You can watch today’s service here.
If you are watching our live stream this morning, you are invited to find a candle, so that we can all light candles at the same time.
CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 126)
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
Lighting the Third Advent Candle (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
A: I dream of dance parties in the kitchen.
B: I dream of laughter that is contagious.
A: I dream of birthday candles and another beautiful year.
B: I dream of family game nights and dinner parties with friends.
A: I dream of homemade Halloween costumes and homemade family recipes.
B: I dream of pillow forts, fireflies, and front porch swings.
A: I dream of every little thing that brings joy; and I know it comes from God.
B: So today we light the candle of joy as a reminder
that God’s dream for this world involves the end of all tears.
A: God’s dream for this world involves a joy that overflows and is contagious.
B: So may this fire burn bright, and as it does, may we sing.
A: May we dance.
B: May we laugh.
A: May we hold onto the people we love.
B: May we sow joy in a hurting world, and may it be an act of holy resistance. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you have made us and all things to serve you. Now prepare the world for your rule. Come quickly to save us, so that wars and violence shall end, and your children may live in peace, honoring one another with justice and love. In the name of God the original dreamer, Jesus the dream come true, and the Holy Spirit who enables us to be those who dream, we pray. Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
Our Advent hope is for the restoration of our world, yet we know that we have contributed to its brokenness. We also know that if we confess our sin we can be restored to a right and just standing before God and others. Let us therefore confess our sin, trusting God’s promised mercy.
Please join me in the prayer of confession, followed by a silent personal prayer.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
O Great Writer, with a sky full of stars and a world full of flowers, there should be no end to my joy. And yet, instead of decorating my very being with joy, I let it slip away like loose change. Instead of singing like Mary, or dancing like David, I pass by remarkable beauty and love most days, unfazed. Forgive me. Teach me the ways of children, who laugh and dance and sing as if joy is the very thing that keeps them alive. Maybe they have joy figured out. Gratefully we pray, amen.
Moment of silent prayer–people of God, what do you confess this week?
Assurance of Pardon
God’s mercy abounds. God’s Advent grace goes before us, after us, through us — sometimes unbeknownst to us, restoring us and empowering us for participation in God’s own work in the world. Friends, hear the good news of the gospel: we are forgiven and restored, set on right paths of justice and peace.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
Creator God, scripture is flooded with dream-like images: the lion lying down with the lamb, justice rolling like a mighty river, swords being beaten into plowshares, the prisoner being set free, good news to the oppressed, the whole world rejoicing. To our human ears, there are times when these words can sound like nothing more than a far-off dream—downplaying prophecy to fantasy. However, what we know is that to dream is to hope, and to hope is to imagine, and to imagine is to wonder, and to wonder is to believe, and to believe is to live and breathe for your promised day. So give us the strength to listen as we dream, O God. For deep down, we know your words are the very thing we need. Amen.
FIRST SCRIPTURE READING
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
HYMN Christ is Coming!
1 Christ is coming! Let creation
from her groans and travail cease;
let the glorious proclamation
hope restore and faith increase:
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, thou blessed Prince of Peace.
2 Earth can now but tell the story
of thy bitter cross and pain;
she shall yet behold thy glory,
when thou comest back to reign:
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Let each heart repeat the strain.
3 Long thine exiles have been pining,
far from rest, and home, and thee:
but, in heav’nly vestures shining,
they their loving Lord shall see:
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Haste the joyous jubilee.
4 With that blessed hope before us,
let no harp remain unstrung;
let the mighty advent chorus
onward roll from tongue to tongue:
“Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!”
SECOND SCRIPTURE READING
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs refers to Mary’s expression as “anticipatory joy.” How would you define anticipatory joy? What does it look like to live with anticipatory joy?
Sowing seeds is always an act of faith. Some of the seeds won’t germinate at all, remaining buried in the soil. And if they do, some of the weak sprouts must be weeded out in order for their stronger neighbors to thrive. Seeds must be kept moist at all times or else they won’t survive. A hard rain or rough winds can easily pummel them, pests can devour them before they have a chance to develop. And yet, our entire food system depends on seeds. All plants begin and end with seed. Often we think of joy as a big, full emotion. But what if joy, like seeds, starts small? What are small actions that help us cultivate joy?
