New Worship Connection: December 17, 2017

November 17th, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent

Lectionary: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Call to Worship #1

L: God loves justice!
P: God calls us to act in compassionate ways toward others.
L: Rejoice, God has placed God’s trust in you to be those who will bring good news of peace and joy.
P: With the healing love of God in our hearts, we journey through this season, getting ready to welcome the One who will turn the world upside-down.
L: Come, let us worship and praise God whose love is showered over us.
P: Lord God, be with us as we seek your guidance and work to do your will. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: Love has come down to us this Advent Season.
P: Divine love which heals and transforms our lives.
L: With great joy, we receive that love and share it with others.
P: We open our hearts to all God’s children, the last, the least, and the lost, as well as those who feel privileged.
L: The Lord has done and continues to do great things for us.
P: Praise be to God who loves us so much and who challenges us to be people of joy in this darkened world. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2005, “Arise, Shine”, offer the following call to worship as directed]

L: For long years God’s people lived in darkness, fear and hopelessness.
P: Their lives were filled with fear. Had God forgotten them?
Choir: singing “Arise, Shine”, FWS 2005 one time through.
L: Could they believe their ears? Did they dare to hope?
P: So many false prophets and come along and were driven away by the authorities.
Choir: singing “Arise, Shine”, FWS 2005, one time through.
L: At last! Hope! Peace! Joy! God is doing something new for God’s people.
P: The glory of the Lord is shining upon God’s people! Rejoice!

Congregation and Choir: singing “Arise, Shine”, FWS 2005, one time through.

Lighting of Advent 3 Candle

Star-Child, verse 3 : “Grown child, old child”

[This year we will be presenting the Lighting of the Advent Candles combined with the music of Shirley Elena Murray’s “Star Child”. The third of the Advent Candles will be lighted by one adult from a group of four. When the candle has been lighted the four adults will go to the chancel and sit on the chairs placed beside the manger, two chairs on each side. They will remain in place until the first verse of the song is ended.]

Worship Leader: We hear it said that “Christmas is for children”, but I say to you that Christmas is for everyone, for those who have lived through many Christmases; for those whose hearts rejoice or weep at the thoughts of Christmas past. Today we celebrate these beloved people, all God’s beloved ones. “This year, this year, let the day arrive, when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!” AMEN.

Gathering Prayer

Lord of impending Light, we rejoice in your compassion for us. You send us your light and your healing love so that we may become better representatives of you in this world which cries for justice and peace. Be with us this morning and we gather to hear your word for us. AMEN.

Opening Prayer

Lord God, as we gather this day, we open our hearts to you, seeking your healing and transforming love. Our world cries for justice for all people, yet the leaders seem intent on bantering with one another, unmindful of the peace-bringers and those who would heal and teach the ways of peace. Be with all of us. Prepare us for this bright light of love which you are sending to us, for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

Patient and forgiving God, you know how we want to be people of peace and justice, but when opportunities come to participate in groups working for justice, we turn our backs and walk the other way, or we give a token pledge and then ignore further pleas for assistance. We hide our names from appearing on roles of supporters of justice-seeking organizations. Forgive us, O God, when we give only lip service to ministries of justice rather than pledging our lives to helping all people in need. Free us from our selfishness. Banish our fears and move us in ways of peace and justice, bringing your love and hope to all God’s children. We ask these things in God’s name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

Rejoice! You who once lived in darkness – on you a new light is shining and the light of God’s glory shall brighten your path. You are healed, loved and forgiven. Be at peace! Live in God’s love, and bring hope and justice to all God’s people. AMEN.

Morning Prayer

Give peace to our racing hearts, O Lord. Bring your healing love into our lives. Help us to be those who will bring justice into all of our lives! We have gathered here to sing our praises to you; to celebrate the fast-approaching coming of Your Son; to learn ways of justice and hope for all your people. It is just barely over one week until our families and friends gather for Christmas services and yet during that time there are people who live in hopelessness, for whom there is no one to speak justice. There are those who do not dare raise concerns for fear of retaliation. There are those who have chosen not to believe in you, who can only respond to concrete, visible demonstrations to your presence. They dare not think that in everyday living there are people who truly do care and respond for each other. This is a darkness that is difficult to overcome, but you have called us to this. Empower our hearts and spirits, O Lord, to be strong witnesses of your presence in our lives. Lay your loving hands of healing on all those people who struggle with health issues, who grieve over the loss of loved ones. Dance with those people who have found your love and power in their lives and who are involved in ministries of justice and hope.

Offertory

As God has so richly poured gifts of love, peace, hope, and joy into our lives; let us receive the morning’s offering as tokens of our gratitude for all these blessings. AMEN.

Prayer of Dedication

Lord, you have blessed our lives in so many ways. Receive these tokens of our blessings and cause then to work in this world which you have loaned to us to make light shine in the darkness and peace an attainable goal in all conflicts. We offer these gifts in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Benediction/Sending Forth

The trumpet of peace is sounding in the land. We have heard God’s word of healing love and are challenged to go forth into God’s world with the good news of God’s abiding presence with us. Go in peace and may God’s peace always be with you. AMEN.

