The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
December 5, 2021
2nd Sunday in Advent
LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLES
Second Sunday in Advent: Peace
Watch and wait for Christ’s coming! Light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love, remembering the promises of God with prayer.
We light this candle in hope. Light the first candle.
We light this candle for peace. Light the second candle.
Hear Zechariah’s song of hope for peace to the Christ child. A reading from Luke 1:76-79:
“You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Let us pray:
God of hope, Prince of Peace, You speak peace into the world in the Way of the Christ child. Help us embody your peace and live as peacemakers that we may called children of God. God of hope, God of peace, into our darkness come. Amen.
PRELUDE “Savior of the Heathen Come” JS Bach
CALL TO WORSHIP
In this season of waiting, our God comes.
Come suddenly, Holy God, into our slow expectations and fill us with your urgent hopes for justice.
In this holy season of delight and wonder, our Savior comes.
Come suddenly, Companion of the poor, and challenge us to share in the gospel of welcome for all.
In these days of remembering what our lives are to be, our Spirit comes.
Come suddenly, Preparer of the way, to take us by the hand to walk with our sisters and brothers down the path to service.
HYMN No. 102 “Savior of the Nations, Come”
1 Savior of the nations, come;
virgin’s son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
2 From God’s heart the Savior speeds;
back to God his pathway leads;
out to vanquish death’s command,
back to reign at God’s right hand.
3 Now your manger, shining bright,
hallows night with newborn light.
Night cannot this light subdue;
let our faith shine ever new.
4 Praise we sing to Christ the Lord,
virgin’s son, incarnate Word!
To the holy Trinity
praise we sing eternally.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
John the Baptist, that wild man in the wilderness, proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Together, let us confess our sins and turn to God.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
I confess to the ways I have damaged my relationships with God and one another
by what I have done and what I have left undone. I wish to be forgiven and set free.
Know that you are ferociously loved. In the name of Jesus Christ, we declare to you that you are forgiven.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
We confess to the ways we have damaged our relationships with God and one another by what we have done and what we have left undone. We wish to be forgiven and set free.
Know that you are ferociously loved. In the name of Jesus Christ, I declare to you that you are forgiven.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Friends, our God desires us to live lives of peace and, because we have been forgiven, we can now live such lives with the help of God.
RESPONSE No. 88 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
ANTHEM “Every Valley” Patti Drennan
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Holy Spirit, come to this place and settle your wisdom on our hearts that we may hear what you are saying the Church today. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Luke 3:1-6
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler[a] of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[b] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler[c] of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
ANTHEM “The Glory of the Lord” Joseph Martin
The musical “Godspell” made popular today’s Advent theme, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” As a second flame is kindled in our Advent wreath, we are invited as a story-formed people to listen carefully to our story about a voice crying in the wilderness: “live prepared.”
Advent is a state of mind as well as a season in the church year. As a state of mind, Advent is not intended to be preparation for Christmas, the first coming of the Christ child. It is rather a season in which we make present again that miraculous event as we prepare for Christ’s second coming, his return to complete what he began long ago.
Recall that this Jesus, born more than two thousand years ago, entered history to proclaim and witness to that long awaited and hoped for coming of God’s reign. The long awaited and hoped for kingdom of God was no longer a future promise. It was a present reality, it had come, it was in sight, it had been birthed and established.
Those who believed him were to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” and then with God’s help, to act as if it has come and thereby cooperate with God so it might come in its fullness, in God’s good time.
Advent therefore is a season which offers us the opportunity to pray for Christ’s return and prepare for his second coming, when the world as we know it will end and creation as God intended it is brought to fruition.
And so, in this second Sunday in the season of Advent we focus our attention on the prophetic voice of John the baptizer who invites us to live prepared for Christ’s second coming. How we ask? And John answers, “Repent.” Now there was a time when to repent implied expressing deep sorrow and regret for our sins. With this understanding in mind, Advent, cloaked in purple, became much like Lent, a second penitential season.
But in our day theologians have rightfully turned Advent into a contemplative season cloaked in blue, a season in which we are invited to contemplate future possibilities and how we might live faithfully between the times, between Christ’s first and second comings, between the already and the not yet of God’s new creation.
