ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING:
Reader One: The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words to us: The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill my gracious promise with the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is what he will be called: The Lord Is Our Righteousness. (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
Reader Two: It is no wonder we begin hoping for light this time of year. The days grow noticeably shorter each day. It seems as if we rise in darkness and darkness engulfs us before we have the chance to finish our daily routine.
Reader Three: It is no wonder we begin hoping for light when we look at the world around us. In California, there is a town called Paradise which isn’t there anymore, and we feel helpless. At our Southern border are strangers begging for the gates to be opened for them, and we don’t know what to do. In Afghanistan, our soldiers are still dying on a battlefield far from home, and we wonder if war will ever cease.
Reader One: It is easy to submit to fear.
Reader Two: It is easy to be consumed by the darkness.
Reader Three: But as we light this candle today, we are reminded and comforted by the words of the prophet. We remember that fear is a condition of a fallen humanity, that the darkness is our inability to see God present in our lives and in our world. We light this candle and remember that God will rise up a branch from a seemingly fallen tree and justice and righteousness will be throughout the land.
(Light one PURPLE candle)
Reader One: Let us pray. Almighty God, the darkness is a burden on our souls: thick and heavy and crushing us beneath its weight. But we have heard the words of your prophets from ancient days. We have heard your message of hope. And we anxiously look for the light who is is The Lord Is Our Righteousness. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP: (Inspired by Psalm 25:1-10)
Lord, our lives are yours. Our trust is in you.
Reveal your secrets to us. Open our hearts to your wisdom. Shine a light on the way that leads us to you.
Our hope is in you. You alone are the God who can save us.
You are compassionate and your love is faithful in every way. They are eternal and perfect. We are created in your image, and yet we so often fail to live into that image. We forget compassion. Our love is faithless. We are limited and broken.
But God is good and does the right thing!
Yes, God teaches us which way we should go.
God sees the weak, the hurting, the lonely, the forgotten and God leads them to justice.
More than that, God teaches us so that we can walk God’s paths. God guides us along the way so that we might be loving and faithful, so that we might keep the covenant God has made with us.
Let us worship the eternal, perfect God who enters the world and brings us hope.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: (Inspired by Luke 21:25-36)
Have we been alert? Have we been keeping watch?
We have not. The world around us has dulled our senses and distracted us from our watch.
Are we ready? When the earth shakes, when the seas rise in anger, when the stars begin to fall… will we be ready?
We prefer not to think about those things. They are frightening and they worry us. Our souls quake at the thought of what is to come.
Have we done what God expects of us? Have we done God’s justice? Have we let God’s image shine in our lives? Have we seen the image of God in our neighbors? Have we been good stewards of the Good News?
We have not. It is easier to cower from the darkness and from the unknown. It is easier to hide than to step out in faith and hope. It is easier to cling to what we have than to trust that what we need will be found on the way.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE: (Inspired by Luke 21:25-36)
Look! In the distant sky is a star, burning bright and beckoning us to something new. Look! Coming on a cloud with power and grace is the Holy One, the Messiah, the Redeemer. The world may quake in fear, but stand up straight! Raise your heads! Your redemption is near! Amen.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING: (Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
How can we thank you enough, almighty God, for the good things you have done for us? You have given us a community of faith to hold us up in moments of weakness and to celebrate with us in moments of joy. You have provided for our needs. You have answered our prayers. God of power and might, God of eternity, we ask that you would increase and enrich in each of us a deep love for each other and for everyone. Let this love be the same deep and endless love we have for you. May our hearts be made strong, may we be made blameless before You, and may we be ever ready when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, comes and gathers all his people. Amen.
BLESSING: (Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
May God guide you on your journeys. May the Spirit be with you wherever you may go. And may the Lord Jesus Christ “increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone. May the love cause your hearts to be strengthened. to be blameless in holiness for our God and Creator when our Lord Jesus comes with all his people.” Amen.