Worship Connection: December 22, 2019

November 7th, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Color: Blue or Purple
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1:
L: We are always looking for evidence that God is with us.
P: That sign is in the One to come--the One that God is sending.
L: We want to know for sure that everything is in God’s care.
P: And so we cry to the heavens in our distress. Our cries are heard! God is responding in love and hope.
L: Let us come before God with expectant hearts and spirits!
P: Let us be ready to receive the blessed gift of the Savior. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2:
L: In the midst of darkness, God brings a new light.
P: Thanks be to the God of light.
L: In the midst of confusion and fear, God brings hope and peace.
P: Thanks be to the God of peace.
L: In the midst of strife and stress, God comforts and soothes us.
P: Let us praise God who truly loves us and brings us new life. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3:
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2092, “Like a Child,” offer the following call to worship as directed.]

L: Who will come to save us? Who will the Lord send to heal our wounds?
P: Will God send the mighty angelic host? Will God send a great warrior?

Choir: singing verse 1 of “Like a Child”

L: But a child has no voice, no power, no influence. Why would God send a child?
P: A child cannot change the world. Why would God send a child?

Choir: singing verse 2 of “Like a Child”

L: A child needs to be loved and cared for. We need to pay attention to a child.
P: So much of our energy will be consumed in caring for the child.
L: We need to reach out in love--after all, aren’t we God’s beloved ones?
P: The child is the blessed gift that God sends, teaching us again about loving and caring.

Choir: singing verse 3 of “Like a Child”

Call to Worship #4:
L: This is the fourth Sunday of Advent, a time to rejoice in the wondrous things that God is doing.
P: Our hearts are filled with the hope that is coming into the world.
L: The time is fast approaching, not for parties or presence, but for the awareness of God’s loving gift to us--the gift of the Christ child.
P: Help slow us down, Lord, that we may realize that your gift of love is at the center of our lives and our celebrations.
L: Thanks be to God who again reminds us of God’s eternal love.
P: Open our hearts, O Lord, to receive your blessed gift. AMEN.



PRAYERS, LITANY/READING, BENEDICTION

Opening Prayer
Lord of all life and all seasons, help us open our hearts to hear the words of promise and love that you send to us. Like Joseph, may we trust in your abiding love and power. Prepare us to receive your gift of grace and peace. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

The Lighting of the Advent Candle: The Candle of Joy: REJOICE!

Reader 1:

The prophet Isaiah tells us that a young woman shall bear a son and shall call Him Emmanuel--God with us.

Reader 2:
God is no longer a distant God, but is in the here and now.

Reader 3:
As Joseph trusted in the message of God’s angel, so we can trust in God’s message of redemption and love.

Reader 4:
Rejoice! God is lavishing us with God’s love and peace.

Today we light four candles. The first is the candle of Patience, reminding us to watch and wait for what God is about to do. [Light the first candle]

The second candle is the candle of Readiness, enabling us to look at our lives, to get rid of all those things that keep us from God, to change our ways and live as God would have us live. [The second candle is lighted]

The third candle is the candle of Faith, through which we behold the love and mercy of God and believe in God’s presence with us. [The third candle is lighted]

The fourth candle is the candle of Joy, in which we feel the powerful presence of God’s love through the promise of One who will save us. [The fourth candle is lighted]

Reader 1:
Come, see the lights. Let their brightness fill you.

Reader 2:
Come, feel the warmth of the lights. Let them give you comfort.

Reader 3:
Come, draw near to the lights, for God is breaking through to you.

Reader 4:
Come, rejoice in the lights, God is with us!

Prayer of Confession
Lord, we confess that we are rushing headlong into Christmas. It’s only two days away and we still have so much to do. Our preparations are far from complete, and we are exhausted. We wish this whole thing were over so that we could rest. Forgive our shortcomings and our short-sightedness. You have poured upon us blessing after blessing, daily reminding us of your love and presence; yet we have chosen to jump onto this “greased slide” into Christmas. Give us patience. Slow us down. Remind us of the ways in which you are present with us--not in the wrapped packages, the abundance of food, but in the love and compassion that is brought to all. Forgive us, we pray. Make us truly ready to receive your love and the gift of the Christ Child. AMEN.

Words of Assurance
The light of God’s love shines upon each of us in the gift of God’s love, Jesus Christ. This is given for you. Rejoice! You are loved by God, now and forever. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer
Lord God of love, we have truly succumbed to the “greased slide into Christmas.” We have cluttered our lives with schedules so busy we barely have time to breathe. We plan, prepare, cook, clean, party, and yet wind up exhausted and wondering what in the world happened to the joyous Christmas that we had so long ago. In this place, on this day, you have called us together, to hear your words of encouragement, and to remind us that you are with us. We do not need to rush about in order to have Christmas, for the witness of your love is here among us right now. Open our hearts and help us proclaim your presence. Help us reach out to one another in joy and peace. As we have brought our concerns to you in prayer, remind us again that you hold each and every one of us gently and lovingly in your constant care. For we thank you for your love and ask these things in the name of the One whom you sent to heal and free us, Jesus. AMEN.

