Advent Opening Prayer 2016 & Scriptures with Sermon Themes

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully updated for 2016-2017 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 13, 2016. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 4, 2016.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Old Testament lessons, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge me as the author of the material.

I have centered worship around the prophetic promises about what God will do. Each week, the sermon is focused on a promised action from God.

Advent 1 – November 13, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Creating

Advent 2 – November 20, 2016
Scripture: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Gathering

Advent 3 – November 27, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Peacemaking

Advent 4 – December 4, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10
Sermon: Promises – The Promised Leading

Because I tend to use one collect in worship for a season or month, depending on the time of year, I have also written a collect/opening prayer that keeps these themes of prophetic promises before the congregation for the four Sundays of Advent. Again, feel free to use this in worship; but I do ask that you acknowledge me as author.

God of the Coming Day,
we await Your advent among us
with hope and assurance.
We have no need to worry or fret,
nor to anxiously pace back and forth,
because you are as good as your Word,
because you keep your promises.
God of the Coming Day,
we rise up in the darkness preceding the dawn,
looking East, toward Your appearing.
For we know that when You appear,
You will create a new world;
You will gather in all of your people;
You will make peace the law of the land;
and You will lead us in life everlasting.
God of the Coming Day,
we await Your advent among us.  Amen.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

 

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Invite Wonder

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Photo Credit: Amy Persons Parkes

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship blog post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully in 2015/16 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 15. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 6.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Gospel Lessons, Gayle (the Chairperson of our Worship Committee) selected key phrases from different translations of the Bible and paired the phrases with two words that will be used for silent meditation at the beginning of worship. Using these phrases and two-word meditations as inspiration, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge Gayle Youmans and Amy Persons Parkes as the authors of the material.

December 6, 2015 (Advent 4)
Luke 3:1-6, key verse v. 6 (CEB):  “And all humankind will see God’s salvation.”
Two-word meditation:  Invite Wonder

Leader:  With wonder and humility, we look to the heavens, mindful of our small place in the vast universe you have created, O God.  We marvel at your attention to the details of our lives, amidst the expansive nature of existence.

In a universe containing some 70 billion trillion stars, you see our pain and longing. In a world encompassing the astounding paradox of creatures like the 400,000 pound blue whale and the 1/2 inch krill upon which it feeds, we are confounded by the interconnectedness of creatures great and small. How miraculous that the largest animal which has ever lived, only does so because one of the smallest creatures exists and multiplies and migrates day in and day out. With amazement, we ponder the infinite mystery of our own bodies whose cells contain enough strands of DNA, that laid end to end would make over 70 roundtrips from the earth to the sun.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light these candles, at last, holding only to the promise of your coming. Gazing toward the heavens, we are stunned by your greatness. Turning inward, we are mystified by the intricacies of these bodies you have created. Our hearts and minds fall short in contemplating the ways in which your salvation will be made known to all humankind.

People: We wait actively for your coming, Lord.

Leader: We practice discernment until we see and know the Truth.

People: We allow the discomfort that accompanies the birth of a new heaven, a new earth, the fullness of the Kingdom of God among us.

Leader: We invite wonder to soothe our longing and to nurture the embers of hope lying dormant yet

alive within us.

People: For you, O God, know the stars, feed the blue whales, and are well acquainted with our DNA.  In you, O Lord, the heavens and the krill live and move and have their being.

All:  With wonder, and the hope it engenders, we believe, “Come! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”

Gayle Youmans & Amy Persons Parkes © 2015

Practice Discernment

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Photo Credit: Liz West, Bifocals

In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship blog post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully in 2015/16 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 15. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 6.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Gospel Lessons, Gayle (the Chairperson of our Worship Committee) selected key phrases from different translations of the Bible and paired the phrases with two words that will be used for silent meditation at the beginning of worship. Using these phrases and two-word meditations as inspiration, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge Gayle Youmans and Amy Persons Parkes as the authors of the material.

November 22, 2015 (Advent 2)
John 18:33-37, key verse 34a (NLT):  “Is this your own question…”
Two-word meditation:  Practice Discernment

Leader:  For hundreds of years, our Jewish ancestors waited for the promised Messiah, the one who would come in God’s name and power, one in the line of kings, one who would be greater than David, one who would restore Israel to it’s former glory.

