Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 04 December 2016

Worship Suggestions

Second Sunday of Advent (Joy)

Matthew 3:1–12/3:27–40 IV

The Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near

Additional Scriptures

Isaiah 11:1–10; Psalm 72:1–7, 18–19; Romans 15:4–13; Doctrine and Covenants 163:10


The Advent Focus and Advent Responsive Prayer portions of the worship services intentionally carry over into the other three Sundays of Advent. Use these sections each week to provide continuity and establish a sacred rhythm and formative repetition throughout the Advent season.

Prelude

Carols of the Season

“Angels We Have Heard on High” CCS 427
“Joy to the World!” CCS 408

Welcome

Scripture of Expectation

Isaiah 11:1–2, 6, 9

Hymn of Expectation

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” CCS 394
OR “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed” CCS 633

Scriptural Response

Psalm 72:18–19

Sung Response

The congregation sings the refrain of the preceding hymn. CCS 394 or 633

Advent Focus

The season of Advent is a time of preparing for the light of God to come into the world through Jesus Christ. Advent brings this gift: a slowing, unfolding, waiting time that refuses to be rushed in the name of efficiency, convenience, and urgency. Today is the second Sunday of Advent—the Sunday of joy.

Joyful anticipation deepens.
This waiting is expectant.
This yearning pounds with possibility.
Joyful anticipation deepens.

The Holy is present,
The sacred right alongside us.
Though there is no clarity, there is certainty.
Joyful anticipation deepens.

Even when our sighs are wordless,
Even when our groans are aching,
Even when we cannot pray,
Joyful anticipation deepens.

And the longer we wait,
The more joyful our expectance.
We are enlarged by the waiting,
And our joyful anticipation deepens.

—Zac Harmon-McLaughlin, posted 5 December 2015 on https://spiritualformationcenter.org

Each week as we gather for worship, we come with holy expectation. Expectation of encountering the Divine as we are shaped and sent. As we journey in this season of Advent, let us be especially mindful in our worship of the need to slow down. Let us be vulnerable to God, and to sense the light of Christ’s hope being born anew within us.

Advent is a time to take inventory of our expectations. How is God-with-us seeking to be joy where you are this Advent season? Let us pause in silence, deeply breathing that we may be present to hear the voice of the Holy. Pause for one minute.

Hymn of Centering

“O God We Call” CCS 195
OR “Wait for the Lord” (sing softly, three times) CCS 399

Lighting the Advent Candle of Joy

Statement

Today we light the Advent candle of joy. Joy is the sustained realization of God’s generous movement within the world. Joy refreshes, revives, and awakens life. It is the affirmation that we are loved, we have a purpose, and we are not alone. Joy bursts forth into the world like a candle lit in the dark.

Light the candle of joy.

Advent Responsive Prayer

Leader: God, we lift this Advent prayer to you:

All: That we might wait in your joy,

Leader: Hear our prayer, O Lord. (pause for a moment of silence)

All: That we might find joy as our home,

Leader: Hear our prayer, O Lord. (pause for a moment of silence)

All: That we might nurture joy within,

Leader: Hear our prayer, O Lord. (pause for a moment of silence)

All: That we might bear your joy to others,

Leader: Hear our prayer, O Lord. (pause for a moment of silence)

All: That we may live in the light of your joy,

Leader: Hear our prayer, O Lord. (pause for a moment of silence)

Leader: Amen.

Advent Scripture Reading

Matthew 3:1–3, 11/3:27–40 IV

Advent Hymn

“On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry” CCS 391
OR “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” CCS 405

Focus Moment

Display a variety of light bulbs to reinforce the story.

In the Communion prayers, disciples are called to share the meal together to remember who Jesus was, what he was all about, and how his Spirit continues to guide our lives. When we “take on the name” of Jesus, we take on the understanding that through us—just like through Jesus—God is working to bring the kingdom closer to reality. Eating the bread and drinking the juice is rededicating ourselves to participation with Christ in kingdom work, and affirmation that his message is alive in us.