Reading:
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2095, “Star Child,” offer the following reading as directed.]

Choir: singing verse 1 of “Star Child”

Reader 1:
Christmas is for children! Isn’t that right? Look at all the ads in the papers and on the TV--everything for children! So innocent. So trusting! Little do children know about the real world--the world of struggle, the world of greed. They can believe in a little baby and angels and shepherds. They can hear the story of the birth and dream of God’s love. With us adults, it’s just different. There is too much to do. We don’t have time anymore for these sweet stories of Christmas.

Voice:
When did you stop being God’s beloved one? For all of your life, God has and continues to love you. Wonder and witness are not consigned to children--those young in years--they are for everyone. Imagine again the wonder of waiting for the day when you could sing with your whole heart and voice “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.” Do not lose that wonder. Open your heart to receive and believe, and rejoice!

Choir: singing verses 2, 3, and 4 of “Star Child”

Reader 2:
My heart aches for the comfort and hope of Christmas. Life has been difficult. I want to rest in the assurance of God with us. But fears and doubts have crept into my soul. God, please send to all of us a special sign, the sign of your presence and your love. Please help us let go of the fear and embrace once again the hope of that promised One.

Voice:
Let go of the fears. God is sending you God’s richest blessings. This Child will bring peace. He will teach us of God’s loving presence with each of us. He will bring healing to our wounds. He will teach us how to truly live as God’s beloved children.

CONGREGATION AND CHOIR: singing verse 5 of “Star Child”

Benediction
Place your trust in God, for God is with you. Listen carefully for God’s loving whisper in this time--the words will give you healing and hope. Go in peace and may God’s peace always be with you. AMEN.


ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

The traditional color for this season is PURPLE; however, I prefer BLUE, the alternate color.

The theme for this fourth Sunday of Advent is: REJOICE!

We are almost to Christmas. We have been rushing around trying to get everything done for the “Big Day.” But our scriptures remind us that God is already preparing us to receive the glorious gift; God is placing a spirit of joy and faith in our hearts. In the simplest of ways, God has provided for our salvation. This is a time for happiness and joy. God is with us!

An interesting approach might be to move from darkness into light. In the light of that idea, I am suggesting a layering of fabric, beginning with the darkest blue, dark navy blue, for the first Sunday of Advent, and then adding a royal blue for Advent 2, medium blue for Advent 3, and pale blue (Mary’s color) for Advent 4. White will be used for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day/Christmastide.

Because Advent and Christmas traditions vary in all congregations, you may want to make major alterations to the following suggestions. I will be going with the themes of Advent 1: Watch and Wait; Advent 2: Prepare!; Advent 3: Behold/Believe; Advent 4: Rejoice; and Christmas Eve/Christmas Day: Celebrate!

If you are using Advent Candles, you might consider using pillar candles--three medium blue candles about 6-8” high and one pink 6-8” high pillar candle. Place two of the blue candles on one side of the center riser and a blue and the pink candle on the other side. You may want to place risers so that these candles are elevated.

SURFACE:
Place an 8” riser on the center of the worship table, toward the back. Place two risers about 6” high on the worship center, to the right and left but about 6” in front of the center riser; place a bench or floor riser in front of the worship center. Optional: You may place other risers as needed, but make sure that the center riser is not obscured by any other risers.

FABRIC:
The entire worship area, including all risers, should be covered with the dark navy blue fabric, making sure that the fabric puddles to the floor in front of the worship center. Royal blue fabric was added two weeks ago; last week we added medium blue fabric on each side of the worship table. Each strip of fabric should be about 4 yards long and about 30” wide. This week we add the pale blue strips of fabric, moving in from the edge of the royal blue toward the center. Make sure that you leave a significant border of the royal blue so that the color movement can easily be seen. [The eventual effect will be darker fabric on the outside, moving toward the lighter and eventually white fabric in the center of the worship table. So the color range will appear as follows: dark navy blue - royal blue - medium blue - light blue - white - light blue - medium blue - royal blue - dark navy blue.]

CANDLES:
See the section on lighting the Advent candles. If you are using a separate wreath, not placed on the worship center, you may still use the liturgy for lighting the candles.

FLOWERS/FOLIAGE:
Because the lectionary for this week includes Mary’s Magnificat, you might want to consider placing a single pink rose in the center of the worship table. I would lay the rose down rather than place it in a vase.

ROCKS/WOOD:
The wood that you placed on the worship center last week should be removed.

OTHER:
This will depend on the theme you have chosen.

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