Third Sunday of Advent (Love)
JOHN 1:6–8, 19–28/ 1:6–8, 20–28 IV
Testify to the Light
Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24; Mosiah 1:102–103; Doctrine and Covenants 153:9a–b
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, and one white candle, or an arrangement of candles of your choosing. Each Sunday one additional candle is lit, culminating with the lighting of the fifth candle, the Christ candle (white), on Christmas Day. Have two Advent candles lit before the service begins.
Advent Focus Moment Preparation
See 3 December 2017 Advent Focus Moment Preparation for details.
Worship Preparation and Prelude
Invitation to Worship
1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
OR Mosiah 1:102–103
Lighting of the Advent Candle of Love
Leader: Today we light the candle of love and reflect on the importance of love in our lives. Love draws us to God, binds us together, and encourages us to love others as God has loved us.
People: Let us sense God’s love always present with us, around us, within us.
Leader: Just as God has loved us, may we share that love with others.
People: Let us reach out our hands to others in loving invitation.
Leader: May we live into our calling—to be the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing love into the world.
All: Come, come, Emmanuel, and bring love into all lives today.
Leader lights the candle of love and is seated.
Hymn of Advent
“Canticle of the Turning” CCS 404
OR “God’s Love Made Visible!” CCS 411
Advent Reflection on Love
The presider or another reader shares this reflection. Brief pauses for congregational meditation can be added after each sentence allowing the congregants time for reflection.
We celebrate Love’s season with glittering lights
and pregnant credit cards.
We feed the faceless in crowded church cellars and salvation shelters,
our gloved bells ringing, our kettles swinging,
our madrigal singing giving voice to the birth.
Yet deep within the din and dance Nativity whispers our name;
Stop! Look! Listen! Hope is birthed in a feeding trough!
Lean forward, celebrate the gift anew!
Receive Love’s child again!
—excerpted from “Nativity’s Whisper” by Danny Belrose, Wave Offerings, (Herald Publishing House, 2005, ISBN 9780830912117), 124.
Hymn of Contemplation
“The Love of God” (stanza 1 and refrain) CCS 210
OR “Dear God, Embracing Humankind” CCS 194
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
We give thanks for peace during this time of waiting, for this beautiful but broken world in which we live. As we do so, however, we also wonder, is peace even possible? As we wait in this space in between, waiting for the Christ child to be born and waiting for Christ to return, we wonder—is our world beyond redemption?
Remind us, Creator, that as followers of Jesus, we wait in expectation and in hope and in love. We don’t exist in empty waiting. We wait and we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Remind us that we live and serve in hope that your kingdom of justice and peace will indeed come, bringing healing to the whole, groaning creation. We press on together, giving blessing, honor, and glory to God, now and forevermore. Amen.
—based on “We Proclaim Jesus Christ,” Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., (Herald Publishing House, 2012, ISBN 9780830915736), 23.
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.
Disciples’ Generous Response
OR Doctrine and Covenants 153:9a–b
Testimony of Generosity
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.
Ministry of Music
“like a child” CCS 403
OR “I Wonder as I Wander” CCS 435
Focus Moment of Love
Ask an evangelist or member of the pastorate to give a short testimony reflecting on love.
OR Refresh people’s memories of what happened in the story so far, then continue reading Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, beginning with page 7, “Several days later a terrible blizzard…” and ending with page 9, “Small Pine wilted in sorrow” through “the history of her kingdom.”
Storyteller Talking Points (prior to today’s reading)
- Does anyone know our Advent theme for the day? That's right, it's LOVE. The first Sunday was hope, last Sunday our theme was peace, and this Sunday is love.
- What happened in our story last Sunday?
- What did the bunny need from Small Pine?
- What did Small Pine do? Is it still "perfect"?
- Let's see what Small Pine is up to today?
Storyteller Talking Points (after today’s reading)
- Ask the children what happened in today’s story. If you have props, add them to your tree, adjusting and bending the tree to add them as children share about the wren and fawn, or allow children to add the props. Leave the tree looking altered.
- Is Small Pine still perfect? Did Small Pine show love to the wren and fawn?
- Do you think the Queen will choose Small Pine for her Christmas celebration? We will find out next week!
