a community creating for the relentless return of Sunday

confession: limited love

Holy Love, first and last, you offer yourself to us completely and call us to your life. Yet we are afraid, for your Way demands much of us. We confess that we are often quick to judge and slow to forgive. We confess that we choose that which does not satisfy, even as you offer us abundant life. When our fear overrides your call, forgive us. When we act from our own limited love rather than your expansive grace, forgive us. Reach down to us again, lift us up as a mother lifts a child to her cheek. Cast out our fear and fill us with the breath of your Spirit, that we may live the love we see in your Son, Jesus the Christ, in whose perfect name we pray. Amen.

Advent Candles: hopeful anticipation

Week 1: Hope

Without hope, we have no direction, no purpose.
As we begin the season of Advent,
we wait in hopeful anticipation
of the newness God has brought and is bringing to this world.
We seek to live as a people of hope,
with our hearts set on our the life to come,
and our eyes set on the work we’re called to do in the meantime.
We light this candle to symbolize our hope in Jesus’ birth.
We gather to share this hope with one another.

 

Week 2: Peace

Without peace, we have no solace, no fulfillment.
As we continue the season of Advent,
we wait in hopeful anticipation
of the peace the Christ-child will bring to a weary world.
We seek to live as a people of peace,
working toward a world free of violence and vengeance,
where all can live free of abuse and fear.
We light this candle to symbolize the peace of Christ’s presence.
We gather to share this peace with one another.

 

Week 3: Joy

Without joy, we have no fulfillment to our lives.
As we continue the season of Advent,
we wait in joyful anticipation
of the happiness the Christ-child will bring to a world that needs it so desperately.
We seek to live as a people of joy
that share it with everyone we encounter,
to bless others with the happiness we have in Jesus Christ.
We light this candle to symbolize the joy we have in Christ’s presence.
We gather to share this joy with one another.

 

Week 4: Love

Without love, we have nothing,
wandering aimlessly in a world without hope.
As the season of Advent comes to a close,
we wait for love by practicing it,
by embodying the truth we trust in God-with-us.
We seek to live as people of love,
reciprocating that which has first been shown to us.
We light this candle to symbolize the love we have in Christ’s presence.
We gather to share this love with one another.

 

Submitted by Rev. Stephen M. Fearing, Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, IL.

confession: beyond our words

Holy God,
as of the year two thousand ten,
according to Google,
one hundred twenty-nine million,
eight hundred sixty-four thousand,
eight hundred and eighty books
have been published in modern history.

We like words.
We enjoy good speeches.
And, too often, because of that,
we spend more time saying things,
and less time doing things.

But you remind us,
and…to tell you the truth…we know,
that what really matters are our actions.

So inspire us with our words,
but also inspire us beyond our words,
so we may be a constant, visible reminder
of your love in the world…

Submitted by Scott Cervas, pastor at Meadowthorpe Presbyterian Church (Lexington, KY)

Advent Candles–Sabbath

[This is a candle-lighting sequence for Advent following a 4-week theme of Sabbath – preaching each week on “Sabbath Hope”, “Sabbath Peace”, “Sabbath Joy” and “Sabbath Love”]

 

Advent 1

Today is the first Sunday in Advent – a four-week long journey preparing the way for Christ to be born again. This year, our Advent journey is more of a “stay-cation” – a Sabbath from the hectic lives, noise, and advertisements that bombard us in the world. We read in Genesis 2 that:

“On the seventh day, God had finished the work of creation, so God rested from all the work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when God rested from all the work of creation.”

So we, too, have hope for a time of rest – a time set apart this season to remember God and contemplate all that God has done in the world.

We light the first candle to call us together to focus on the hope of quiet rest shared as a communal Sabbath.

The first purple candle is lit 

O God, we light the first candle of advent. We light the candle of hope.

 

Advent 2

Today, we continue our Advent journey in God’s Sabbath, a time of peace and quiet. We recognize that peace is not yet achieved, and pray for God’s peace to come to our chaotic world.  We read in John 14 that 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.”

So we, too, have hope for peace. We light these two candles to call us together to focus on the peace of a community worshiping together, united by our love for God.

the first two purple candles are lit

O God, we light the second candle of advent. We light the candles of hope and peace.

 

Advent 3

Today, we celebrate the joy of the Sabbath, a time of appreciation for work well done. We remember Jesus’ resurrection and long for his return. There may be lots of work left to do before that glorious day, but we are intentional about taking time to praise God in the meanwhile! In Deuteronomy 5, we read:

“Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but Adonai brought you out with a strong hand and a powerful arm. That is why Adonai has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.”

So, we take joy in our rest, for it reveals that we are a free people – and that we should extend the joy of rest to all in our lives.

We light these three candles to remember the joy of being set apart, a Sabbath to the world, in hope and peace.

the first two purple candles and the pink candle are lit

O God, we light the third candle of advent. We light the candles of hope, peace, and joy.

 

Advent 4

Today, we finish our Advent preparations and bask in the love of Christ. We remember how Christ showed love to both his disciples and complete strangers, healing, feeding, and walking closely even with the outcasts in his community. We, too, want to be prepared to follow Christ’s awesome way of love. We read in Mark 12 that Jesus said:

“The most important commandment is this: “Listen, O Israel! Adonai is the one and only God! You must love Adonai with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

So we, on this Sabbath day, remember Jesus’ words, and try to put them into practice.

We light these four candles to remember God’s love for us, which calls us to be set apart in joy, hope, and peace.

three purple candles and the pink candle are lit

O God, we light the fourth candle of advent. We light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love.

 

Christmas Eve

Today, we welcome Christ into our lives once again!  As we remember the special circumstances of Jesus’ birth, we remember, too, the light of preparation from our Advent Journey into Sabbath.

the first purple candle is lit

The candle of hope, calling us to wonder what might be in the year to come

the second purple candle is lit

The candle of peace, calling us to step away from the hustle and bustle of the world

the pink candle is lit

The candle of joy, calling us to praise God for freedom from oppression

the third purple candle is lit

The candle of love, calling us to love God and each other from Sabbath to Sabbath

All of these candles light the path for Christ’s return – not as a conquering hero, but as a little, helpless child. We read in Isaiah 9:

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light… For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity!”

So, we light the Christ candle, signifying that God’s hope, peace, joy, and love are realized in Christ Jesus.

the white candle is lit

O God, we light the Christ candle, knowing that you are present with us at all times, but remembering especially when you were present with us in the flesh as Jesus Christ.

God, we welcome you into our midst! We long to bring you gifts, to touch your robe, to know the beautiful sound of your voice in our earthly ears. Our waiting is rewarded – not in the way we expect, but in the wonderful Good News of your birth, heralded by heavenly messengers and earthly shepherds alike. Help us to see you in each other, and to be set apart as your hope, peace, joy, and love in the world! Amen.

 

Submitted by Rev. Lucus Levy Keppel, Ancho + Corona Presbyterian Churches, New Mexico

CTW: Christ is Alive!

Christ is alive!

We will rejoice and give thanks!

God’s grace is always at work!

We will let love overflow!

The Spirit is speaking yet again!

We will join our voices in proclaiming the good news!

 

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL

POP: Overwhelm us with Your love

We pray to you, O God…

Overwhelm us with your love, which casts out every fear

If love is how we know you God, remind us this day,

that love is what set the world in motion,

Love is what spoke order into the chaos at creation,

Love is what breathed into the dirt and brought Adam

Love is what inspired Adam to see his partner and cry out

bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.

Let us know the love that brings us life and life abundant

So if love is how we know you, we pray to you, O God…

Overwhelm us with your love which casts our every fear.

If love is how we drive out fear, then we cry to you,

for the fear that leaves people paralyzed in their homes

for the fear in war torn communities and broken families

for the fear of losing life, the fear of rejection

for the fear that tells us we don’t belong

for the fear that makes us selfish.

Drive out our fear and make it clear that your love is stronger even than death.

So if love is how we drive out fear, we pray to you, O God…

Overwhelm us with your love which casts out every fear.

If your love is how we love others, then we ask you this day

to bless us that we might be a blessing to others,

to challenge us that we might grow deeper in your love,

to guide us as we stumble forth as your children,

to lead us as we love boldly in your holy name.

Make us into the bearers of your love.

So if your love is how we love others, we pray to you O God…

Overwhelm us with your love which casts out every fear

And cast us out into our work and into our world with the task

to be your hands, your feet, your love, your people.

