The decorations should be out; the lights should be lit. This is the week we begin to celebrate the first incarnation, even while we look forward to the return of Christ. It is also Gaudete Sunday, meaning that joy is at the heart of what we do together here. Isaiah 61 drips with joy and the invitation to see beyond the immediate situation, which has all kinds of struggles, into a possible future where God’s grace guides our every step.
Call to Worship
(based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)
We come to worship Christ
Who proclaims good news to the poor,
binds up the broken-hearted,
frees the prisoner
and comforts those who mourn.
We come to worship Christ
Who bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy Instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
We come to worship Christ
Who rebuilds ancient ruins
and restores broken places.
— written by Phil Whyte, Holy City Planning Group, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.
Come, Christ Jesus, be our guest,
and may our lives by you be blest.
and free us from the false claims
of the empires of this world.
We are lonely for you and your peace.
Come, Emmanuel, and dwell with us,
make us your people indeed,
the people through whom you bring
love and justice to the world.
Come, Jesus, and reign;
claim your rightful place in our hearts
and in the midst of our community.
Plant the seeds of hope among us.
Establish God’s reign on earth.
For we pray as you taught us
that God’s reign might come in fullness on earth.
(The Lord’s Prayer)
Ruth Duck, Flames of the Spirit, Pilgrim Press, 1985, p. 14.)
Why Do You Bother?
Why do you bother, Jesus,
when we are so certain
that we can create life for ourselves?
When we try to pretend
that we aren’t frightened of those different from us,
that we aren’t driven by our insecurities and greed,
that we aren’t overwhelmed by life and its challenges?
Why do you still come to us?
Why do you send us your messengers?
Why do you invite us into the water
to be refreshed, washed, changed?
Why do you embrace stables and crosses
to offer yourself as Shepherd to the lost sheep we are?
Somehow, it seems, in ways that we may never understand
you really are a God of infinite grace;
Somehow, your judgment and your grace are not opposites,
but expressions of the same surprising reality,
That you always seek to save, to restore, to renew;
that your forgiveness and your commandments together
offer us a way to be fully alive.
Thank you. Amen.
Choral Reading (Litany)
Jesus Is Coming: Things Are Going to be Different
Choral reading for seven readers from John 1:6-8, 19-28
Reader 1: We are people of light and when we walk with the Messiah, we will know no darkness, no matter who or where we are. Our beams will banish the dark places and all who see them will bask in their warmth and radiance. We will testify of God’s goodness.
Readers 1 & 2: Jesus is coming soon; make way for the light.
Reader 2: When Jesus comes, everything will be different. Justice really will roll down like a mighty stream and there will be freedom and everybody will have what they need and are supposed to have.
Reader 1, 2 & 3: Jesus is coming and things are going to be different.
Reader 3: All God’s children will have shoes, plenty good food to eat, clean water to drink, a warm, safe place to sleep and a voice to speak for themselves. We’re gonna laugh and we’re gonna shout if we want to, just because we want to and nobody can give us that hush yo’ mouth look. Yes, children of God, there’ll be some changes around here.
Readers 1, 2, 3 & 4: Make straight the way cause things are going to be different.
Reader 4: Jesus, today we’ve decided that we won’t wait until you get here to see the difference. Starting today we’re going to be the difference. We will see our brothers and sisters with new eyes so we won’t be acting like we do now.
Reader 5: You know. Speeding up at the intersections, or turning away at the exit ramps, walking fast and clutching our purses so nobody will ask us for a dime or a dollar. Lord, we’re going to see you in the hollow eyes and battered signs and though their eyes may not change, ours sure will because we’re going to see and treat them like you would.
Readers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6: Yes, Lord, things are going to be different when you get here.
Reader 6: We’re going to stop letting babies die having babies they don’t need or want and stop letting old folks die alone, hungry and overmedicated to keep them oblivious to our neglect. We will cherish them like the treasures the wise men brought.
Reader 7: Our best and brightest will flourish and dream again because their minds and bodies are clean, clear and pure. Praise God, things are going to be different around here.
All Readers: Shine the light Lord cause things are going to be different around here. Hallelujah.
(Cynthia A. Bond Hopson, The Africana Worship Book for Year B, Discipleship Resources, 2007, p. 105-106.)
Go in peace; love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may God the Father bless you richly,
- may Christ the Son pour the riches of his grace upon you,
- and may the Holy Spirit, our comfort and our support, lead you in the
path of hope, and of peace, of joy and of love.
both now and forevermore. Amen