Give children their pictures of Small Pine from last week. Be sure you have plenty of coloring pages for all newcomers. Only give children green and brown crayons (pastels) again this Sunday. Have children draw the wren and fawn that Small Pine showed love. Draw in broken, ragged pine needles and, if you have them, add feathers with the glue stick. Collect the pictures afterward and add them to the big Christmas tree or gallery space so they will be there for the final Sunday.
Based on John 1:6–8, 19–28/1:6–8, 20–28 IV
Hymn of Commitment
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” CCS 409
OR “When the Present Holds No Promise” CCS 430
Sending Forth: John 1:6–8
Project or have printed in the bulletin John 1:6–8. Read the scripture aloud once, then ask the congregants to join with you in reading the scripture, but adapt it using their own gender and name. For example, “There was a [woman] sent from God, whose name was [Jackie]. [She] came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through [her]. [She herself] was not the light, but [she] came to testify to the light.”
Today you are sent from this service to testify to the light so all might believe. In fact, you are sent from worship every Sunday of the year—not just during Advent—to be a witness to the world of the one who came into the world in the days of John and who continues to come into our world in a multitude of ways, faces, and places.
Third Sunday of Advent
JOHN 1:6–8, 19–28
Exploring the Scripture
John the Baptist’s role in today’s scripture passage and the other three Gospels is the ministry of preparation: “Get ready for the coming Messiah—God’s chosen, anointed king!” John is the forerunner, the announcer for the coming big event. John is genuine. John is good at getting people’s attention with his message of repentance. People are responding and being baptized. In baptism, people sum up the Exodus story of Israel leaving Egyptian slavery and crossing the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Baptism was something Gentiles did when coming into the Jewish faith. John, in using baptism, is getting Jews to begin again, to be truly converted.
The coming Messiah means good, but disruptive, times are ahead. God’s king, the Messiah, will shake up empires like Rome and unjust kingdoms like King Herod’s. He’ll restore Jerusalem and Israel to justice and peace, a light to the world. John is so effective at revival that Jewish leaders from Jerusalem are stirred up. They worriedly need to come and find out what is going on. “Who are you?” they eagerly, insistently ask.
John answers in John 1:23, quoting Isaiah 40:3: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
In the ancient world, when the king or emperor was coming, workers would improve the road, which often was just a dirt track. Can we improve our Advent “road”? How do we remove obstacles in our lives that hinder the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, into our hearts in a deeper, more intense way? Are the obstacles misplaced priorities, addictions, things that are not right in our lives? The commercialized Christmas, shopping for Christmas, can get in the way of what is important in the Christmas story.
The traditional Christmas story, as told in the other gospels, is about unjust government, a poor family that has to deliver a baby in a stable. God’s Messiah is born not in a palace, but a feeding trough in a barn. When King Herod starts killing all the baby boys in the Bethlehem area, family members must flee for their lives to Egypt as refugees, destitute foreigners, immigrants.
John the Baptist, in today’s passage, is a voice in the wilderness of modern distractions, calling our attention to the true meaning of Christmas. The Messiah of justice and peace, turning the world upside down, is coming! There can be no Messianic peace without Messianic righteousness in our lives—including justice for the poor.
All four Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3 to explain John’s role as a preparer for the coming Messiah. Read the whole passage in Isaiah 40:1–5. John is clear. He is not the coming Messiah. He is not even worthy to undo the strap of the Messiah’s sandal—the task of a slave.
Only the Messiah is to be seen in John’s witness. John is just the forerunner. And John whispers, “The Messiah is already here, among you, but you do not recognize him yet. So look! Be alert!” Perhaps the beggar on the street, the hungry child, or faces in the Outreach International catalog are Jesus for us this Christmas.
Advent is preparation for incarnation; the Word is becoming human. John the Baptist calls us to get ready, “Make straight the way of the Lord!”
- Like John, we are not the light but testify to the light.
- The Messiah is coming. Make straight the way of the Lord. Get your heart ready!
- We are to be like John the Baptist in our families and among friends and coworkers to help people prepare for the real meaning of Christmas.
Questions to Consider
- The question this season is not “Are you ready for Christmas?” but “Are you ready for the Messiah?”
- How do we clear the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to come more deeply into our lives this Christmas? What is getting in the way of a deeper life as a disciple?
- How can I be a genuine witness of Jesus Christ this Christmas? What can I do to embrace the peace and justice message of the season?
- How can your congregation testify of the light in your neighborhood?