Prayer as We Gather: Lord of stark surprises, hear our Advent echo of old man Zechariah’s ecstatic promissory outburst at his infant son John’s dedication, covenant words our troubled world longs to trust once more: “God has come to help, has shown the mercy promised, has granted us rescue so we could serve without fear!” Lord, in these days when hate mongers would control us by making us afraid, may your deep compassion “give light to those in darkness and guide us on the path of peace.” We have indeed been rescued so we could serve. May this holy hour prepare us to do just that. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 1)
Call to Worship:
Bless the Lord God of Israel, who has come to help and deliver us.
God has raised up a mighty Savior, delivered us from our enemies.
God has shown the mercy promised in holy covenant,
The solemn pledge made to our ancestor Abraham.
God granted that we would be rescued from our enemies
So we could serve without fear in holiness, as long as we live.
Because of our God’s deep compassion,
Heaven’s dawn will break upon us,
To give light to those sitting in darkness and death’s shadow,
To guide us on the path of peace. (Luke 1, Common English Bible)
Morning Prayer: Incarnate God, you who became flesh in a Hebrew boy birthed to a peasant teen mom and first celebrated by rough-hewn shepherds of little regard in their own culture, thank you for showing up when we least expect you, and for all those who partner with us in ministry in our beloved UBC community. We echo apostle Paul’s gratitude that “the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job.” We hold close in our hearts all those grace-companions through whom we have known the compassion of Jesus, and we long to become ”even more rich with insight, able to decide what really matters,” for we make our appeal through the risen Lord who gave us words by which to approach your majestic presence, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Philippians 1)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive, Lord, our chronic rejection of prophetic voices you send among us, like socially unacceptable baptizer John with his brazen assaults upon the fragile sensibilities of religious and political functionaries, whose primary instinct is always to protect their turf. May we never shrink from speaking truth to corrupt excess, whether it be education factories’ sports boosters spewing obscene $12 million ransoms to coaches in return for not coaching, or cowardly administrators embracing slavery’s evil by enshrining its hideous monuments in $5 million mausoleums mandated by sniveling legislators who begrudge teachers a fair living wage, all under the banner of a state motto which implores us “to be, rather than to seem.” Why in the world do you put up with us, Lord? Amen. (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 3)
Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news: When baptizer John dared demand of his listeners that they turn from darkness, showing by their baptism “they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins,” he was also speaking to you and me. Channeling his prophet precursor Isaiah’s wilderness cry, John laid down for us the imperative by which we are meant to live as disciples of Jesus: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” Thanks be to God for that privileged assignment, and the radical promise implicit within it, never more needed than in these days of mounting despair: “The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.” May it be so, Lord, soon and very soon!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 3)
Thought for an Advent Sabbath: “Jesus was a dangerous man – dangerous to the power structure, dangerous to the church, dangerous to the crowds of people who followed Him. Shouldn’t the followers of Jesus also be dangerous?” – Michael Yaconelli