The rest of the service

It’s Thursday. Which means for me (@revlkb), the copier will be working away, and the bulletins will be folded and placed in the narthex with care. Inserts will be safely tucked inside, with visions of the Magnificat dancing in their heads.

But there is still much to do for Sunday’s service. There are prayers to write. There are children’s sermons to plan. There are more services next week too!

So, what are you working on today? Do you have prayers to share? How are you talking about Mary’s beautiful song with the children? Or are you going in a different direction on this fourth Sunday of Advent?

Prayers for each of you as you approach the home stretch of this busy and sacred time!

In the Now: Blue Christmas/Longest Night

Some of us had Blue Christmas services this past week. Others of us still have that coming up. Some of us have Longest Night services. Whatever we call it, this service is often the balm to a hurting soul–offering space in the midst of a cheery and hustle-and-bustle season to acknowledge grief, pain, or other un-holiday-ish feelings.

What do you do in this kind of service? What format do you use? What liturgy? Do you have favorite resources? Did you write anything new this year? Do you want to write something–perhaps a litany or a prayer acknowledging the difficulty of the season, or a call to worship that leaves room for both celebration and sadness, or a dedication of our memories instead of a dedication of an offering?

To get us started, we have a new hymn written by Carlos Wilton, pastor at Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church in Point Pleasant Beach NJ.

Comfort Your People, Lord
A Hymn for Blue Christmas Services
(Tune: “The Coventry Carol”)
text by Carlos Wilton

O Lord, we bring to you, this day,
Hearts that are raw with pain:
For sorrow has companioned us,
And in our lives does reign.
You promise to make all things new:
Comfort your people, Lord.

Would that we could turn back the clock
And for one precious hour
Reach out, clasp hands, and touch again
Love’s fragile, with’ring flower!
You cherish all times in your hands:
Comfort your people, Lord.

All through our lives we’ve trusted you
To be most fair and kind:
Though, in the dark night of the soul,
Anger enthralls our minds.
For freedom you have set us free:
Comfort your people, Lord.

We have not always trusted that
Fairness has been your way.
Too soon it’s seemed to watch our dreams
Float up and fly away.
For good, all things together work:
Comfort your people, Lord.

My soul, why are you so downcast:
Caught up in grief’s malaise?
We trust the day will soon arrive
When we will sing God’s praise!
Not Yuletide mirth, but Easter joy:
We ask this gift, O Lord.

Copyright © 2011, by Carlos E. Wilton. All rights reserved. Permission is given for congregations to reproduce the text of this hymn in worship bulletins, as long as the copyright information is included.

Call to worship, confession, & assurance for Advent 4

From Rev. Jenny McDevitt, Bayside Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach, VA

Call to Worship
One: We are waiting on you, God. We are still waiting.
All: The darkness is deeper, but look! The star is beginning to shine.
The everlasting light is creeping closer.
Hope is in the air. Peace is promised. Joy is on the tips of our tongues.
One: Love is coming. Love divine, all loves excelling.
All: We are waiting on love. And Love is waiting on us.

Prayer of Confession
Living God, Love Incarnate, we confess that we are not perfect.
You who are everything, we acknowledge that we are lacking.
Child of the manger, we admit that we prefer to be sentimental rather than sacrificial.
Hear us now as we confess our faults and admit our frailties.

Silent confession

One (sung): O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
All (sung): O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.

Assurance of Forgiveness
All: The truth of Advent is this: God is coming to us! We are not alone.
In Christ, we are accepted. We are set free of the past. We are given to the future.
One: Hear the water splashing: this is what forgiveness sounds like.
Look at the light shining: this is what hope looks like.
Take one another’s hand: this is what incarnation feels like.
Share a sign of peace: this is what the world is waiting for.

confession: unprepared

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, Ridgefield Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church, Crystal Lake, IL.

God, we know you are knocking on our doors,
and we don’t always want to let you in.
The work of preparing, waiting, and clearing is hard.
But still you come, bringing light and life,
leading us ever more into your way.
Forgive our unpreparedness, come into our lives,
and help us to love you as you love us. Amen.

Advent 3 confession & assurance

From Rev. Stephanie Anthony, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Hudson, Wisconsin

Confession
God of light and love, We confess our lack of attention to the prophets and messengers you send. We confess that we do not keep our eyes peeled and our ears open to the ways that you are revealing yourself and announcing your message in our lives. We confess that we dismiss those who might be speaking for you who in our minds are not old enough, not educated enough, not refined enough. Open our hearts, our eyes, our ears, and our minds to watch and listen for your Word being proclaimed among us this day and always. Amen.

Words of Assurance: (based on Isaiah 61)
L: Friends, We can rejoice in the Lord! With an everlasting covenant sealed by love and mercy, God has clothed us with salvation. God has covered us with righteousness. The prophets have promised this good news: In Jesus Christ, our coming Lord, we are forgiven!
P: My whole being shall exult in my God. In Jesus Christ we are indeed forgiven. Thanks be to God.

Call to worship, confession, & assurance for advent 3

Third Sunday of Advent from Rev. Ross Reddick, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Sylacauga, Alabama

Responsive Call to Worship: (based on John 1:6-8, 19-28)
Leader: With joy this day we anticipate the one who is coming, the arrival of the Messiah.
People: The one we call the Word! The one we call the Light.
Leader: Like John the Baptist, we are not the light. In our worship, we testify to the light.
People: Our testimony is prayer and praise, song and scripture.
Leader: Our testimony is preaching and teaching, learning, and serving.
People: May our testimony be a sweet sound in your ear, O God.

Prayer of Confession: (based on 1Thess. 5:16-24)
Mighty and powerful God, your word says, “Rejoice always.” But we would rather sulk about the things that don’t go right. Your word says, “Pray without ceasing.” But we go for days without even thinking about You. Your word says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” But our thankfulness is fleeting, because we think we deserve blessings. Your word says “Hold fast to what is good,” while we hold fast to sinful ways of thinking and acting.

Assurance of Pardon / Declaration of Forgiveness: (based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)​
The prophets of old have declared, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God. For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robes of righteousness. Friends, believe the good news: in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

Opening & invitation for advent communion

from Rev. Christopher Harrison, Pastor of Glendale Presbyterian Church, Glendale, CA.

Opening:

A voice cries out in the wilderness,

Prepare the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

All who are waiting, Hear!

All who hope, Listen!

The promise has been breathed into the fabric of history and

Its fulfillment is at hand:

The lonely will be comforted,

The orphan will be championed,

A light will shine in the darkness,

The lost will be searched for and will be found.

The path of salvation will be restored.

See, O people,

See the face of our Savior.

“The Lord’s glory will appear,

and all humanity will see it together;

the Lord’s mouth

has commanded it.”

Invitation:

If in the depths of your spirit you are crying out, “Come thou long expected Jesus;”

This table has been laid out for you.

For those who sing, “born to set your people free,” and desire to be set free;

The table of the Lord has a place for you.

If your heart aches to be released from fear and sin,

Receive the bread of Heaven and the cup of Salvation.

Those who find their rest in Jesus Christ,

are welcome here,

The feast of communion is prepared for you.

Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.

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