Advent Week One:
Isaiah 64:1-9 Common English Bible (CEB)
64 If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Mountains would quake before you
2 like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil.
If you would make your name known to your enemies,
the nations would tremble in your presence.
3 When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations;
when you came down, mountains quaked before you.
4 From ancient times,
no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any god but you
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!
5 You look after those who gladly do right;
they will praise you for your ways.
But you were angry when we sinned;
you hid yourself when we did wrong.
6 We have all become like the unclean;
all our righteous deeds are like a filthy rag.
All of us wither like a leaf;
our sins, like the wind, carry us away.
7 No one calls on your name;
no one bothers to hold on to you,
for you have hidden yourself from us,
and have handed us over to our sin.
8 But now, Lord, you are our father.
We are the clay, and you are our potter.
All of us are the work of your hand.
9 Don’t rage so fiercely, Lord;
don’t hold our sins against us forever,
but gaze now on your people, all of us:
When we look at the world around us we see the penalty for our sins: wars and rumors of wars, violence, anger, hatred, rage, abuse, poverty, hunger, illness. We are reminded how far lost we are without the mercy of a Savior. So, on this first Sunday of Advent we light the first candle and turn our eyes to the skies, waiting for God to rip open the heavens and come down to save us. Look, closely, and you’ll see it start–with a star hanging over Bethlehem. This is our hope.
[Light one PURPLE candle.]
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we turn our hearts away from the darkness of the world and toward the light of your promise. We wait anxiously for you to tear open the heavens and return to us in all your glory. See the anguish of our hearts for the sins we have committed. Fill our souls with the joy of salvation! Amen.
Advent Week Two:
Isaiah 40:1-11 Common English Bible (CEB)
40 Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
3 A voice is crying out:
“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”
6 A voice was saying:
And another said,
“What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass;
all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass dries up
and the flower withers
when the Lord’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass dries up;
the flower withers,
but our God’s word will exist forever.
9 Go up on a high mountain,
Raise your voice and shout,
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Here is the Lord God,
coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm,
bringing his reward with him
and his payment before him.
11 Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms
and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
As the nights grow longer and darker, we are reminded of our need for comfort. The world can be a cruel and careless place, a reminder of a godless existence. This is why we turn to God–to find comfort. God reaches down to us, wraps us in an eternal embrace, and lifts up out of the valleys and smoothes the rough mountain passes. God is our comforter. God is our shepherd, he lifts us from the brambles and guides to better places. Look to the heavens. The star is burning brighter. We light the third candle and we celebrate that this is the flame of love.
[Light TWO PURPLE candles]
Let us pray:
Almighty God, as the winter nights grow long we huddle against the cold and the dark, seeking comfort. You are our comforter. You are the one who has loved us even at our most unloveable moment. You have loved us so much that you broke into this world and became love made flesh. Thank you for you unfailing, unending, unwavering love. Amen.
Advent Week Three:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 Common English Bible (CEB)
61 The Lord God’s spirit is upon me
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
8 I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.
I will faithfully give them their wage,
and make with them an enduring covenant.
9 Their offspring will be known among the nations,
and their descendants among the peoples.
All who see them will recognize
that they are a people blessed by the Lord.
10 I surely rejoice in the Lord;
my heart is joyful because of my God,
because he has clothed me with clothes of victory,
wrapped me in a robe of righteousness
like a bridegroom in a priestly crown,
and like a bride adorned in jewelry.
11 As the earth puts out its growth,
and as a garden grows its seeds,
so the Lord God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations.
Happiness is not about things. It’s not about the stuff we have or the stuff we long for. Happiness is a fulfilled heart. Happiness is a life given purpose. God has lifted us all up out of the darkness and has called us each by name. God has whispered the promises of salvation to our yearning hearts, and has given us meaning. Joy, true joy, rests in God and God alone. Today we light the third candle, filled with joy, because God has seen us and God has sent us salvation. Look how bright the light of salvation shines!
[Light TWO PURPLE and ONE PINK candles]
Let us pray:
Almighty God, you have reached into the deepest despairs of this world and you have touched our hearts, sending ripples of joy throughout our lives. We thank you as we celebrate the ultimate gift of salvation and wait with anticipation and expectation for the Lord’s return. Amen.
Advent Week Four:
2 Samuel 7:1-11 Common English Bible (CEB)
7 When the king was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “Look! I’m living in a cedar palace, but God’s chest is housed in a tent!”
3 Nathan said to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you are thinking, because the Lord is with you.”
4 But that very night the Lord’s word came to Nathan: 5 Go to my servant David and tell him: This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build the temple for me to live in. 6 In fact, I haven’t lived in a temple from the day I brought Israel out of Egypt until now. Instead, I have been traveling around in a tent and in a dwelling. 7 Throughout my traveling around with the Israelites, did I ever ask any of Israel’s tribal leaders I appointed to shepherd my people: Why haven’t you built me a cedar temple?
8 So then, say this to my servant David: This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to be leader over my people Israel. 9 I’ve been with you wherever you’ve gone, and I’ve eliminated all your enemies before you. Now I will make your name great—like the name of the greatest people on earth. 10 I’m going to provide a place for my people Israel, and plant them so that they may live there and no longer be disturbed. Cruel people will no longer trouble them, as they had been earlier, 11 when I appointed leaders over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies.
16And the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make a dynasty for you.
We have traveled long and far. We have been through deserts and we have been through lush places. We have crossed mountains and we have crossed deserts. Today, God has declared that we shall be brought home. There is no peace as great as that of knowing one can rest without anxiety. Today, as we light the fourth candle we remember that the peace God has sent us through Christ Jesus is unlike any peace this world has ever known. This is a peace that dries tears, soothes the soul, and heals wounds. This is a peace no war, no violence, no hatred can destroy. Look how the light of peace chases out the darkness!
[Light all FOUR candles]
Let us pray:
God of peace and justice, you have touched our frantic lives and given us a peace which surpasses all understanding. We may not fully understand how you have chased out the darkness in our lives, but we know that you, and you alone, are the source of that great peace. Today we rest easy, knowing that the promise of salvation is true. Amen.