Alternative Ways to Worship
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First Presbyterian Church Worship – 1st Sunday of Advent, 11/29/20
“We Are Here To Help You in Your Walk With God.”
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Welcome to our Worship and thank you for joining us today. We pray blessings on your day and welcome you in joining us as we worship God.
This is the first week of Advent, and the theme this week is the gift of hope. As we move closer to the day of Christ's birth, the flame of hope begins to burn more brightly. Hope, which fueled the ministry of the prophets and the worship of Israel, must mark us as we prepare to celebrate Christ's birth and look forward to his return.
As we worship today, we grow in the hope God has given us.
Today we light the first candle of the Advent wreath. This is the candle of Hope. With Christians around the world, we use this light to help us prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
May we receive God’s light as we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a Land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.”
Let us pray: Lord as we look to the birth of Jesus, grant that the light of your love for us will help us to become lights in the lives of those around us. Prepare our hearts for the joy and gladness of your coming, for Jesus is our Hope. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
As we prepare for Christ's coming let us make our confessions to God.
Merciful God, always with us, always coming; we confess that we do not know how to prepare for Advent; we have forgotten how to hope in miracles; we have ignored the promise of your kingdom; we get distracted turmoil of our world. Forgive us God. Grant us the simple wonder of the shepherds, the intelligent courage of the Magi, and the patient faith of Mary and Joseph, that we may journey to Bethlehem and find the good news of a child born for us. Now in the quiet of our hearts, we ask you to make us ready for his coming. Amen.
Let us approach the Lord with our silent confessions.
Assurance of Pardon:
Comfort, comfort my people, says our God. Our sins are pardoned. The penalty is paid. Thanks be to God.
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Message: Living Hope
My sermon writing has become a reflection of the turmoil in our world today! This is the second sermon that I’m writing for this week. I also wrote two last week! The first one for this week was about the angel appearing to Zechariah and foretelling the birth of John the Baptist. It was OK, but just didn’t hit the right tone for this time in our lives. With all the uncertainty that we are living through right now, I felt that focusing on the theme of our Advent candles and first week of Hope was a much better fit.
And then I ran across this Scripture reading from 1 Peter talking about living hope. What great words! Living Hope. And that is exactly what Jesus is all about. The text says: “By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God.” Now that’s something to hold onto even in these most difficult of times!
This word hope is used a lot in our language. We might ask our children, “What are you hoping to get for Christmas?” A counselor might ask, “What are you hoping to receive out of this relationship?” A boss might ask us, “What are we hoping to achieve during this timeframe?” We use it interchangeably with “wish,” “want” or “expect.” We use it so often that the word hope doesn’t mean all that much to us.
The New Testament use of the Greek word hope, elpis, has a much richer and deeper meaning derived from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, there is not a neutral understanding of hope. Hope is the hope of good and the opposite of hope is fear. There is expectation in hope and hope is naturally directed towards God. When man is in trouble, he hopes that God will deliver and help him. Hope requires trust. Ultimately, we are encouraged to put our hope in God, our faith and trust that he will deliver us.
Psalm 46:1 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The culmination of this hope and trust in God’s deliverance was found in the hope of the coming Messiah. The Messiah was to be the anointed one, of the line of David. He was to come and deliver Israel and bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. He was to be Emmanuel – God with us.
Isaiah 7:14 tells us: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
And Matthew 12:17–21 tells us He was the hope of the nations with these words:
This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”
The world tells us to put our hope and trust in our government, economy, technology, education, achievements, and humanity. The Bible however warns us from putting our trust in the false hopes and idols of the world. Although this year is different, on most Black Fridays, we find long lines of people waiting to get into the retail stores. Lines of worshipers bowing down at the temple of consumerism, buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. I want to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”
And this year we are feeling particularly hopeless. This pandemic is still happening, after months of wearing masks, social distancing, gathering with only a few people, and now only members of our immediate households, with numbers of infections and illness skyrocketing, we find ourselves saying where is the hope? When will this end?