To repent, therefore, must have a new and different meaning than it once did, namely, to reflect on the direction we are traveling both as faithful persons and as the Body of Christ, the church, and change course when necessary.
My understanding of what it means to repent comes from my experiences of growing up on the coast with sailing. Sailors set a course for some far-off destination, sometimes a destination they have heard about and dreamed of reaching and then set out in anticipation with the hope of reaching it.
As we set sail, we know that we will have to contend with the wind, the surf, tides, and undercurrents. There will be fierce rain and dark nights without the stars to guide us. There will be times of dead calm when we drift out of control and times of severe storms when we will be tossed to and fro. We will surely get off course many times. Sometimes we may need to actually turn around, but surely, we will always need from time to time to adjust our course to make sure we are traveling in the right direction. And that is what it means to repent and to live prepared during the season of Advent.
May we not forget, however, that living prepared is more than our getting ready for God to do something. Rather, it is to reflect upon what we ask God to do in our prayers so that we might make sure that we are cooperating with God to make those prayers possible. Remember, by nature we humans are wholly dependent on God, but also remember that God has chosen to be dependent on us. We can do nothing without God’s help and God will do nothing without ours.
From God’s perspective, we the followers of Jesus have lost our way and need to make dramatic changes in the direction we are sailing. Like storms at sea, our small ships, your congregation and mine, are surrounded by conditions that point away from God’s rule: a time in which the poverty, homelessness, genocide, war, violence, ignorance, instability, injustice, AIDS, oppression, prejudice, ecological disasters and much more are eliminated and God’s reign of justice and peace realized. We live in a world that appears to have lost a vision of new possibilities and settled for survival in this the best of all possible worlds. We have become so focused on being right, of being certain, that we are unwilling to make any changes in the course we are traveling. Too often we forget that there is no political, no economic, no cultural system that can claim to be Christian, no nation that can claim it knows and does God’s will perfectly.
In every Advent season we are offered the opportunity to reflect on our journey and to make sure that we are sailing in the right direction. Every congregation has a unique opportunity to recommit itself to a vision of God’s reign and then focus its attention on Christ’s second coming.
In the process, may we remember that God’s future may not always be the future we desire, the future that benefits us. We need to critically reflect on our lives to be sure that the future we live for is the future God envisions, the future God desires.
May God grant us the grace to have faith in a future that transforms our imaginations and makes it possible for us to live for impossible possibilities, for dreams that correspond with God’s.
Repentance in Greek means change. Change is not possible, of course, if we believe that we are already living completely faithful lives. Repentance begins with the acknowledgement that everything isn’t fine. We have been blown off course and need to make a course correction.
It is with God’s good news ringing in our hearts that we will be enabled and empowered to live faithfully with anticipation and hope between Christ’s first and second comings. May we choose to make this Advent holy by avoiding the temptation to celebrate Christmas too soon and use these four weeks to ponder where we are headed and make changes in our course, or as John the baptizer put it, “Repent,” that is, “live prepared.”
Let us pray. Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and to prepare the way for our salvation, give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Commentary and liturgy provided by Stephen M. Fearing, Gord Waldie, Scott Hoezee, John H. Westerhoff, III, Leonard Vander Zee, David Lose, and Karoline Lewis
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH from A Brief Statement of Faith (PCUSA)
In life and in death we belong to God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve. We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
*HYMN No. 106 “Prepare the Way, O Zion”
1 Prepare the way, O Zion,
your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley
a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory,
foretold in sacred story.
O blest is Christ who came
in God’s most holy name.
2 He brings God’s rule, O Zion;
he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom,
and justice, truth, and love.
Lift high your praise resounding,
for grace and joy abounding.
O blest is Christ who came
in God’s most holy name.
3 Fling wide your gates, O Zion;
your Savior’s rule embrace,
and tidings of salvation
proclaim in every place.
All lands will bow rejoicing,
their adoration voicing.
O blest is Christ who came
in God’s most holy name.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
God’s Banquet is coming. The time we await when all will gather from North, East, West and South.
A banquet where the rich and powerful will sit with the weak and poverty-stricken. A table where young and old will learn from each other. A time when all will sit together in peace, “and the wolf will lie down with the lamb”.