John the Baptist, in the order of the prophets, called on the people to confess their  sins, to repent, and to look to one who was more powerful than he. But the ways of God are mysterious and unfathomable to the human mind. While we searched for one who would lead an army, sit on a throne, and reign over a nation, God was putting two microscopic cells together in a woman’s womb. While we were combing through the genealogies of heroes and palace families, God was spreading a little straw in a splintering manger. While we were seeking power from above in places of power here below, God was lifting up the anonymous and silencing the authorities.

As we light the candle for the second Sunday in Advent, we remember how we have often followed a misguided majority rather than a faithful few.

People: We remember Jesus saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

Leader:  Like Pilate, our hearts—when we listen for God’s spirit within—tell us what we know is right.

People: Like Pilate, we brush up against the Truth of the Gospel; and we seek answers from Jesus.

Leader: On this second Sunday of Advent, we embrace the need for us to practice discernment, to recognize the nagging questions arising within us, and to be wary of where the crowds may lead us.

People: We will listen for the truth. We will heed the voice of Jesus.

All: Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come!

Amy Persons Parkes  & Gayle Youmans © 2015

 

Wait Actively

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In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship blog post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully in 2015/16 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 15. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 6.  We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Gospel Lessons, Gayle (the Chairperson of our Worship Committee) selected key phrases from different translations of the Bible and paired the phrases with two words that will be used for silent meditation at the beginning of worship. Using these phrases and two-word meditations as inspiration, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance.  If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge Gayle Youmans and Amy Persons Parkes as the authors of the material.

November 15, 2015 (Advent 1)
Mark 13: 1-8, key verse 8b (NIV):  “These are the beginnings of birth pains.”
Two-word meditation:  Wait Actively

Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgy (First Sunday)

Leader:
As any expectant parents know, preparation for the life to come begins long before a baby is born or an adopted child is brought home. The cries of a newborn are the harvest of seeds sewn from our inscrutable longing for life to continue after we die.

As she enters the front hall of her new home, the first smack of light-up superhero shoes on the laminate floor is not the beginning of new life for an adopting family.  Those brave, expectant steps were preceded by hours of interviews, reams of paperwork, and thousands of prayers to the Almighty for a way to open up, for a social worker to approve, and for relatives to accept.

So, too, on this first Sunday of Advent, we wait actively for Christ to come again to make all that is wrong, right. We wait actively for a new creation – a new heaven and a new earth – to be brought forth from this broken and imperfect place we inhabit. In a world where hunger pains ache in the stomachs of millions, where the thirst for power outstrips our desire to provide clean water for the parched lips of entire nations, we long for Christ to appear and with finality heal the wounds of God’s whole creation.

On this first Sunday of Advent, we light a candle reflecting the disciples’ question, our question…

People: “Tell us, when will these things happen?” (Mark 13:4a)

Leader:  We light this candle as a sign that we are preparing, even now, for all things to be made new in Christ’s final coming. We do not sit and wring our hands over what cannot be done. We wait actively by refraining from evil, doing good, and seeking God in worship and prayer.

People: We wait actively.

Leader: We light this candle to remind us of all that is yet to be fulfilled, of the frustrations and challenges that lie ahead, remembering what Jesus said:

People: “These are the beginnings of birth pains.” (Mark 13:8b)

All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2015

A Prayer for Mother’s Day

Each year, I am confronted with the challenge to find a way to honor Mother’s Day in worship.  This year, I am choosing to print the following prayer on cardstock and adhere one crayon to the card. Each worshiper will receive a card. Before we offer this prayer together, I will invite each person to contemplate whether to keep the card for him/herself or to offer the card as a gift to one who has mothered him or her.  Feel free to use this if it will help you and your congregation. I do ask that you give the following credit:  “Used with permission from the author Amy Persons Parkes © 2015”

Holy Light,
your attentive care for us
passes through the prism of this world
revealing the wide spectrum,
the variegated paths,
through which you color your image in us.

On this Mother’s Day,
we praise you for the delicate hues of compassion
cast upon us by nurturing mothers –
mothers who gave birth to us,
mothers who chose us,
women who became mothers we never had,
mothers to whom we gave ourselves as children.
We praise you for the whole vibrant pallet of motherhood which reflects your Light.

We give thanks for the blessed memory of mothers
who once gilded our every days
and whose eternal life in you now tints the heavens.

We pray for peace and forgiveness
to dye the hurtful interactions between mothers and children
rendering something new from an old and worn work.

We seek hope for the mourning mothers,
upon whose canvas the darker tones
of loss and grief have brushed.
With gentle strokes,
paint your comfort.

On this Mother’s Day, Holy Light,
color us all in,
outline and shade,
daub and dab,
until we reflect
a world awash
in your covenant promise.
In and through Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2015