December 5th 2021– PREPARE!
2nd Sunday of Advent
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· masks are required by Session, as well as social distancing
bulletins are placed in the pews to help with social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship will be continuing with beverages only, in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Dr Dyke, Jane , , Amy Jacobs, Bonnie Pillers, Mike Niles, Harlan Marx had a knee replacement and Tom Kelly who is recovering from surgery. Lois Seger, the Steven’s Family, Patti Thomas’s Family, Lassen Family Death Uwe’s son Robert, Family of Elise King, Jon Ryner, Family of Jack Braden, and Lucy Melvin hip surgery October 25
ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING
Words of Introduction & Scripture
The voice of one calling out, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3, NASB) In the wilderness of our world right now, in the desert of our own struggles, let us prepare a way for our God to be born anew in our lives as we light the second Advent candle.
Sing (from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel): Chorus Only
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. # 9
*CALL TO WORSHIP Song of Zechariah Luke 1:68-79
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people,
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of long ago,
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,
the oath which He swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise from on high has visited 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.”
*GATHERING PRAYER (UNISON)
As we come into your presence this day, O God, we give thanks that you prepared to save us from our own sin and from the harm that comes to us through others. You invite us to be a people of worship who live in light and peace. Increase our love for you. Amen.
*HYMN Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus #2
Let us make our confession to the God who has mercy on us:
Gracious God, as we consider the days past, we confess the ways we have failed to do your will or the times we have chosen what is not healthy for ourselves, for others, or for creation. Forgive us we pray, and help us to live each day for you. Amen.
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON Malachi 3:14
As God forgave and refined the people long ago, so God forgives and refines us today if we will accept the work of God’s Spirit within us. Thanks be to God!
*SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
*PASSING THE PEACE (facing those across the aisle from you)
Left: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Right: And also with you. May the peace of Christ be with you.
Left: And also with you.
(You may be seated.)
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch 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 country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
The Advent word for today is Prepare. This is the second Sunday of Advent; we are one week into that season of preparing for Christmas.
I know many people started putting up their decorations for Christmas a few weeks ago. I was seeing pictures of decorated Christmas trees on Facebook by mid-November. I started this sermon about the same time. I had already planned my bulletin material for Advent and Christmas Sundays the first week of November. Maybe you started early on Christmas cards and gifts or made decisions about Christmas charities. You may already have your Christmas cookies and have plans for Christmas travel or guests or dinner at home.
I prefer waiting until Advent to begin putting up decorations or listen to Christmas music. Some of you may know my personal frustration is ending Christmas when the season actually begins; so here’s my little reminder – Christmas is from December 25 all the way through January 5; those are the 12 days of Christmas. Right now we are in Advent, the four Sundays and weeks before Christmas, a the time of preparing for the gift of Christmas.
We do many physical preparations. Decorations, cards, and gifts delight our sight. Christmas music appeals to our hearing. Cookies go for our senses of smell and taste. As we drove through the Symphony of Lights Wednesday night, I realized that all of those same senses were stimulated in delightful ways, eating a Christmas cookie and listening to Christmas music as we drove through all of those light displays. These are things we look forward to each year, yet the real work of preparing for Christmas sometimes gets lost or perhaps is even unknown to much of our world. I’m talking about our need for spiritual preparation.
First, let’s take a look at how God prepared for Christmas. God sent prophets centuries before, pointing out to people where they had gone astray from God’s intentions and the best life God wanted for them. Zechariah’s song in our call to worship reminds us, that God “spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of long ago, that we should be saved from our enemies …that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve [God] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before [God] all the days of our lives.” (Luke 1:70,72) An important part of God’s preparation was sending a son to Zechariah who would be a new prophetic voice pointing to God’s own Son, the fulfillment of all those promises.
Zechariah’s boy was John the Baptist who came to be “the voice calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” Luke 3:4) Why? So, “all people will see God’s salvation.” (Luke 3:6) Jesus is that source of salvation, the One proclaimed by the prophets and by John the Baptist. The name Jesus literally means, “God saves.” Paul wrote to the Philippians his prayer that they “will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:11) What we celebrate at Christmas in the birth of Christ is God setting into motion God’s long-awaited plan for salvation, to bring us back into a right relationship with God. It makes sense then to spend some of our preparation time, amid the sights and sounds, tastes and smells, the touch of this season, to spiritually prepare for that gift of salvation to be renewed in us. Here are some suggestions for your spiritual preparation to be renewed by Christ’s birth.
As you enjoy all the lights of the season, remember Jesus who came as the “light to the nations” prophesied by Isaiah or the “light of the world” as proclaimed by the gospel writer, John. Ponder these words from scripture:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them.. (Isaiah 9:2)
…I will appoint you as light to the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who trusts in me might not remain in the dark. (John 12:46)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (John 1:5)
What does that light mean to you? What needs to be brought to light in your life? Where are you hiding in darkness? Every time you light a candle or switch the lights on your tree and other decorations, take a moment to ponder the gift of Christ as the light of the world and the gift of bathing you in God’s light forever. Prayerfully let go of any dark areas in your own thinking or behavior and ask God’s light to enter into every aspect of your daily life.
