Community of Christ

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Worship Resources - 06 December 2020

Worship Suggestions

Second Sunday of Advent (Love)

ISAIAH 40:1-11

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Additional Scriptures

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Doctrine and Covenants 157:11; 163:10b


Preparation

This week the Advent wreath should hold the unlighted Christ candle and the lighted Hope candle. The candle of Love will be added to the wreath by someone sharing their testimony of love.

Invite someone ahead of time to prepare to share a 3-5-minute testimony on love. Possible prompt: Consider sharing a time when you experienced deep, unconditional love. How did this experience impact your life?

Congregants should have access to their “Journey Through Advent” booklets. Have extra booklets available. 

Prelude

Carol of the Season

“Away in the Manger” CCS 425/426

Welcome

Welcome in the name of the one who is Love. We gather on this second Sunday of Advent as one of many congregations from around the world. We are unified by our individual and collective experiences of God as Emmanuel—God with us. Love became incarnate in the form of the Christ child. May we continue this journey of Advent together, not only confident of God’s immeasurable love for us, but expectant that what is being birthed within us will become blessings to others.

Welcome!

Songs of Gathering

Choose 1 or 2

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” CCS 99

OR “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CCS 416

OR “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Stanzas 1 and 3 CCS 434

Call to Worship

Leader: This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

People: The prophet Isaiah said, “I am sending my messenger who will prepare your way.”

Leader: John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness saying,

People: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Leader: The people of Jerusalem were baptized by John the baptizer in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

People: John proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.”

Leader: “I am not worthy to untie his sandals.

People: I have baptized you with water;

All: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

—Mark 1:1-8, adapted

Song of Invitation

“People, Look East” CCS 395

OR “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” CCS 437

OR “Lovely Child, Holy Child” Stanzas 1 and 2 CCS 428

Invocation

Response

Lighting of the Advent Candle of Love

Testimony of Love

The Testimony of Love speaker will carry the lighted candle of Love to the front of the worship space and hold it while sharing their testimony. Once they have given their testimony, they will place the candle of love in the prepared wreath. As they do this, have them read or recite:

I add the Advent candle of Love. Christ is the light of Love in my world. Love lives in me.

The Prophet Speaks: Isaiah 40:1-11

Consider playing recordings of Handel’s Messiah for any or all of the passages from this Isaiah text that are quoted in that oratorio. Intersperse the recordings with readings of the scripture text. Use a diverse selection of readers.

Homily

Based on Isaiah 40:1-11

Song of Advent Love

“Comfort, Comfort Now My People” CCS 407

OR “God’s Love Made Visible!” CCS 411

OR “God Almighty, We Are Waiting” CCS 397

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 85:8

Prayer

God of Love,
You are Emmanuel! God with us. Pause. God within us. Pause.
Love incarnate. Pause. Love in action. Pause.
Ignite within us compassion for the unloved, Pause.
solidarity for the marginalized, Pause.
and action for the mistreated of your creation. Pause.
Let love be the verb as our hearts become one with yours;
speaking the truth that Love is for all…Pause. …and through all! Pause.
Amen.

A Daily Prayer for Peace service is held at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA 365 days a year. Additional ideas for Prayer for Peace can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.

Disciples’ Generous Response

Scripture Reading: Psalm 85:10-13

Statement

During the Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart.

Ask congregants to consider instances of God’s love they have experienced in their lives through being a generous disciple discovering whole-life stewardship that they could share with others. Then in one or two words have them share popcorn-style the love they would offer to share.

As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings.

When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.

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.

Advent Reflection

Song of Reflection

“like a child” CCS 403

OR “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” CCS 27

OR “Hope Is a Light” Stanza 4 CCS 398

Each week during Advent we are invited to reflect upon our journey through the season. Each moment we contemplate is shaped by our past, informed by our present and inspired by our future. We are challenged to “Come before (our) Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew; to be vulnerable to divine grace.” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b)

Invite congregants to open their Advent booklets to the “Love in Action” pages. Read the prompts and allow time for silent reflection/writing/drawing/coloring. You may choose to have quiet music playing in the background.

