ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING:
Reader One: These are the words of the prophet Malachi: Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can withstand his appearance?
He is like the refiner’s fire
or the cleaner’s soap.
He will sit as a refiner
and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the Lord,
presenting a righteous offering.
The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in ancient days and in former years.
Reader Two: Even in our churches and places of worship we become ensnared in the distractions of the world. We argue politics. We argue theology. We argue about what is right and what is wrong. We shake our heads at one another and long for a day when we can “get back to our roots.”
Reader One: But even in the ancient days God’s people were longing for a return to simpler times. The prophets of old, however, did not look backward. They looked forward. They looked ahead to a coming day, to a coming savior, to a fulfillment of God’s will.
Reader Two: As we light this candle, let us look ahead. Let us find the star shining brightly in the sky, proclaiming to all the world that God has come. Let us look forward and prepare our hearts for what is coming. Let us set our sights on the Divine and let us be ready in body, mind, and soul.
(Light TWO PURPLE candles)
Reader One: Let us pray: God of light and glory, we cast our glances back over our shoulder, longing for the familiarity of what used to be. However, the past was not the perfect paradise our hearts and souls long for. Speak to us and turn our eyes toward you. Let us look ahead and see the glory of your eternal reign. Let us prepare ourselves as we prepare the way for your precious Child. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP: (Inspired by Luke 1:68-79)
For nine months, Zechariah was stunned into silence as we watched his aged wife’s belly swell with new life. On the day that Elizabeth laid the precious baby boy in her husband’s empty arms, his heart filled with such joy that he could not contain himself and words of praise and celebration flowed from his mouth.
You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High.
In John’s tiny eyes, Zechariah saw the fire of the Holy Spirit burning bright and he knew that amazing things would follow in his son’s wake.
For you, child, will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
What wonders must have filled Zechariah and Elizabeth’s lives as they watched this miracle grow. What was the boy’s first word? What was his first dream?
You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins.
As a grown man, John’s words burned with the power of prophecy and the Spirit. People came from miles around to be set alight by that fire.
Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us.
Throughout the generations John’s words have traveled to us, and to many all around the world, calling us to prepare and to be ready.
God will give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path to peace.
LITANY OF CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE: (Inspired by Luke 3:1-6
Be a voice crying out in the wilderness!
But the wilderness is vast and scary. The wilderness frightens us. The wilderness roars back at us when we cry out. It is easier to be silent.
Prepare the way for the Lord; make his path’s straight.
But it is easier to follow the path of least resistance. It is easier to bend and move with the world.
Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled!
We have the work orders, but surely there must be an easier way. Must it be so complete? Every valley? Every mountain? Surely we can’t do all that.
The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.
Even in us? Even the crooked things in our lives? In our thoughts? In our souls? Oh, how we have longed for the rough places to be made smooth in our hearts.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.
Praise the Lord! Amen.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING:(Inspired by Philippians 1:3-11)
God in Heaven, God Creator of the Universe, God of all Righteousness: We give you thanks for being our leader and partner in the ministries of your church on earth. We pray that your love will make us grow in knowledge and insight so that we might understand what really matters. Teach us, guide us, inspire us, purify us, so that we will be sincere in our belief and will be made blameless on the day of Christ. Fill us with your good fruits so that we might give constant and unending glory and praise to you. Amen.