Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 31 December 2017

Worship Suggestions

First Sunday after Christmas Day

LUKE 2:22–40

Blessed in the Temple

Additional Scriptures

Isaiah 61:10—62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4–7, Moroni 7:47–48, Doctrine and Covenants 165:2a–b


Prelude

Welcome

Sharing of Community Hopes

Spend some time in community sharing hopes for the new year. What are you hoping for in 2018? What are you looking forward to in the coming year? Share this in pairs or with the whole group.

Call to Worship

Moroni 7:47–48

Hymn of the New Year

“This Is a Day of New Beginnings”             CCS 495

OR “God of Wonder, God of Thunder”    CCS 18

OR “Year by Year”            CCS 345

Congregational Mission Prayer

Print or project this prayer so all in the congregation can share it.

God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.

Response

Focus Moment

Read Galatians 4:4–7. Hand out pieces of paper to worship participants. Invite them to think about the names they call God: Abba, Heavenly Parent, Mother-Father God, Creator, Divine Love, etc. After giving a minute for participants to think of what they call God, ask them to think about the name God calls them: Created, Child, Precious One, etc. Have them write God’s name for them on the card. Collect all the cards and hold them in your hand as you offer a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s love for all and for all the names on the cards.

Scripture Reading: Galatians 4:4–7

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Hymn of Belonging

“The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound”               CCS 347

OR “Creating God, Your Fingers Trace”    CCS 139

OR “We Need Each Other’s Voice to Sing”             CCS 324

Prayer for Peace

Light the peace candle.

Spirit of Peace

As we prepare to enter a new year, we give thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed on us this year. May we walk gently into the new year as we follow your mission of peace. May we speak only after we have listened well, remembering that our words carry power.

We pray for peace for every creature and plant, every person and habitat. We pray for peace across our world during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to every corner of the earth.

May the grace and peace of Christ bless us now and in the days ahead. Amen.

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.

Morning Message

Based on Luke 2:22–40

Moment of Reflection

Instrumental, vocal, or congregational hymn; pause for one minute between each stanza for silent reflection.

“Between Our Thoughts”             CCS 163

OR “I Will Talk to My Heart”        CCS 168

Spiritual Practice

Blessings of Loving Kindness

This spiritual practice reminds the congregation that we are all connected and called to be in prayer for people in our lives. Read these words aloud, slowly, offering time to rest in the prayer. Consider projecting or printing the key phrases (loving kindness, health, true happiness, peace) during the spiritual practice.

Take a few moments to quiet yourself. Watching your breath helps to calm and center our natural restlessness. When you feel a sense of calm, begin by repeating the following blessing, giving the words time to resonate in your heart and mind:

May I be blessed with loving kindness. May I be blessed with health. May I be blessed with true happiness. May I be blessed with peace.

When your heart feels full of loving compassion—move from yourself to someone who is beloved to you. This could be a life partner, a family member, a companion. Visualize the person as you pray this blessing and insert the person’s name into the prayer:

May [name] be blessed with loving kindness. May [name] be blessed with health. May [name] be blessed with true happiness. May [name] be blessed with peace.

Again, when your heart is full of loving compassion—move from this person to a close or dear friend. Visualize the person as you pray this blessing:

May [name] be blessed with loving kindness. May [name] be blessed with health. May [name] be blessed with true happiness. May [name] be blessed with peace.

When you feel filled with loving compassion—move to an acquaintance for whom you have neither positive nor negative feelings. Visualize the person as you pray this blessing:

May [name] be blessed with loving kindness. May [name] be blessed with health. May [name] be blessed with true happiness. May [name] be blessed with peace.

As you feel your heart again fill with loving compassion—think of someone who has harmed you or with whom you are in conflict. Visualize this person. Take a moment. Breathe deeply and, looking the person in the eye or visualizing the person, lovingly pray this blessing:

May [name] be blessed with loving kindness. May [name] be blessed with health. May [name] be blessed with true happiness. May [name] be blessed with peace.