Civil rights activist Ruby Sales writes, “What’s up with Mary? What does she, a poor adolescent unwed mother, whom the Roman Empire and her community press down to the lowest rung on the social ladder, have to sing about? Why would she thank God and celebrate the coming of a new child in a colonized world, where the Roman Empire, the most brutal and egregious of Empires, will close doors in an attempt to reduce her child’s life to the barest bones of possibilities and options? . . . We expect Mary to sing a blues song with all of this happening.”⁴ Why does Mary say yes—yes to carrying and birthing God’s dream?
You can listen to Pastor Leia’s sermon, “Those Who Dream Sow Joy,” here.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Roger Gench)
O God, you have called us to follow in the way of the One who was anointed to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Empower us to be faithful disciples of Jesus. In this season of Advent, help us discern where you are already at work to renew and repair your good but broken creation. Help us to trust that your future, even now, is coming to realization in our midst. Enable us to stand in solidarity with those who have been marginalized in our world. Help us to lift up and listen to voices long silenced. And as we give ear to their hopes and fears, help us to join together to rebuild and restore your world on the foundation of the justice you envision for us in Christ.
Indeed, during these tumultuous days of racial, political and social reckoning, help us to overcome paralyzing fear in our personal lives, in our communities and in our world. Calm the fear in us and animate courage. Make us brave in confronting realities that deform and deface your world, so that we may participate in your reconciling work in our midst.
We pray also for the world of nations, especially for those places where violence is wreaking havoc upon human lives and your good creation. We pray for global solidarity as we continue to grapple with a raging pandemic. We pray for healthcare workers around the world as they tend to the sick, and for all who are desperately ill and their families. We pray for those in our own communities who have lost jobs, revenue, healthcare and loved ones during this relentless public health challenge. Help us to be agents of your love and care to those who are suffering. We pray especially for wise discernment by our nation’s elected leadership, that they might work together constructively to find ways to aid those most afflicted.
We pray all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray saying…
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
1 Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love!
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day.
2 All thy works with joy surround thee;
earth and heaven reflect thy rays;
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.
3 Mortals, join the happy chorus
which the morning stars began.
Love divine is reigning o’er us,
joining all in heaven’s plan.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife.
Joyful music leads us sunward
in the triumph song of life.
INVITATION TO OFFERING
We are here in God’s arms. This is God’s gift to us so that may we sow joy so that we may sing, dance, laugh, and hold onto the people we love. May we sow joy in a hurting world, and may it be an act of holy resistance. Let the gifts we bring to this community of faith sow this joy.
If you are able to, please consider mailing your offerings to the church (210 Smith Street) or dropping them in the mail slot of the church office in person. Alternatively, there is a link at the top of this page that will take you directly to a secure page where you can make a one-time donation. If you received your pledge card for 2021 but haven’t filled it out, we would be very grateful to receive it as we plan for the year ahead. We appreciate your generosity as we seek to continue our mission and ministry throughout the community during this difficult time.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
O God, we offer our gifts to you to further the promise of hope, peace, love and justice in our community and in our world. Empower us, O God, to follow these gifts into the world around us so that they, and we, become bearers of your peace, love and justice on the earth. Amen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
We believe that a voice cried out in the wilderness,
Saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
And so, we show up for worship, even from home.
We march toward justice.
We roll up our sleeves.
We plant trees for our children.
We make art.
We choose hope.
We gather at the Table.
We set an extra plate.
We sing loudly, with joy.
We share stories and wisdom.
We celebrate children.
We fall together.
We rise together.
We love together.
We do all these things because we believe that God loves us so much that God shows up here.
So we prepare and prepare for that next beautiful day.
May it be so. Amen.
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION (adapted from a blessing by Sarah Are)
May you have the strength to dream
wild dreams of justice, peace, and joy that overflows.
May you have the humanity to listen to the dreams of others.
May you have the confidence to trust
that the God who heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt
hears your dreams as well.
And may you have the conviction to hold fast to your community,
for our best dreams are those we dream together.
God has been with us in every season of waiting
and God will be with us in this season, as we wait for Christ to come again.
From wherever you are, serve the Lord: Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit.
VIRTUAL COFFEE HOUR
If you are using this page to follow along with today’s worship service while it is being live streamed, please join us for virtual coffee hour! Turn on your video camera and join us after the benediction with this link. You could also join over the telephone by dialing (312) 626-6799 and entering the meeting code 146 874 134, followed by the password 075003.