Children’s Time

When I was a child, my mother used to awaken me in the morning by saying, “Rise and Shine!”. I wasn’t too sure what that meant except that I had better not be a grouch by the time I got down to breakfast. In my teenage years, I wanted to say back to her when she greeted me with “Rise and shine” – “I may rise but I’m not going to shine!” I never did say that because it would have gotten me into trouble and I surely didn’t need to start the day that way. Now as an older person, who has been reading the scripture for many years, I have come to think about “Rise and Shine” somewhat differently.

The Hebrew people for many generations had been removed from their homes and sold into slavery – everything seemed to be dark for them. There was no one who would listen to their pleas and they could only live as slaves forever. It seemed to them that God had forgotten all about them. Even in the beautiful Psalms we have the writer pleading with God “How long will you turn away from us, O God?” or “God, where are you?” So this is what life was like for many of the enslaved Hebrew people. Suddenly a man comes walking along in the wilderness proclaiming “Prepare the way for the Lord!” It was a kind of “Rise and Shine!” message. A new thing was going to happen. The people who lived in the darkness of slavery and despair were about to meet their Savior and John was the one coming as a messenger to help the people get ready. “Rise and Shine!” a new thing is happening!!!!

We would like that message today – we are weary of all the anger and fear and hatred that seems to be swirling around us. What do you think would happen if everyone here in this room got up tomorrow morning and felt that God was calling them to “Rise and Shine” – God says we can make things better, we really can! We can rise above the bad things and bring the bright light of God’s healing love to all people. So, tomorrow, I want you to wake up and say “Rise and Shine” to yourself and be very positive and helpful, friendly and kind in all things you do and say. I believe the world will be a better place if we do this rather than grumbling and hurting each other. God bless you on this third Sunday in Advent!

Art for the Altar/Worship Center

[This basic design will be used for all four weeks of Advent and Christmas Eve. Different pieces will be added as the Sundays progress.]

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 vases with four white carnations in them. On the Center Riser at the back, place a large ceramic Angel, about 12” high with arms outspread.

Place a 6” white pillar candle on the 6” riser in front of the Angel. You may also add 6 more votive candles on the main level of the altar/worship center.

New Additions: Add one more white carnation to each bud vase. Add four red poinsettia plants at the base of the altar. Add two red poinsettia plants on the altar/worship center, one on the right and one on the left.

Scripture into Script

[loosely based on John 1:19-28]

Reader 1: We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. This wilderness prophet is causing great trouble to our people. He is disturbing them. Some way that he might be Elijah, or Moses, or even our longed-for Messiah.
Reader 2: Hey, you. John! Who are you? Are you Elijah or a prophet? Answer us! We have to get word to the authorities.
John: I am not any of those of whom you are speaking. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make the pathways straight, just as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Reader 1: You say so, but you are baptizing people here in the river. Do you think you are the Christ or some other prophet? Why do you baptize the people?
John: You have a lot to learn. I am baptizing with water. But the one who is coming, is far greater than I am. I am not even worthy to unbuckle the straps of his sandals. He is coming after me.
Reader 2: Well, there’s not much to tell the authorities, at least what they want to hear? We will have to keep an eye on him.
Reader 1: You’re right. He could be trouble, but I am interested in what kind of a person he is talking about, who is greater than he is. That one is the troublemaker. Let’s go back and tell the Pharisees what we have learned.

Message Movers

If there ever was a time when we needed to focus on justice, it is right now! We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is just fine. Families are struggling just trying to make ends meet; young people search for meaning when all they see around them is disillusionment and despair; the elderly face uncertain futures; people are driven apart rather than united in a common good for all creation. We are living in darkness – we are wandering around in the wilderness and we don’t know where to go. Left to our own devices we make a mess of most things. And we cry in despair, “Where are you, O God?” And God weeps for God’s creation.

There was a man wandering in the wilderness, sent to the people in despair. He was sent by God as a messenger. His name was John. He proclaimed that God did, indeed, care about God’s creation and God’s people. Do not fear. Something better is coming.

And the people cried “What shall we do?”

John said “Prepare the way in the wilderness for the Lord.” Turn again to God’s ways, care for each other, seek justice rather than idolatry. Focus on ways that we all can work in harmony rather than at cross purposes. Make straight the crooked roads – take a look at where you have been and how you have gotten to where you are.

He came to testify to the light – the Light of the World that is coming. We need that light now. We get so caught up in ribbons, paper and bows, in tinsel and trees, that we are deaf to those who are truly in need. We need justice for those who feel they have no voice. John said, there is one who is coming who is the Light and what he will teach us is a new way to live. Things will be challenged and changed, but all God’s people will learn to live in cooperation and compassion, in harmony and hope.
This Christmas as we gaze on those drawn to the manger to witness the incarnation of God in Christ, may we see the children that no one wants; the abused ones beaten by angry people, the older ones who see uncertain futures; the haughty and arrogant, the wise and faithful. May we see these and know that God has come among us – the Light is shining in our darkness and we cannot extinguish it. God is doing a new thing and we are called to be part of it.

Let the light of justice for all God’s people shine on you, in you, and through you this day and all your days. AMEN.

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