Prayer as We Gather: God of mercy-tempered justice, Advent elicits from us both compassion to comfort and courage to confront the powers that be. With one and the same voice, you assure us of penalties-paid forgiveness while also demanding we “clear the Lord’s way in the desert,” an assignment sure to offend the interests of entrenched wealth and privilege, who prefer petroleum pipelines to the natural beauty of your desert creation. May we be tender and tough, as the boy-child of Mary called us to be. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 40)
Call to Worship:
God, you smiled on your good earth!
You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people,
Took back your sin-provoked threats,
Cooled your hot, righteous anger.
I can’t wait to hear what God will say.
God’s about to pronounce God’s people well,
God gives Goodness and Beauty;
Our land responds with Bounty and Blessing.
Right Living strides out before him,
Clears a path for God’s passage. (from Psalm 85, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for staying in touch. You mastered the art of instant messaging, speaking to your people across the ages, surmounting every human obstacle of language, culture and fearful superstition. From Isaiah’s prediction of “a voice shouting in the wilderness,” urging listeners to prepare straight paths for you, to baptizer John’s untamed call for changed hearts and lives, in every generation you speak through anyone willing to be your voice for their time. Even now the powerless and dispossessed are finding their voices on your behalf, bringing abusers to ruin and challenging demagogues’ dark schemes to mute dissent and stifle the freedoms at the very heart of this lively experiment we call “America.” Keep speaking, Lord. We are listening, and we will act upon the strength of your Word, which you spoke most eloquently through the carpenter’s son who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 1)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord. We have mistaken your patience with slowness to keep your promise. We have lusted for the destruction of our foes, forgetting that you are “not willing that anyone should perish,” but eager that “all should change their hearts and lives.” Rather than pray down destruction upon those we hate, teach us to echo your earliest followers’ introspection: “What sort of people ought we to be?” Free us from damning our adversaries, choosing instead to “make every effort to be found by the Lord in peace, pure and faultless.” Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 2 Peter 3)
Assurance of Pardon: There is good news on this second Sunday of Advent: The day of the Lord will come, after all, when God’s infinite patience and perfect timing usher in “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” Meanwhile, may we take heart in knowing that God is just as patient with us, in all our brokenness, as with all those we have chosen to exclude from the little admiration society we have misguidedly called “church.” What better season than Advent to stop admiring Jesus and actually take on his consciousness.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 2 Peter 3 and the writings of Cynthia Bourgeault)