Liturgy: Advent 2018, Week 4

Advent Candle Lighting

READER ONE:
The prophet Micah said:
As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
    though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces,
        one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you.
    His origin is from remote times, from ancient days.
Therefore, he will give them up
        until the time when she who is in labor gives birth.
        The rest of his kin will return to the people of Israel.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
        in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
        They will dwell secure,
        because he will surely become great throughout the earth;
        he will become one of peace.
~Micah 5:2-5a

READER TWO:
It is not an uncommon thing that when humans find themselves struggling, they look to a powerful leader to rescue them. The one who can speak the strongest words and make the boldest promises becomes the drum major for a multitude who feel week and helpless. 

READER ONE:
Yet, time after time, God has not chosen the strongest, the most powerful, or the most obvious to lead the charge. God looks to the back of the field of troops for the faithful private. Tough words may fool a frightened human mind, but God knows that real strength comes from the spirit within.

READER TWO:
On this last Sunday of Advent, we light this candle, and we remember that God chose an unlikely place and and unlikely time to ask an unlikely woman to bring an unlikely child into this world. Rather than tough-talking politicians or war-hardened generals, that child will be our salvation.

(Light THREE PURPLE and ONE PINK candles)

READER ONE:
Let us pray: Almighty God, the world tries to flex its muscle, but it only does harm. But you have used the weak to take down the strong, the ordinary to the extraordinary. We wait with anticipation for our Savior, one who will defy all the world’s standards, but who will be exactly what we need. Amen.

Call to Worship:

Wake up your power, O God!
Come to save us!

We have tasted the bitterness of our foolishness.
We placed our hope in men and women just as flawed and just as in need of salvation as ourselves.

We have tasted the bitterness of our fear.
We have turned our hearts to stone when we heard the cry of our neighbor, and we shut the gate against them.

But God can restore us. The Great One who rules over all the heavenly forces can save us.
Wake up your power! Come to save us!

Restore us, O God!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved.
(Based on Psalm 80:1-7)

Litany of Confession & Words of Assurance

Who here can say that he or she is without sin?
Sometimes we act as if we have it all figured out. We cram our sins deep into the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts. We pretend to be perfect. But our imperfections gnaw at us. We lash out at others when we should be tending to the wounds of our own souls. But it is easier to address someone else’s sin than it is to address our own.

How will you save yourselves from all these sins?
There was a time when we would have offered burned offerings to our God. But it was too easy to simply follow the law and never have to deal with the condition of our souls. So many fires burned and none of us were made any more pure.

God doesn’t want our loyalty simply because a law tells us to give it. So, then, how will we find salvation from our sins?
There is nothing we can do on our own. All we can do is to cry out for salvation, to plead with God for mercy we do not deserve and hope that God will send salvation to us.

(Silent Confession)

It is true that God isn’t interested in how righteously we can follow rules. God desired the faithfulness our hearts. Know this: “We have been made holy By God’s will through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once and for all.”  In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven
(Hebrews 10:5-10

Prayer of Thanksgiving

In drought or in a bountiful harvest, in illness or in health, in the deepest valley or on the highest mountain, we give thanks to the God of all creation because God has promised great things to us.
Happy are they who believe that our God will fulfill the promises made to us!
(Luke 1:39-55)

Benediction

Great and wonderful things are about to happen. The earth and all that is in it will raise their voices together to praise the coming of the Messiah. Go, and be happy, believing that God will fulfill the promises made to us. Amen.
(Luke 1:39-55)

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