First Sunday of Advent (Hope)
MARK 13:24–37/13:38–55 IV
Come, Lord Jesus
Isaiah 64:1–9; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19; 1 Corinthians 1:3–9; 1 Nephi 3:7–8; Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
Advent Worship Setting
Create an arrangement of five candles as the focus of the worship center. This can be embellished with greenery or other decorations in keeping with your meeting space. You may choose to use three purple, one pink (joy), and one white candle (Christ candle), or an arrangement of candles of your choosing. Each Sunday the previous candles are relit and one additional candle is lit during the Lighting of the Advent Candle, culminating with the lighting of the fifth candle, the Christ candle, on Christmas Day.
Advent Focus Moment Preparation
On each of the four Sundays during Advent, ask someone to give a testimony reflecting on hope, peace, love, and joy or read part of the book, Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider (Abingdon Press, 2012, ISBN 9781426754869). It is the story of a perfect little tree named Small Pine, that lived in a faraway land and hoped to preserve its flawless form and be chosen by the Queen as her Christmas tree. But as the kind and generous little tree sheltered deer, birds, and small forest creatures, it sustained damage. Fortunately, the Queen had an unusual idea of perfection. Consider asking the same person to share the story for each of the four Sundays.
Props to be used throughout Advent: a small Christmas tree to represent Small Pine, the following stuffed animals or figurines: a small, brown bunny, a small bird, a small fawn; fake snow or a white tablecloth to resemble snow; a bigger Christmas tree to be used to display each week’s coloring pages.
Materials: coloring sheets with Small Pine’s picture; enough brown and green crayons (pastels) for each child for first three Sundays; a variety of colors on the last Sunday; cotton balls for snow, glue sticks and small natural-colored feathers to add on the Third Sunday of Advent; clothespins to attach children’s pages to a big Christmas tree or jute string to create a clothesline so when children have completed their art each week they can hang their work “gallery style” to share with the congregation all month.
Worship Preparation and Prelude
Welcome and Invitation to Worship
O that you would come to us and make your name known so that the nations might tremble at your presence! Never have such awesome deeds been worked as when you have shown your power. Next to you, we are nothing; yet, despite everything we might do that is not aligned with your will, you love us. You are our God; you are the potter and we are the clay—the work of your hand. We are your people.
—Isaiah 64:1–9, adapted
And he told us of a prophet, who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord; who would go forth and cry in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.
—1 Nephi 3:7–8, adapted
Lighting of the Advent Candle of Hope
Leader: Today we light the candle of hope and reflect on the importance of hope in our lives. Hope helps us lift our eyes to the future,
Left: lift our spirits in anticipation,
Right: and lift our hearts in love.
Left: When we are consumed with fear, let us find hope.
Right: When we sense despair, let us find hope.
Leader: May we be the people we are called to be—those who bear Christ’s hope to the world.
All: Come, come, Emmanuel, and bring hope into our hearts today.
Leader lights the candle of hope and is seated.
Advent Reflection on Hope
The presider or another reader presents the following three prompts to the congregation in either a meditation format—by asking the congregation to silently meditate for 20 seconds after each question is read, as a discussion among the entire congregation, or by asking the people to share their individual responses with one or two others sitting close to them. Questions could be projected or printed in the bulletin. Conclude by reading the final two paragraphs.
- What does a posture of hope look like for you?
- How do you testify of the Living Christ?
- Where do you see Jesus amid the chaos and turmoil in our world?
We are invited to look for Jesus in the here and now. We are admonished, “Do not fear.” It is a message that needs to be heard.
Our communities can be places of light and hope that welcome those struggling with fear and darkness. When we begin to get caught up in events in our world today that could paralyze us, we need to remember to raise our heads and live our lives in hope, and stand as ensigns to the rest of the world.
Hymn of Expectation
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” CCS 394
OR “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CCS 400
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
O God, we find many times that peace is so elusive. We seek peace, yet we find it is often just beyond our grasp. Help us find ways to engage in activities and ministries that bring peace to our families, our communities, and our world. May we always be found seeking peace and clasping the hands of others who also search. Together, help us make a difference, bringing hope and peace to our world. Amen.
Ministry of Music or Hymn of Peace
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” CCS 605
OR “We Are People of God’s Peace” CCS 306
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Focus Moment of Hope
Ask the pastor or a member of the leadership team to give a short testimony reflecting on hope.
OR Read Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider (Abingdon Press, 2012, ISBN 9781426754869), from the first page through the fourth page that begins, “One tree, Small Pine, grew near the edge” and ends with “what anyone else said didn’t matter.”
Storyteller Talking Points
This is the first Sunday of Advent and our theme today is hope. For the four Sundays of Advent we will be sharing together a very special story, a story about a little tree named Small Pine. If you have a prop tree you can say, “Kind of like this one.” Read thoughtfully with a bit of mystery in your voice. Change your tone when you begin “But long, long ago....”
