Advent Candle Suggestion: In our Church we do Candles as our Children’s Time, We have our small collection of children light the candles youngest to eldest (whoever is there), those who haven’t gone go first. It is impromptu, not planned. It saves on having to schedule and ensures that the candles are lit and we spend children’s time explaining the meaning of the candle and how it relates the story of the week. If you don’t have children, I bet you could do this with your deacons as well.
Week 1: Hope/Prophesy
God you whisper to us, when we dare not hope suggesting to us the impossible
Mortal do you think these bones can live?
God it is in your multitude of knowledge, that we say the answer back to you, you know
Speak hope to the bones
We will speak hope together
Come let us speak the hope of the Holy Spirit today, and Live!
Lighting Hymns: Live Into Hope, Taize: Bless the Lord my Soul, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (v. 1)
Week 2: Peace/Purpose
God promises that all those who thirsts will drink, all those who hunger will be fed
Come, the banquet is set, all are invited
Truly peace shall reign, for everyone shall have enough
Come, and listen, so that you may live. I will make you an everlasting covenant
Who wants to taste and See the Lord?
Come, let us practice this peace today and everyday
Your joy shines through troubles, more than just happiness, God’s Word is life sustaining Joy!
All things come to being through God, and without God not one thing came into being.
Each of us have a spark of that joy within us!
Come let us renew our joy with God!
Hymns: O Come O Come Emmanuel v. 2, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence v. 2 & 3, Joy to the World Taize: The Kingdom of God, O Come All Ye Faithful
Week 4: Love/Good News
Hymns: The First Nowell, What Child is This
God we are thankful you unleashed your love into the world
Good News has come
There is nothing like the love of God
Filling the world with good news
Reminding us that hope, joy and peace are possible, fulfilling the promises of the covenant
Come let us whisper that God is coming soon!
Hymn Suggestions: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence v. 1 & 4, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus v 3 & 4, O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go, Of the Father’s Love Begotten, Taize: Magnificat
All is well, Christ is here
Hear the Good News of Great Joy.
Christ has come, the baby is here!
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Guardian, the Heir of Peace!
Come let us worship the Lord
Glory to God, One Earth Peace, and Goodwill towards humankind!
Supplies: Week 1: Pen and Paper, Week 2: Favorite Beverage, Week 3: Candle, Week 4: Candle again Christmas: Note from Week 1
Week 1Full of Prophesy
Ezekiel 37:1-14 37The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.
Activity: Write a Note to Yourself, something you want to hang onto throughout the season. It can be a hope, a feeling, a promise from God. Keep it simple and straightforward.
Week 2 Full of Purpose
55 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. 6Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Activity: God has purpose for us and we shall not come away empty. Take 10 minutes with your favorite beverage and take the time to savor that fact that God has purpose for you. Surely a God who has given us so many good things to eat, has good plans for us to fulfill.
Week 3 Full of God’s Word
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And 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. 15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Activity: Light a Candle and think about how you’ve heard God’s word or seen it fulfilled this week. Where have you seen God in action? Or maybe God is calling you to fulfill God’s word, and you need to take a moment to figure it out.
Week 4: Full of Good News
2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Activity: Light the candle again if you wish. What is a sign of Good News Today? Have you heard or seen good news? Was it online? A story from a friend? Where was the good news? Did you tell that good news to someone else as well? Think about how you hear and tell good news. Did you forget to share it? Can you tell the story to someone? Do you have someone you can count on to tell good news to or to give you good news? Who are the Good News angels in your life.
Christmas: Full of Christ
Reading Luke 2: 15-20
hen the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Activity: Take out the card you wrote on, reflect on how God moved with you through the season. Does being full of Christ today make you think differently about what you wrote? Would you change it? Did you go in a different direction than you thought? Did God teach you something? This is your note, scribble, doodle and make notes on it as needed.
Feel free to Email me at Katyandtheword at gmail for a doc version of this Kit
God you know between the last minute shopping for rosin (yes for a violin) and milk and eggs.
Between the accounting for presents, preparing for communion and making sure every single thing is in the car that we need for Christmas Eve (please God please) that all of this is my very human yearning for Christ.
We mix and clean and shop and sometimes forget to rest (oops) because this is some of the things we know to do to prepare for people coming.
And as we pray tonight, and then try to sing safely the carols in the car, I think of how worship is never beautiful or perfect, but it is always yearning for Christ.
And as I try to remember all of the things and take care of all of the people, let that stand as a yearning for Christ too. The scratchy zooms, the struggling uploads, the handwritten promissory notes for gifts, the wrapping, the decorating, the house that will never be free of crumbs this year.
Lord I’m praying: Let all that I have done and all that I have left undone. Let every word and thought and deed, yearn for Christ. Let it show every time I love my neighbor as myself, Let all of the imperfections in my heart bespeak my need and love and yearning for Jesus Christ.
Stretch my heart towards Jesus, I pray, because it’s the Christmas thing to do!
A gentle reminder that Christmas is not cancelled. Because it can’t be.
It’s never been about the presents (Grinch) or the to do lists (Charlie Brown) or even the beautiful worship (Best Christmas Pageant Ever).
It has never been dependent on family being able to make it: there has always been weather and travel delays, there has always been illness and other unforeseeable hurdles (Skipping Christmas).
It has never just been about being joyful (Blue Christmas worship and song).
It hasn’t even been about being home (I’ll be Home for Christmas).
Or being perfect (A Christmas Carol, Gift of the Magi).
And sometimes it’s just chaos! (Mixed Nuts, “A Lot Like Christmas” by Connie Willis).
And reaches out unexpectedly (Dear God).
Why do we have all of these stories and songs and movies about how Christmas happens anyway?
Jesus was born in the middle of the first census, in the middle of an unjust system, where his people were occupied and oppressed, where the powers and principalities only cared about their own comfort and wealth.
Jesus was born unexpectedly, in a weird place, to an unmarried self-possessed woman and an open minded and understanding father. He was born far away from his home, and had to flee to Egypt where he probably lived with distant relatives for a while.
Jesus comes in the most imperfect circumstances to remind us, Christmas is not dependent on us.
Just like we said at the beginning of the pandemic the hope and love and family is not cancelled; Christmas is not cancelled, it can’t be.
And if you feel overwhelmed, or mournful that’s ok. Those are legitimate feelings for Christmas.
And if you need to tell yourself one of the many, many Christmas Stories to comfort yourself, do.
Look at how many disastrous Christmases we’ve thought of, because disaster is a part of Christmas, but it’s ok because Christ is too.
Christ is not cancelled, and neither are we. Let us mourn, be lonely, love and celebrate in whatever way we can this year, because I promise God understands.
That’s why Jesus is coming in the first place.
Feel free to share/use with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
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.
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.
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; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 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. 4 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.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 6 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. 7 Because theirshame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs.
8 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. 9 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. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people. 5 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 HymnGo 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!
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!