From Tears to Rejoicing - Service Prayers for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 11, 2011

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55; I Thessalonians 5: 26-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28

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

A person comes across the chancel to sit on a stool in front of the altar wearing street clothes or Biblical costume. This person twirls a large white feather in his/her hand and looks directly at the congregation to speak in a conversational voice. (After Luke 1:26-38)

    What I’m about to say is true.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy,
God sent an angel named Gabriel to the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
Gabriel appeared to a virgin named Mary
who was engaged to be married to Joseph, who was descended from King David. 
Upon seeing her, Gabriel said: 
“Good morning! You are God’s beautiful daughter. May God be with you!”
    As you can imagine she was thoroughly shaken,
wondering what was going on.
But the angel assured her,
“Mary, you have nothing to fear,
God has a surprise for you.
You will become pregnant and give birth to a son you’ll name Jesus.”
Mary couldn’t imagine this and said to the angel,
“How can this be? I’ve never been with a man.”
    Gabriel answered her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
God’s spirit will hover over you
and the child you birth will be called Holy, the Son of God.”
And that’s not all –
 your cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant with a son as well.
    Truly, it happened this way, a long, long time ago.
This feather is a reminder of the angel’s visit to Mary.
(Person exits, places feather on Advent table.)
CALL TO WORSHIP after Psalm 126
Leader:     We gather to worship with expectations:
            God revealed in new and astonishing ways.
People:    God comes to us in real time.
God comes to us in dreams.
Leader:        Sometimes God’s presence is hard to take in –
difficult to believe.
People:    Oh God, we long to believe.
Help our unbelief!
Leader:        God is present here.
God is working in our midst.
People:     Then our mouths are filled with laughter,
              Our tongues shout out with joy!             

HYMN         The Baptist Shouts on Jordan’s Shore            TNCH 115
                Verses 1-3

INVOCATION (After Psalm 126)
Holy God of Advent,
the world in which we live is as terrifying as it is wonderful.
We need Jesus as much today as in times of old.
Many sow in tears, and go out weeping.
Replenish our lands,
fill our hearts with gladness,
restore our faith in you and each other,
wipe away the tears of despair.
As we worship today,
we tilt an ear to listen close.
Let the voice of your angel fill our minds with new understandings.
We are waiting for you. Speak to us today. Amen. 
Lighting of the Advent Candle:
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 three candles are lit:
(If your congregation uses the pink candle, light it today in reverence of Mary.)

One:  The words of the angel were frightening to Mary.

Two:  She didn’t know what to imagine. I can’t blame her, can you?   
Three: When she realized the truth of Gabriel’s words; Mary sang, Mary danced,
Mary praised God for the Holy Spirit blooming within her.

One:    We rekindle the candles of paz, peace and amor, love.
Today we also light the candle of espiritu, spirit.
May this light brighten the Advent season reminding us that
God is peace, God is love and God is Spirit.
In the spirit of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

HYMN (seated)        La Paz Sea Contigo (verses 1, 2 & 3)        Sing! Prayer and Praise  197           

CALL TO CONFESSION  after Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
Leader:     God loves justice and despises wrongdoing,
yet God is faithful in recompense
and has made an everlasting covenant
with those who turn from sinful ways
and strive earnestly for righteousness.
May the whispers of our hearts be pleasing to God.

People:     We bow our heads in holy reverence.
Oh God, we long to be free of burdens that hold us captive.
We long to be bearers of good news to the oppressed.
We long to return to your favor.
Forgive us our transgressions;
loosen the chains of doubt that bind us.
Hear our prayers…     
Silent Prayer

Leader:     You are forgiven!
God loves you. God blesses you with new beginnings and new life.
Put aside your old ways and become new!
God gives a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning.
Sing, dance, rejoice!
Never forget the gift of God’s redeeming grace. Amen.  

As Mary moved from tears to acceptance she sang,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…
surely from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Mary said yes to God.
Mary accepted the burden and the responsibility
of being God’s chosen.
She gave her whole self over to God.
God calls to each of us.
How do we respond? What do we bring?
In the spirit of Mary’s “yes,”
let us bring forth our offerings and gifts.

Holy God, our answer too, is “Yes!”
Yes, we will serve only you.
Yes, we will bring our whole selves to the effort.
Yes, we will sing your praises to the universe.
Accept these offerings as tangible proof of our collective “yes.”
May they be magnified for your use in our time.  Amen.

BENEDICTION (Optional: The leader is the speaker from the opening drama)
Leader:     Go from this place to spread God’s peace.
People:    We go planting seeds of peace in the world.
Leader:     Go from this place to share God’s love.
People:    We go laughing and shouting Good News.

Leader:        Go from this place to live God’s spirit.
People:    We proclaim God’s liberty; God’s spirit set free in the world!

All:        Amen!

*Hymn Suggestion    “Mary, Woman of the Promise”        TNCH 123
            Verse 1    Solo
            Verse 2    Choir Men
            Verse 3    Choir Women
            Verse 4&5    Congregation

From Tears to Rejoicing , Service Prayers for the Third  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