Worship Connection: December 21, 2014

Lectionary: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:47-55; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1:

L: Welcome, dear people, God has blessed our gathering.

P: We come again on this journey, following the light.

L: God’s light shines for us today, bringing peace and comfort.

P: May we, like Mary, respond to God’s presence and love, with confident joy. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: Light the lamps, prepare the room, God is coming to us!

P: Make our hearts and spirits ready to receive God’s most gracious gift, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

L: Push the darkness away. The light is truly coming!

P: May God’s light shine on us, in us and through us that God’s glory may be seen. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using The Faith We Sing, p. 2092 "Like A Child" you might consider this as a call to worship, involving children and youth.]

L: In the beginning, when all was darkness, God spoke the word of Light and brilliant light shown forth. It was the glorious light of Creation.

P: Praise be to God for the wonders of all this earth and its inhabitants.

L: In due time, when darkness began to invade the land again, God sent the prophets to reclaim God’s people.

P: Praise be to God for the words and spirits of the prophets who boldly proclaimed God’s love.

[Leader: children, youth, come to the worship center, seat yourselves in front of the center now if you will][During the singing of this song, have the children and youth come forward and sit in front of the worship center. You may add verses 2 and 3 if you need more time for the children and youth to gather.]

L: In the fullness of time, God sent God’s son, that the world would know forever that God is with us. God has blessed us with these young people as reminders of God’s continual presence with us.

[Choir: singing: Like a child, love would send to reveal and to mend, like a child and a friend, Jesus comes. Like a child we may find claiming heart, soul, and mind, like a child strong and kind, Jesus comes.]

P: Praise God for the wondrous ways in which God enters our lives.

L: Let us worship the God of Light and of Presence.

P: AMEN.

Call to Worship #4:

L: Welcome this day to worship.

P: The light of this season has beckoned us forward.

L: Come and rejoice, for God’s light is coming to us.

P: Praise be to God who pours light into our lives.

L: Open your hearts and spirits and receive the blessings of God.

P: May we always be ready to respond in joyful ways to God’s love. AMEN.

PRAYERS, LITANY, BENEDICTION

Invocation/Opening Prayer

In the rush of preparation for holiday celebration, we come to this place to be fed by God. We need the peace, hope, love and joy that this season represents. We need to listen again with wonder at the magnificent words of Mary as she proclaims her faithful participation in God’s most miraculous gift. Open our hearts this day, Lord, to receive the words and the blessings, to be fed and then to be those who will share with others as you have shared with us. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

The Advent Light

Theme for bulletin insert:Lights from four sources grace our worship center. The first light comes from the candle, which was placed here three weeks ago, but was not lighted.. The second source, placed here two weeks ago, is a flashlight, with its small, bur directed beam of light to show us the way to Hope. The third source, a lantern, was placed in our center last week to remind us of the Light of God that beckons to us. The warmth and comfort of God’s welcome to us is represented by our fourth source of light, a table lamp. We have also placed floor lamps around the sanctuary as a reminder of the comfort and peace of God’s eternal Presence.

L: Three weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, we placed this candle on our worship center, but it remained unlit so that we would take the time to actually think about the darkness and hope for the light.

Person 1: We light this candle, remembering that in the midst of darkness, God created the world and all that is in it. In the midst of our darkness, God has again brought light

[Person 1 lights the Advent Candle].

L: Two weeks ago, we placed a flashlight in our worship center as the second light of Advent. This common object becomes uncommon as it reveals God’s love and direction for our lives.

Person 2: We turn this flashlight on, with its small beam. The darkness is great, but God’s powerful light will show us the way, our path is illuminated by God’s gracious love. This light represents direction and hope.

[Person 2 turns the flashlight on. Note: make sure that the light is either shining on the floor or down an aisle, not in the face of any persons in the sanctuary]

L: Last week, we placed a lantern in our worship center. We remembered the significance of the lantern lit on a porch to welcome the weary traveler.

Person 3: We light this lantern as a reminder of God’s continuous welcome for us, pouring God’s light of love into our darkness and drawing us home.

[Person 3 lights the lantern in the worship center]

L: This week we have placed a table lamp in our worship center, reminding us of the comfort and warmth of God’s presence with us.

Person 4: We light this lamp as a reminder that God is always with us to comfort, to heal, to strengthen and guide us. God’s love draws us home and warms our hearts and spirits.

