Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 18 December 2016

Worship Suggestions

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Love)

MATTHEW 1:18–25/2:1–8 IV

Emmanuel: God with Us

Additional Scriptures

Isaiah 7:10–16; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19; Romans 1:1–7; Doctrine and Covenants 85:3


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

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CCS 423
“The First Noël” CCS 424

Welcome

Call to Worship

Reader 1: Arise, shine! For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

All Readers: Restore us, O God; let your love shine, that we may be saved.

Reader 2: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them a light has shined.

All Readers: Restore us, O God; let your love shine, that we may be saved.

Reader 3: And the light which now shines, which gives you light, is through him who enlightens your eyes. It is the same light that quickens your understandings; which light proceeds forth from the pres-ence of God, to fill the immensity of space.

All Readers: Restore us, O God; let your love shine, that we may be saved.

Reader 2: The light which is in all things; which gives life to all things; which is the law by which all things are governed; even the power of God who sits upon the throne, who is in the heart of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

All Readers: Restore us, O God; let your love shine, that we may be saved.

Reader 1: What was coming into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

—selections from Isaiah 9:2, 60:1; Doctrine and Covenants 85:3; John 1:3b–5, 9; Psalm 80

Carol

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” CCS 431
OR “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” CCS 409

Prayer of Presence

Response

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 fourth Sunday of Advent—the Sunday of love.

A weary hand knocks on the door of an inn,
and there is no room!
No room, God of love, for love to be born.
Oh, how we need your gift of love!
Love of neighbor, love of enemy, love of self.
Healthy love, holistic love.
Healing love that melts the ice of alienation,
that warms each heart with the wonder of acceptance
for every child that love has birthed.
Surely there is room for love?
Love that seeks and saves. Love without strings.
Love for love’s own sake
—uncaused, uncalculated, unrequiring.

—Danny A. Belrose, Wave Offerings (Herald Publishing House, 2015, ISBN 9780830912117), 131.

Each week as we gather for worship, we come with holy expectation. Expecting to encounter 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 love 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 (sing softly, three times)

“O God We Call” CCS 195
OR “Wait for the Lord” CCS 399

Lighting the Advent Candle of Love

Statement

Today we light the Advent candle of love. Love is both tender affection and resilient compassion, the concern and care extended inward and outward. Love is the heart of God, the heart of Christ’s message, the heart of the Spirit’s call to all disciples. Love is a light calling us home through the darkness.

Light the Advent candle of love.

Carol of Love

“Away in a Manger” CCS 425/426
OR “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CCS 416

Advent Responsive Prayer

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

All: That we might wait in your love,

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

All: That we might find love as our home,

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

All: That we might nurture love within,

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

All: That we might bear your love to others,

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

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

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

Amen.

Advent Scripture Reading

Matthew 1:18–25/2:1–8 IV

Carol

“Joseph, Kind Joseph” (stanza 1) CCS 414
OR “I Danced in the Morning” (stanza 1) CCS 23

Prayer for Peace

God Who Makes Your Home with Us,

Create space within our hearts that we might receive you. Light the pathways of our understanding that we might find your presence in one another. Lift the darkness from our eyes so we may awaken to your purposes of peace. Emmanuel, God, come into the neighborhood, call us once again to work for justice and healing in every town and village where you already dwell. Emmanuel, God in relationship, lead us beyond our isolation and into transformative community. Emmanuel, God in solidarity with outcasts and “forgottens,” remind us of your impulse of welcome and hospitality. Pour out your love abundant to us, through us, among us that we might refresh every alleyway and yard and store and table with your promise of peace. God, who makes your home with us, let us make our home in your love, your joy, your hope, your peace, your vision of light which dispels all darkness. Emmanuel, God with us, lead us in your way of peace through love, is our prayer. Amen.

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.

