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December 2019

Dec

Peace

Are We There Yet?

First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Journeys begin with a choice. Shall I go or not? Shall I stay and embrace the known and the comfortable, or shall I go and maybe find something wonderful, or maybe be unsettled, upset, uncertain?

For Your Planning Team

The Christian church’s liturgical calendar begins with the season of Advent. Faith communities intentionally adorn their worship spaces with a Hanging of the Greens ceremony, a precursor to Christmastide. The ceremony is held directly before the first Sunday of Advent, and it emphasizes symbols of everlasting life (circular evergreen wreath), the light of Christ (Advent candles), Chrismon symbols hung on the evergreen tree that “direct our attention to the nature and ultimate work of Christ and primary Advent themes.” These symbols can include the crow, descending dove, fish, Celtic cross, Jerusalem cross, shepherd's crook, orb, crown, fish, star, anchor, chalice, shell—all made in the colors of white and gold (purity/perfection, majesty/glory), and clear lights. The Hanging of the Greens ceremony also creates a sacred space that builds or strengthens an ethos of koinonia, a community intentionally setting forth on a divine journey with God and with one another.

Planning Notes

The season of Advent is a highlight of any congregation’s life. It is a time of joy, color, light, and anticipation. And it is a time of worship. This is a season that calls us to fall to our knees in worship of the awesome God. Advent is the season where we remember that God chose to put on flesh and dwell among us. God reached down from incomprehensible heights to touch the life we live. And God chose to be born in the humblest of ways, in a manger, in a barn, or a cave, or on the side of the road. The Creator God Almighty crying in the prickly hay, fodder for animals. There is no proper response, other than worship.

At the same time, Advent is a reminder that there is more to come, that we are on a journey toward a new reality, a new way of being. Advent, from the Latin “venio” – coming and “ad” – to, is more about what is next than what was before. It is less a remembrance of the first coming and more an anticipation of the completion of the promised kingdom. Yet, the seeds of the return and reign of Christ were planted in the first coming, which is why the power of Christmas is so strong. Our constant struggle is to pay attention to the need of the church to anticipate the return of Christ and the fulfillment of the promised kingdom, when our congregations are longing to celebrate Christmas and all the beauty and tradition and sentiment of that season—especially since our culture has been pushing Christmas on us for months now. So, how do we live in the balance? How do we anticipate what is to come, even as we celebrate the traditions and the excitement and the wonder that is Christmas?

We suggest a journey. You’ve made journeys before in this season: the journey to Bethlehem; perhaps, the journey to Christmas. Perhaps this year, our horizons are a little farther and a little broader. Perhaps this is a journey to a place you have longed for and yet have never quite reached. Perhaps this is a journey you have heard about since you first became a follower of Jesus. And you are not alone; many have been on this journey and longing for this destination since the beginning of the people of God. So, they will be our partners on this journey, companions as we travel.

We’ve chosen to weave together the Gospel and the Hebrew Scripture passage in this Advent+ series. An occasional reference to the Epistle and the Psalter will appear, but we’ll stick primarily to those two texts each week. We’re calling this an Advent+ series because we have included suggestions for Christmas Eve, for the Sunday after Christmas, and for Watch Night. Your local traditions may make it hard to use the theme for those services, but we wanted to give the full scope of the season of anticipation and hope.

Journeying together this Advent+ season will be the whole family of God, the ones who occupy the seats beside you as you gather together for this shared experience. Present and not present, these are the ones who occupy your minds and hearts as you seek this new place, this new way of being together. Invariably, when you travel together, some are more anxious than others. Some may prefer to stay where they are. Others are so hopeful of what is to come that they may begin to overwhelm the rest. Some just want the journey to be over. Others are content to enjoy the ride. Journeys impact us in different ways. But even with the best of intentions and the joy of community, it won’t be long before someone says, “Are we there yet?”

This season, let that question not be a whine from an uncomfortable back seat or an impatient traveler; let it be a plea for God to break into our reality and bring us the glorious fulfillment of the promise; let it be a hope that God remains in charge, despite the trouble we see in the landscape through which we travel; let it be a call to work and worship in this season of light.

