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Advent Candles: hope, peace, joy, love

1.
The first week of Advent is all about hope.
Think about hope as you hear Lamentations 3: 21-24:
“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in the Lord.”

One purple candle is lit.

Gracious God, As the Advent season begins, we cry out to you. We come to you looking for hope. When everything else we rely on fails us, our only hope is in you. When we do not understand what has happened, we hope in you. We can hope for better days because we trust you. We know you and we know you are here with us no matter what we are facing. Some of us see only darkness this time of year. Some of us find life overwhelming. Some of us are filled with Advent joy. Wherever we find ourselves today, Loving God, remind us that our hope is in you. Be with us on this journey. Amen.

 

2.

For the second week in Advent, we focus on peace.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Two purple candles are lit.

Prince of Peace, reveal yourself to us today. We need peace in our lives, our homes, our families, our church, and our whole world. Help us to slow down and seek out the peace you provide, so we may become peacemakers for ourselves and others. In your name, Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.

 

3.

During the third week in Advent, we spend time thinking about joy.
From Psalm 5:11, we hear these words,
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Two purple candles and one pink candle are lit.

Too often, we think joy is something big, O God. A brass band or a parade can certainly bring us joy. Just as easily and far more often, we can feel joy in a hug or the squeeze of hand, we can see joy in a smile or hear it in laughter. Help us to not overlook the simple joys that peak into our lives daily. This week in our Advent journey, open our eyes to the joy that surrounds us. Amen.

 

4.

In this final week of Advent, our attention is on love. The following Scripture verses may sound very familiar, so we will hear them twice. The first time is in the New Revised Standard Version. The second time you’ll be reading from the Message. Listen for the call to love in these words.

Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

”Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Three purple candles and one pink candle are lit.

God, we have learned to love from being loved by you. And so today, let us enact that love. Let us live that love. We know that what the world needs now is more love. We need to remember how much you love each one of us and we must share that love with others. Amen.

 

Christmas

Merry Christmas! Today is the day we have been preparing for throughout Advent. Jesus is born. Here is the story as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

“ In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.  Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.  Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.  He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.  While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night.  The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.  Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.  This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.  Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them.  Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.”

All five candles are lit.

We have been waiting for this day, Loving God. We have prepared ourselves for this special day. On this Christmas Day, let us live as those who let hope, peace, joy, and love reign in our lives. As the candles burn brightly and light our path, let us live as those who have the Christ’s light burning inside us today and everyday. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Susannah DeBenedetto

POP: we seek your mercy

Have mercy on us, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

cleanse this world and all our lives,

that we might shine with the glory of your love.

We call for your mercy in our own lives,

for forgiveness of what we have done or left undone

that violates your image in every human life.

O God, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We call for your mercy on those from whom we are estranged,

by our own fault or despite our deepest hopes,

that your reconciliation may bind us together again.

O God, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We call for your mercy on all who seek your truth,

that the seeds of wisdom would take root in every heart,

and that knowledge would bring joy and gladness.

O God, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We seek your mercy on those whose hearts fail them -

or their minds, their joints, their balance, their health -

that your healing power would be with them and restore them to life.

O God, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We seek our mercy on this church,

that we would be strengthened in love for one another

and for all your people,

united in service and understanding.

O God, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We seek your mercy on all your world, in every part of our lives,

calling upon your grace in Jesus’ name,

for we pray together in him, saying:

Submitted by Rev. Nathan Williams, Echo Hill Presbyterian Church, Marion, IA

confession: on our worst days

On our best days, O God, we know what we should be about.  We have heard your call, and we know what you want from us – justice, kindness, humility, peace, love.  We know all this, yet we sin.  We do precisely the things you have commanded us not to do.  We are guilty of being mean-spirited and unfair, arrogant and rude, chaotic and even violent.  We fail to love our neighbors and you, forgetting that this is your primary command.  We do not understand why we do the wrong things, but we come confessing because we know we are guilty.  So, God, on our very worst days, from the depths of our sinful brokenness, we cry to you for help and rescue.  Have mercy, O God, according to your unfailing love.  Amen.

 

Submitted by Rev. Betsy Turner, Luther Hays Presbyterian Church, Georgia

CTW for Ash Wednesday

One: This is the season of Lent, a time when we recognize the ways we have moved away from God, a time when we look deeply into our lives and see the ways we have not lived faithfully. Lent is also a time of reorientation and renewal; a time of turning our hearts and minds back to God.
Many: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love

One: God is a God of abundant mercy, who seeks reconciliation with wayward Creation.
Many: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

One: God is a God who constantly reaches out to us, inviting us into love, inviting us into life.

Many: Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

One: The sacrifice which is pleasing to God is a contrite heart and a spirit of brokenness; let us turn to God humility and faith.
Many: God, you are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Wash away our guilt, heal our brokenness, and draw us ever closer to you.

Submitted by Laura Brekke, Campus Minister at Santa Clara University in California, adapted from Psalm 51

confession: if we’re honest…

You call us to love you with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength.
But, if we’re honest, we don’t give you all we have.
We hold back—because we aren’t worthy, because we are afraid, because we are selfish.
We aren’t always sure what love really is.
We forget to look to you, and even when we look, our vision is clouded.
Clear the chaos within us, O God,
that we may focus on you.
We will seek you with our whole hearts.
Amen.

 

Submitted by the Rev. Teri Peterson, Ridgefield Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church, Crystal Lake IL.