New Worship Connection: December 3, 2017

November 3rd, 2017

First Sunday of Advent

Color: Blue or Purple
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37

Call to Worship #1

L: If only the heavens would tear open and God would come down!
P: The mountains would shake and tremble — all earth would stand in awe!
L: People have turned their backs on God, believing that they, under their own power, can right all wrongs.
P: We have failed miserably when we depend only on ourselves.
L: Be with us, O Lord. Tear open our hearts and pour your love into our lives.
P: Give us confidence in you, for you are always with us. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: In those days, before the final coming of Christ in glory, there will be mighty signs.
P: They will be seen in the heavens and on earth.
L: They will remind us of God’s eternal presence and power.
P: We will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye.
L: Therefore, let our hearts be glad and our souls rejoice!
P: God has reached out to all God’s people with compassion and tender mercy. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2173, “Shine, Jesus, Shine”, offer the following call to worship as directed below]
L: In the midst of our darkness, shine, Jesus, shine
Choir and Congregation singing refrain, verse 1 and refrain of “Shine, Jesus, Shine”
P: Through the walls of fear and hatred, shine, Jesus, shine.
Choir and Congregation singing refrain, verse 2 and refrain of “Shine, Jesus, Shine”
L: Deep in the depths of despair and hopelessness, Shine, Jesus, Shine.
Choir and Congregation singing refrain, verse 3 and refrain of “Shine, Jesus, Shine”

Lighting of Advent Candle #1

Star Child: verse 1: Angels

[This year we will be presenting the Lighting of the Advent Candles combined with the music of Shirley Elena Murray’s “Star Child”. The first of the Advent Candles will be lighted by a group of three angels (I recommend a teenager as the one who lights the candles, accompanied by two older elementary school children.) When the candle has been lighted the Angels will go to the center of the chancel and stand behind the manger – the teenager at the center flanked by the two elementary angels – they will be joined by other angels who will remain in place until the first verse of the song is ended.]

Worship Leader: Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, the theme of “Paying attention” dominates. We are called to be ready to receive something life-changing, something wholly new. In the light of the deep darkness which descended upon the lives of the people, the song of the angels has come reminding us that there is hope – something stupendous is about to happen.
[Angels come forward and the teenage angel lights the first candle)

(The congregation and choir sing verse 1 of “Star-Child” FWS 2095)

Gathering Prayer

In the middle of worldwide turmoil, darkness descends and the people cry out, “Save us, Lord”. Our cries have been heard and the Word which resides with God is ready to come to us. Lord, hear our pleas and enter our hearts and lives this day. Help us to be ready for the coming of Jesus. AMEN.

Opening Prayer

God of love and mercy, we thank you for your loving presence in our lives. You have formed us in your image and you continue to transform us as we grow in faith. Break through the darkness in our lives and let the light of your love flood in, that we may become more productive disciples of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

“Make it easy for us to figure out,” we cry as we seek signs of God’s presence. We want it simple. Just tell us and we can take the proper precautions. There are signs all around of God’s presence among us – both in that which has been created and in the newness of creation of everyday living. We’re looking for signs of gloom and doom – but we should be looking for signs of hope and triumph. Forgive us, merciful God, when we spend so much time looking for the scary things in life. Focus our attention on ways in which we can be of service with whatever time we have. Forgive us when we seek the darkness of anger and fear and turn our backs on the light of possibilities and peace. Open our hearts once again to your redeeming love and transforming peace, for we ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

In Christ we are made new. We are healed and forgiven, we are challenged and guided to become those who work for the better rather than those who would destroy and damage. You call us your people, O God, and we are eternally grateful.

Morning Prayer

Help us to pay attention to the many ways in which you enrich our lives, O God. It has become far too easy for us to focus on the negative – we seem trapped in its spidery strands. This morning we celebrate the beginning of the season of Advent – the coming of the Holy One. But before we can begin the celebration we have to acknowledge where we have fallen short. We need to change our attitudes of defiance to visions of cooperation. Be with our families, friends, and neighbors who suffer from illness, sorrow, alienation, marginalization, abuse and fear. Bring healing and peace to their lives and their souls. Be with our families, friends, and neighbors who are experiencing great joy and happiness. May their spirits rejoice in all these good moments and in your great gifts. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Offertory

Lord, as you have shined the light of your love into our lives; may the same brightness of your love be revealed as we receive this morning’s offering.

Prayer of Dedication

Bless these gifts, O Lord, and help them to bring the transforming love you have given us into ministries of hope and peace in this our dark world. AMEN.

Benediction/Sending Forth

Be alert! God is all around us! Be ready to joyfully serve God in ministries of peace and justice through Jesus Christ our Lord. Go in peace and may the peace of God always go with you. AMEN.

Children’s Time

Welcome this morning to the first Sunday of Advent. The word “Advent” means “to come, or coming”. We are excited because we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus. One of the things I have discovered about big events is that a lot of things go into getting ready for them. The first is to get ready – to pay attention – to look for ways that tell us that something is going to happen. This Sunday we are talking about getting ready, paying attention. God is coming to us in a new way – in the birth of Jesus. Jesus is God’s own Son and God loves him so much. God also loves the world and wants things to go better for us, so he is sending us a most wonderful gift – his son. Jesus will grow up and teach many people about how God wants us to live; how God wants us to treat each other; how God wants us to take care of our world. These are critical lessons and they have been taught in churches throughout the centuries. We are the caretakers in God’s world.

