+ FIRST SUNDAY in ADVENT +
Beginning A New Church Year of Grace
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
660 Frances Lane
Ashland, Oregon 97520
The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor
PRE-SERVICE MUSIC Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending
Rejoice, Rejoice Believers
A warm welcome to all who
have gathered for worship this morning. On this first Sunday
of The Church’s New Year of Grace, we have the opportunity to encourage one another in faith and receive our Lord in Word and Sacrament. With God as our Father, we gather as
a family in Christ to sing his praises and learn of faithfulness and obedience. What a joy to be gathered around The Table of the Lord with the
whole company of heaven and each other.
AS WE GATHER Stir Up Expectations
The First Sunday in Advent is the beginning of a new Church Year of Grace. For the next 12 months we will once again review the major events in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and most of those events will be told from the perspective of the evangelist St. Mark.
While many people think of Advent as a time to celebrate the first coming of our Lord, Advent is The Church’s “wake up call.” God summons us to holy alertness, a wake-fulness and spiritual sensi-tivity. We prepare our hearts not only to celebrate ChristMass,
when our Lord first came down from heaven, but also his expected coming again in glory at the end of time. “Be on guard. Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Watch and wait in hope.
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
O God, you see how busy we are with many things. In this hour of worship, give us rest from all anxiousness and worry. Turn us to listen to you as you come to us in Word and Sacrament, assuring us of that peace which passes all understanding; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THEME of The Day
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come! The psalmist’s plea in Psalm 80:2 has become familiar to us in the Advent prayers. Isaiah wants God to rip the heavens open. Both cry out for an apparently distant angry God to show up, to save, to restore. When we hear Jesus describing the coming of the Son of Man with stars falling from heaven, it can sound dire and horrible, not like anything we would ever hope for. But when we look at the suffering of people God loves; we can share the hope that God would tear open the heavens and come. With Advent hope and longing, we await his coming. E’en so, Lord, come quickly.
INVOCATION & CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds.
Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.
All nations will be gathered before him,
and he will separate people from one another as a shepherd separates the
sheep from the goats.
Lest that Day surprise us unprepared, let us make confession of our sins, imploring
our heavenly Father to have mercy on us for the sake of Jesus Christ.
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection & Self-examination +
Most merciful God, we confess to you all our sins and iniquities with which we have offended you—in our thinking, in our speaking, and in our doing. We fade like a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Unprepared, we stand condemned. We beg your forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ, and seek the help of your Holy Spirit Amen.
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, who was given to die for you. For his sake, your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
And so we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revealing
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely, he is coming soon!
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
BLESSING & LIGHTING of THE ADVENT WREATH
May the One who was, and who is, and who is to come,
be with you in grace and peace.
And also with you.
Let us pray: We praise you, O God for this evergreen crown
that marks our days of preparation from Christ’s advent. As we light the first candle on this wreath, rouse us from sleep, that we may be ready to greet our Lord when he comes with all the saints and angels. Enlighten us with your grace, and prepare our hearts to welcome him with joy. Grant this through Christ our Lord, who’s coming is certain and whose day draws near. Amen.
SONG Light the Candle
Light the candle of LOVE today, the Savior of love is here!
Welcome the love we live and die for, but only Christ can give.
Flicker and flame and glow with love, light up the world around you.
Flicker and flame and glow with love, light up the world around you.
PRAYER of THE DAY
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by your strength and
save us from the threatening dangers of our sin, for you live and reign
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Isaiah 64:1-9
[This communal lament comes from a people who have had their hopes and dreams shattered. The great visions of a restored Jerusalem and a renewed people of God, spoken of in Isaiah 40:56, have not been realized. Instead, the people experience ruin, conflict, and famine. This lament calls God to account—to
be the God who has brought deliverance in the past.]
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who work for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself, we transgressed. We have all become like one who in unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
SECOND LESSON 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
[As the Christians in Corinth await the advent of Jesus, Paul reminds them how the Lord has already enriched them through spiritual gifts and will continue to strengthen them until the coming day of the Lord.]