Are We There Yet?

Advent Candle Lighting Liturgy 2019

Reader One: Our Advent journey begins with rules of the road. We are on the way to where God would have us be, and we’re not there yet. But how shall we go? We shall go together, as one body, living and trusting in one another. We shall go as this community of faith, working side by side, and leaning into the grace of God every step of the way. We shall go in peace.

Reader Two: Isaiah says that in days to come, the nations shall stream to the mountain of the Lord, and there we will beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; there, we will learn war no more. God will teach us peace.

Reader One: We light this first candle to burn as sign of peace among all people.

(Light one candle on the wreath.)

Reader Two: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that God may teach us the ways of peace.

Congregation: Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Advent Worship Liturgies (Upper Room 2019)

Speak: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Ps. 122:1, NRSV).

Light the first candle for hope. Let us see hope in the Lord!

Read: Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44

Reflect: Where do you see hope in Isaiah 2 and Matthew 24? Reflect on the hope that God’s light will shine on the mountaintop, revealing the goodness of new life.

Engage: Take a prayer walk with another person. This time apart with God can occur on a mountain, in your neighborhood, or just about anywhere. As you walk, look around you for signs of hope.

Pray: Gracious God, we seek you everywhere with expectant eyes that invite us to see hope in the world today. Amen.

Liturgical Resources of the Season

Cynthia A. Wilson (copyright 2019)

Call to Worship

Leader: God’s Spirit has led us here.

People: And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is PEACE.

Leader: God’s Spirit has led us here.

People: And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is HOPE.

Leader: God’s Spirit has led us here.

People: And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is JOY.

Leader: God’s Spirit has led us here.

People: And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is LOVE.

Leader: There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in the place,

ALL: And we know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord!

Call to Worship

Leader: The Liberator is on the way!

People: We’re watching and waiting.

Leader: The Liberator will arrive soon!

People: Blest is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.

Leader: Lift up your hearts; Lift up your heads,

People: So that the Liberator can come in.

Leader: We are watching; we are waiting; we are anticipating….

ALL: The Coming of our Liberator, The King of Glory, The Savior of the world!

Benediction

People of God, we wait with hope; we wait with courage; we wait with joy unspeakable, full of glory; we wait with the assurance that The Liberator will come in power, in justice, and in peace. Go now, trusting and believing that it is so . . . in the name of Jesus, the Christ!

Symbols of the Season

The Advent Wreath is circular and evergreen, signifying God’s eternity and endless mercy without end. The four candles represent Jesus’ light for a dark and sinful world and our call to reflect the light and grace of God in the world.

Japanese Kanji Symbols for Advent

Colors of the Season

The purple candle represents the penitent spirit. Some faith communities have replaced purple for blue (royalty) to distinguish Advent from the Lenten Season. The one pink or rose candle sometimes used to celebrate Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word for “rejoice”) symbolizes joy. One of the four candles is lit for each Sunday of Advent. In the center is one white candle called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve or Day, where there is a service on these days.

Synonyms of the Season for Advent Prayers, Litanies, Calls to Worship, Benedictions: Arrival, Coming, Onset, Entrance, Visitation, Approach, Occurrence, Appearance.


Watch Night (Freedom's Eve) - Rev. Dennis Oglesby, from The African American Register.

Chuck Knows Church - Blue Christmas (The Longest Night)

PLANNING JANUARY 2020 CHECKLIST:

  • A Call to Prayer and Self-Denial – January -March
  • Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – January 1
  • Epiphany Sunday/Epiphany of the Lord – January 5-6
  • Human Trafficking Awareness Day – January 11
  • Baptism of the Lord – January 12
  • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – January 18-25
  • Human Relations Day – January 19
  • The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday Observance – January 20
  • Ecumenical Sunday – January 26

In This Series...


Second Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Christmas Eve, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes First Sunday After Christmas Day, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes New Year's Eve/Watch Night, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes

Colors


  • Purple
  • Blue

In This Series...


Second Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Christmas Eve, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes First Sunday After Christmas Day, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes New Year's Eve/Watch Night, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes