From Darkness to Light - Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2011

2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Luke 1: 46b-55 or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38

Please see Advent Seeds for 2011 in Worship Ways for some suggestions about approach and set up for these services.

Procession of two women (dressed in Biblical clothes or modern dress). They are in animated discussion pausing as they speak on the way to the front altar. One has yarn wrapped around her hands holding it while the other sports knitting needles and the beginning of a knit blanket. They talk as two women gossiping over their work. (From Luke 1: 26-38)

One:     This blanket is for Elizabeth you say?

Two:     Have you heard the news? It is a miracle!
                 The good woman Elizabeth, wife of Priest Zechariah is with child!

One:     Truly? Elizabeth? She is too old! This cannot be true!

Two:     Yes! It is true, she is six months along!
Her cousin has come to visit and the baby leaps in her womb!

One:     How can this be? It must be a miracle.

Two:     Elizabeth says, “This is what the Lord has done for me.
God has looked favorably upon me
and taken away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Both: (facing the congregation) Come! We must spread this surprising news of joy!

(Women place their knitting on Advent Table.)

CALL TO WORSHIP after Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Leader:      We come to witness a miracle.
People:    We sing the miracle of God’s steadfast love.

Leader:        New life bursts forth in unexpected ways.
People:    We shout the good news: God’s covenant endures forever!

Leader:        The desert blooms; what was barren is fertile!
People:    With our mouths we proclaim God’s faithfulness to all generations:
            God is the Rock of our Salvation!   Amen!

HYMN          My Heart Sings Out with Joyful Praise             TNCH 106

Holy God, Loving Christ, Living Spirit;
You are present in the everyday occurrences;
you are revealed in startling and wondrous encounters.
Let the revelation of your mystery unfold again this day --
that we may see it together.
Let the secret of the ages shed new light on our relationship to you,
and each other, as we praise the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Lighting of the Advent Candle: after John 1:6-8
As a musician plays the tune of La Paz Sea Contigo (Sing! Prayer and Praise 197),
a family processes to the Advent Candles.
One or more voices read the following words as four candles are lit:

One:       Elizabeth conceived and bore a son,
John, sent by God as a witness to testify to the light
so that all might believe through him.

Two:    John himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

Three: John proclaimed the true light which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.

One:    We rekindle the candles of paz, peace; amor, love; and espiritu, spirit.
Today we light the fourth candle of jubilo, joy
testifying to the light of Christ. Amen.

HYMN (seated)        La Paz Sea Contigo (verses 1, 2& 3)        Sing! Prayer and Praise  197              
A new verse 4 (added with permission of composer Dosia Carlson):

El júbilo sea contigo,
El júbilo sea contigo,
May God’s joy be with you, now and forever.
El júbilo sea contigo.
CALL TO CONFESSION (After Psalm 89: 1-4; 19-26)
     Leader:     Joy breaks through when we are unencumbered and free.
God desires our joy.
In this time we lay aside our transgressions
and seek the healing joy of God’s forgiving grace.
Open your heart to God in prayer.
People:      Too often we pride ourselves on our singular importance,
our individual worth.
We credit ourselves with our successes
and blame our shortcomings on others.
O God, you love us in spite of ourselves.
You made a covenant with the faithful;
you have never turned away from your promise.
Forgive us our selfish ways,
put contrite hearts within us.
Anoint us with your Holy Spirit.

Silent Prayer

Leader:      God knows our weakness and our strengths.
God loves us as we are, knowing we are yet works in progress.
God keeps all covenants; God keeps us. 
Receive the anointing love of God’s grace.
You are forgiven! Rejoice!
God sent Jesus that we may not perish but have eternal life.
As we bring forth our tithes, our offerings and our gifts,
we testify to the Light of the World
that glows within this congregation and spreads beyond its doors.
Come give with the joy made real in Christ. 

God’s steadfast love is established forever –
like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.
God’s faithfulness is as firm as the heavens –
like stars that never grow dim.
May God bless this offering
that Christ’s light will shine throughout the ages. Amen.

BENEDICTION: (Optional: One of the women from opening procession is leader.)

Leader:     Go from this place in peace..

People:    Anointed by the Holy Spirit, we go to serve in God’s grace.    

Leader:     Go from this place in love.

People:    Bathed in the light of Christ, we go to proclaim God’s joy! 

All:                 Amen!

Hymn Suggestion        “Once in David’s Royal City”                TNCH 145
                Verse 1        Female Solo
                Verse 2        Male Solo
                Verse 3        Choir
                Verse 4&5    Congregation

From Darkness to Light, Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was written by the Rev. Penny L. Lowes, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a free lance writer. She has served two UCC congregations, most recently for seven years as the Senior Pastor at the Congregational Church or Birmingham, UCC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Copyright 2011 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved. 



Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115