December 22, 2013 (Advent 4)

Liturgical Resources For Sunday December 22, 2013
Year A, Fourth Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent :: Blue/Purple ::  Isaiah 7:10-16 :: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 :: Romans 1:1-7 :: Matthew 1:18-25

Call to Worship (Responsive)  
Adapted from Psalm 80
L: Give ear, O shepherd of Israel,
P: You who are enthroned upon the Cherubim, shine forth.
L: Restore us, O God;
P: Let your face shine, that we may be saved.
L: Let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
P: The one whom you made strong for yourself.
L:  Then we will never turn back from you,
P: Give us life, and we will call upon your name.
We come seeking a child.  We come seeking a savior.  We come seeking your majesty, and blessing, and grace O God.  O God, we come.  Draw us near to you in your holy presence, as we are drawn to the manger of Bethlehem.  Hold us near, O God, as we look through the shadow of the cross.  Make us your own, O God.  Help us to be your people, now and forever in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Stewardship Moment:  (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ specific.)
Our theme for this year’s Christmas Offering is “What Gifts Shall We Bring?”
Obviously, there are many ways that we could choose to answer this question, but perhaps the best way to answer it is to look at the gifts that Jesus received when He walked among us as a man—and when He was carried among us as a baby.  
We know that He received gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was visited by the magi, but that doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the kind of gifts He prefers. And gifts that bring a smile to Jesus’ face are surely more important and more appropriate than gifts that make us smile. After all, Christmas is His birthday—not ours.
 The story of the poor widow who put her last two coins into the collection box for the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44) is probably more instructive when it comes to answering the question “What Gifts Shall We Bring?” We are told that “many rich people were throwing in lots of money.” But that didn’t seem to make a big impression on Jesus because they were giving out of their abundance (or, as one translation puts it, “out of their spare change”). In other words, it wasn’t the kind of gift that a person gives to a loved one. The poor widow, on the other hand, gave “everything she had, even what she needed to live on”—and, as far as Jesus was concerned, that was a far better gift than all the large cash offerings that had been given that day.  So, from this story, it would seem that Jesus prefers gifts that come out of our poverty rather than out of our abundance.
 But there is something else in this story that may not be obvious to the casual reader—and that’s the purpose of this woman’s offering. The collection box into which she put her last two coins was not meant for Building Fund contributions or to help pay the Temple operating expenses. It was for poor people who didn’t have the means or the opportunity to make a living on their own and who needed help in order to survive. In other words, the poor widow gave her last two coins to help other poor people. And this too must have made a deep impression on Jesus because, as far as He was concerned, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is like giving food and clothing to Him (see Matthew 25:37-40). And when He saw this woman giving “out of her poverty” to do this, it brought Him great joy.
 So, if you are asking “What gifts shall we bring?” perhaps the best answer is: “Whatever will help minister to the needs of other people.” That’s the best way to put a smile on Jesus’ face. And when we give to the Christmas Offering “out of our poverty” rather than out of our spare change, we are doing exactly that. We are ministering to the needs of other people who need our help. And we are doing it through a variety of regional ministries that we all help to support.

Offertory Prayer:
We come before you, O God, with our offerings.  We bring them out of our poverty, out of our need to help others.  Bless these gifts, and use them O God, to bless others who seek to know you, your will, and your way.
Communion Meditation:
We come to this table to celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Who was descended from David, according to the flesh, AND was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  It is easy in advent to look upon the Son of David, the sweet little baby Jesus, and forget the Son of God, who defeats death and brings life eternal.  At this table, we give thanks to God and remember both. Come an remember Christ our Lord.
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