Narrative Lectionary Bulletin & Sermon Advent 4 Rev. Dr Barb Hedges-Goettl

PreludeBreath of Heaven             Amy Grant 

Opening Prayer

Lord, you bring glad tidings to the poor. Let us hear.

You heal the brokenhearted. Heal us too.

You free the prisoners from their jails. Free us from ourselves.

Loving God, please come to us, and send us out, forgiven,
to the poor, the brokenhearted the imprisoned.

Hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies,
With th’angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” (interlude)

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Call to Worship (Isaiah 9:2, John 8:12, Malachi 4:20)

One: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light

ALL: O Lord, be our light!

Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

O Lord, be our light!

Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; those who follow Me 

will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

O Lord, be our light!

For you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise 

with healing in its wings.

O Lord, be our light!

Call to Confession  Jesus did not worry about what others thought.

He did not avoid conflict, but confronted head-on what needed to be changed. Let us confess how hard it is to do the same.

Prayer of Confession

God, sometimes we are more interested in the approval of others than in what you want us to do and be. Forgive us, Lord.

Sometimes we play nice, avoiding conflict even when your gospel of love would call us to speak out. Forgive us, Lord. 

Sometimes we substitute a different kind of preaching for the preaching of good news that you offer the poor. Forgive us, Lord.

Sometimes we preach a gospel of self-reliance instead of the freedom offered by your grace. Forgive us, Lord.

Sometimes we want the blind to see the same way we do,

instead of taking the log out of our own eyes. Forgive us, Lord.

Sometimes we want the oppressed to just be a little more patient,

instead of letting them go free. Forgive us, Lord.

(Silent Confession)

Assurance of Pardon 

God offers us God’s very self, granting us grace and new life.

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Gloria Patri: (Blue #579) Glory Be to the Father 

Sharing of Prayer Joys and Concerns  

Prayers of the People/Lord’s Prayer (traditional)

Celebration of Birthdays and Anniversaries            

Hymn of Dedication O Come, All Ye Faithful Martina McBride https://youtu.be/Y3egGjeiWEA

O come, all ye faithful Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord

O, sing, choirs of angels Sing in exultation
O come, o come ye to Bethlehem 

Come and behold Him Born the King of Angels

O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord

O come, all ye faithful Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord

O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord

Doxology (Blue, #592)   Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivaDXu27_IY

Prayer of Dedication

Holy One, this Advent season we come with joy,
and we give in love: Love in return for you loving us first,

Love experienced through your presence with us.
Receive and use these gifts and our very lives 

to share your love with the world. Amen.  

Prayer for Illumination  Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing, And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Old Testament Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
    foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
    you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
    and in their riches you shall glory.
Because theirshame was double,
    and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
    everlasting joy shall be theirs.

For I the Lord love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
    my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

New Testament Lesson: Luke 4:16-21

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Sermon: What Do You Do While You’re Waiting?

Affirmation of Faith   (John 1, NRSV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, 

and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, 

and the life was the light of all people. The light shines 

in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;  yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,     and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,         full of grace and truth.

Closing Hymn  Go Tell It On the Mountain

Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born! (repeat chorus)

While shepherds kept their watching O’er silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens There shone a holy light

Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born!

The shepherds feared and trembled When lo! Above the Earth
Rang out the angel chorus That hailed our Savior’s birth

Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born!

Down in a lowly manger Our humble Christ was born
And God sent us salvation That blessed Christmas morn

Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born! (Repeat chorus)

Charge and Benediction

Postlude  Go Tell It On the Mountain                                  arr. S. Moorehttps://youtu.be/NaBoOAIs2lY

What do you do while you’re waiting?

Barb’s sister Beth started posting numbers in decreasing order on her facebook without explanation. Eventually it became clear that she was counting down to the beginning of Advent. It is not unusual for people to count down to Christmas, which is a big event, but Advent is typically considered a time of waiting… waiting and anticipating Christmas. So I asked, rather incredulously, “So are you waiting for when you will start waiting?” And she laughingly said “That’s right.”

