Community of Christ

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Worship Resources - 29 November 2020

Worship Suggestions

First Sunday of Advent (Hope)

ISAIAH 64:1-9

God, Come Among Us

Additional Scriptures

Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Mark 13:24-37; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a-b


Preparation for Advent

Set up an Advent wreath with a large unlit Christ candle. One smaller lighted candle will be brought in each week and added to the wreath by someone sharing their testimony. The Christ candle will remain unlighted until Christmas.

Invite someone ahead of time to prepare a 3-5-minute testimony of hope. Possible prompts to help guide them are: Consider sharing a time of deep struggle; possibly a time when you felt lost, oppressed, helpless or alone. How/Where did you find hope?

Create booklets for each congregant using the resource pages for Journey Through Advent. Hand them out for this first Advent service. Congregants should write their name on the booklet cover. Make a plan for congregants to have access to these booklets for each service (find a place to keep them at church, ask congregants to bring them each Sunday, etc.). Have extra booklets available each week. Have writing utensils on hand for those that need it for this Advent Reflection.

Prelude

Carol of the Season

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” CCS 434

Welcome

Welcome in the name of the One who is our Hope. We gather on this first Sunday of Advent as one of many congregations around the world. We are united by belief in a God who became hope incarnate. May we begin this journey of Advent together, assured that our hope lies not only in the anticipation of the coming Christ child, but with expectation that what is birthed within each of us will be poured out as blessings to others. Welcome!

Songs of Gathering

Choose 1 or 2

“All Earth Is Hopeful/Toda la Tierra” CCS 392/393

Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.

“God Almighty, We Are Waiting” CCS 397

“God Is Here!” stanzas 1 and 4 CCS 70

Call to Worship

Leader: From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God beside you.

Congregation: We are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Leader: We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

Congregation: Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Leader: We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Congregation: Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Leader: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—

All: Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

—Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80, adapted

Song of Invitation

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CCS 400

OR “God the Sculptor of the Mountains” Stanzas 1 and 4 CCS 21

OR “Yo quiero ser/I Want to Be” Sing twice. CCS 498

Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.

Invocation

Response

Lighting of the Advent Candle of Hope

Testimony of Hope

The Testimony of Hope speaker will carry the lighted candle of Hope 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 Hope in the prepared wreath. As they do this, have them read or recite:

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

Song of Petition

“Hope of the World” Stanzas 1 and 2 CCS 29

OR “As the Windsong Through the Trees” CCS 42

OR “Lord of All Hopefulness” CCS 193

Message: “God, Come Among Us”

Based on Isaiah 64:1-9

Song of Reflection

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Stanzas 1 and 2 CCS 394

OR “View the Present through the Promise” Stanzas 1 and 2 CCS 401

OR “Hope Is a Light” Stanza 1 CCS 398

Advent Reflection

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 “Hope in the Midst” pages. Read the prompts and allow time for silent reflection/writing/drawing/coloring. You may choose to have quiet music playing in the background, recorded or live instrumental.

Song of Advent Contemplation

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Stanzas 3 and 4 CCS 394

OR “View the Present through the Promise” Stanzas 2 and 3 CCS 401

OR “Hope Is a Light” Stanza 5 CCS 398

Prayer for Peace

Lighting of the Peace Candle.

Prayer

God of Hope,

Many know too well the aches of loss and the emptiness of hopelessness. Our world is divided by tunneled views; our families splintered by emotion-filled perspectives that edge out compassion. Yet, despite this, we have hope.

  • Hope that an infant can bring shalom into focus. Pause.
  • Hope that a child will speak to us the truths that address injustices. Pause.
  • Hope that a savior can lead through his life’s example as the Prince of Peace. Pause.

May we enter Advent expectant that the great hope found in Jesus will be manifest in us as we seek to live as peacemakers. 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: 1 Corinthians 1:4-7

Statement and Sharing

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 a time of hope they have experienced in their lives through being a generous disciple and discovering whole-life stewardship. Then have them share popcorn style, in one or two words, their words of hope.

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 Hope

“like a child” CCS 403

OR “Tomorrow Christ Is Coming” Stanzas 1 and 4 CCS 406

OR “Come and Bring Light” Stanzas 1 through 3 CCS 287

Benediction

Sending Forth: Doctrine and Covenants 163:10 a-b

Postlude

Sermon Helps

First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 64:1–9

Exploring the Scripture

Most Bible scholars and historians agree the book of Isaiah is comprised of three sections written by three authors. Isaiah 64:1–9 comes from Third Isaiah, which was written after the Babylonian exile, about 540 BCE. The writer of Third Isaiah was familiar with the earlier writings of Isaiah. Perhaps this author was from the “school” of Isaiah, meaning those who studied and wrote in the tradition of Isaiah.

These verses are part of a prayer offered for the people. During their time in exile they dreamed of returning to Jerusalem. The reality of what awaited them on their return left them in despair. The temple had been destroyed, and rebuilding would be slow and tedious. There were clashes within the community because of various perspectives on religious identity and traditions. The returning exiles found themselves conflicting with the non-Jewish inhabitants, who worshiped other gods.

