A Prayer as We Gather
Lord, as this fourth Sunday of Advent beckons us toward celebrating a birth that forever altered human history’s trajectory, we long to re-kindle a Jesus-based identity both strong (durable, motivating) and kind (accepting, loving). May Jesus’ perfect love propel us beyond the American Christmas Machine’s obsession with accumulating more, and into faith’s saner discipline of simply desiring less. Draw us to a lowly manger, where gentle Mary’s child proves nothing is impossible for God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.* - inspired by Luke 1 and the wit of G.K. Chesterton
Call to Worship Mary’s Song
I’m bursting with God-news;
Dancing the song of my Savior God.
God’s mercy flows in wave after wave,
Scattering the bluffing braggarts,
Knocking tyrants off their high horse,
Pulling victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
The callous rich were left out in the cold.
God embraced God’s children;
Remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.* - Luke 1, The Message
Thank you, Lord, for announcing through Jesus the secret kept quiet for so long, the good news that you love us and you bid us love our neighbor. Thank you for the beloved community that is University Baptist Church, a family of caring pilgrims where the transformative Gospel is lived, where the broken are welcomed and the discouraged restored to union with you. May we never be ashamed of Jesus or confuse impartiality with indifference, which is just another word for ignorance. Guard us from reducing Jesus’ birth to a cheesy fairy tale. As we peer with wonder into the manger, keep always in our hearts the question: “What child is this?”
- inspired by Romans 16, with a nod to Richard Rohr and G.K. Chesterton
Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, Lord, our false modesty and gratuitous benevolence, as when King David, smugly settled into his palace after his latest military conquest, offered up his smarmy offer to build you a shiny new temple. When we surround ourselves with people who demand too little of us, send us friends who love us enough to tell us the truth, as when prophet Nathan faithfully conveyed your abrupt rebuke: “I don’t need no stinkin’ temple, and even if I did you’re not the one to build it. I took you from the pasture, shepherd-boy, and made you a leader. Remember who you are!” On this final Sunday in Advent, as we recall a peasant mother, a bewildered father, a child - deemed illegitimate by religious snobs – birthed in a cow stall and destined to attract the powerless riff-raff to his healing touch, may we remember who we are: wandering children, desperate to know your redeeming love, privileged to share that love with the whole hurting world. Amen.* - inspired by 2 Samuel 7 and Luke 1
Assurance of Pardon
I have good news, actually the best news ever: We are a visited people, serenaded by our Creator with astounding, life-interrupting tidings: “Unto you a child is born, a mighty counselor, a prince of peace, upon whose shoulders true governance rests! I love you so much, I am coming to you in human form, urging you to seek first my reign and its way of living on this earth, assuring you that all the things you truly need will be provided, giving you rest from all your enemies. Trust me, and do not succumb to worry. I am with you forever.” Thanks be to God for telling us everything we need to know about who (and whose) we really are.*
- inspired by 2 Samuel 7 and Luke 1