Prayer as We Gather: Here we are, Lord, reporting for duty on this Advent Sabbath, your spirit heavy upon us, unsettling and urgent as your summons of prophet Isaiah. Replace our vague disquietude with a primal memory of being anointed, sent by you to bring good news to the poor and bind up the brokenhearted. Make of us willing foot-soldiers, comforting those who mourn, restoring and renewing ruined lives. Because you love justice and hate dishonesty, we pledge to do likewise. Touch our hearts in this holy hour. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 61)
Call to Worship:
It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
When God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations:
“God was wonderful to them!”
Indeed, God was wonderful to us.
And now, God, do it again:
Bring rains to our drought-stricken lives,
So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing,
With armloads of blessing.*(Psalm 126, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Lord, most days our Christian witness to this fractured, distracted world seems so negligible we are apt to echo baptizer John: “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness.” We despair of anyone hearing or caring about whatever “good news” we claim to possess. Then we remember: It’s not about us. It’s about the same guy self-effacing John referenced when badgered by religious bigots: “Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize …” He still stands among us, not acknowledged by the powers that be, which makes our task all the more urgent. Give us gumption enough to keep making straight the path to One who saves us by his life and inspires us by his death, teaching us along the way how to talk to you, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 1)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, for ignoring what is surely among the earliest disciples’ most crucial warnings: “Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t break off Spirit-inspired messages.” But we do it all the time, dismissing Holy Spirit’s whispered directives as merely whimsical musings or ill founded after-thoughts not worthy of a closer look, a fuller review, a further consideration. How often have we broken off a heavenly message from you, our minds so cluttered with trivia there is no room left for intimate, Spirit-breathed conversation? Have mercy when we shut you out, then complain that “there is no word from the Lord!” Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5)
Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news! Spirited, life-changing intimacy with our Creator is not only still possible, but entirely attainable. Heed the time-tested counsel of early Christians, urging us to “examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.” You’ll be surprised what events God uses, what people God chooses to show us the way. It’s not magic, not even particularly mystical, but it does require this one pesky pre-condition: “Avoid every kind of evil.” Perfection is not required, just personal responsibility. You can do this. God will help. Thanks be to God that the communication lines remain open!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5 and the lyrics of Richard Avery and Donald Marsh)