First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
First Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 3, 2017 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Announcements Assisting Elder:
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship
Introit “People, Look East” Hymnal 105, Verse 1
Lighting the Advent Candle “Hope”
Today is the beginning of Advent— the preparation time for celebrating Christ’s birth. We are here because God’s promises to our ancestors came true when Jesus was born. God’s promise is kept each Sunday when we worship because Christ is in our midst. God will keep the promise to come again in glory.
Scripture Isaiah 60:2
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Lighting of the Candle
We light this candle to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world. With the coming of this light there is hope. Because of Christ we not only have hope, but we believe that good is stronger than evil. God wants us to work for good in this world.
Prayer: O God, we thank you that Jesus brought hope into our world. By the good news of the Bible you are still bringing hope to people. Help us to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ so that we may think good thoughts and do good deeds and so that we may be a people of hope in our world. Amen.
Time with Children
*Hymn 88 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Verses 1,2,6,7
Prayers of Confession Rom. 5:8; Heb. 4:16
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were strangers Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God with confidence. In faith and penitence, let us confess our failings before God and one another…
God of the future, you are coming in power to bring all nations under your rule. We confess that we have not expected your kingdom, for we live casual lives, ignoring your promised judgment. We accept lies as truth, exploit neighbors, abuse the earth, and refuse your justice and peace. In your mercy, forgive us. Grant us wisdom to welcome your way, and to seek things that will endure when Christ comes to judge the world. Amen.
Assurance of Grace John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
People of God, hear the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
*Response of Praise, No. 581
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
Hearing the Word
Anthem “Is There Room in Your Heart for a King?” Hayes
Hebrew Bible Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9
1O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— 2as 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! 3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5You 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. 6We have all become like one who is 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. 7There 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. 8Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gospel Reading: Mark 13:24-37
24“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, 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, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Sermon “Getting Ready” Rev. David Ashby
For all the perky, upbeat, mass-market “oooh, Christmas is coming” bouncy jingles of the mall, even in these difficult times, there is something dark and jarring and downbeat about the scripture lessons of the first Sunday of Advent. We begin the church season with gloomy, minor-key, solemn readings about the hardships at the end of time. In a way, it’s necessary to remember and maybe to reenact the world before Christmas, the world before the Bethlehem star, the world languishing in darkness before the glad tidings of Christ’s birth. So, in a way, on this day, despite the cheeriness of Thanksgiving and the gaudiness of the shopping season, the church rewinds into the existential despair that made Christ’s incarnation necessary and so important. Today we step back “B.C.”: before Christ. Really. Really before Christ.
The lessons today toss us back into the mindset of a world waiting…, waiting…., waiting…., but not really sure what it’s awaiting. Most of the time, we Christians live in the light of the Gospel— with the exception of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday until just before Easter Sunrise period, when we recapitulate the disciples’ sorrow in order to rediscover the joy of salvation— and this particular period, first Sundays of Advent— when we find ourselves walking in the darkness before the people see the great light. And I think it is good to recapture a bit of that pre-Messiah world, because that is where a surprising number of people are living even now.
The I Corinthians passage is kind of interesting in that Paul’s salutations, something we usually just gloss over, remind us that we in the church live between, as it were, two advents, between Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem and his second coming in power at the end of time.
That whole theological thing about the end times, the portents in the skies and the threat of warfare and the general doom and gloom stuff of the last judgment is called “apocalyptic.” There’s a bunch of prophecies of the end times in the Bible in lots of places (and the complicating factor is that they don’t exactly line up and mesh with each other; each author has a slightly different vision of the day of judgment). Incidentally, the word “apocalyptic” doesn’t mean “the end of time;” actually it comes from the root meaning “the uncovering of the secret.” In a more modern idiom, those passages are a secret code, and the faithful to whom the prophets wrote had the secret decoder ring, secret keystrokes, the “cheat codes” which would help them understand the mysteries which would be hidden from the powers-that-be, the oppressors, the Romans in the case of the early church. The classic is the last book of the New Testament, the Revelation to John (also known as the Apocalypse), which, if you knew the code for the various visions, would reassure the church that God would rescue them from the evil of this age in the glorious age to come. If you were a Roman magistrate who intercepted it, you’d think it was the psychotic rantings of a lunatic. If you were a Christian, you’d recognize the references to Christ as the Lamb who destroys the kingdom of death (which you might take to be Rome!). Then there’s that weird passage from Mark, sometimes called the “little apocalypse,” because it is a shortened description of the end times, a bridge to what will come to pass when the Messiah returns… when the Messiah returns for what the church knows is the second time! And that is what is weird about this first Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves in a bizarre time warp of sorts, with the readings told as if we are in the generations before Jesus being born in Bethlehem, even though we actually live after Jesus’ first coming but before his second coming. So on the one hand we have stories about getting ready for the messiah’s advent, yet we’re living after Jesus has come and gone already. We get ready for Christmas… while being Christians! We act out liturgically and symbolically the first Christmas even as we start the shopping for the 2019th or 2020th or so, depending on how you calculate it. We straddle already and not yet.
