Monday, December 17, 2012
Rejoice! Is our worship theme for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 23, 2012. Our focus scripture reading is Luke 1:39-56.
With the darkness of the awful and incomprehensible shootings of first graders and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School descending on us like a fog, it is hard to rejoice. Yet as one of the hand-lettered signs outside the school declares: Our Hearts Are Broken. Our Spirits Are Strong. No matter what evil befalls us, the Gospel message is ultimately one of joy because it is a proclamation of triumph. In the end, as Mary celebrates, God’s promises will come true, God’s love will win out. We need to remember that now. Especially now.
Here is the first part of our bulletin for Sunday with a Call to Worship and an Advent Candle liturgy. Please use or adapt anything that is helpful to you.
We Praise God
Processional Hymn “Hark the Glad Sound” Richmond
Call to Worship From Luke 1:39-45
L: When Mary hears that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant she gets going!
She travels straightaway to her house and greets her.
P: When Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, her baby jumps for joy.
Elizabeth is filled with Holy Spirit and sings to Mary:
L: “Above all women, you are blessed, and blessed is the babe in your womb!
And why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord visits me?
P: The moment I heard your voice, my baby skipped like a lamb!
And blessed are you for believing that God’s promises come true!”
All: Let us rejoice with Mary and Elizabeth! Praise God!
We Light the Advent Candle of Joy
This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of the season of Advent, which is the time when we prepare for Christmas. Lots of times we think of preparing for Christmas as buying presents, or decorating a tree, or baking cookies. But as followers of Christ we want to make spiritual preparations as well! We want to prepare our personal hearts and prepare our church and community to receive God’s love.
Engulfed by the darkness of the awful and incomprehensible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, spiritual preparations may feel especially hard to make this year. Yet as one of the hand-lettered signs outside the school declares: Our Hearts Are Broken. Our Spirits Are Strong. No matter what evil befalls us, the Gospel message is ultimately one of joy because it is a proclamation of triumph. In the end, as Mary celebrates in our Bible readings from Luke, God’s promises will come true, God’s love will win out. We need to remember that now. Especially now.
One of the ways we make spiritual preparations in worship is to light a special candle each Sunday of Advent to remember of one of the qualities that helps us get ready for Jesus to be born anew into our hearts and our world. On the first three Sundays this year we lit the Candles of Expectation, Preparation, and Repentance. Today, we will light the Candle of Joy as we reflect on Mary’s words.
Litany The words of Mary from Luke 1:46-55
L: My soul bursts with God’s glory! My soul rejoices in God’s salvation!
I’m a nobody, but – miracle! -- God loves me and blesses me.
In fact, God gives mercy to all who honor God.
P: God’s arm is awesome! God punctures the puffed up proud.
God tumbles tyrants from their thrones; gives victory to their victims.
The starving poor feast; the selfish rich feel strangely empty.
All: God hugs the people and piles on the mercies!
God keeps the everlasting promise God made to our ancestors!
God loves us now… and forever!
Carol “Joy to the World” Antioch
Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love.
Lighting the Candles of Expectation, Preparation, Repentance, and Joy
Thank you, God, for the joy you bring us in promises fulfilled. Thank you for the joy you give us in Jesus! In a world of too much darkness, he binds up our broken hearts, releases us from all that holds us captive, and reigns in our lives and in our world! In his powerful name we pray. Amen.