Paul writes:] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called
into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
SPECIAL MUSIC At Peace—John Turner
GOSPEL Mark 13:24-37
[In today’s reading, Jesus encourages his followers to look forward to the day when he returns in
power and glory to end all suffering.]
Jesus said:] “In those day, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not
give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be
shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Then he will send his angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn this lesson: as soon as the branch becomes tender and puts forth it leaves; you know that the summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, or the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. It is like the man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and com-mands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all:
The Gospel of our Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
GRACE CHOIR The Glory of Advent—Philip Kern
HOMILY Waiting in Hope
Text: The Gospel Pr. Jim
Isaiah 64:1-9; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-27
Waiting in Hope
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
It’s the First Sunday of Advent … New Year’s Day for The Church as we begin another Year of Grace. For some, it’s a day for Advent traditions.
This evening at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England, the choir will sing the annual Advent Service of Lessons & Carols in a tradition that has spread far and wide.
One of my colleagues marks this First Sunday in Advent by listening to Handel’s Messiah, with its magnificent settings of the prophecies fulfilled in Christ.
I think of Gerd Crandall … a member of the parish I served in Sacramento and a good Swedish friend of Jan and myself … who busied herself each Advent baking ginger snaps and other Scandinavian goodies, while she decorated her home room by room in preparation for Christmas.
However, you can during these pandemic days … keep this holy season of anticipation as one of preparation for the coming of our Lord. As you deal with the challenges and dilemmas of December 2020, here is an Advent prayer written by Lady Julian of Norwich … a gentle saint of The Church in 14th Century. It’s well worth memorizing:
Lord, let not our souls be busy inns
that have no room for Thee and Thine,
but quiet rooms of prayer and praise
where Thou mayest find fit company,
where the needful cares of life
are wisely ordered and put away
and wide, sweet spaces kept for Thee.
Where holy thoughts pass up and down
and fervent longings watch and wait Thy coming.
It comes somewhat of a surprise to those who may not be familiar with Advent watching and keeping that today’s subject … and that of the next three Sundays of Advent … is not Christmas. Advent is not about trying to pretend that Christ has not yet been born, and that Advent is about anticipating Bethlehem. Advent is about Christ’s return in glory. It’s an enormously important time in The Church’s Year of Grace, filled with opposites … the opposites of repentance and gladness … judgment and promise … endings and beginnings.
Its message is summed up in a sentence from Walter Brueggemann’s writings that I think can lead us into today’s Gospel text: “The things you work so hard for now are passing away ….”
Jesus was in Jerusalem when He spoke the words of today’s text. It was the final week of His life and ministry. Before Him lay suffering and death. The disciples had just engaged Jesus in a conversation about the beauty and grandeur of the temple. Taking them to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of the temple and Holy City, He shocks them with a prophecy that the days were coming when everything they saw would be destroyed. Not a single stone left resting upon another. Hard times were coming, He warns … “wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines,” and all who followed Him would be persecuted.
And yet, in the midst of these upheavals, God’s saving purpose will not go down defeated.
Wait. Watch out! Open your eyes!
“Be on the alert,” Jesus says, “I have already told you everything.
In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the
moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heaven will be shaken.”
Looking back over our lives, we ought not miss the all too obvious signs. Waste no time or spiritual energy, good friends, whether this is truth to be taken seriously or not. All of us know the suddenness of events that can change a nation’s course (an assassination, a terrorist bomb, the taking of hostages, the tragedy of 9/11, a pandemic, an election) … or the suddenness of events that can change one’s lifetime.
Watch out! Open your eyes! Advent points us to what kind of people we are to be as we await the coming of the Lord. He laid His very life on the line for us in obedience to the Father’s will. In that act lies the very reason for our trust and our ground for hope: Jesus is Lord no matter what.
Think of it this way …
We are like rowers in a racing scull … each of us … not knowing what is ahead … yet pulling at the oars while the coxswain (who knows the course and what is ahead) calls out the proper timing for every oar to pull together toward the finish line.
