content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.
- Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
- During Advent only Advent Candles are lit, not the Christ Candle.
- An Advent Wreath can be any configuration of four candles with an additional Christ Candle that will remain unlit until Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. (see our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvelGQTEt6M)
- A “Christ Candle” can be any candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
- Choose songs (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
- Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
- Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence. Purple is the traditional color of the season of Advent.
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Shine on us, God” 1st Sunday of Advent: Living in God’s Light
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship
We begin the Advent journey differently this year – each of us in our own homes, separated from one another, keeping distance to save lives.
We begin the Advent journey differently this year – feeling the wound and weight of old and new divisions hoping for a better tomorrow.
We begin the Advent journey differently this year – as one, global community battling a common pandemic awakening to emerging forms of cooperation.
We begin the Advent journey differently this year – joining Jesus’ people calling out to God for the salvation of our nation trusting God’s light will shine.
As we light the First Candle of Advent we join those who went before saying: “Restore to us, O God, the light of Your presence, and we shall be saved.” Amen.
Light the First Candle of Advent
(Note: During the four Sundays of Advent we do not light a Christ Candle – we are waiting for the rebirth of the Eternal Christ. We’ll light a new Christ Candle on Christmas Eve/Day – whenever your household celebrates the Birth of Jesus Christ.)
Candle Lighting Song
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” https://youtu.be/Ley1aOPDHCE
Lyrics: JM Neale, Music: French VENTI EMMANUEL; performed by St. Francis de Sales Church in Ajax, Ontario, Canada. (Used by permission)
We Unburden and Gather Hope
Naming Our Reality
This is your time to check in with God. Speak as candidly as you can. Tell God about your week. Share the easy moments, the times of challenge, and the situations that confound. If words don’t flow, speak to God with a smile or tear, heartache or swelling of gratitude. God is with you however you are.
Acts of Unburdening and Affirming
It can be helpful to physically acknowledge the burdens and weights we carry. Place small items around the Advent Wreath to symbolize your prayers or write them on pieces of paper and leave them in a “prayer bowl.” Don’t worry how you release your concerns to God. If you do not have words, do not be concerned. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive. Whatever you give, however you give it, Christ will receive your prayerful offerings.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Thoughts and feelings will occur; this is natural. Return focus by chanting a name for God or Christ – such as “Friend, Friend, Friend Jesus” or paying attention to your breath. Rest in the ultimate reality of God’s lovingkindness. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
Welcome to the first week of Advent, a time of new beginnings. On this first day of the Advent journey God is inviting you forward into a better future. God is calling you to come closer to Christ – the one born in the person of Jesus and the one being reborn in our hearts all the time.
Today, rest in the warm glow of God’s grace. The Holy Light of God’s Big Love is shining upon all of us, all of the time. Even when we are in the dark, God shines for us. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 80:2-4; 18-20 (LTP)
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, leader of Joseph’s flock. From Your throne on the cherubim shine out for Ephraim, for Benjamin, and for Manasseh. Gather Your strength, come save us!
Restore to us, God, the light of Your presence, and we shall be saved.
Rest Your hand upon Your chosen one who draws strength from You. We have not turned from You. Give us life again and well will invoke Your name. Restore to us, Lord God of might, the light of Your presence, and we shall be saved.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection “Invoking God’s Help for the Nation”
This Advent we are reading the Advent scriptures thinking about our country as did the Hebrews of Jesus’ time. Jesus’ ancestors waited a long time for a national savior — an anointed leader sent by God to shift the fate of their homeland. The Jewish people, as a people, continue to cry out to God for earthly intervention for the well-being of their community – Jews living in Israel and Palestine, as well as throughout the Jewish diaspora*.
This psalm was written hundreds of years before the birth of Joseph and Mary, hundreds of years after the great exodus from Egyptian slavery. Like all cultures, the Hebrew people cried out to their God whenever they, as a people, were in dire straits. These requests for God’s help can be found throughout the Bible.
This year, we enter this call for God to help our people joining nations around the world. We are all calling out for relief from the coronavirus, as well as other worldwide concerns like climate change and race relations. Here in the United States, as well as in other countries, polarizing politics, legacies of racial abuse, and growing discrepancies between the rich and the poor have seen an escalation in internal conflicts. We are definitely a part of the collective plea: “God save us! Send us help!”
We have different ideas about what form divine help will take. Some of us wait for a King David type of human being from the ranks of manual laborers to rise to the heights of national leadership. Some of us wait for a magical being who will remove the yokes we placed on others and set all beings free. Some of us wait for a cosmic shift of consciousness when we will see each other as truly equal, all made in the image of God. Some of us wait – not sure of what we are waiting for – but believing God has something better in store for us. All of us.
This Advent, what do you think God wants us to be? What is God’s Dream for our nation? What would you like God to save us from? What kind of help would you like God to provide us?
We begin this year’s Advent journey with our eyes open clearly looking at the social realities we have inherited and created. With God’s help, we can witness what is beautiful and what is ugly – and hold linked ambiguities together. With open hearts, we feel what is tragic and what is hopeful at the same time. With curious minds we wonder what needful shifts might be possible and what is too outrageous to ponder, while leaving room for God to inspire and correct us.
As we awaken to this moment, this very precious Advent moment, we do so asking God to shine. Asking God to light the way. Asking God to illuminate us. Asking God to be God.
May God bless us in our humility and reverence, in our earnestness and genuine desire for the better days and nights to come. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
“A Stable Lamp Is Lighted” https://youtu.be/w6Z25glv5ow
Lyrics: R Wilbur, Music: D Hurd, ANDUJAR (Chalice #141); Performed by The Georgia Boy Choir (lyrics in YouTube video notes)
Prayers of Petition
Though distant, whenever we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. Lift up your prayers with words, sounds, movement, tears, or silence. God is listening.
The Lord’s Prayer
Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We Give Thanks
Praise God for shining! Each time you see a holiday light (in person or on media) – thank God! Each time the light of the sun or the glow of the moon allows you to feel safe – thank God! Each time you turn on a lamp or flip a light switch – thank God! God is with us! May the presence of light be for us both a symbol of God’s faithfulness and a vessel of that Big Love. (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope
“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” https://youtu.be/Fff2xQETe1c
Lyrics: WC Smith, Music: Welch folk melody; Performed by Jaron and Katherine Kamin
The One who gave us life, will give us life again.
The One who gave us Jesus, will give us Christ forever.
The One who hears our calls, will restore Holy Presence.
God will save us. God will save our nation. Amen.
(the service is concluded)
*Jewish diaspora: The dispersion of Israelites or Jews from their ancestral homeland (Israel/Palestine) around the world.
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.
(LTP) The Psalter: A faithful and inclusive rendering from the Hebrew into contemporary English poetry, intended primarily for communal song and recitation. Liturgical Training Press ©1994
(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online Publishing Date: November 27, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting a local foodbank at this time of extreme need. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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