Fourth Sunday of Advent (Joy)
The World Is About to Turn
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Romans 16:25-27; Doctrine and Covenants 161:7; 163:10b
This week the Advent Wreath should hold the unlighted Christ candle along with the lighted Hope, Love, and Peace candles. The Joy candle will be added to the wreath by someone sharing their testimony of joy.
Invite someone ahead of time to prepare to share a 3-5-minute testimony on joy. Possible prompt to help guide them: Share a time when you felt the joy of God through the words/actions of another. How did this affect your life?
Congregants should have access to their “Journey Through Advent” booklet. Have extra booklets available.
Carol of the Season
“Angels, from the Realms of Glory” CCS 436
Welcome in the name of the one who is Joy. We gather on this fourth Sunday of Advent as one of many congregations from around the world. Our voices lift in harmonious praise for the coming Christ. We find joy in the anticipation of the Christ Child as well as the transformation that is being born within us. May the fruits of this journey be an endless blessing. Welcome!
Songs of Gathering
Choose 1 or 2
“God’s Love Made Visible!” CCS 411
OR “No Obvious Angels” CCS 418
OR “Silvery Star, Precious Star” CCS 419
OR “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CCS 423
OR “O Little Town of Bethlehem” CCS 434
OR “Angels, from the Realms of Glory” CCS 436
Call to Worship
Two readers share the reading of stanzas 1 and 2 of “Canticle of the Turning,” CCS 404, followed by the refrain. Alternate reading by sentences or phrases within the stanzas. Both readers say in unison, “the world is about to turn” each time it appears.
Song of Invitation
“Angels We Have Heard on High” CCS 427
OR “O Come, All Ye Faithful” CCS 431
Lighting of the Advent Candle of Joy
Testimony of Joy
The Testimony of Joy speaker will carry the lighted candle of Joy to the front of the worship space and hold it while sharing their testimony. Once they have given their testimony, they will place the Joy candle in the prepared wreath. As they do this, have them read or recite:
I light the Advent candle of Joy. Christ is the light of Joy in my world. Joy lives in me.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
Song of Anticipation
“Canticle of the Turning” CCS 404
OR “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” CCS 394
Message: “The World is About to Turn”
Based on Luke 1:26-38
Song of Reflection
“Laudate Dominum” Sing twice. CCS 91
OR “Gloria” Sing twice. CCS 122
OR “Hope Is a Light” Stanza 3 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 open their Advent booklets to the “Joy in the World” 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 Contemplation
“Infant Holy, Infant, Lowly” CCS 416
OR “Joseph, Kind Joseph” CCS 414
OR “When the Present Holds No Promise” CCS 430
Prayer for Peace
Lighting of the Peace Candle.
Giver of True Joy,
We come with gratitude in our hearts for your generosity. As we have journeyed through this Advent season, we are keenly aware of your presence. You have steadied our feet along sure paths and assured us of the joy that is lived through you. Many in our world do not know this joy. Their world is darkened by the circumstances of their days.
Remind us to shine the light of your love and compassion. Empower us to share our stories so that others may begin to see the sun’s rays shining through their dense forests. Ignite their souls with the knowledge of your light within them so that their hearts be filled with joy. We pray in the name of your greatest light, Jesus. 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
Reading of Generosity: “In the Bleak Midwinter,” CCS 422, Stanza 4
Ask an adult and child to share the reading of this stanza and then answer the questions they read: What do we give? What do we bring him?
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 what joys they have experienced in their lives that they could share with others. Then in one or two words have them share out the joys 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.
Song of Joy
“Joy to the World!” CCS 408
OR “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CCS 423
OR “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” CCS 433
Sending Forth: Doctrine and Covenants 161:7
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Exploring the Scripture
Today is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the period of preparation for and expectation of the coming of a Messiah. Interestingly enough, though, today’s text is not the account of Jesus’ birth as we might expect; rather, it is the foretelling of that birth. We must not jump ahead too quickly to Christmas; we are still in Advent.
Several key features are found in today’s text from Luke. The angel Gabriel visits an ordinary young woman in an out-of-the-way town (Nazareth), in an insignificant province of the Roman Empire. The woman, Mary, is engaged, but not yet married, to Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Gabriel tells Mary she is favored by God and will give birth to a child named Jesus who will be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32). As one might expect, Mary does not receive this news well, at least at first. She is not yet married and is still a virgin. And what will Joseph think of all this?
The angel tells Mary not to be afraid because what is about to happen to her is God’s doing. Her baby will be born of the Holy Spirit. We might assume, however, that Mary is not easily convinced. This is a major shock and might easily upset her preparations for her marriage to Joseph. Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that her relative Elizabeth who is well past childbearing age is expecting a child also and closes with the affirmation that nothing is impossible with God.
Miraculously, Mary accepts the astounding news (v. 38). She hardly has time to hear what the angel said, let alone consider its implications, and yet she agrees. In this acceptance, Mary models for us how to receive the most wonderful of all gifts. Her answer is “Yes,” and this yes forever changes the world.