Here at this table we get a foretaste of God’s banquet. This is indeed God’s table, not the church’s, and so all who seek to follow The Way are welcome to eat and drink from it.
Come and taste the grace eternal, come and see that God is good.
The Great Thanksgiving
God is with us
2We are not alone
Christ is present here
2The Spirit moves within us
Let us give thanks to God
2In memory and in hope
Blessings be to you, Creator God, who in the beginning brought light and life to the world and who continues to bring it love and light everlasting.
2Your song of wisdom echoes through the ages, your ancient promise still brings us hope. Over the ages you have called people to embrace your hope and share your love.
But even when they have closed their ears to the song you did not stop singing.
You sent prophets and messengers to your people, reminding them of the promised time of peace and justice that would surround the world.
They came in the midst of our despair and filled us with hope. And then you came to a young woman named Mary and laid out the promise in a new way
Promising her a son, who would be called Jesus. Promising her that in her son the world would be changed
And now as we prepare for that child to be born, we echo the ancient cry:
O come, O come Emmanuel
The Story Remembered
Yet even now, as we prepare to celebrate his birth, we remember the life that this baby will live.
We remember how he broke the bonds of human tradition to show all what the Banquet of Hope could be as he ate openly with the despised and the outcast of his world.
And we remember one special meal, foretaste of the banquet that is to come, that he ate with his closest friends.
Gathering them together in an upper room to share the story of liberation, he prepared them for liberation.
And at the end of the meal he took bread, blessed and broke it, then passed it to them saying:
Take and eat. This bread is the body of Life, broken by the world. Eat it in remembrance and in hope.
After that he took the cup, blessed it, and passed it to them saying:
This cup is the sign of the New Covenant. Whenever you drink it remember me, for I shall not eat or drink again until the time of the heavenly banquet.
Remembering the birth of the child in the stable, we remember also his life, his death and his resurrection.
We remember how he poured his love out all he met and look forward to his return and the coming reign of peace, love, and justice.
The Spirit Transforms
God, you poured your Spirit on Mary and she sang words of defiance and hope.
Pour out your Spirit upon us gathered here. As we eat and drink may we know your presence.
As we eat and drink may we be opened to the possibilities of your hope and power.
And may we be strengthened in our time of waiting for peace and justice so that we will have the courage to make the Christmas promise a reality.
And now, as beloved children of a loving Parent, we pray:
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.
ANTHEM “Come Emmanuel” Twila Paris
The Pouring and Breaking and Serving
The Bread we break is the Bread of Life
The Cup we Share is the Cup of Promise
These are the gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
Come and eat, the banquet awaits.
Prayer Following Communion
God of pregnant expectations, God of Christmas promise, God of child-like hope, we have eaten and drunk from your table. May the eating and the drinking fill us with hope in a world of despair. May we be beacons of hope as we wait for the day when the world will be changed. Grant that this taste of your banquet which is to come would give us the hunger for peace and justice in our community and around the world. Amen
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
In this busy season, our most important preparations will happen here in our hearts when we make a way for God to come into our lives, when we “prepare the way of the Lord.” In the midst of our preparations, we bring gifts to share so that God’s love will shine brightly through the ministry of this church and in our own lives as well. Let us gather those gifts…
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully know; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
See, you come in this holy season with the simple gift of life itself. See, you invite us to share from the abundance of our lives, so others might be filled with life, with hope, with love, and with grace. Bless these gifts we offer to You, so they may be used to share the gospel of wholeness and welcome for all. Amen.
*HYMN No. 529 “Draw Us in the Sprit’s Tether”
1 Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,
for when humbly in your name
two or three are met together,
you are in the midst of them.
Here we touch your garment’s hem.
2 As disciples used to gather
in the name of Christ to sup,
then with thanks to God the giver
break the bread and bless the cup,
so now bind our friendship up.
3 All our meals and all our living
make as sacraments of you,
that by caring, helping, giving,
we may be disciples true.
We will serve with faith anew.
God is sending you to be messengers of this holy season.
We will go to share God’s grace in the shadowed places of our world.
Jesus is sending you to be messengers of his gospel.
We will go to share the good news of justice in every way we treat each person.
The Spirit is sending you to be messengers of peace.
We will go to share the gifts of hope and reconciliation which have been placed in our hearts.