Worship Elements: December 16, 2018

November 12th, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

COLOR: Purple or Blue
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18.

Call to Worship

L: The day foretold is coming,
P: When our bitter mouths will drink new wine, God's cup raised high at the kingdom's table!
L: The one foretold is coming—
P: Whose bread will be broken in deepest gloom: a last supper shared on a silent night!
L: The day is at hand!
P: World, feast!
L: The savior draws near!
P: Praise the Lord!

Invocation

O God of the Coming One, we have come to draw water from your well. We trust; we will not be afraid, for you have promised that the taste of this water will not be bitter, like the tears of our eyes, but sweet, like the honey of flowers.

From your well we will receive our baptism; from its waters we will accept our healing. All flesh shall gather here together, and the one who is lame shall leap for joy; the one who is outcast shall be brought in with gladness.

O God, pour out your salvation upon us who thirst, and where once was shame there shall be only praise.

Litany

L: O world, thirst, and feel your hunger—
P: For the realm of God is near!
L: Blessed are you who thirst for righteousness,
P: For soon you shall be satisfied:
L: Like the deer that longs for flowing streams,
P: And the desert that hopes for cooling rains,
L: Your soul shall finally drink of God,
P: The spring of living water.
L: Blessed are you who hunger for goodness,
P: For soon you shall be satisfied:
L: Manna from heaven shall descend upon you,
P: And all shall partake of the bread of life;
L: The nations shall break the loaf together—
P: Falling down upon their knees.
L: O world, thirst, and feel your hunger!
P: The realm of God is near!

Prayer for One Voice

O Lord our God, where a rainbow bends in the midst of thunder, or a flower blooms in the midst of sand, you are there. Where a dream persists in the midst of conflict, or a protest arises in the midst of calm, you are there. Where a candle glows in the midst of winter, or a river thaws in the midst of spring, you are there. Where a cradle rocks in the midst of suffering, or a hand is held in the midst of pain, you are there. Where a prayer ascends in the midst of cursing, or passion flares in the midst of uncaring, you are there.

O God, you are in our midst. And because you are here, you tell us, "Do not fear; let not your hands grow weak." But we are not so easily comforted; we are not so quickly inspired. You surround us, but we cannot see your face, we cannot hear your voice, we cannot feel your embrace. How can we trust you? How can we have courage? How can our hands be strong?

We confess this, Lord: We would rather trust ourselves. We would rather venerate our past—our pride in family lines, honored traditions, historic institutions. We would rather glorify our future—our opportunity for posterity, prosperity, and popularity. When we implore, "What shall we do?" we do not ask one of your locust—eating, leather—girdled prophets, who would summon us to the wilderness and demand that we change our ways! Instead, we ask the keepers of our law, the caretakers of our culture, and the custodians of our religion, for we know that their answers will be pleasing to the taste. Their answers shall become our answers, dripping like honey from our tongues but falling like vinegar on your ears.

O Lord, how merciful you are for not forsaking us! You send us messenger after messenger, only to be mocked, and word after word, only to be despised. Now your greatest messenger is about to be born, a messenger who not only will speak and do your word, but embody it. Do you know what you do? We can smile at a baby, but shall we not scorn the man? We can shelter the child, like a hen gathering her chicks under her wings,10 but shall we shelter the Christ, or hide in the upper room?

O God, you send this child into our midst to make your presence among us tangible, visible, touchable. But will the child make you understandable, acceptable to the stoners and killers of prophets, to us who so easily become afraid, whose weak hands so quickly seek to crucify? Can truth really walk safely among the deceitful; or justice, among the vengeful; or love, among the hateful; or grace, among the spiteful?

Help us to trust you, Lord. We cannot comprehend this thing that is about to happen, this baby who will be our savior. We have learned well how we can be custodians of law, guardians of culture, and champions of religion; we do not know how—or if—we can be disciples of such a one as this. Prepare us for the bearer of the gospel, O God, lest we receive the good news as bad news, and turn our backs.

Be with us, Lord, as you send him to us. The thunder rumbles: Lead us to the bending rainbow. The sands creep: Lead us to the blooming flower. The winter blows: Lead us to the glowing candle. The spring breaks: Lead us to the thawing river.

The suffering one comes: Lead us to the rocking cradle!

Benediction

The day is at hand; the Savior draws near! Let us feast, and let our taste be keen, lest the cup be filled and left unpoured, lest the bread be baked and left unbroken.


From Litanies and Other Prayers, Year C, Copyright © 1991, 1994 Abingdon Press

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