Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 27 November 2016

Worship Suggestions

First Sunday of Advent (Hope)

Matthew  24:36–44/24:43–51 IV

Be Ready

Additional Scriptures

Isaiah 2:1–5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11–14, Doctrine and Covenants 157:16–17


Advent Worship Setting

Create an Advent wreath to be used during the four Sundays of Advent as well as on Christmas Day. Place four candles, typically purple or three purple and one pink for the Sunday of joy, within a circle of evergreens with one larger white candle in the middle as the Christ candle to be lit on Christmas Day.

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

“Silvery Star, Precious Star” CCS 419
“Angels, from the Realms of Glory” CCS 436

Welcome

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 first Sunday of Advent—the Sunday of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking
Or a burst of consolation
Or an “it’s ok.”

It is more than meaning making
Giving purpose for pain
Or the exit route
On the discomfort way

Hope is more than a happy explanation
Or a metaphor
Or mechanism for coping

Hope does not run away
It does not try to get out of what is
But it can be found there
Always

Real hope is in the dark
In the pit
At the bottom
Where you never thought you’d be

Real hope doesn’t bring a bandage
Or sympathy flowers
Or turn on an artificial light

Real hope is gravity
It draws you to where you are
For what it is
And doesn’t rush toward resolution

Real hope isn’t away from here
Or past this
Or beyond the horizon
With the future, we cannot yet see

Real hope is always where you are
And it does not leave
It is not waiting in the place
You think you ought to be

This surprising hope
Present already
Where you least expect
Waiting for you to see
That wherever you are
It is being born

—Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

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 hope where you are this Advent season? Let us pause in silence, breathing deeply 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 Hope

Statement

Today we light the Advent candle of hope. Hope awakens us to a new possibility in the light of God’s vision. Hope carries us through the darkness and strengthens us to live daily in the promises of God.

Light the candle of hope.

Advent Responsive Prayer

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

All: That we might wait in your hope,

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

All: That we might find hope as our home,

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

All: That we might nurture hope within,

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

All: That we might bear your hope to others,

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

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

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

Hymn of Hope

“View the Present through the Promise” CCS 401
OR “All Earth Is Hopeful”/“Toda la tierra” CCS 392/393

Advent Scripture Reading

Matthew 24:36–44/24:43–51 IV

Focus Moment

In our scripture passage for today, Jesus is telling his disciples they need to be ready to receive him. Whatever the moment or whatever the need, we need to be ready to see Jesus in others, to serve any of God’s children, and to respond out of our faith. There is much to get ready for, isn’t there? If we have a concert or a game coming up, we get ready by practicing. What about getting ready for school in the morning? What do you need to do? Children or congregants respond. Examples might include get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, grab the backpack.

What do we need to do to be ready to welcome Jesus in our lives? Children or congregation respond. Examples might include pray, go to church, read scripture, tell others about Jesus.

Advent is a season of getting ready to welcome Jesus more fully into our hearts and the world. Just like we get ready every morning for the day that’s starting, we also prepare every day to be ready to encounter Jesus in the lives of the people we meet. When we do this, we help make a better world, just like getting ready in the morning makes for a better day.

Hand out copies of the Mission Prayer, found below, to everyone. These can be purchased from Herald House at www.HeraldHouse.org/cart/edit.asp?p=346941.

One way we can be alert for Jesus each day is by praying the Mission Prayer when we’re getting ready in the morning. Let’s pray it out loud together now:

God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.

As we go through Advent, let’s each remember to pray the Mission Prayer every morning to help us be fully awake and ready to respond to God!

Prayer for Peace

Statement

In Community of Christ, we have a tradition of praying for peace. Since 1993, a chime has sounded, a candle has been lit, and a prayer for peace has been offered each day in the Temple in Independence, Missouri. We extend that practice into our congregation by remembering to pray for peace each time we gather for worship. As a people dedicated to the pursuit of peace, let us join in prayer.

Sound a chime nine times; light the peace candle.

Prayer

God, who is Ever Ready, you meet us in the sacred rhythms of life, calling us to journey with you. In this season of preparation, lead our expectation into action, guide our longings to response, stir our ready posture into ready service. To our confusion and anxiety, bring your peace. To our hesitation and our questions, bring your peace. To our suffering and our emptiness, bring your peace. God, who is Ever Ready, yearning for us to step forward, give us the conviction of your hope. Awaken within our darkness the light of every possibility alive in you. Quicken us to respond to your call to bring hope where it has been forgotten. Slow us to see hope being birthed on the margins and along dusty alleyways. Pace us in your readiness lest we are tempted to rush ahead or slack behind.

God of the already but not yet, carry us in the hope of your peace, urgent in its living while confident in its fulfilment. Slow us to full attention, speed us to full response, bear us through full hope in you and your full peace. In the name of the One, who is Ever Ready to reach out and relight our hope, even Jesus the Christ, Amen.