Luke is always talking about the Spirit. He starts with today’s promise from the angel that Mary’s child is born of the Spirit of God. Later chapters describe the Spirit’s presence and role in key events in Jesus’ life and ministry, including his baptism, temptation in the wilderness, early ministry in Galilee, and announcement of his mission in the Nazareth synagogue. Just as Jesus allowed himself to be led and directed by the Spirit, the same Spirit seeks acceptance and recognition in the life of each person. This Spirit keeps our lives focused on Jesus, whose mission we claim as our own. When we ask ourselves, or others ask us, what gives focus to our lives, may we always reply in word and deed, “His name is Jesus!”
Our text for today reminds us God is always surprising people, disrupting our lives just when we think we have everything planned. Even in this season of Advent, when God is so wanting us to be ready to receive the most wonderful gift of all, we are too often so busy—our lives too full—to find room for Jesus. Our waiting and expectation has become cluttered with all that we think we need to get done to be ready for Christmas. The world tells us there are just a few more shopping days left. But God tells us there are a few days to slow down and make room in our lives for the Savior.
- Advent is a time of preparation and expectation.
- God is constantly surprising people, disrupting their plans.
- Nothing will be impossible with God.
- God’s Spirit is present from the beginning.
- The focus of our lives is Jesus.
Questions to Consider
- What are the most important features of this scripture text that you must include when you preach today?
- When has God surprised you and disrupted your “peaceful” life?
- When have you opened yourself to the Spirit’s guidance? How has this affected your life?
- How will you use the remaining days of Advent? How will you invite the congregation to use them?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Joy)
2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16 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.
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.
Igniter of the first flame,
You who gives oxygen to fire, you who gives fig trees fruit, you who gives expectant people hope, grant peace to those who wait in despair. As we celebrate joy, we know many struggle to feel your joy and peace. They struggle to find their voice in the world because they have lost the joy of singing and shouting excitedly!
But you are faithful, God. You will restore joy to those who have lost it. You will bring peace to the nations and return joy to lives in despair. Excite us anew, oh God, that we might share our joy with others and work for the kind of peace that delights you.
As the potter forms clay, form us into a peaceful community that embraces and exudes peace. Pump us full of oxygen again, so the peace flame may spark and grow and spread to all this season.
—Tiffany and Caleb Brian
Holding in the Light - Joy
Light the second candle of Advent and say:
Today we light the fourth candle of Advent. This candle represents joy. May the lighting of this candle remind us to share peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit 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 joy. (Write down each one.)
Invite people into a period of prayer, placing these specific people and needs in God’s loving, healing care.
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 prayer experience.
Sharing Around the Table
2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16 NRSV
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
Scholars conclude 2 Samuel was composed during the Babylonian exile, passed down through oral tradition. This helps us understand the writing as a recollection of a significant story in Hebrew culture: the story of God’s covenant with the house of David and promise of a never-ending kingdom.
This story is being recalled, however, by a people in bondage who are without a king. This must have been difficult for the exiled, as the promises made to David of an everlasting kingdom proved to be false. The exiled felt God had abandoned them due to their sins as a people.
How often do we feel life is not going the way God promised? What is our response? Do we feel God has abandoned us or question God’s existence?
The story recalls David, recently risen to power over Israel and Judah, having the Ark of the Covenant brought to his new royal city of Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was the centerpiece of Hebrew religion, symbolizing the presence of God. With his newly acquired power, David expresses his desire to build a house (a temple) for the Ark.
Initially, David’s court prophet, Nathan, affirms the proposal. But he returns with a stern reminder that it was God who raised David up and made him king, and it will be God who builds David’s house, not the other way around.
Why do the rich and powerful always seem to need to build monuments that proclaim their dynasty? Was David’s motive to honor God or himself? God cannot be contained in a monument and is not captive to human expectations. Nonetheless, God assures David that a permanent dynasty will be built through his son, Solomon, and the House of David will endure. Through Nathan, David is assured of God’s steadfast love. The Hebrew word for steadfast is Hesed, which also means mercy and grace.
A millennium later, Matthew declares the unlikely birth of a holy child to an unmarried peasant to be the fulfillment of messianic expectation. He goes to great lengths to connect Jesus of Nazareth to the House of David in fulfillment of God’s covenant. But, unlike David, Jesus was not a warrior king and did not lead a royal army to restore Jerusalem to political autonomy.
Instead, Jesus preached an otherworldly kingdom to be built through transformation of the heart. Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). What are man’s ways? War, poverty, inequality, racism, genocide... Jesus declares a new way: the way of peace.
As we light the fourth candle of Advent, which represents joy, let us ponder the mystery of God’s ways, knowing that the Peaceable Kingdom is not built the way man builds kingdoms, with violence and subjugation, but with steadfast love through transformation of the heart.
- In what ways do we try to contain or define God according to our standards?
- Why do we question God’s commitment or existence in difficult times?
- When have you found joy knowing that God does not always work the way you expected?
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.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 421, “Silent Night! Holy Night!”