On this First Sunday in Advent, you and I do not move toward the future with our eyes set on some cosmic calendar of events. We run with our eyes set on Jesus … the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. We run the course by remembering who God is and who we are in Christ. By remembering that our times are in God’s hands, we move forward in the Advent spirit of hope.
Today’s First Lesson reminds us that we are like clay in a potter’s hands. If we are shaped, squeezed, molded, and squeezed and shaped some more by the potter’s hand, it is for a good purpose. St. Paul reminds us:
God is faithful and just; by him you were called into the fellowship
of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord [I Corinthians 1:9].
Advent, you see, is anything but inertia. It stands in sharp contrast to the anomie that bedevils so much of life that is lived with no compass or direction. The late Henri Nouwen has a word for us:
It strikes me increasingly just how hard-pressed people are nowadays.
It is as though we’re tearing about from one emergency to another.
Never solitary, never still, never really free, but always busy about
something or other that just can’t wait. Amid this frantic hurly-burly
we lose touch with life itself. We have the experience of being busy,
while nothing real seems to happen. The more agitated we are, the
more complicated our lives become and the more difficult it is to
keep pace where God can let something truly new take place.
Come what may … no matter what … no matter how dreadful the upheavals of life … no matter how stressed and fatigued during these pandemic days… Christ is Lord! He is our sure and certain hope … the Way … the Truth … and the Life. His truth endures forever.
Living in that knowledge is Advent living and waiting in hope at its best!
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His 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 into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence 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. Amen.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
With longing and hopeful expectation, let us pray for The
Church, the world, and all those in need.
A Brief Pause
We pray for the ministry we share in Christ’s Name. Open
our hearts to hear your call for justice, peace, and healing.
Attune us to the needs of the world and our community as
you draw near. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We pray for the earth in need of restoration: for devastated
communities, habitats, polluted waters, blazing fires, swelling
floods, and long-lasting droughts. Renew the face of the earth and our relationship to it. Continue to bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected and displaced by the Almeda Fire especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandy, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Pam, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We pray for our country in these post-election days of transition. Kindle hearts eager to understand our common needs and seek our common good. Bless our land with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Grant that all world leaders seek your wisdom and guidance for the good and welfare of all people so that divided nations and communities may be restored with your reconciling truth. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We pray for all people who care for others in our community and around the world, especially the doctors, nurses, and technicians who care for those suffering from COVID-19. Shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit especially your servants: Kristel (whose surgery is scheduled for December 9th), Steve (lymphoma), Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother), Tim (Bob’s brother), Rusty (under hospice care), Shari, Tammy and Dillon (Pam’s daughter and grandson recovering from COVID-19),together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are home-bound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We pray for our congregation as we seek to be wise in the use of our gifts and talents, living with our eyes open, watchful, and alert to serve as the signs of your grace in our communities and the world. Guide our Call Committee by your Holy Spirit as they consider the current list of candidates for pastoral leadership and ministry among us. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for all the saints who live in the joy of your endless light. Inspire us by the faith of the apostle Andrew and those who have gone before us as we trust in your promise to bring all things to fulfillment in Christ. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior, until that day when you gather all creation around your throne where you will reign forever and ever. Amen.
Gracious God, we bring before you the precious fruits of your creation, and
with them our very lives. Teach us patience and hope as we care for all those
in need until the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take and eat; this is my + body which is given
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
And gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my + blood
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness
of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.
Our Father who art in heaven; and lead us not into temptation,
hallowed be Thy Name, but deliver us from evil.
Thy kingdom come, For Thine is the kingdom
Thy will be done and the power and the glory
on earth as it is in heaven. forever and ever. Amen.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
Distribution music: You satisfy the hungry heart
PRAYER of THANKSGIVING
O God, in this meal we have been given a foretaste of the feast that is to come.
Help us always to be alert to your gifts in our midst; through Jesus Christ our
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.
POST-SERVICE MUSIC Soon and very soon