Advent Message

Based on Matthew 1:18–25/2:1–8 IV

Disciples’ Generous Response

Statement: Joseph’s Generosity

We heard today about how Joseph listened to God and helped Jesus come into the world. We’re going to hear the text again, and I want you to listen for ways that Joseph showed generosity. Read Matthew 1:18–25/2:1–8 IV. Who can tell me a way that Joseph was generous? Wait for responses. Answers could include: He didn’t want Mary to be publicly disgraced; he trusted God and listened; he took Mary to be his wife; he named the baby “Jesus.” Joseph didn’t know exactly how his generous response would affect the world, but when he felt God nudging him he knew what he needed to do.

Our generous response as disciples is similar, isn’t it? When we give our money, we don’t always know the names and faces and stories of the people who will be affected by it, but we do know that we need to respond to God’s invitation to give. When we are generous in supporting the mission of Christ through the energies of the church, other people in our own neighborhoods and around the world find new ways to experience the amazing love of Emmanuel, God with them. Let’s take the example of Joseph and respond generously to God’s invitation today.

Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes

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

Carol

“What Child Is This” CCS 432
OR “Once in Royal David’s City” CCS 429

Prayer of Expectation and Confession

Leader: O Loving God, we pray in expectation that the coming of Christ may scatter all darkness,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Leader: That the birth of Christ may hallow all life,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Leader: That the love of Christ may be in every heart,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Leader: That the peace of Christ may fill the world,

Congregation: Christ, have mercy.

Leader: That the humility of Christ may teach us gentleness,

Congregation: Christ, have mercy.

Leader: That the presence of Christ may be within us,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Leader: That the power of Christ may be on us,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Leader: That the Spirit of Christ may fill us,

Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

Sung Response

“Laudate Dominum” CCS 91
OR “Jubilate Deo” CCS 123
OR “Kyrie Eleison” CCS 184

Postlude

For today’s sermon helps, see page 24 in Sermon & Class Helps.

Sermon Helps

Fourth Sunday of Advent

MATTHEW 1:18–25

Exploring the Scripture

Rather than recounting the birth of Jesus, today’s passage provides important background. It tells that Mary is engaged to Joseph but that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit before living with Joseph. Then, engagement was considered binding, so Mary being pregnant was what today would be considered as a violation of the marital agreement. Joseph would have had every right to make a public spectacle of her and reject her as his engaged. But we are told he is “a righteous man” and he decides to “dismiss her quietly.” Already, the text introduces a different notion of righteousness than simple obedience to the law. He decides to respond to Mary out of compassion.

After having decided, an angel visits Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel tells him the child Mary is expecting has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Further he is told to name the baby “Jesus.” This is important, as the earlier verses of this chapter have shown Joseph as a descendant of David. By naming the baby, Joseph claims Jesus as his own and as a descendant of David. This allows the author to proclaim this child as “Emmanuel,” in fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy, a connection especially important throughout Matthew’s Gospel.

The name Jesus meant “Yahweh helps” or “Yahweh saves.” Even with such an intense meaning, the name Jesus was common then. It serves as a bridge between the holiness of God and the commonness of humanity. Jesus was known in tradition to be the successor of Moses and this theme continues throughout Matthew’s Gospel.

Today is the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday just before celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. The church’s declaration, after the expectation of Advent, is that Jesus is born! Not only do we remember an event that occurred 2,000 years ago, we affirm that Jesus is born anew. Jesus’ birth is not just a onetime event. He is born again each time we remember and relive his life and ministry. Whenever his disciples reach out in love, compassion, and care toward others in need, Jesus is present. He lives today just as much as he did after his birth in Bethlehem, his upbringing in Nazareth, and his life in Palestine. With joy, on this day, we shout “Jesus is born!”

Central Ideas

  1. Jesus’ birth occurred under unusual circumstances.
  2. Jesus’ birth fulfilled Hebrew prophecy.
  3. Jesus was God’s gift to humanity to bring about salvation.
  4. Jesus is reborn in each act of genuine Christian discipleship.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you find most unusual about Jesus’ birth?
  2. How have you experienced God’s love so far this Advent season?
  3. How does Jesus’ birth fulfill your greatest longings?
  4. How have you experienced Jesus’ birth anew as you share with other Christian disciples, both in giving and receiving acts of love?