We pray in the name of the Beloved who taught us to pray saying…

 

Submitted by Rev. Lindsay Conrad, First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor MI

prayers for Advent

need an opening prayer? A shortened prayer of confession/reconciliation? A preface for the prayers of the people? Here you go:

 

December 1:
God, we are ready for hope.  We long for the light of hope to shine in our lives.  Yet as we rush through our days, we fail to see the hope-filled gifts you’ve given us.  Help us slow down.  Enter our hearts with a gentle reminder of the hope you bring.  Open our eyes to the many blessings we’ve received so that we can turn toward others and share your gifts of hope.

December 8:
God, we are ready for peace.  We long to receive the Prince of Peace in our world.  Yet as we fill our lives with holiday projects, family activities and everyday tasks, we find it hard to make the time to welcome the light of peace.  We need your help, O God.  Guide us along the path toward healing and grace.  Kindle the flame of your peace within us, so that each day, each moment, we can shine the light of your love.

December 15:
God, we are ready for joy.  We long to be filled with your joyful good news.  Yet as even as we dream of the days when the hungry will be filled and the oppressed will be freed, we worry about what we might have to give up so that all your people can have enough.  Give us courage to set aside our privilege.  Give us strength to help bring about a world where everyone can sing songs of joy.

December 22:
God, we are ready for love.  We long to be held in your gentle and loving care.  Yet even as we plan and prepare to celebrate the birth of our loving Savior, we find ourselves exhausted and unable to offer a moment to a friend in need.  Touch our hearts and renew us with your love.  Remind us that your gracious gift of love is the greatest gift of all.  Help us share your loving presence with those around us.

 

Submitted by Rev. Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church, Oakland CA.

An Advent Hymn: Love, Come and Live In Us

Love, Come and Live in Us
(Tune: What Child is This)

O Love, come down and with us dwell,
We’re tired and hurt and broken.
We need your love to make us well,
Your word to us now spoken.
Love, come and live in us,
Heal us ‘til we are whole again.
You, Lord are love and life,
And we will follow you.

Come fill our souls and make them yours,
Give us the love we’ve found in you.
Fill our minds with your light divine,
And make our hearts beat strong and true.
Love, come and live in us,
Heal us ‘til we are whole again.
You, Lord are love and life,
And we will follow you.

As we wait through advent here
May we see things we can do.
Help us to serve you now
And come to make us new.
Love, come and live in us,
Heal us ‘til we are whole again.
You, Lord are love and life,
And we will follow you.

WORDS: Katherine Thomas Paisley 2013
MUSIC: 16th century English melody (Greensleeves)

 

Submitted by Rev. Katherine Paisley, Irving Park United Methodist Church, Chicago, IL

CTW: hope, peace, joy, love

One:  God calls us to lives of hope,
All:  looking forward yet living now, working for God’s kingdom to come.
One:  God calls us to lives of peace,
All:  acting on God’s word in every moment, defying the world’s tendency to violence.
One:  God calls us to lives of joy,
All:  founded in God’s relationship with us, not in happiness or cheer.
One:  God calls us to lives of love,
All:  because God first loved us, and continues to love us, and so we love others.
One:  God calls us to worship,
All:  with hearts, hands, voices, and lives.

 

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL

confession: Love

Call to Confession:
Whether we have the gift of beautiful speech, or the gift of understanding and knowledge, or the gift of faith or of generosity or of any other good thing—if we do not love, even our most precious talents are as nothing. And if we believe Love to be a only feeling or a thought, still we miss the Truth. Before God, with the people of God, let us confess the ways we have fallen short of God’s Love. Let us pray.

One:    Love is patient and kind
All:     and we are in a bit of a hurry…
One:    Love does not insist on its own way
All:     but really, God, my way is clearly best.
One:    Love is not envious or resentful
All:     and yet we hoard it as if there might not be enough.
One:    Love is all these verbs—rejoices, bears, believes, hopes, endures—
All:     but we are so tempted to confine it where we can understand and control, domesticating love into romance or intellect.
One:    God is Love, and those who abide in Love abide in God.

silence

One:    When we have not lived in your love, when we have insisted and hurt and believed ourselves to know fully even as we know only in part,
All:     Forgive us, O God.
One:    When we have thought, spoken, and acted in childish ways even as you call us to grow in your grace,
All:     Forgive us, O God.
One:    Draw us again into your embrace, that we may abide in faith, hope, and love.
All:     Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness:
Friends, hear this good news: Though now we see dimly, as through a tinted window, Love is clearing the way for us to know God just as fully as God knows us. We will live the good news: in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God! Amen.