But now that we are in the midst of Advent, is it a time of waiting and anticipating? Or is it something more than waiting and anticipating? Mr. Rogers used to sing a song on his TV show “What do you DO while you’re waiting…while you’re waiting for something else to do?” The scriptures today lead me to believe he was actually saying something profound about Advent, because it was not sufficient to say we are just “waiting.” Just waiting is boring and difficult. Barb and I stood outside in a line with masks on six feet away from others waiting to be allowed into an outdoor market where the number of buyers were strictly limited. We were anticipating what we would find and could not leave the line or we would lose our place. It reminded me of when I work with young children who have a terrible time waiting and I tell them “waiting is hard, but it is part of growing up.” But Mr. Rogers points to an important difference between waiting while doing nothing, and DOING something while waiting. For him, and in the scriptures today, waiting is a time to DO something. A time perhaps, to truly prepare for the event we are waiting for.

The Isaiah passage was likely written upon the return of the Israelites from exile. They faced the rebuilding of a crumbled society. They needed to rethink how government was done, how education was done, how gatherings were done, how family was done. 2020 was also a year of exile, a year of crumbling infrastructure. So, first in Isaiah, and then in Luke we hear a challenge for what we could do while we’re waiting… waiting for Christmas, waiting for a vaccine, waiting for a New Year, waiting for a new, reconstituted life together to begin.

This Advent, this waiting time is an opportunity to DO while we wait and anticipate all these new events. In Isaiah, the power to DO comes from the Spirit that falls upon him. In Luke, Jesus proclaims that “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And indeed, we believe that the Spirit of God has already fallen upon all the people God claims as God’s own… that includes you and me.

So the Scripture begins by telling us that we have the power, and the responsibility to DO the work we are called to do while we wait for Christmas, while we wait for a vaccine, while we wait for a new reconstituted life together, while we wait for the New Year. What do WE DO while WE are waiting?

TODAY this scripture is fulfilled in our hearing! The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us…eventually it specifies that this anointing of the Lord has “named ministers of our God.” We are ALL anointed by the Spirit and we are ALL ministers of our God, so we have a ministry to DO while we’re waiting.

The ministry we are called to is a ministry that captures and embodies the Spirit of Christmas. We are anointed to preach GOOD NEWS to the poor. But this is not empty preaching that smiles and says things will be fine, this is GOOD NEWS accompanied by action, by what we ministers are DOING while we are waiting. It is the work we are challenged to DO now, and it’s a pretty tall order (good thing we are all named ministers so “many hands can make light work).

We are to reach out to the brokenhearted and bind them up with our support. The brokenhearted whose lives have been crushed, whose losses have been so great, who were so ravaged by this past year of exile. Can we think of at least one person whose heart has been broken by this past year? Can we accept the challenge to reach out and help bind up their broken heart while we are waiting?

We are to offer a release from darkness to those imprisoned by the circumstances of their lives. Poverty imprisons some, hunger imprisons some, addiction imprisons some, bondage to sin imprisons some. Can we offer the light of Christ as we provide tangible help instead of feeling repulsed or judgmental to those whose life prisons have shrouded them in darkness? Can we contribute tangible help for some imprisoned person while we are waiting?

We are to comfort those who mourn. We don’t need to force a “merry” happiness on those who are grieving. Can we reach out to someone who just can’t celebrate this Christmas and offer a listening ear, a loving heart, and comfort for them in their mourning while we are waiting?

We are called to rebuild the ruins of our society and restore the gatherings long devasted. Do we dare to look beyond individuals and extend the work of our shared ministry to acknowledge the brokenness and devastation all around us? Brokenness caused by greed, devastation caused by bigotry, racism, and injustice. Can we reach out in even one small way to rebuild and restore a society that rejects the devastation while we are waiting?

We are waiting but we are not waiting alone. We are waiting with so many other ministers anointed by God. And we are waiting and ABLE TO DO because the Spirit of the Lord, the true Spirit of Christmas is upon us while we are waiting.

And the hope that is promised is a hope fulfilled by the work of God through our meager actions as God’s ministers. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the hope is that God’s faithfulness WILL reward us with an everlasting covenant. And together we will proclaim the New Year, the year we are waiting for, a year of God’s favor!

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