All these circumstances contributed to desperation and dissatisfaction. Where is God? Why does God not appear and force dissenters and non-Jews into submission? From this background the prophet offers a prayer for the people, a prayer of deep lament (chapters 63–64). This section of the prayer (64:1–9) calls on God to make God’s presence known in an awe-inducing way. To “tear open the heavens” so all the world will tremble in awe of God’s power and glory. Isaiah is cajoling and, in a way, challenging God to make the divine presence known. Isaiah accuses God of withdrawing from the people. It is this lack of God’s presence that has caused the people to fall into sin or uncleanness. Isaiah is concerned because the people have stopped calling on God.

Isaiah then appeals to God’s compassionate nature, the divine Creator, the heavenly Parent who still has compassion for the people. He reminds God of their relationship. It is this connection to a compassionate God that introduces hope into this prayer of lamentation.

During Advent, we can hear similarities between the people returned from exile and the Jews waiting for a coming Messiah. Both suffered oppression. Both yearned for an aweinspiring redeemer who would come with power and cleanse the community from its oppressors. Even in times of despair and loneliness, people find hope in God’s compassionate nature.

Central Ideas

  1. The people return from exile only to fall into disappointment and despair. All is not as they
    had hoped. Where is God?
  2. The people blame their state of iniquity on God. God withdrew from them, so they no
    longer engaged in prayer and worship.
  3. The prophet prays for the people seeking God’s compassionate, parental presence.

Questions to Consider

  1. In a time of difficulty or crisis have you felt detached from or abandoned by God? How did
    you begin to sense God’s presence again?
  2. Have you ever prayed in lament? What was that like?
  3. During Advent, we wait in hope. What hope do you have as you await Christ’s arrival?

Small-group Worship Suggestions

First Sunday of Advent (Hope)

Isaiah 64:1–9 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.

Sower of seeds,

You promise to feed your flock like a shepherd, to gather your lambs, to gently lead. In this time of Advent darkness, we sit in hope for the things to come.  

We gather in community to hear of your promises of peace and redemption. We hope in the grand design of this time of rest for the Earth that you will bring us to peace.  

God, open our eyes to the hope you have for the world to be at peace. Help us to gather in those who feel no hope in this time, that they may find new life in you. Bring us all to a place of hope again. From that new sense of hope, allow us to go out and proclaim peace, to be peace in our neighborhoods, to act for peace in the world at large.  

God, we hope for a time of peace again. We hope for the promises of your peace made real through Jesus again. We hope for a deeper connection with you again. Grant us the peace to hope again. 

Amen.

Tiffany and Caleb Brian

Spiritual Practice

Holding in the Light - Hope

Light the first Advent candle and say:

Today we light the first candle of Advent. This candle symbolizes hope in new life. May we have hope in that new life, which is coming forth in us.

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 hope. (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 prayer experience.

Sharing Around the Table

Isaiah 64:1–9 NRSV

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
    so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
    those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
    because you hid yourself we transgressed. 
We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
    or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
    and do not remember iniquity forever.
    Now consider, we are all your people.

While Isaiah was likely written by multiple authors over a long period of time, the text of Isaiah 64 indicates this passage was written after the Babylonian exile, around 540 BCE. Why is this important? Israel had been in captivity for nearly a generation and has now returned to a wasted and desolate land that was once their great Jerusalem. Everything they knew was lost. The central aspect of their lives, the temple, had been destroyed. 

For the Israelites, the temple represented the presence of God. Without the temple, God was no longer in their community. Rebuilding seemed an overwhelming task. This passage is a lamentation, an expression of grief and despair. At times, Isaiah’s sorrow turns to pleading as he calls out for a God who feels absent.

Who hasn’t felt the absence of God during times of terrible suffering and loss? Isaiah begins by recounting the times God intervened in miraculous ways, according to the stories he knew. If God could cause the mountains to quake, then where are the miracles now? 

We might be tempted to ask the same. Why didn’t God intervene during the Jewish holocaust? Why does God let terrible things happen to innocents? Why doesn’t God intervene with so much suffering in the world caused by war, poverty, disease, and natural disaster? 

Isaiah blames God’s absence on Israel’s sins. How many of us have likewise blamed ourselves and felt unworthy of the Divine Presence due to our past mistakes? How many have felt that God has turned away from our world because of our sin as a people? Yet, there is hope. 

Isaiah closes his lament with a heartfelt plea: “Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people” (64:9). In 64:8 he acknowledged, “we are the clay, and you are our potter,” indicating to God that we yearn to be molded into something good, mended as a potter mends a broken pot.

Advent is a time of yearning and anticipation. It is a time of reflecting on what has, for many, been a difficult journey—difficult individually and as a society. Perhaps many of us have felt the terrifying absence of God in our lives. We yearn to know that God has not abandoned us. We desire to know that we are still valuable and mendable—that we are redeemable. That blessed assurance comes through the Christ child, the Redeemer, the Healer, the Peaceful One. 

As the days grow shorter, we light the first Advent candle, which represents anticipation. The light it brings reminds us of the first of four virtues Jesus brings into the world: hope.

Questions

  1. How have you felt the absence of God in your life?
  2. Do you ever feel a sense of hopelessness for our society? In what ways?
  3. What does it mean to you to have hope in Christ?

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 397, “God Almighty, We Are Waiting”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

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