“Restore Us to Abundance” • Psalm 126 • 3 Advent with Advent Wreath Reading • Worship Service for In-Home or Remote Group Use

photo: David Lazar

content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber

Worship Note

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.

Preparations

  • 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. Or, a single candle can be lit each week of Advent. (see: 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: “Remembering God’s Abundance”

3nd Sunday of Advent: Remembering the Good Times

Worship Service

Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.

We Gather

Call to Worship

Once upon a time we were free to sing and dance – together! Remember when our arms and bellies were so very full and we didn’t even realize how blessed we were?

Once upon a time we were free to work side by side! Remember when we planted the seeds of service and prayer sweating together in good labor and singing together in the pews?

God will bring us back and bring us back better. Our tears will dry up. We will laugh and rejoice!

As we light the Third Candle of Advent, we join those who went before, saying: “Lord, bring us back as water to a thirsty land. Those sowing in tears reap, singing, and laughing.” Amen.

Light the Third Candle of Advent

(Note: If you’re using four Advent Candles, please relight the two you lit last week plus a third one this week. If you’re only using one candle, this week the candle is the “Third Candle” of Advent. Remember, 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

“People, Look East” https://youtu.be/F8GNlRcBdvs

Lyrics: E Farjeon, Music: traditional French carol BESANCON (Chalice #142); unknown performer

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.

Silent Prayer

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)

Be. (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.”

God’s Grace 

It is the human condition to know times of ease and times of challenge as individuals and as a nation. Even nature tells us life unfolds in cycles. At this time of year the darkness far exceeds light every 24-hours. This condition, however, doesn’t remain, does it? So it is with cycles in our shared human communities.

God’s grace is like the sun – always shining the same – day in and day out. We may experience God’s differently moment by moment, emotional season by emotional season, but it never changes. Let us take assurance in God’s eternal faithfulness however we experience God’s grace today. Amen.

We Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 126 (LTP)

A dream come true: Home to Zion after years of bitter captivity. Laughter, dance and song. A song of ascents.

The Lord brings us back to Zion, we are like dancers, laughing, dancing, with songs on our lips. Other nations say, “A new world of wonders! The Lord is with them.” Yes, God works wonders. Rejoice! Be glad!

Lord, bring us back as water to a thirsty land. Those sowing in tears reap, singing, and laughing. They left weeping, weeping, casting the seed. They come back singing, singing, holding high the harvest.

May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.

Reflection

See this week’s “Out of the Bag” recording at the beginning of this document. Also, consider using Christmas ornaments to remember the good times that followed the bad times. This Sunday of Advent we remember God’s faithfulness.

Special Music

Please select a Christmas song with a message of comfort – honoring what has been while being excited about what is to come, grateful for God’s faithfulness.

We Pray

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

Offering

During these longer nights, during these times of limited human interaction and general physical mobility, we have more time to think. Most of us have a natural default somewhere along the spectrum of optimist and pessimist. But all of us need hope – especially during unique times like this.

May we remember God is the source of our hope. God is calling us to hang on and keep taking this journey one day at time. God is taking us where we need to go. Let us thank God who is with us, God who guides us, God who will rejoice with us when we are on the other side of this pandemic. (also see donation footnote)

We Continue in Hope

Song of Hope

Please select a favorite Christmas carol to sing joyfully.

Benediction

Seed-casting dancers – a new harvest is coming.

Weeping planters – God has yet more wonders to bestow.

Rejoice! Be glad! Christ really will be reborn among us! Amen.

(the service is concluded)

Resources:

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 29, 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!

Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”

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