content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2020
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. 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
Santa and St Mary – Our Wish Lists and God’s Wish List
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship (for one or multiple readers)
Today, we light all four Advent Candles with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Pregnant with the Hope of the World – the Messiah.
Mary sings of a God who scatters the thoughts of The Proud.
Mary sings of a God who brings down The Powerful.
Mary sings of a God who lifts up The Lowly.
Mary sings of a God who feeds The Hungry.
Mary sings of a God who questions The Rich.
May we share Mary’s belief in God’s eternal faithfulness, perpetual mercy, commitment to justice, and ongoing compassion. Let us rejoice! The rebirth of Christ is near! Amen.
Light the Fourth Candle of Advent
(Note: If you’re using four Advent Candles, please relight the three candles lit the last three weeks plus a fourth one this week. If you’re only using one candle, this week it is the “Fourth 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.)
Candle Lighting Song “The Wexford Carol”
Traditional carol performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss
We Unburden and Gather Hope
Naming Our Reality
This is your time to check in with God. Speak candidly telling God about your week. Share the easy moments, the times of challenge, and the situations that confound. As Christmas nears, challenging situations or emotions may dampen your “holiday spirit.” That’s okay. God welcomes you just as you are. If words don’t flow, speak to God with a smile or tear, heartache or swelling of gratitude.
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 if you do not have clarity about what’s troubling you. Your 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 “Beloved One” 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.”
Jesus’s parents lived in a world filled with extreme difficulties. The laws of God given to the Hebrew people through Moses were often broken. In some cases, survival depended upon it. Mary – Jesus’ mother – believed that despite the vast failings of her people, God still intended to send a Messiah, the Incarnate One, to liberate humanity. Mary knew this child forming in her body was God’s sacred gift to us.
Mary had exceptional trust in God’s desire to offer unearned redemption to the Beloved Community. She knew God was sending a Messiah because such mercy and grace sprang from God’s essential nature. May this deep knowing of God’s true intentions and the innate belovedness of all beings bless you this day. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:46b-55 (NRSV, adapted)
We join Mary praising God’s Dream for Humanity
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of this servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who revere God from generation to generation. God has shown strength of arm; Scattering the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. Bringing down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped the servant nation, in remembrance of divine mercy, according to the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants forever.”
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
This year, around the globe, everyone stands in Mary’s shoes. We know exactly what it is like to live in a world where dangerous powers control our fate. Mary knew horrible things can happen to very good people. Mary also understood that ordinary people may do terrible things when pushed into a corner. She knew the fatal wrath of foreign leaders who believed “her kind” to be less than human. And yet, she also knew God’s eternal gloriousness. Her faith was not based upon what had transpired in the human realm during her lifetime. Her faith was based upon what had transpired throughout the cosmos since the beginning of time and would exist throughout eternity. For Jesus’s mother, God could do nothing less than to continually reach out to save humanity.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a mystic and a prophetess. Through her soul, she knew who/what/how God is. In so knowing God, she believed that God could do nothing out of keeping with God’s character. The God who had brought her people out of slavery in Egypt, the God who had given these people a law and a land, was the same God who would never give up on them. God was sending a Messiah to save the people.
This fourth week of Advent is a very good time to honor both what our eyes can see – the genuine blessings in our lives as well as the real suffering, too. To name the daily graces we had taken for granted and to also name the undeniable injustices in our nation and the unfathomable losses around the world due to the pandemic – and to perceive God’s immutable holiness. God is the radiant, primordial source of all being that forever desires the well-being of all that is. God’s only impulse is the wholeness of all creation.
May St. Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, be close to us this week. May she speak to us of God’s Dream for humanity. May we feel the uplifting of our souls as we recall God’s faithfulness. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
Special Music “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas”
Written by Ben Raleigh and James W. Alexander, performed by Lou Rawls
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
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a firm believer that God desired just distribution of power and resources throughout the human community. When her son shared these same ideas, Mary affirmed them knowing they were from God.
God is still broadcasting a vision of humanity where everyone, everyone, has their basic needs met well. God is still speaking to us. May we honestly examine what we have and what we need and consider the same for others? God wishes for everyone to be safe, happy, and well. Everyone. Isn’t that VERY Good News? (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Words: WC Dix, Tune: GREENSLEEVES (Chalice #162); video produced by SE Samonte
Our souls magnify the Lord! Our spirits rejoice in the God who saves us! God is still doing great things! Holy is God’s name! The One who made promises to our ancestors, and to our descendants, keeps those promises through the Eternal Christ soon to be reborn among us! Hallelujah! Amen.
(the service is concluded)
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: December 17, 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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