- How do you like the story so far?
- As I said, our theme today is HOPE. What is Small Pine hoping for as it grows in the forest?
- Do you think the Queen will choose it to be the most "perfect tree"?
- During the next three Sundays of Advent we will find out!
You will need an 8½"x 11" (21.59 x 27.94 cm) Christmas-tree coloring page for each child. Copy the one at the end of today’s worship outline or create your own. Give the children only a green crayon (pastel) this Sunday and ask them to color the tree. Their names will need to be on the coloring page as they will use this same page again for the next three weeks. Then attach cotton balls with glue sticks to make snow. Clip the pages onto the big Christmas tree or along the gallery space.
Based on the Lord’s Supper and Mark 13:24–37/13:38–55 IV
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Hymn of Preparation
“Coming Together for Wine and for Bread” CCS 516
OR “I Come with Joy, a Child of God” CCS 533
Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The first Sunday of the month focuses on Abolish Poverty, End Suffering which includes Oblation and World Hunger ministry.
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Anticipation
“We Wait in Hope for the Lord” (sing through stanzas 1–3, then repeat stanza 1) CCS 267
OR “Hope of the World” CCS 29
Leader: God, your people wait. We anticipate the coming of Jesus.
Congregation: Come and save us!
Leader: For whom do we wait? A king? A ruler? One who will overthrow the powers that seek to oppress?
Congregation: Come and save us! Restore us, O God.
Leader: We yearn for your presence in our lives; forgive us for those times when we have turned away from you.
Congregation: Restore us, O God.
—Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19, adapted
“Bless the Lord” CCS 575
First Sunday of Advent
Exploring the Scripture
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, with an emphasis on hopeful waiting. The Gospel of Mark does not include a birth story and it might seem curious that we are starting Advent at a point in the story just before the Passion of Christ. However, the comments on the end of time are suitable for our Advent preparation because they deal with the coming of the Lord. Christ came and Christ comes again: 2,000 years ago, today, and tomorrow!
Some refer to these verses in the 13th chapter of Mark as “the little Apocalypse” with likeness to the apocalyptic writing of John. In both accounts, God is coming into the world and the cosmos will be affected. We are counseled to repent, and wait expectantly with hopefulness because God is a faithful God and seeks to set up the peaceable kingdom on Earth. “The future of the creation belongs to the Prince of Peace…. As we anticipate that future, we devote ourselves to seek Christ’s peace and pursue it. We do not know the day or hour of Christ’s coming but know only that God is faithful” (Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., 16).
Verses 24–27 of this reading describe the “signs of the times” using images and language from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Joel 2:10, 3:4, 15; Ezekiel 32:7–8; Daniel 7:13). It was common to use cosmic images to signal important events. The writer combines the endtime judgment references from Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel with the coming of the Son of Man as described in Daniel. As hearers of these words, we undoubtedly know there is something significant coming.
Verses 28–31 contain a short parable of the fig tree with an image of tender, new life that is the forerunner of summer. We can have hope the Son of Man is near; God is faithful.
Verses 32–37 can be summarized as a wakeup call. We are urged to be prepared and alert, thinking beyond the present because “about that day or hour no one knows” (v. 32). When will the Messiah come? The writer of the Gospel of Mark advises us to keep awake for we do not know when the master will come.
Waiting can be viewed as passive, as in waiting for a train after work to take us home. But we are told to practice a different waiting—waiting expectantly, as in waiting for a train that is bringing a loved one home to us. We wait and watch for the Lord to arrive with expectation and a sense that we cannot predict when it will happen. We join with those who lived before the birth of Jesus who were faithfully expecting the Messiah’s arrival.
By focusing at the beginning of Advent on the return of the Son of Man, we actively wait in solidarity with those who have gone before and hear, with them, the challenge to keep awake and watch for the Lord. While we may think we know how the story ends, this text causes us to realize the paradox of living between “already” (Christ has come) and “not yet” (God’s reign on Earth is not complete). We do not know the day when God’s reign will be realized. We need to be reminded that Christ comes. We need to be ready.
- God is faithful. We wait in confidence and with hope that God’s reign will come.
- Advent is a season of waiting—something important is about to happen.
- Expectantly waiting involves living as if Christ’s return is imminent.
Questions to Consider
- What testimony do you have of God’s faithfulness?
- How can you and your congregation use this Advent season as a time of self-examination? Are you prepared?
- Workers sometimes joke, “Look busy, the boss is coming!” Do you see any likenesses between this and today’s text?
- How are we like the servants (vv. 32–37), entrusted with work while the master is away?
- What can you do as a congregation to shift from passive waiting to expectantly waiting for the coming of the Messiah?
- What gives you hope for God’s reign to be realized on Earth?