Amen.

—adapted from “Ideas for Adults: Circles of Blessings,” Community of Christ, (www.CofChrist.org/community-ideas-for-adults)

Disciples’ Generous Response

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 165:2a–b

Statement

Think of these questions as you craft a statement for the Disciples’ Generous Response: As children of God, how do we live generously in a way that imitates God’s generosity? What example of congregational generosity can you share in worship? What story can you tell that will remind congregants of how they live God’s generosity in the world?

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.

Closing Hymn

“For All the Saints”          CCS 331

OR “Canticle of the Turning”        CCS 404

OR “By Gracious Powers/Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben”     CCS 268

Prayer of Sending Forth

God, we are your children. We celebrate the birth of Jesus and his blessing in the temple. We celebrate our relationships with one another and our blessings in community. May we go forth in joy. Amen.

Response

Postlude

Sermon Helps

First Sunday after Christmas Day

LUKE 2:22−40

Exploring the Scripture

Today’s text is set at the temple at Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus there to fulfill the requirements of Jewish law. The previous verse (Luke 2:21) refers to Jesus’ circumcision, the ritual required for all newborn males. But in the temple we read of presenting Jesus, as the firstborn male, to the service of God, a ritual also required by Jewish law. Included is the necessary sacrifice. Wealthier couples would have brought a lamb, but Jesus’ parents brought the also-acceptable sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (v. 24), perhaps showing the family’s low economic standing.

After these requirements were fulfilled, the text describes the words and actions of two people who are on the scene at the time. Nine verses (vv. 25–34) are devoted to Simeon, who, according to the text, was guided to the temple that day by the Spirit—an important motif for Luke. But Simeon was not just a casual observer. The Spirit had assured him that he would live to see the One who God sent for the world’s salvation. He recognized, by the Spirit’s power, the baby Jesus was this savior. Simeon blessed Jesus and his mother and father.

The other person to give attention to Jesus on that occasion was an aged widow, Anna. She had lived at the temple for some time, engaging constantly in fasting and prayer. Like Simeon, Anna recognized who Jesus was and the role of redemption he would play. The importance of these two elderly sages was in their recognition and prophetic declaration of whom Jesus was and that he had been sent for the world’s salvation. This confirmed what Mary had been told previously by the angel Gabriel and by her relative Elizabeth.

The last verse records the family’s return to their home in Nazareth, where Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (v. 40). This description of Jesus’ obedience and devotion is significant as we do not have other information about Jesus’ upbringing until his visit to Jerusalem at age 12.

Today’s text highlights fulfilling tradition and law, which was of major importance then. But in today’s world, in many places, conforming to rules is not stressed. Religious rituals have become less commonplace. People are less aware of mystery. We can learn important lessons from today’s text. Simeon and Anna were not authority figures. Like Joseph and Mary—and therefore Jesus—they were ordinary people. Yet God, through the Spirit, graced them with the insight, devotion, and faith to be instruments of blessing at this formative time in the life of Jesus and his parents.

This text invites us to find expressive rituals for celebrating the presence of God in the ordinary people and experiences of life. We may not do this in the same ways as did our forebears. But it is just as important for our spiritual well-being and our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we will keep our lives focused on the One who was sent to redeem the world.

Central Ideas

  1. Jesus was born into a tradition where following ritual and law was important.
  2. The Spirit guided Simeon and Anna as they became instruments of God’s blessing to Jesus and his parents.
  3. In today’s more-secular world, we are challenged to find expressive rituals that keep us connected to the Divine.
  4. We need to always open ourselves to the Spirit’s guidance.

Questions to Consider

  1. What relevance do you see in fulfilling rituals and laws as described in the text?
  2. What to you were the key features of the blessing Simeon and Anna brought?
  3. How have you felt guided by the Spirit?
  4. How can you challenge the congregation to be guided by the Spirit?

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