[Person 4 lights the table lamp in the worship center]

L: Let us pray: Lord of Comforting Light, be with us today as we draw closer to the wondrous event of the Birth of your son. Help us to remember that your light has guided our journey bringing us to this place. Remind us that Mary so willingly said "yes" to you when you asked her to be the one to bear the Christ Child. May we be as eager to serve you as Mary was. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

It’s getting harder and harder to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the incarnation of God’s love in the birth of God’s Son Jesus Christ. We are caught in the web of festivities, travel, gifts, and glitter. And we have to admit that we really do enjoy all the holiday opportunities. But as we get closer to the big family celebrations and the actual celebration of Christmas, we begin to wonder how we are going to "survive" it all. We say to ourselves, "We won’t let all this stress happen to us next year." But we know better. We allow ourselves to be continually drawn in to the demands of others, leaving little or no time for ourselves, our families, and especially for You, gracious God. Forgive us. You are all too familiar with our reasons and excuses for what is happening. Help us to make some changes in our lives and our focus, so that this time of celebration may have the deepest sense of joy and purpose, not just be the rush and clamor of yet another holiday season that disappears all too quickly. Keep us focused on the eternal "yes" response to your call to us, to live our lives as those who would joyfully serve You. Heal and comfort us, Lord, this day and always. For we ask this in the name of Jesus, our Savior. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer

One week left, Lord, just one week left. Can we get all the things done that we have set before us? Have all the cards been mailed, the greetings extended, the gatherings coordinated and placed in our calendar for this last rush before the BIG DAY? Have we forgotten anything? Have we forgotten anyone? It would be easy to say, we have forgotten the reason for the season....that phrase which is imprinted on key chains and coffee mugs. We think that if we post the note that says "Jesus is the reason for the season", we will truly be fulfilling our Christmas commitment. How foolish we are! Placing the words on the wall, taped to a bulletin board, on a refrigerator, does not place the words in our hearts. We replace the glorious story of God’s Incarnate word, with tinsel and wrapping paper and believe that we are ready to celebrate. When will we learn? Come to us now, comforting God, with your powerful words of healing. Help us to remember the witness of Mary, a young girl, who never expected to play such a role in salvation history. Put the brakes on our rushing and sit us down to hear the story of your absolute Love for us. Get us ready for the birth of your Son who will become our Savior. Move us from the focus of our festivities to a focus on witnessing about your love through serving others. Challenge us to reach out to people in need, not only with a check to support a particular endeavor, but with actual contact in ministries of sacrifice and service. In such times as this remind us that we are called to proclaim your love through witness and service. AMEN.

Litany

L: Darkness was over the world before creation. God called for Light and it was given. Bright, beautiful, warm, powerful. Are you ready to receive the Light?

P: We want to be ready.

L: Words of praise and community became words of anger and division. God’s light shone but humankind covered their faces, hid themselves behind masks of prejudice and indifference. They needed the light, but turned their backs on it. Are you are ready to receive the Light?

P: We want to be ready.

L: Conquest, turmoil, abuse, fear covered the land. Hope was a dimly flickering flame, hidden deep within some hearts, extinguished in others. Darkness was again gaining a foothold in all the lands. Cries were heard "O Lord, how long will you hide your face from us?" But it was not God who was hidden. It was the hearts of the people, hungering and fearful. Are you ready to receive the Light?

P: We want to be ready.

L: In the fullness of time, God again sent someone who is to be the Light to the world. This someone is God’s Son Jesus, who teaches us how to live, how to witness to God’s love, and how to serve. This is the true light, which illumines everyone. Are you ready to receive the Light?

P: Lord, help us to be ready. We so easily live in the darkness and long for the true Light. Open our eyes, our hearts, our ears, and our spirits. Help us to witness to Your most blessed gift, your Son Jesus Christ. AMEN.

[Invite the congregation to sing "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,", UMH 206 at the close of the Litany]

Benediction, Blessing, Commission:

God of Light and Hope, in whom there is no darkness, cause your light to shine on us and through us to others, that they may know of you and of your Love. Let us witness to your gift of Jesus who came and taught us how to live as children of Light. Go in peace, dear friends, and know that the God of light, hope, peace, and joy goes with you. AMEN.

ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

[Note: It will be important to include in your worship bulletin a brief description of the meaning of this worship visual setting]

[Note #2: in these Advent services we will be visualizing worship by using various non-traditional sources of light. On the first Sunday in Advent we began by placing an unlighted pillar candle on the worship center. On the second Sunday in Advent we added a flashlight.

Last Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent we used a Lantern. Today we place a table lamp in our worship center to celebrate the fourth Sunday in Advent.]

[Note #3: If you are also placing floor lamps in the sanctuary, please make sure that the cords are placed so that no one trips over them.]

SURFACE: Place a riser on the left side of the worship center. Place a riser on the right side of the worship center on which a flashlight may be supported or leaned so that its beam will shine on a spot in the aisle or in front of the worship center. If you desire, the light can be focused on the ceiling. Place an additional riser, lower then the first one placed on the worship center, and in front of the one on which the candle is standing.

FABRIC: Cover the entire worship center with landscapers’ burlap, making sure that it comes to the floor in front of the worship center. Beginning at the riser on the left side of the worship center drape a long strip of blue cloth across the worship center toward the right and then down in front of the center onto the floor, puddling the fabric. Make sure that some of the blue fabric is near the riser for the flashlight, and for the new riser in front of the candle riser.

FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE: No flowers or foliage are used for this week. No greens of any kind.

CANDLES: Use a tall white pillar candle, placing it on the riser on the left side of the worship center.

ROCKS & WOOD: Rocks and pieces of wood may be placed on the floor in the front of the worship center, near the puddled fabric, but use them sparingly.

OTHER: Place a table lamp in the worship center, in such a position that it is easy to turn on. Obscure the electrical cord behind the worship center.

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