Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Advent is about the “coming days.” God’s people have always lived in great expectation, but that expectation finds specific, repeated enunciation in the texts appointed for these four weeks. The ancients anticipated a “righteous Branch to spring up for David.” The Thessalonians awaited “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all the saints.” Jesus’ contemporaries hoped for the time “to stand before the Son of Man.” With them we eagerly await the coming days: another Christmas celebration, a second coming, and the advent of Christ in word and supper.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
who alone does wonders,
who lifts up the lowly,
who fills the hungry with good things.
Let us confess our sin, trusting in the tender mercy of our God.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God for whom we wait,
in the presence of one another,
we confess our sin before you.
We fail in believing that your good news is for us.
We falter in our call to tend your creation.
We find our sense of self in material wealth.
We fear those different from ourselves.
We forget that we are your children
and turn away from your love.
Forgive us, Blessed One,
and assure us again of your saving grace.
God, in Christ Jesus, has looked with favor upon you!
Through the power of the Holy Spirit,
☩ your sins are forgiven.
You are children of the Most High,
inheritors of the eternal promise,
and recipients of divine mercy.
God strengthens you anew to follow the way of peace.
Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and redeem us for your life of justice, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
In the Old Testament, “righteousness” often has to do with being faithful in relationship. God acts righteously both in punishing Israel for its sin and in having mercy. In today’s reading, Jerusalem’s future name—“The Lord is our righteousness”—proclaims that God is even now working salvation for Israel.
14The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-10
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. (Ps. 25:1)
1To you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.
2My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3Let none who look to you be put to shame;
rather let those be put to shame who are treacherous.
4Show me your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths. R
5Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
6Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting. R
7Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
8You are gracious and upright, O Lord;
therefore you teach sinners in your way.
9You lead the lowly in justice
and teach the lowly your way.
10All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness
to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies. R
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Upon Timothy’s report from the congregation at Thessalonica, Paul is exuberant with gratitude for them. In this passage from his letter, Paul voices overflowing thanks, joy, and blessings for the people of this growing church.
9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Alleluia. Stand up and raise your heads— your redemption is drawing near. Alleluia. (Luke 21:28)
Gospel: Luke 21:25-36
God will fulfill God’s purposes and, already, hidden signs of that fulfillment abound. On that great day there will be dismay, perplexity, confusion, and terror, but God’s people shall be given strength to stand boldly and receive God’s promised redemption.
[Jesus said:] 25“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
Welcome to the season of advent! The word Advent has its roots in the Latin word adventus, meaning the coming. So, what is coming? We, as Christians, will likely answer that Christmas and the birth of Jesus is coming. But it didn’t always mean that. We are used to the four-week cycle of Advent. The first week has at its theme hope, or promise. The second, preparation or waiting. The third week’s theme is joy or peace. And the fourth week, love, and adoration. At one time, the Advent season was six weeks long, just like Lent. And the coming that the early Christians were anticipating was not the birth of Christ, but His second coming in Glory to judge and redeem the world. We look forward to that day too, but Advent has come to mean remembering the coming celebration of Christ coming into the world as a child.
I think looking to Christ’s second coming is reflected in the choice of the Gospel reading today. Christ is talking about when He will return and how we should eagerly await His coming “in a cloud’ with power and great glory”. He also tells us to “be on guard so that… day does not catch [us] unexpectedly”. Jesus also says he doesn’t want us weighed down with the cares of this world. How often do we get involved in the things of this world and forget that Jesus is coming altogether? That happens even in Advent. We all want to make sure we have the “perfect” Christmas celebration. We sometimes plan things, like a big dinner, or making sure we have the right presents for our children or spouse. I have often been flabbergasted at some of the ads seen on TV during the run up to Christmas. Such as the ones encouraging you to buy a brand-new car as a surprise gift for your spouse. (Merry Christmas, Honey! I just tied us to five years of monthly payments as a gift for you!) The jewelers get involved in this as well, encouraging men to make sure to express their love for their wife with some expensive necklace or something that may get worn occasionally, but spends most of the time in a box on a dresser. If we were to pay attention to the retailers, they would have us start preparing for Christmas in the middle of summer.
One of the traditions I most look forward to during Advent is the Advent Wreath. We usually have one in the Church and will light one of the candles today. We have a family Advent Wreath at our house which we use. Each week, on Sunday, we say a prayer and read some of the Bible and light another candle. When I was young, it was always considered a special treat to be the one that lit the candle for that week. Another tradition is an advent calendar. These calendars are usually made of paper and each day you’re supposed to open a door which reveals a scripture reading for that day. In some cases, when you open the door, you not only have a scripture reading but also a piece of candy! There’s also an online Advent calendar that teaches each day about the ways Christmas is celebrated in other cultures.
These traditions are intended to help us to remember that Advent is a season for anticipation. But what are we anticipating? Are we waiting for Christmas morning and the perfect Christmas gift? In some ways, yes, we are. That perfect gift comes to us from God the Father and is the His only Son, Jesus Christ, and the salvation that He brings with Him. How will you choose to observe Advent this season, and how will you answer the question of what or whom are you waiting for?
Prayers of Intercession
In this season of watching and waiting, let us pray for all people and places that yearn for God’s presence.
A brief silence.
God of presence and peace, strengthen your church around the globe to proclaim the message of your love coming to the world. Bless Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, so that the Holy Spirit will work through them to open our hearts so that we may recognize your face in all people and in all of creation. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of mighty redwoods and microscopic plants, fields and city parks, the wind and the waves, be a healing balm to our wounded planet. May we nurture what you have lovingly created and have entrusted to our care as stewards. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of equity and compassion, bring righteousness and goodness to all peoples of the earth. Give a heart of discernment and integrity to leaders in our communities. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of comfort and care, be present with those who watch and wait. Come to all who await births, deaths, divorces, new unions, new jobs, retirements, healing, and life transitions of every kind. We especially remember here those on our prayer list as well as those whom we bring before you in our hearts. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of promises kept and new dreams awakened, shelter your people from destructive storms. We pray for those whose lives have been upended by natural disasters, for the work of Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran World Relief, and other relief organizations that work to care for all of your children who are in distress. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of companionship and community, we give you thanks for the saints who journeyed with us and now abide in you. Even in distress and uncertainty, make us confident that your promises endure forever. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God of new life, you come among us in the places we least expect. Receive these prayers and those of our hearts, in the name of Jesus.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ, continues to teach us, we boldly pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
God of hope, fill us with all joy and peace in believing,
so that we may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
through Christ Jesus for whom we wait.
Go in peace. Christ is near.
Thanks be to God.