But here’s the Good News! Jesus is our Living Hope! Peter tells us in our reading today that in Jesus Christ we have been given a living hope, not a dead or false hope, but a living hope. This is what God offers to us.
In the catacombs of Rome where early Christians were buried, they have found various early Christian symbols. One of the first Christian symbols of hope was an anchor. This makes sense because Jesus’ first disciples were fisherman: Peter and Andrew, James and John who obviously used anchors within their occupations. Also, Jesus taught and performed many miracles around or on the Sea of Galilee, but the symbol goes beyond these references. It was a symbol that Jesus is our living anchor.
The early Christians, when facing persecution and suffering, knew that Jesus was the one they could rely upon to see them through the storms of life. Jesus is the one that we can trust in our lives. He is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, our living hope, our anchor to secure us in times of trouble, he will hold us fast during life’s storms.
This first candle on the Advent wreath represents a living hope because a living hope begins with Christmas. With a little child in a manger, a vulnerable, helpless little baby conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary and Joseph. It is here that hope began and hope like a snowball grows. This small child grew in stature and wisdom - and hope grew.
He amazed others with his teachings - and hope grew. He performed miraculous signs and wonders - and hope grew. He gathered the broken and lost - and hope grew. He suffered and sacrificed himself upon a cross - and hope grew. On the third day, he was raised from the dead, appeared before the disciples, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father - and hope grew - eternal.
And one day, he shall come again to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. This is our living hope. This is the wonder of the ages; this is our Lord.
So friends, put your hope in the living hope of God, Jesus Christ. Let us not put our trust and faith in the dying hopes of the world, for they are shadows that will only disappoint. In this manger, we celebrate the birth of our hope. As the Christmas carol tells us:
“O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.”
In these days of weariness and lost hope, in this time of uncertainty and bickering and fighting; in these days where some are choosing to call this medical crisis that we are living through a hoax, let us put our faith, our hope and our trust in the God our Father, and in His Son Jesus. Our true healing will come only from the one who made us and the one who saved us. Whatever this world may bring our way, let us come to Christ and live in hope. Amen.
Prayers of the People:
To you Lord, we lift up our heads, hearts and hands in prayer. We put our trust in you, believing that your word is true. We lift up to you our longing for hope in a despairing world. We lift up to you our need for hope in a time of deep hopelessness in our world. We lift up to you our deep desire for hope in a bleak and sometimes depressing world.
You promised hope to Israelites and you kept your promise. You promised hope in the coming of your son and he was and is the hope for the world. You promised hope to the early church and that hope was not denied. You promise hope to us and we pray for your continued faithfulness. Lord, we pray for strength when our faith falters. We pray for you to pour out your love so it fills our lives and splashes over on everyone around you.
As we care for one another Lord, we remember those from our congregation and those who are in need of our prayers, we lift up: Alice, Delores, Phyllis, Sonja, & Rose’s daughter Cheryl as well as Lee.
We lift up Andrea’s Mom, Jan as she continues to recover.
When hope seems elusive, and fear is constantly knocking on our doors, we pray for your presence in our lives and in our days. We thank you Lord for all of the people in this world who offer us many different services in the jobs that they do. From the grocery store worker, to the police officer, the doctors and nurses and all of the health care support staff. We are grateful for all of the neighbors who help their neighbors in need and others who generously volunteer their time. In a world full of selfishness, we thank you for those who are self-less.
Fill us with confidence of your presence in our lives. Fill us with your joy and peace as we go through this busy time of year. Keep our minds focused on you, our hearts filled with you and our outstretched arms for you. And even now, the voice of Christ speaks through us all as we say together the prayer that Jesus taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
and the Love of our mighty God be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
Closing Hymn: Go Now In Peace
Go now in peace. Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know He will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.
Music by Don Besig
Words by Don Besig and Nancy Price
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