Today we are going to look for signs that God is active in our world, present with us. I see it every time I look at you and you are happy and laughing. It reminds me of how much God wants us to be joyful and love each other and take care of each other. What are some of the other ways we might see God’s presence? Did you smile at anyone this morning? Turn around and look at the people gathered here. On my count of three, you all give them your biggest and best smile. Ready? OK, One…..two…..three…..SMILE! Wow!! What happened? Did anyone smile back at you? There are some people here, right now, who will never forget your wonderful smile and how it made them feel. That’s part of God’s presence – through you, in your smile, freely given to the people here. Thank you very much for being a living example of God’s presence with God’s people.

Art for the Altar/Worship Center

Place a 10” riser at the center back of the altar/worship center. Place a 6” riser directly in front of the 10” riser and about 4” apart from it. Cover the entire altar/worship center with about 6 yards of purple cloth about 54” wide, so that it covers the risers, dips down into the space in between the risers, and drapes down onto the floor in front of the worship center. On the upper right and the upper left of the altar/worship center place a small bud vase with three white carnations in it. This basic design will be used for all four weeks of Advent and Christmas Eve. Different pieces will be added as the Sundays progress.

On the Center Riser at the back, place a large ceramic Angel, about 12” high with arms outspread.
You may also add 10-12 votive candles on the main level of the altar/worship center.

Scripture into Script

Reader 1: Man! I’m so depressed. Nothing I do makes any difference – I try to help but the needs are so great that I feel like there’s nothing I can do. I’m exhausted and I feel like giving up.
Reader 2: I’m so sorry to hear you speaking like this. I have been so impressed by the many ways in which you show your caring love. You help at the food pantry, with the clothing drive. You’ve been part of the hospitality team at church, welcoming people. You go on lots of mission trips, reaching out to people in lands far away to help them.
Reader 1: But does it make a difference? The world is in such turmoil. We are even experiencing some of that disarray in our church, and we’re supposed to work together rather than be at odds with each other.
Reader 2: There will always be needs to be met – and unfortunately some of our anguish will spill over into the church – but that’s what we do – we look for ways to heal the anguish and banish it. We are a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. It is here we come for healing and forgiveness – it is here we come to find direction and to learn the great lessons of compassion. You have learned these and much more.
Reader 1: But what difference does that make?
Reader 2: Let me tell you a story. There was a very bad storm on the seacoast recently and the beach was awash with dead or dying fish, starfish, and others. A little boy was walking along the beach, picking up starfish and throwing back into the sea as far as he could. He continued this activity for a long time. His uncle came down the beach looking for him and saw him engaged in the starfish tossing endeavor. He said “What are you doing?” The little boy replied that he was finding as many starfish still alive as he could and throwing them back into the water. The uncle factually stated that there were thousands of starfish on the shore and he could not possibly save everyone. It wouldn’t make a difference. The little boy replied that he might not be able to make a difference in the lives of all the starfish, but for the ones he threw into the sea, he felt he had made a difference. He had reached out and tried to give them a chance to live.
You make a difference every day. Each time you do something to help someone, you are doing God’s work – God has given you so many gifts.
Reader 1: I never thought of it that way.
Reader 2: God rejoices over all God’s people who are willing to use even the simplest of gifts, like a smile or a warm welcome, to make life better for someone. Trust me, my friend. Keep doing what you are doing – it’s working.

Message Movers

“Lord, I want patience……..and I want it right now!” That’s me! I am an impatient person. Waiting for holidays, waiting for special news, waiting for anything. I want things to happen right now. I have to admit it – I’m the kind of person who reads the last page of a novel before I read the book because I want to know how it comes out. I don’t mind knowing because I enjoy the journey of getting to the end.

I am the kind of person who needs to be told: “Wait! Pay Attention! Be Alert! Good things will be happening soon. I often think of the Hebrew people who for generation after generation endured great suffering, waiting for some relief, waiting for Messiah. Now in this first Sunday of Advent we are told to “Pay Attention! Stay Alert!” “Keep your eyes open”, my mom would say.
We look at our world today and cry “Help! We need some peace right now! We need to stop rattling sabres at each other and try to talk things out!” “Where is God in all of this mess?”, we cry. About the only response we can offer is “God is right here, in our midst, working for peace and justice.” In acts of justice and kindness, in moments of reaching out to help without expecting something in return – there is God. In times when people feel lonely and marginalized, when they are lost and alone, there is God extending the embrace of welcome and fellowship.

My mom used to say “we are on the greased slide to Christmas!” Perhaps we should get off the greased slide, and instead, look around at the wondrous acts of love and compassion that are happening, even in these dark times. For just a moment, take a deep breath and then exhale slowly – relax. Look around! You will find God present with you, guiding and loving you. Look at others and rejoice in their offerings of tenderness and assistance. It is to this that Christ is drawn – to people who will reach out in Christ’s name, in acts of healing mercy.

Waiting for Christmas? No! We are enjoying the journey of healing, transformation and love that is filling our lives so fully. Christmas is coming……..and we will be ready in our hearts and our spirits to receive God incarnate in Jesus Christ. Pay Attention!

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