Fourth Sunday of Advent (Joy)
He Will Be Called Son of God
2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16; Psalm 89:1–4, 19–26; Romans 16:25–27; 3 Nephi 1:12b–13; Doctrine and Covenants 165:1c–d
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 three 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
Welcome and Invitation to Worship
I will sing of your love forever; With my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness which is as firm as the heavens. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord.
—Psalm 89:1–5, adapted
OR 3 Nephi 1:12b–13
Lighting of the Advent Candle of Joy
Leader: Today we light the candle of joy. We pause to consider the joy that Mary and Joseph experienced as they welcomed their new baby boy into the world.
People: We, too, experience joy as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of that baby boy, Jesus.
Leader: Joy comes in many forms, at unusual times, sometimes when we least expect it and when we need it most.
People: May we find joy in our lives as we rejoice in Jesus’ birth.
All: Joy to the world! Joy for the world! Joy in the world! Joy throughout the world!
Leader lights the candle of joy and is seated.
Advent Reflection on Joy
The presider or another reader shares the following reflection with the congregation in either a meditation format—by asking the congregation to silently meditate for 20 seconds after each question or statement is read, as a discussion among the entire congregation, or by asking the people to share their individual responses with one or two others sitting close to them. Questions and statements could be projected or printed in the bulletin.
Reflect on the love of God. How is it that God sent Christ to be all our loves exceeding? How do you see God’s love revealed in Christ? How do you reveal God’s love in your own life? Think of ways you can express that love as you prepare for the Son of God—Love’s Pure Light. Thank God for the ultimate gift of love: Jesus Christ.
Hymn of Anticipation
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” CCS 437
OR “O Come, All Ye Faithful” CCS 431
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Our loving God, we pause at this quiet time to offer a prayer for peace. During this Advent season, we are particularly grateful for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. He came into a world of conflict, hatred, and distrust to sow seeds of peace and justice. Through him, your gospel of peace and redemption became flesh, lived out in the life of one who was like us, yet also divine.
We are aware of injustice and oppression in our world, leading to a lack of peace, a hungering and thirsting for peace. We ask for your loving presence to redeem moments of violence, oppression, and injustice. May we find the seeds of peace that you have placed into our most difficult moments and situations.
We are also aware that we are often not at peace within ourselves. May our lives be directed more fully toward you. May we be guided by your Spirit, and may we be at peace as we move through a world that seems to be in so much need.
We ask your blessing on all the peoples of the earth today. May we all be agents and recipients of your peace. This is our prayer, O God, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Joseph, Kind Joseph” CCS 414
OR “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CCS 416
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.
Focus Moment of Joy
Ask a teacher or a parent to give a short testimony reflecting on joy.
OR Refresh people’s memories of what happened in the story over the past three weeks, then continue reading Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, beginning by repeating page 9 from last week, “Small Pine wilted in sorrow” and then completing the book.
Storyteller Talking Points (prior to today’s reading)
- Does anyone know our Advent theme for the day? That’s right, it’s JOY! The first Sunday theme was hope, the second Sunday was peace, last Sunday was love, and today our theme is joy!
- What happened in our story last Sunday?
- What did the wren and the fawn need from Small Pine?
- What did Small Pine do? Is it still “perfect”?
- Small Pine was so sad last week. Let’s find out what happened and how our story ends.
Storyteller Talking Points (after today’s reading)
- Ask children what happened.
- What did the wise Queen see that most other people might have missed?
- Is Small Pine perfect? (yes and no)
- Did Small Pine look perfect?
- But it was the perfect tree to show us how to be more like Jesus wasn’t it? This is the Sunday of joy. I hope all of us can follow Small Pine’s example of sharing hope, peace, love, and joy with others this Christmas.
- Tell the children they will be able to take their pictures home with them today to enjoy during the holidays.
Give children their pictures of Small Pine from last week. Be sure you have plenty of coloring pages for all newcomers. Have lots of crayon (pastel) color choices available this Sunday. Ask the children to draw the castle banquet hall in the background and decorate Small Pine for the celebration. Make the pictures colorful and joyful!
Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn
“What Child Is This” CCS 432
OR “Star-Child” CCS 420
Based on Luke 1:26–38
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 165:1c–d
Six principles of A Disciples’ Generous Response guide us in managing and sharing our resources: Receive God’s Gifts, Respond Faithfully, Align Heart and Money, Share Generously, Save Wisely, and Spend Responsibly (www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response).
When we consider the ways each principle applies in our lives, we respond faithfully and begin to align our priorities with God’s priorities, align our hearts with God’s heart.
God gifts each person with boundless grace and unending love. God’s gifts for each of us are expressed through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Questions for Reflection
- How have you received God’s gifts this week?
Andrew Bolton wrote in the October 2015 Herald, “We proclaim Jesus Christ… Jesus is key. Jesus is our model of a kingdom life. His interactions are about restoring dignity and wholeness. His parables of the kingdom and teachings are vital for zionic living. Jesus is about changing people through his love.
“…and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. Jesus also changes communities. He proclaimed the kingdom of God. We are about changing neighborhoods, villages, towns, cities, and nations. We do not have a small vision. We have a God-sized vision of a better world.”
Jesus proclaims God’s unconditional love and grace for all. Our mission statement shares the Community of Christ story from the beginning, proclaiming a Living Christ and a stubborn hope of Zion. We are called to see a God-sized vision of a better world, and more than that, we are called into action.
- How do you choose to respond?
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
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.
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Celebration
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CCS 423
OR “Angels We Have Heard on High” CCS 427
“Angels We Have Heard on High” (refrain only) CCS 427
Leader: Shepherds in the fields were keeping watch over their flocks during the nigh
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone
around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
People: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news!
Left: A Savior is born to you this day, the Messiah!
Right: You will find the child wrapped in cloth lying in a manger.”
Leader: Then a multitude of angels appeared, saying,
People: “Glory to God and on Earth peace among those whom he favors!”
—Luke 2:8–14, adapted
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?