You can watch a recording of 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 (based on Psalm 89 and Luke 1)
One: We will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord,
We will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
All: We declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
One: We declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
All: You promised Mary that she would bear a child —
one who would inaugurate your commonwealth,
your realm that will have no end.
One: God’s love will have no end.
All: Let us worship God.
Lighting the Fourth Advent Candle (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
A: I dream of music that makes my heart swell.
B: I dream of trees that take my breath away.
A: I dream of sunrises that wrap me in light.
B: I dream of family dinners that feel like home.
A: I dream of church services that give me hope.
B: I dream of love as the default.
A: So today, as we draw near to Christmas day, we light the candle of love.
B: May this light burn bright as a reminder that God is here and God is love.
A: We are not alone. Thanks be to God for a love like that. Amen.
Let us pray: God of grace, your eternal Word took flesh among us when Mary placed her life at the service of your will. Prepare our hearts for his coming again; keep us steadfast in hope and faithful in service, that we may receive the coming of his kingdom for the sake of Jesus Christ, the ruler of all. 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 in a coming one who establishes peace and justice in our world. Yet we know that we have betrayed that hope by contributing to enmity and injustice. 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 Advent promise of grace and peace.
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)
God of Good News,
You say to me, “You are highly favored,” but I struggle to see how that could be.
You say to me, “Do not be afraid,” but I am afraid all the time.
You say to me, “Even the impossible is possible, just look at Elizabeth!”
But hope slips through my hands like water.
The impossible still feels impossible.
So today I pray,
Today we pray:
Teach us to sing like Mary.
Teach us to laugh like Elizabeth.
Teach us to trust like the angels.
Forgive us when we can only do one at a time, or none at all.
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 even unbeknownst to us, restoring us and empowering us for participation in God’s 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)
Before you could speak, you were speaking—
Leaping in wombs, kicking, stretching, jumping for joy.
You have always found a way to show up in our midst,
Particularly on our fearful or lonely days.
So today, as we crack open our Bibles,
Fluttering through these old beloved pages,
We ask that you would move again.
Stir in us.
Speak to us.
Fill us with the Holy Spirit.
And if we are not able to hear your Word clearly,
Then give us Elizabeths
Who will point out your presence in delight and joy.
Before you could speak, you were speaking,
So here and now, Creator God, we are listening.
FIRST SCRIPTURE READING
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.
1 O Lord, how shall I meet you,
how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy,
a lamp within my breast,
to do in spirit lowly
all that may please you best.
2 Love caused your incarnation;
love brought you down to me;
your thirst for my salvation
procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling,
that led you to embrace
in love, all loves excelling,
our lost and fallen race.
3 You come, O Lord, with gladness,
in mercy and goodwill,
to bring an end to sadness
and bid our fears be still.
In patient expectation
we live for that great day
when your renewed creation
your glory shall display.
SECOND SCRIPTURE READING
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Imagine the story from Mary’s perspective. Why does she flee to Elizabeth’s house? How does she receive and process the angel’s news? What thoughts and emotions wash over her? What does this calling require of her?
Now imagine the story from Elizabeth’s perspective. Imagine the feeling of deep knowing—ignited within your own core—that something is real and very, very good. How would you respond to that feeling?
Mary’s Magnificat emerges only after she retreats to Elizabeth’s house. Her joy and confidence emerges and is sustained only through the support of her cousin—Elizabeth confirms that the dream and promise is real. What might have happened if Mary carried this news in isolation?
Mary’s song proclaims good news for the lowly and the marginalized—her song is not just about her. Her dream is shared and supported by family. What does this show us about how God works through community—through collective action? How does this dispel notions of a solitary hero or heroine?
You can listen to Pastor Leia’s sermon, “Those Who Dream Are Not Alone,” here.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Roger Gench)
God, you lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things. You supplant ruthless competition with generosity in which all have enough. You envision a world in which the humiliated are restored to their rightful place as bearers of your image. In this season of Advent, help us discern the places where you are coming to us to repair and renew your good but broken creation. By the power of your Spirit at work in our lives, liberate us from chronic selfishness and self-negation so that we might discover our capacities for compassion and the pursuit of justice. Help us to see ourselves and others as bearers of your image — as people who shine like the sun.
Help us also to live according to your Great Commandment: to love you with our whole being, and to love others as ourselves. Help us to trust that your future is struggling toward realization even now in our midst. Empower us for solidarity with all who have been marginalized in our world, whose voices have been suppressed. Give us ears to hear their hopes and fears so that together we might restore your world on the foundation of the justice you intend for us in Christ.
Into your hands we place those who weigh heavily upon our hearts this week: those facing violence in their neighborhoods and countries; healthcare and frontline workers who are serving selflessly during this pandemic; those experiencing loss during this time — loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of income, loss of security; leaders who are discerning new ways forward and plans for how to help those they govern in this challenging time; congregations and ministries who are now finding new ways to worship and serve during this Advent season; and for all those we name in these moments of silence.
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 It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth,
to touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to all,
from heaven’s all-gracious King”:
the world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.
3 Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
and we at war on earth hear not
the tidings that they bring;
O, hush the noise and cease the strife
to hear the angels sing!
5 For lo, the days are hastening on,
by prophets seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold,
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world give back the song
which now the angels sing.
INVITATION TO OFFERING
We not alone. God is near to each of us and God is love. Let the gifts we bring to this community of faith sow this love.
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
Incarnate God, we offer our gifts to you that they may be used 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, might become bearers of peace, love and justice on the earth. Amen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art)
We believe that this world is hard—
Harder than it has to be.
When the world falls apart around us,
We believe in listening for the angels that say, “Do not be afraid,”
And in seeking out the Elizabeths in our lives—
Those who laugh with joy at our arrival
And throw open the doors to their homes.
We believe that healthy relationships can offer healing,
Through the laughter of cousins,
The joy shared between siblings,
And the home found in partnership.
Therefore, we believe in church families,
In chosen families,
And in the love that extends beyond family.
We believe in friendships,
And in leaning on each other when the going gets tough.
We believe in the Triune God—
Lover, Beloved, and Love itself—
Inherently relational, always connected, and never alone.
We believe that that same belovedness exists for us.
We believe that we are loved and claimed,
Thanks be to God for a love like that.
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.