December 24, 2023 (Advent IV)

Worship Resources for 
the Center for Faith and Giving

Advent IV

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Luke 1:47-55 

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

Call to Worship  

All month, we’ve been actively WAITING.
Now, rejoice! For our waiting will soon become celebrating.

This morning, we come together in tip-toed expectation!
This morning, we breathe in the wonder, 
    believing both “Christ is already in our midst” and 
                           “the child will soon be here!” 
This morning we announce, with Gabriel: “NOTHING is impossible with God!”
So let us praise God (“as we sing!” if you move directly to a song, or 
                            “as we pray” if you move directly to an opening prayer)

Opening Prayer  

Generous God, 
Many of us are caught in the delight and delirium.  
We’re preparing Christmas meals, cards and gifts, 
We’re excited because of family, friends, and omni-present treats.
Some of us are snagged by ennui or depression,
   aware we have little interest or energy for “the holidays”.
Some of us simply want to duck our heads until it’s December 27th
and all the uproar has ended.

Gather us in, Holy Provider.
Help each one of us recognize our own place in this Christmas spectrum.
Gently open our eyes to ways we can best give thanks for Jesus,
“the reason for the season”.

In your mercy, 
grant us a full measure of your hope, peace, joy and love for this day
  and an opportunity to seek out your presence
  even in the midst of the presents we give and receive.

We pray, in the name of Jesus, 
    your gift to your beloved daughters and sons,    AMEN

Moment for Stewardship  

Luke 1:26-38 tells the story of Mary, hearing she was to become pregnant with the holy Son of God.
What a gift!  
Or, was it?
Certainly not something on any “I want” list Mary might have written!
And yet, Luke writes that Mary responded: 
         ”Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
          let it be with me according to your word.”

Today I want to encourage each one of us to imagine a gift YOU might give
which would be a life-enhancing gift, prompted by your love of Jesus.  Perhaps it would be a gift of your time, offered to one of the ministries of this congregation (name one or two specific possibilities … becoming a tutor, preparing a meal, visiting a shut-in).
Perhaps it would be a gift of your talent, as you offer to (again, name a possibility or two … painting a room, re-finishing a table, teaching a class).
Perhaps it’s a gift of your treasure (suggest where additional $ could make a true difference…funding the pastor’s discretionary fund, topping off the Christmas offering, paying the January snow-plowing cost).

Your gifts DO make a difference each week.  However, as we step into the 12 days of Christmas, consider how you can extend the spirit of Christmas with your additional gifts before the end of 2023.

With all you’re prepared to offer now, and all you might be inspired to give in addition, let us receive our morning offering.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

We’ve lit the candles ‘round the wreath, and seen the beauty of their light.  We’ve counted down the days of Advent, and now stand on the cusp of Christ’s coming.  Thank you, Lord of all Life, for the gifts offered today.  And thank you for those we are eager to give in the coming days. Accept all we share.  Please help us put it all to work, as a blessing for this congregation and this community, even as we seek to be followers of the Light of Life, whom we know as Jesus, the Christ.  AMEN

Invitation to Communion 

Some of us may already have prepared a feast for family or friends.  
Some of us may be planning a simple meal alone.
Some of us may launch out later today to share a meal in the nursing home or hospital with beloved ones unable to be at home.

But all of us can feast together around a table where we give thanks for Jesus.  We remember his birth, and pray for him to be born in us once more.
We remember what we know of his life, growing up in Nazareth, visiting the Temple, learning the scriptures, being baptized by John in the Jordan, choosing disciples who would travel with their teacher,
on to Jerusalem, betrayal by one of his own, trial by night,
and crucifixion on Cavalry…
only to be raised up from the dead, to sit at the right hand of the Creator.

It is THIS Jesus we yearn to welcome once more.
It is THIS Jesus we remember in bread and juice.
It is THIS Jesus we both await and welcome as we gather 
   with thankful hearts.

Come!  All who turn away from distraction and wrong-doing,
Come!  All who repent, and seek to turn fully to follow Jesus.
Come!  The feast is prepared, and there is a place for you here.