4th Sunday of Advent. “Holy Wonder: Spiritual Courage” * Matthew 1:18-21

Image: Louie family ©2022. Original written content: Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber ©2022.

We Gather

“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.” — Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations

Prelude (musician)

Pastor’s Welcome and Acknowledgements (pastor) Welcome! Welcome to worship this 4th and last Sunday of Advent. Our Advent-Christmas theme this year is “Holy Wonder.”

No matter who you are… No matter where you are on life’s journey… You are welcome here! Welcome guests.

Through Jesus Christ, we are called together as the Beloved Community. We are blessed by this sacred worship space located on unceded territory of the Lisjan-Ohlone people. We honor the past and face the future in peace with hope.

Liturgist’s Welcome and Acknowledgements (liturgist) As Pastor Kathryn lights the Altar Votives, let us remember those who are not physically present, but with us in spirit or thought.

Lighting the Votives (pastor lights votives while the musician plays) “Let There Be Peace on Earth”

(liturgist, after votive candles are lit and music concluded, please continue)

Today’s…

  • Flowers: David & Dorene Louie
  • Worship Team: Musician:  Everett Louie.  Vocalist: Jonathan Louie. Liturgist:  David Louie.  Pastor:  Rev. Kathryn Schreiber.  Advent Wreath Lighter/Readers:  the Louie family.
  • (Advent Wreath lighters/readers come up; liturgist sits down)

Advent Wreath Reading and Candles (Advent Wreath reader/s)

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, may we open to Holy Wonder, listening to Irish Christian philosopher and spiritual guide John O’Donohue:

“All thinking that is imbued with wonder is graceful and gracious thinking… Thought, if it’s not open to wonder, can be limiting, destructive and very, very dangerous.”

“If you look at a thought as a circle, and if half the arc of the circle is the infusion of wonder, then the thought will be kind, it will be gracious, and it will also be compassionate, because wonder and compassion are sisters.” (jo)

We light the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Candles of Advent – expectant and eager to encounter Holy Wonder. (Light all FOUR Advent Candles)

Opening Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” #144, all 4 verses (musician)

Passing the Peace (all share gestures and words of peace; pastor)

Time for Children “God-Given Dreams” Sometimes, God speaks while we sleep. (pastor)

We Rest in God’s Grace

Prayer and Silence (pastor) Let us shift into silence in God’s presence with this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God. (Breathe slowly)

Be still and know that I am. (Breathe slowly)

Be still and know. (Breathe slowly)

Be still. (Breathe slowly)

Be. (Breathe slowly)

(Breathe in silence) Amen.

Assurance of Grace (pastor) Dear Ones, fear happens. It is our natural instinct to be anxious when the unexpected occurs. Yet, we are more than fearful beings. We are made in the image of God. We have souls that dwell in eternity awash with the wondrous presence of the Living Christ – the One-Who-Is-Always-Coming-Into-Being.

Beloved Thomas Merton said, “The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.” For Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, something had to die in him that he might welcome a new role as a parent of the Christ.

We, too, are being called by God to release parts of ourselves so that we can host the Christ being born this Christmas. This is a strange and sometimes scary grace – to let go of the familiar, so that God can fill us with the new. Amen. (kms)

Special Music (musician) “Grown Up Christmas Wish” Jonathan Louie, vocal

We Listen

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-21 (version: NRSV; liturgist) Faced with a moral challenge, righteous Joseph, while sleeping, receives God’s guidance opening to a new, wonderful way forward.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way:

When Jesus’ mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when Joseph resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

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

Reflection: “Compassionate Courage” (pastor) In Joseph we have a role model of true faithfulness. His openness to God’s wonders – far beyond his own thoughts of what is possible or even traditionally correct – show us how to surrender to compassion and courage, welcoming Christ into our hearts, homes, world.

Reflection Hymn: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” #628, all 3 verses (musician)

We Pray

Prayer Requests (pastor; all)

Pastoral Prayer (pastor) Dream-Giver, when our thoughts are too small for Your Big Dreams, allow us to rest and sleep. As we surrender our diligently practiced ideas, and our unhelpfully protective fears, and our real concerns about the mysterious unknown — take away what no longer serves to fill us with what does. We really hope to be open to Your joys, Your gifts, Your redemption of all that is suffering. Amen. (kms)

Prayers of the People, Private Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer (pastor)

Offering Our Praise “Doxology” (musician; all)

We Transition

Announcements (pastor)

  • Senior Center Tues December 20th – RSVP to?
  • Christmas Eve: 2pm “Holy Wonder” Service with Holy Communion
  • Next Sunday: Christmas Day. 11am. “Holy Wonder” Angel’s Pop-Up Play.
  • Donations for WDDS due 12/25

Closing Hymn: “O Come All Ye Faithful” #148, all 4 verses (musician)

Benediction (pastor) We are a week away from Christmas – and maybe we are feeling a little too much that isn’t good. I think St Joseph would tell us to “take a nap.” Sleep. Dream. Be open to God speaking in our dreams of courageous, compassionate, expansive, even radical Big Love!

May God bless us with Holy Wonder! May we go forth in peace with Big Love! Amen.

Postlude (musician) “Believe”

The service is concluded.

Worship Resources:

(kms) All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.

(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

(jo) John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder ©2015. Esp. pp 5-7; but also see 15-17 on Fear.

Residency Acknowledgement: This content was written in Huichin Village, unceded territory of the Lisjan- Ohlone people, where I dwell and serve as a local church pastor. Please support indigenous rematriation efforts, the #LandBack movement, and give to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust Soghttps://sogoreate-landtrust.org/ and other non-profits that reform, balance, and heal relationships with our indigenous hosts. Thank you!

Copyright Note: Copyright laws changed in December 2020 when Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act). Please check with your legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music when sharing content online. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Protect the rights of content creators. Thank you!

Online Publishing Date: December 13, 2022.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please attribute source and observe ethical use of all resources. Follow your platforms’ publishing requirements for all created content especially if publishing online or broadcasting. Thank you!

Donation: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is free. 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!

For Online Content: Please see Facebook pages: “Berkeley Chinese Community Church” and “Living Liturgies”; as well as my website: www.inthebiglove.com and YouTube channel: “Kathryn Schreiber”

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