Song of Advent Contemplation

“Wait for the Lord” Sing 2 or 3 times. CCS 399

OR “Into My Heart” Sing 2 or 3 times. CCS 573

OR “On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry” CCS 391

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Communion Scripture: Mark 14:12-26

Communion Message

Based on the Sacrament of Communion

Communion Invitation Statement

All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.

Hymn of Preparation

“As We Gather at Your Table”  CCS 523

OR “In These Moments We Remember” CCS 515

OR “Coming Together for Wine and for Bread” CCS 516

Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine

For guidelines on the Lord’s Supper, including online participation, see www.CofChrist.org/common/cms/resources/Guidelines-Lords-Supper-9-2019-EN.pdf.

Song of Sending Forth

“View the Present through the Promise”  CCS 401

OR “You Are Called to Tell the Story”  CCS 625

OR “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” Stanza 1 and refrain CCS 623

Sending Forth: Doctrine and Covenants 157:11

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1–11

Exploring the Scripture

Isaiah 40 is the beginning chapter of what scholars describe as Second Isaiah, which continues to the end of Isaiah 55. One continuing theme in the first 39 chapters was the prophet’s warning of disastrous results for the Jewish nation if it turned away from obedience to God. Because of the people’s lack of faithful response to the prophetic voice, they suffered as Isaiah foretold. The worst disaster the people experienced was being conquered. First, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century BCE. Then the Babylonians conquered Judah in the sixth century BCE. Both conquerors tried to annihilate Hebrew culture and heritage, the Assyrians by intermarrying and diluting customs and practices, and the Babylonians by exiling many Jews from their homeland to Babylon.

Second Isaiah marks a time of celebration for the Jewish people as they hoped for liberation from their exile of about 50 years (two generations). Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler who was the chief military, economic, and political power in that part of the world, eventually allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

Isaiah 40:1–11 recognizes the Jewish people’s suffering and admits their central role in bringing the penalty of exile on themselves. This passage proclaims that though the people distanced themselves from God, they were not alone in their trials and suffering. God persevered with them. Their return to Jerusalem, the center of worship and relationship with God, was a joyful time described as being able to travel on a highway without obstacles and rough places. The prophet proclaims people must learn the lesson of their fragile and temporary nature, like blades of grass in contrast to the mighty and eternal God who cares for them and leads them to salvation. We, by ourselves, cannot bring about God’s kingdom. We rely on God
to lead us.

This passage often is read during Advent because the coming of Christ also is a powerful reality of God’s salvation being given to unworthy people. God is faithful to us, even when we are not faithful in return. The prophet urges us to proclaim God’s goodness and care, even when we are in the wilderness and not fully able to recognize it. We find hope and comfort in life as we recognize the loving Giver and proclaim, “Here is our God!”

Central Ideas

  1. God’s loving care is steadfast and unfailing.
  2. When we experience trials, challenges, and setbacks, we have reason for hope in a better
    future.
  3. Experiencing God’s presence leads to celebration.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the Jewish exile in Babylon remind us of 21st-century experiences of longsuffering?
  2. What present-day events result in having hope in God’s future of liberation from being
    alienated, exiled, and oppressed?
  3. How might we best proclaim and celebrate God’s enduring and unwavering compassion?

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Second Sunday of Advent (Love)

Isaiah 40:1–11 NRSV

The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.

The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.


Gathering

Welcome

During Advent season a traditional visual display includes four white candles (one for each week of Advent) or an evergreen wreath with four candles plus one white candle in the center. One candle is lit each week. The center candle is lit on Christmas. Lighting the Advent candle takes place at the beginning of the spiritual practice.

Advent is a season of waiting in expectation for the coming of light into a darkened world in the form of the infant Jesus. Advent is spent anticipating and spiritually preparing for the arrival of the Christ-child. Scriptures, symbols, and hymns help make Advent a time of expectation for Christ’s birth, rather than a frenzy of holiday tasks.