The sounds of the Christmas story began with the voices of angels, from Gabriel speaking to two sets of parents, to a chorus of angels singing the first Christmas carols accompanied by the bleating of sheep. There was the cooing of a mother to her newborn, the lowing of whatever animals shared their space, and then the shepherds telling everyone the good news. We sing carols that continue to tell the world their story and the message of the season. In the most familiar Advent carols we long for Jesus as we sing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” or “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” In Christmas carols we hear,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow…He comes to make his blessings flow” (Joy to the World)
“God and sinners reconciled…Light and life to all he brings” (Hark, the Herald Angels Sing)
“God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.” (Go, Tell It On the Mountain)
As you listen to these songs this year, sing along out loud or mentally and pay attention to the words. What messages of hope, joy, and peace is God singing to you through them? What sin still lurks within you and within our world that needs the Savior’s healing grace? Pray for Emmanuel to come dwell within us and among us, God with us yet again, to bring righteousness and salvation to our world now as then.
Perhaps you will also remember that Zechariah was rendered silent, because he didn’t believe what God could do through he and his wife in their old age. Receiving God’s message of hope and salvation for ourselves is the first step, and Zechariah struggled even with that. It wasn’t until his son John was born that Zechariah’s voice returned and with it he proclaimed God’s coming salvation for the world. The shepherds did not keep the news of Jesus’ birth to themselves, but as they “returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:19) others must have heard as well. When we share our Christmas spirit with others, they hear the story of our faith, too.
As an action point to that message today, we have prepared for you to sign some cards that will go to those on prayer list in our worship bulletin. I hope you will take a moment after worship today to step into Calvin Hall and sign these cards as part of your Christmas preparation and sharing your Christmas faith.
What about our sense of taste and smell? Christmas baking comes to mind. The cookies and breads smell so good as they come out from the oven and taste so good when they cool down to eat. These are among the many tastes and aromas we enjoy during the season. One scripture in particular comes to mind, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) I discovered another, also from Psalms “your Word is so pleasing to my taste buds— it’s sweeter than honey in my mouth!” (119:103) As you bite into your Christmas favorites and savor the flavor, take a moment to ponder the goodness of God. What has God brought into your life that makes it as sweet as that cookie or as savory and satisfying as the meal you are eating? How about taking a moment with your favorite Christmas beverage and goodie while reading a bit from God’s Word, and enjoy the richness of both?
As for our sense of smell, did you know that the burning of sacrifices in Old Testament times or even incense used in worship today is about offering a sweet fragrance to God? The laws of the Torah say to bring certain foods and “burn them on the altar for a sweet and soothing aroma before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:25) Later, God was angry they had begun to offer such sweet-smelling sacrifices to other gods and warned the people through the prophet Ezekiel. But God also promised through Ezekiel a time when those who honored God would be brought out of exile. “I will accept you [graciously] as a pleasant and soothing aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands in which you have been scattered.” (Ezekiel 20:41)
It is no longer by burnt offerings that we bring a sweet aroma to honor God, it is by our own behavior. In the New Testament, Mary honored Jesus by anointing his feet with an expensive perfume. Paul thanked the Philippians for gifts they sent him calling them a pleasing aroma. As you smell a fragrant pine or your favorite Christmas treat, pause to ask yourself in what ways your life offers a pleasing aroma to God. So much of what goes on in our world today stinks as badly as the world did in Ezekiel’s time. But we can still offer something of ourselves to God in ways that make the world much sweeter for all of us, and to please God as well.
I pondered longer the sense of touch, and here is the contrast I found. I thought about Mary wrapping baby Jesus in the softness of swaddling cloth before she laid him in a manger filled with rough, scratchy straw. In my own Christmas preparations I experienced the scratchy fake pine of my wreathe as I hung it on the door and even broke out in a rash on my wrists. But I enjoyed soft warm comfort wrapped in my furry robe, a gift from a previous Christmas. Jesus came to us in a vulnerable human body like ours; he was not immune to the harsh, scratchy, roughness of our world. But Jesus came offering to wrap us in the soft, warm comfort of God’s love. John’s Gospel shares Jesus telling his disciples, “In the world you will endure suffering. But take courage! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In today’s Gospel reading, Luke quotes Isaiah 40. In the Old Testament that chapter begins, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.” (Isaiah 40:1-2a) As you touch a prickly Christmas decoration, consider the harsh rough spots in our world today. There are so many. Offer a prayer asking God to be present in those situations around the world. Then as you sit in your favorite spot wrapped in a warm sweater or blanket or robe, pause to give God thanks for all the ways God comforts you even in the midst of suffering and troubles.
I’m not asking you to take on an extra burden in preparation for the season. I’m asking you to let your physical senses remind you to experience God’s presence and goodness in everything around you as you enjoy this season. It’s just that sometimes we forget to pause long enough to take that in, even though God is reaching out to us through every sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Take that moment here and there this season, and perhaps it will become a habit that lasts all year. That would be sweet indeed!
**HYMN Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming #48
PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in 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,
for ever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
As God has offered to live in our midst through God’s Son, Jesus, so we offer ourselves to live for God’s purpose and pleasure in our daily lives. May God help us fulfill this vow. Amen.
*DOXOLOGY P. 14
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Apostle’s Creed (Ecumenical)
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
*HYMN Let Us Break Bread Together #513
INVITATION AND INSTRUCTION FOR HOLY COMMUNION
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise,
who forever sing to the glory of your name:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
You are holy, O God of majesty,
dedicated to your service.
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us
all glory and honor are yours, almighty God,
now and forever.
RECEIVING THE BREAD AND CUP
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.
Presbyterians practice open communion which means anyone who seeks to be in a relationship with Christ is welcome at the table regardless of denomination, age, or status. The communion elements are already in your pew, and you will be instructed when to eat the wafer and when to drink the juice.