—Dan Gregory

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 Hymn

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CCS 400
OR “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” CCS 407

Message

Based on Matthew 24:36–44/24:43–51 IV

Our Sung Response

“We Wait in Hope for the Lord” CCS 267
OR “God Almighty, We Are Waiting” CCS 397

Disciples’ Generous Response

Video

Project the Disciples’ Generous Response video “Ignite!” (www.CofChrist.org/resources#/1658/disciples-generous-response-ignite).

Responsive Blessing

Leader: O Lord, open our lips,

Congregation: And our mouths shall declare your praise.

Leader: O Lord, open our eyes,

Congregation: That we may behold your presence.

Leader: O Lord, open our ears,

Congregation: That we may hear your call.

Leader: O Lord, open our hearts,

Congregation: That we may respond to your love.

Leader: O Lord, open our lives,

Congregation: That we may join in your mission.

Leader: Amen.

—Isaiah 2:2–5, adapted

Receiving of Mission Tithes

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

Hymn of Benediction

“When the Present Holds No Promise” CCS 430
OR “Canticle of the Turning” CCS 404

Sending Forth

Doctrine and Covenants 157:16–17

Postlude

For today’s sermon helps, see page 18 in Sermon & Class Helps.

Sermon Helps

First Sunday of Advent

MATTHEW 24:36–44

Exploring the Scripture

During Advent season (from the Latin “to come”), we celebrate the coming of Jesus in many ways: through prophecies, birth, baptism, and the future reign of God. Matthew 24:36–44 focuses on the future reign of God.

The first-century peasants faced day-to-day survival with little energy wasted on the future. In this passage, Jesus describes for the first-century audience what happens at the coming of the Son of Man. Like us, their actions in the present demonstrate how they understand and prepare for the coming reign of God.

Jesus begins with the image of Noah’s flood (v. 37) to highlight the lack of preparation. He uses this story reference to emphasize that life is more than eating and drinking. He teaches intentional living that visibly shows in daily life what the coming of the Son of Man will be like. His message was, and remains, focused on living in this world in a watchful way.

Jesus’ second illustration presents the contrast between two people doing similar tasks. One will be taken and one left. The hearer can assume that one is ready and one is not. But which is which?

Today popular culture assumes that the one “left behind” is unprepared, a sinner rejected and unable to enter the kingdom. But in Hebrew Scripture, those who are left are the ones who are reserved (Genesis 32:8; Genesis 42:38; Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:62; Ruth 1:5; 1 Kings 19:18; 2 Kings 25:12, 22; 1 Chronicles 13:2; Nehemiah 1:2, 3; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 11:11). The Isaiah passages especially reveal the sense of salvation and blessing for those who remain. For Jesus, to be left and not taken means one is alert and prepared, doing a work that is valuable and productive in God’s kingdom. To be taken is to be destroyed and removed from God’s sphere of action.

Finally, Jesus uses the idea of a thief who comes to steal when the head of house is asleep. He encourages the people to be awake and not allow complacency, passiveness, and apathy to steal the opportunity to be part of the kingdom.

Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, just as we might say we are human beings. He not only points out that he is fully human, but also that he represents humanity, dependent on God for life, for authority, and for blessings.

“Son of Man” is also a term that was used in Hebrew Scripture in a special way. Daniel 7:13–14 describes a vision of one like a human being (Son of Man) who is presented to God and receives power and authority over all nations and peoples—a king whose kingdom will never end. Many Judeans of first-century Galilee would have interpreted it to mean the coming Messiah. In this passage, Jesus does not define the phrase, but he uses it to refer to a coming figure whose appearance is so important and transforming that people need to be ready for his coming. This coming is the result of the actions that are being introduced to usher in the reign of God. Only God knows the timing and manner of the coming of the Son of Man. For everyone else, including the Son, it remains unknown (v. 36). Jesus is calling the people to watchfulness and preparation for the mystery of a future that is held firmly in God’s hands. During Advent, we are called to prepare for God’s future and Jesus coming into our lives.

Central Ideas

  1. We believe in a God who comes into the world and is with us.
  2. Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus in many ways: prophecies of his coming, his birth, John the Baptist as forerunner, and the coming of God’s peaceful reign.
  3. Jesus stresses the importance of preparation and watchfulness in living each day in this world that God created and loves.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you do each day that represents preparing and living for the coming reign of God?  What does your congregation do?
  2. What activities, attitudes, and behaviors steal from us the time and energy that might otherwise be devoted to bringing forth the reign of God?
  3. What does it mean to be “watchful” in today’s world? How does that influence the way we approach Advent?
  4. What is the difference between living in fear of a presumed destruction and being prepared to usher in a new age with God’s peaceful reign?

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