In some ways, there’s the same feeling of Jesus having been born already, but the world is still in bad shape. All sorts of godlessness is rampant, God appears mocked, and sin and death seem to be winning. Warfare and terrorism, crime and hardship, disappointment and grief, illness and injury, human woe and misery, human hatred and greed, injustice and intolerance seem to be very much alive, thank you. Even nature has seemed to be on a cosmic rampage this past year, with hurricanes and wildfires and more, adding more than a little seriousness to that whole heavens shaking line. If Jesus won the great victory, it seems some days like there is still a lot of mopping up of the enemy yet to do. Therefore, to some extent, even believers find themselves asking, “When?” And here the gospel passage gives us either a woefully unsatisfying or a wonderful answer: “Only God knows!” To the church’s annoyance, that has always been the Biblical answer. Any effort to guess the times and to figure out the signs of the times will be pointless, for the great mystery of the final judgment when good will triumph and life will win and love will overcome is hidden in God’s heart. Now, for impatient believers, that’s not very satisfying, but in the long run, it’s actually really good news, for the mystery is lodged in the heart of the God who sends Jesus Christ to save and redeem us. That’s the promise of Advent.
But the key thing here is that we know the good news of the gospel of Advent; we know that Jesus has come to save us, that the apparent continuation of sin and death is only temporary, that goodness, hope, grace, and love are stronger than anything that threatens to undo us. We understand that the cosmos is in that time in between, the time between the Messiah’s first advent and return at the end of time. Christians know the victory is won, even if the triumphant day has not arrived yet. We know what’s coming after Advent, even if it’s not here yet. And that puts us in a very different place than many of our neighbors, those who only know that “Santa Claus is coming to town.”
And this is where I think we need to be speaking the word of Hope to people who have not really grasped the promise of salvation in Christ Jesus. The whole problem of the post-modern world is that long-time Christians can no longer count on the population around us either to know the fundamentals of the faith or to particularly care!! This is doubly sad because we understand that the Good News that God loves us enough to send the only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life is the most amazing antidote to all the spiritual malaise and confusion and ethical and moral rootlessness and selfishness and sorrow and meaninglessness that permeates so many peoples’ lives. They don’t know the solution to their own problems. So the message for us for Advent is to… to… to spread the message!
It is this “Advent” reason which is why I challenge this congregation to make a concerted effort to invite in and include and reach out to folks who are not here so they can get a genuine exposure to the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christmas. Next week we will meet John the Baptizer really getting into the whole prophecy of the coming Messiah, encouraging us into being a bit braver in actually speaking about the glorious news of Christmas about to arrive. But today we need to get back to the fairly basic point that our friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers won’t get to have much chance to hear the good news of Christ’s birth unless they are here. So your job as disciples of the coming Christ is to help get them adjacent to the gospel of Christmas so they can hear it, and hearing it, believe in it. So, this week and for the next three, we’re going to pass out little invitation cards for Christmas Eve. The scripture lessons, the music, the Word preached and shared, the light of Christ’s love passed from soul to soul, candle to candle can’t do their amazing, powerful work unless people are exposed to them, right? So the big job is to get as many people we know (and maybe some we don’t know really well yet) to the Christmas Eve Candlelight worship services. It’s a small first step, but a necessary one, to work on inviting people in from their gloom and wandering. Of course, walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, you are walking in darkness and Jesus Christ can be the light which frees you,” is not the most normal of things for any of us to do, nor would it be the most effective way to get someone to church now, would it? A more diplomatic and cordial approach might be better? The idea is to let someone you care about have a meaningful, inspiring, hope-filled chance to meet the Messiah, Christ Jesus, born in Bethlehem, born in our hearts in Christmas hope and light. All you have to do is look up from your desk as someone walks by, or send an email, or tuck a little personal note in a Christmas card, or follow the church on Facebook, or pick up a phone (you can even use one of those things with a cord) and say, “Hey, we have a bunch of neat Christmas Eve services at our church,” and go on that there is an early one aimed at families with younger children and a later one with a more traditional bent, and real wax candles! Early one is led largely by the youth and children and featuring the Puppet Ministry. Great spirit at both. And that we have pretty good parking. If they sound even slightly interested, offer to meet them beforehand and invite them to sit with you and help them know what’s up with the service so they feel comfortable and welcomed. Maybe give them a call the Monday before as a reminder, since all that shopping and craziness getting work done might distract them. Between now and December 22nd or 23rd, get in touch with someone you care about. My idea is to make it easy for you to make it easy for someone to come to Christmas Eve worship. It might be the start of something important in our friends’, families’, and neighbors’ lives. One of the best ways that people start to attend a congregation is because someone invites them personally; something like over half of respondents to various surveys say that’s what made the difference. One of the most important times for people coming back to the church after a long absence, in fact, are Christmas Eve candlelight worship services, something well over a third say in surveys. So here’s the challenge this Advent for all of us: invite people to Christmas Eve. The main thing is that we all make a concerted, joyful effort at helping others who don’t yet live in the love and hope of Jesus Christ begin to see how Christ can be the light in their lives, too. We live in between Jesus’ first advent and his coming in glory at the end of time, between the end of time and the beginning of hope, born in a manger in Bethlehem 2019 years ago, born in our hearts anew in 24 days. Jesus invites us… let us invite others to him. There’s a world out there waiting… waiting… waiting…. May God give us open hearts to extend the invitations!