The Advent season begins four weeks before Christmas and is observed each Sunday until Christmas day. An Advent wreath with four candles, plus one Christ candle in the center, often is used to observe the weeks of Advent. One candle is lit each week until all are burning brightly on Christmas.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.

Keeper of the great Shalom,

You carry such a broad and expansive universe on your shoulders yet make yourself known to us in this season of Advent and expectation for the coming Christ. Help us strive for peace like water rushing towards the ocean. As water brings life, allow peace to generate new life in us. As water carves new lands and patterns into being, allow peace to create new spaces in our lives and communities. As water flows on to nourish many places unseen, allow peace to flow through us to create new bonds of life again. God, allow the birth of the Christ child to nourish us anew. Help us bring peace into the world each and every day. 

Amen.

Tiffany and Caleb Brian

Spiritual Practice

Holding in the Light - Love

Light the second candle of Advent and say:

Today we light the second candle of Advent. This candle represents love. May the lighting of this candle remind us to share our light and love with the world. 

Place a lit candle in the center of the group.

Spend a few moments in silence to become quiet inside and out.

Ask each person to share about a person or circumstance in need of God’s love. (Write down each one.)

Invite people into a period of prayer, placing these specific people and needs in God’s loving, healing care.

Read aloud:

As we focus on the candle’s light, imagine the people for whom we pray being surrounded by God’s light.

After I read each name, we will spend a moment engaged in silent prayer.

We trust God to know the needs of each person or circumstance, and we compassionately hold them in the restorative, healing light of God.

Offer a brief prayer of thanks to close your experience.

Sharing Around the Table

Isaiah 40:1–11 NRSV

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good tidings; 
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, 
    lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead the mother sheep.

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). For many, these words bring to mind Handel’s Messiah, a refrain sung in a perfect tenor and a musical tradition that invites the Christmas spirit. But, for the disheartened, these words are a bold declaration. 

Imagine the feelings of the people of Judah after being promised a joyous return to their homeland. These exiles, whose culture and society were utterly destroyed, spent a generation crying out to a silent God. At last, they hear the voice of a prophet declaring the long, dark night has come to an end! 

Put yourself in their position. How would you feel? Would you feel relief? Or would your heart, having been broken countless times, have the capacity to process these words? How difficult is it to recover from years of trauma? 

Eventually, we adapt to our miserable situation and give in to hopelessness. Despair becomes resignation. Think of prisoners of war, those living under occupation, those wrongfully imprisoned, or those forced into internment camps or cages. For the dispossessed, returning to their former life is often a difficult path.

“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3). Although the Gospel writers later used these words to describe the mission of John the Baptist, for Isaiah the meaning was more immediate. After their long exile, the people of Judah were to “prepare the way” for God to carry them home. 

This is interesting. God is often depicted as a triumphant warrior in prophetic literature, but here is something different. Here, God is portrayed as the good shepherd returning with his flock. The powerful God who “comes with might” and judgment stands in contrast with the shepherd who feeds his flock, gathers his lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. This is the God of tender and merciful love.
On the second Sunday of Advent, as we light the candle representing love, we remember the sacredness of God’s creation and worth of all people. The divine instruction to Isaiah was to “Cry out!” the good news; to which he responded, “What shall I cry?” 

What is our message to the world? That God’s purpose is reconciliation, and God’s love is endless? That Christ is the embodiment of God’s shalom? In whatever way you share your message of divine love this Advent season, let us be like the good shepherd: tender and merciful. Peace be with us.

Questions

  1. When have you felt incapable of processing or receiving good news?
  2. How can we offer comfort to those who have been displaced or experienced trauma?
  3. What does “Christ is the embodiment of God’s shalom” mean to you?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.

This offering prayer for Advent is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

God who is faithful, 

Be present with us as we plan our spending. May we use our resources to build healthy, happy relationships with you, others, and the Earth. May we remember the teachings of Jesus that challenge us to make lifestyle choices counter to our culture of accumulation and excess. 

Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

Community of Christ Sings 407, “Comfort, Comfort Now My People”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

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