in the field. Two women will be somewhere grinding at a mill: one will be taken, and the other will be left at the mill. So keep watch. You don’t know when your Lord will come. But you should know this: If the owner of a house had known his house was about to be broken into, he would have stayed up all night, vigilantly. He would have kept watch, and he would have thwarted the thief. So you must be ready because you know the Son of Man will come, but you can’t know precisely when.
This week's prayer was written by Kim Stübben:
Together we hope. As we find ourselves in the darkness of thoughts, the darkness of feelings, the darkness of circumstances, and the darkness we have yet to encounter, help us to hope – to find hope – for the light that illumines.
As we try to light our own way, as we feel around for the light switch, the candle, the lamp, the matches… help us see that this light is yours and not ours. Help us see in the darkness the glimmer of hope, to hear the voice of hope, to feel the heartbeat of hope, help us to heal by hope.
Lord, as we grasp for peace when we begin to see what lies in the darkness, help us to see the hope found in you and the hope found in each other.