Electric lights are so common today that we never even give them a thought. If I were changing a light bulb and I dropped one and broke it, I wouldn’t worry about it. I would just get another one. It hasn’t always been that easy. Many people experimented with ways to make light bulbs. They used thousands of different materials—from threads to bamboo—to make the filament that is the wiry part inside a glass bulb that produces light. The first bulbs were not made in a factory; they were made one at a time and it took many hours to make a single bulb. Imagine you’re a young helper in one of the early light-bulb workshops and a scientist asks you to take a finished bulb upstairs so others can test it. You are eager to help and even though you try to be careful, you trip on the stairs and drop the bulb, shattering it. You love helping in the workshop and are afraid you’ll be sent home. The scientist, who knows what it’s like to try and fail, says not to worry. A few days later, the scientist has another bulb finished. You expect another young helper to be chosen to carry this one upstairs, but the scientist gives you a second chance and allows you to try again.

God offers us forgiveness. He offers us a second chance—and more!

Communion brings us great joy because it reminds us that the times we stumble, the times we fall short, the times we don’t embrace Jesus’ message aren’t the last word: God’s grace is! Forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation are always possible because God’s grace has no limits. What a joy it is to know that we worship a God of second chances!

John the Baptist called people to repentance because the kingdom of heaven had come near. But it was closer than any of them could have imagined: the kingdom of God was within them, and it is within us! As we prepare to share in the sacrament of Communion, we prepare ourselves to be ways for the kingdom to come near in the world. We remember the example of Jesus, who turned his joy of closeness with God into service that welcomed others to experience that joy for themselves.

We have lit the candle of joy—now let us commit once more to sharing its light with others. Let us be willing to be vulnerable to divine grace so we might prepare the way of the Lord.

Prayer of Confession

Leader: With broken hopes and broken promises,

Congregation: we come to you, Lord, for you alone can make us whole.

Leader: With broken relationships and broken hearts,

Congregation: we come to you, Lord, for you alone can make us whole.

Leader: With the broken in body and the broken in mind,

Congregation: we come to you, Lord, for you alone can make us whole.

Leader: With the broken in spirit and the despairing,

Congregation: we come to you, Lord, for you alone can make us whole.

Scriptural Preparation

Doctrine and Covenants 163:10

Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine

A soloist or ensemble provides ministry of music as the emblems are served: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” CCS 437.

Advent Message

Based on Matthew 3:1–12/3:27–40 IV

Prayer for Peace

Light the peace candle.

Prayer

You, God, who guide the feet of pilgrims along the paths of peace, guide our steps that we may follow the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

—Velma Ruch, Finding Home (Graceland University Press, 2006, ISBN 9780977734108).

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.

Hymn of Commitment

“Kanisa Litajengwa/Oh, Who Will Build the Church Now?” CCS 338
OR “No Obvious Angels” CCS 418

Disciples’ Generous Response

Story: “Bicycle Built for Two: Me and God”

It used to be that offering time at church was a time to hang my head or go to the restroom. I was a homeless man who, by the help of offering ministry, lives in an apartment and receives Social Security. God does so much for me, and so does this church. But I never had anything for offering and felt so guilty. One day I finally told Pastor Jared my shame. He lifted my head, looked into my eyes, and told me I was one of the most generous men he knew—and he explained why.

This was helpful, but I told him I felt like God wanted more as an offering from me. In some churches, they always try to have all the answers. Here we pray when we are not sure what to do. Jared prayed for me.

I went outside to wait for the van when I saw two bicycles in our dumpster. They were in need of rebuilding, so I went and told Jared I knew my offering. I repaired those two bikes and gave them to two people in my apartment house. Then they wouldn’t have to walk to the doctor or get up early to catch a bus.

