This blog is a record of the call to worship, Scripture readings, and prayers from our Sunday liturgies. If you are interested in writing something for the liturgy, or if you have a concern about any aspect of our liturgy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call to Worship
we have gathered to learn to wait
for a Light in the darkness
to cling to the hope that the Living God
has not abandoned God’s creatures
to step into God’s story
and to be transformed by it
into people who carry the wonder
and love of God in our own stories
joining with God’s work
of re-Creation in the world
Today, we find ourselves in the first week of Advent. If that’s a new term for you, Advent is the first season of the church calendar—the beginning of the story we live in—and like the other seasons of the church calendar, it calls us to enter into a drama of sorts.
We unstick ourselves in time, stepping back a couple thousand years, in order to allow ourselves to receive the Gift that God is bringing on Christmas, as though we don’t already know exactly what we are celebrating at the end of December. It is a season of waiting on God, of looking back on the way that God has been faithful to God’s people and trusting that God will continue to be faithful to us.
Now, we also stand as particular people in a particular time and place, who can look back a couple of thousand years and know exactly what we are celebrating at the end of December—people who stand in the midst of a story where we have seen just how far God is willing to go to set things right—yet who also know that things are still very broken. As these people in this present brokenness, we too look forward, trusting that God will continue to be faithful to us, and that the Kingdom of God we sometimes glimpse among us is on its way in fullness.
So, holding both of these identities, the ancient and the future, we are learning and relearning to wait for God to show up.
Of the Advent and Christmas season, N.T. Wright says:
“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream. It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred. It’s nostalgic, cozy, and comforting. But real Christianity isn’t like that at all. Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children. But that misses the point completely. Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St John, and the darkness has not overcome it. Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism. Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of ‘reality.’”
So, ubc, as we occupy the space of Advent, take time to look around to see how dark the world is, that we might learn to wait for a light in this darkness.
Hope Candle Liturgy
On this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that we live by Hope. Hope in the coming of the Messiah, that God will bring Light into our present darkness. Hope that those pinned in by anxiety will find rest. Hope that those who feel worthless will find their true Value. Hope that the poor, the homeless, the refugee, and all those trampled by systems of power will be given the mercy and justice of God. And hope that Love will cast out every fear.
For now, we wait, trusting that God is faithful and at work redeeming all things. We declare these things in lighting the Hope candle.
[Light the Hope candle]
Hear God’s promise of hope from Isaiah 2:2-4:
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her. She conceived and bore a son; and he named him Er.
Again she conceived and bore a son whom she named Onan. Yet again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah. She was in Chezib when she bore him. Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.
Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.” But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother.
What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.
In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage.
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He went over to her at the roadside, and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.
She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?”
She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. He asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?”
But they said, “No prostitute has been here.” So he returned to Judah, and said, “I have not found her; moreover the townspeople said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’” Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.”
About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.”
As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.
When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.”
But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.