*Hymn 82 “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Responding to the Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
O Lord, we met you here.. we meet you with praise and hymn, with supplication and wonder, with expectation and faith… we meet you in Scripture and prayer… we meet you here, O Lord, our Advent hope and our salvation. Our souls sing with delight in being in your presence, and our spirits soar, knowing the depth and breadth of your grace, the warmth of living within your church.
We meet you here, O long-expected Prince of Peace, praying for this world, especially for those place where swords clatter and spears fly, where guns rattle and bombs fall. We worry about Iraq, the Koreas, Israel and the West Bank Myanmar, Niger, Syria, and the rest. We always worry about our service members the world over, even stateside. We pray for those we know who have had bad times, those ill or injured (starting with _______), the families who have lost someone (thinking of the ______ families), those laid off or facing job or financial difficulty, those waiting for medical results or news, those delaying things because of uncertainty, those healing from emotional, physical, sexual, or other abuse, those with lives darkened by substance abuse or alcohol, those impaired by mental or emotional problems, and those impoverished by loneliness or despair. __________ We think of those inconvenienced or in danger from harsh weather. The incidents of violence, of killings by family members, in workplaces, shopping places, in schools, of and by law enforcement are ugly and an affront to you. Ugly and affront to you and all the human family are racism and prejudice and discrimination; help us to confront those blights and even the shadows within us, until the day when such violence is not only gone but forgotten, no matter how long it will take to reform our interactions with each other. Grant, O Light of the World, the brightness of your daylight to all of these. Push back all darkness of all sorts, and let your children breath freely in the light.
Swirl through this congregation, O Holy Spirit, and kick up the dust in our sanctuary and in our souls, wake us up, startle us, even, with your power and presence. Let us feel your presence in this sanctuary. Be with our Pastor Nominating Committee, with our leaders, our Session and Deacons, committees, Christian Education, youth, our members and friends and neighbors in everything we do. Help us to spread the light of your approaching Christmas hope with invitations and with actions. Fill our hearts and our congregation with your everlasting love, O Jesus whose Advent we await, praying,
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be 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 for ever. Amen.
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
O God, most merciful and gracious, of whose bounty we have all received, accept, we pray, this offering of your people. Remember in your love those who have brought it and those for whom it is given; and so follow it with your blessing that it may promote peace and goodwill among all people and advance the realm of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sharing Holy Communion
Invitation to the Lord’s Table
This is the joyful feast of the people of God. Men and women, youth and children, come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and gather about Christ’s table.
According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
This table is for all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, eternal God our Creator.
Eternal God, as you led your people in ages past, you direct our journey into the future. We give you thanks that you came to us in Jesus Christ, and we eagerly await his coming again that his rule may be complete and your righteousness reign over all the world. Then we will feast at his royal banquet, and sing his praises with the choirs of heaven. By your Spirit, open our eyes to the generosity of your hand, and nurture our souls in all spiritual gifts.
Eternal God, we unite in this covenant of faith, recalling Christ’s suffering and death, rejoicing in Christ’s resurrection, and awaiting Christ’s return in victory.
We spread your table with these gifts of the earth and of our labor. We pre-sent to you our very lives, committed to your service in behalf of all people. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit on this bread and cup, on our gifts, and on us. Strengthen your universal church that it may be the champion of peace and justice in all the world. Restore the earth with your grace that is able to make all things new.
Be present with us as we share this meal, and throughout all our lives, that we may know you as the Holy One, who with Christ and the Holy Spirit, lives for ever. Amen.
The Words of Institution
We remember that on the night of betrayal and desertion, and on the eve of death, Jesus gathered the disciples for the feast of Passover.
Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God as we have done in his name, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Sharing the Bread and Cup
Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
“This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat, all of you.”
Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.
Cut off from me, you can do nothing. Abide in me and so bear fruit.”
“This is the new covenant in my blood; do this in remembrance of me.”
The gifts of God for the people of God.
Prayer after Communion
Bountiful God, we give thanks that you have refreshed us at your table. Strengthen our faith, increase our love for one another, and send us forth into the world in courage and peace, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Hymn 104 “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”
*Charge and Benediction
Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the suffering; honor everyone; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
*Choral Response “People, Look East” Hymnal 105, Verse 5