I still wish I had cash to offer, but now I am not ashamed when it is offering time. I have given away 39 bikes since then—at homeless shelters, community kitchens, and on the street. I take parts from one bike to repair another. People now bring me bikes to repair and give away. When I see someone riding one of my bicycles, I pray a quick prayer for the person on it and say, “Thank you, God.”

—James of Chattanooga, TN, USA

Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.

Hymn of Joy

“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” CCS 433
OR “Star-Child” CCS 420

Blessing

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

—Romans 15:5–6, 13

Response

Postlude

For today’s sermon helps, see page 20 in Sermon & Class Helps.

Sermon Helps

Second Sunday of Advent

MATTHEW 3:1–12

Exploring the Scripture

The Gospel of Matthew was written several decades after Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected (about 80 CE). The identity of the author of Matthew is unknown but this Gospel message is clear: Jesus is the Messiah! From the first chapter of Matthew the author tells the story of Jesus in ways to explain this message. Jesus is the Messiah and in him is all the authority and power of the kingdom of heaven.

In chapter 3, John the Baptist is introduced into the account of Jesus’ life and mission. John the Baptist was a well-known figure with a large following. John dressed, spoke, and acted in similar ways to the prophets of old. His clothes resembled the prophet Elijah, he spoke the words of Isaiah, and he preached a message of repentance and reform.

In this passage people are going into the wilderness to be baptized by John. The wilderness is a place that brings to mind the exodus of the people of Israel. In the wilderness the Israelites experienced God’s guidance and comforting presence. It was from the wilderness they emerged as a people of God. Here in the wilderness John is calling people to “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (v. 2). The word repent does not mean to confess one’s sins or offer regret for bad behavior. To repent (in Greek, mentanoein—to change one’s mind, think in a new way) is to turn away from an old way of being and to adopt a new way more closely aligned with God’s purposes. This new way is the way of the Lord, a way of justice, liberation, and faithful living.

Included in the groups coming from Jerusalem were Pharisees and Sadducees, Jewish religious leaders. Pharisees were educated men who interpreted and enforced rigid adherence to religious law. Sadducees were leaders who were of the elite priestly lineage. These two groups of leaders were not in religious agreement (rather like present-day conservative or liberal divisions) but both came to be in opposition to the message John, and soon Jesus, would proclaim. John the Baptist is quick to denounce these leaders. He tells them to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (v. 8). In other words, baptism alone is not enough for true repentance, nor is religious status or heritage. Repentance requires new actions that bear the good fruits of justice making and peace.

This passage ends with John pointing to the coming of Jesus. John proclaims that while he can baptize with water, one far superior to him will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is through Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that the reign of God comes near. Through baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, disciples are strengthened and refined to act in ways of mercy, justice, and peace.

Central Ideas

  1. Repentance is the practice of changing one’s way of thinking and acting. To repent is to turn away from an old way of being and to adopt a new way that is more closely aligned with God’s purposes. The wilderness is a place where the people of Israel were formed by God’s presence. In the wilderness John calls for reform, for people to repent—to act in a new way for the kingdom of heaven is near!
  2. Repentance and participation in God’s reign require discipleship that brings about good fruit.
  3. Baptism of water is followed by baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. Disciples are strengthened by the Spirit for faithful living (bearing good fruit), forgiven as the chaff of human defect and sin is burned away.

Questions to Consider

  1. The reign of God (the kingdom of heaven) is understood in Community of Christ as the “coming triumph of love, justice, mercy, and peace” (Basic Beliefs Statement). What changes can you make, and what changes can your congregation make, to bring about fruits of justice making and peace?
  2. With whom do you most closely identify? John the Baptist calling for reform? The Pharisees demanding strict adherence to religious law? The Sadducees steeped in religious lineage? The people coming to be baptized?
  3. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. 
  4. Reflection during Advent calls us away from seasonal materialism and hectic holiday schedules and toward the light of Jesus Christ in the world. How do John’s words call you to repentance this Advent season?

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