Words in Waiting

Never has the Advent admonition to wait had such import as in this seemingly endless pandemic. We are waiting for the coming of a time that is in some sense a return and renewal but also something that we sense will be entirely new.

The world will never look the same. At least that is our sense in this struggle to push through yet another viral variant, another vaccination, another round of resistance, another possible lockdown or quarantine.

In the midst of this anguish of waiting, with almost 800,000 deaths in this country alone, and many more around the world, we reach for words, for images, for glimpses of the way ahead. And then the ancient words recalling Isaiah’s hope and the stories of Matthew and Luke sound once again our ears. A voice in the wilderness, a light in the dark sky.

I have been composing some words for the four Sundays of Advent at our church, where we, like so many others, light the candles of the Advent wreath to mark our journey of anticipation in these days. Traditionally, the candles represent, in this sequence, Love, Hope, Joy, and Peace.  

Rather than wait for the final Sunday and the lighting of the Christ candle, I share the words I prepared for the first three Sundays, in hopes that they might help in your waiting and your hope for a renewal of our creation.

First Sunday of Advent

Call to Worship

In the wilderness of our despair

            We hear the lonely voice of hope.

In the midst of plague and pestilence

            We feel the touch of healing hands.

Within the dark interior of our fears

            We glimpse the light of an opening door.

In the cry of infantile desperation

            We find the love that will not let us go.

We come into that light of peace

            We find our way to the open arms of God.

( A Hymn is sung)

Invocation Prayer

O God of Promise, God of Hope,

In a world of resignation and despair, fill us with your hope for all creation. In a time when life itself seems at an end, renew us with your power and love. In the midst of lies and wild imaginations, let your Wisdom fill us with your Word. In this gathering of hungry hearts, feed us with the Bread of Life. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Statement

We awaken daily to the word of refugees around the world, driven by despair and led by hope of a better life in a new land. We hear of prisoners who languish in forgotten cells, longing for the freedom of a life renewed. We are besieged by illness and decay of body, spirit, and of mind, held in life by a hope that will not let us go.

Today we join our hearts with a suffering world, longing for the light to lead us on to God’s abundant new creation. And so we light today this candle of our hope in God’s abiding love.

Lighting the Candle

Prayer of Dedication

O God, Abundant Giver of all Life,

Ignite in us again a patient hope for the renewal of the earth within the fullness of your love. Guide our feet, our hands, our minds and hearts into your ways of Peace. And let the world respond Amen.

The Second Sunday of Advent

Call to Worship

Before the Holy Source of all creation,

            Babbling tongues fall silent in astonishment.

Within the clouds that blind our eyes in fear

            We find the hands that lead us to the light.

Struck dumb before the miracle of life renewed

            We hear the song of a mother’s gratitude.

Within the lonely silence of our awe

            God calls us to a new creation.

 Before an infant’s glistening new-born eye

            We look into the face of God.

( A Hymn is sung)

Invocation Prayer

Come Holy Spirit, Come Immanuel,

Take up your dwelling place among us. Bring us silence that we hear your call. Bring us darkness that we see your light. May our ceaseless chatter stop before the mystery of your love. May our careful plans lie patient to the wonder of your peace. May the arms that hold the world at bay embrace the child you lay before our eyes. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Statement

Amid the anxious chatter in our mouths and ears, God brings the silence that reveals the miracle of life anew. To eyes bombarded by a flood of fleeting images, God brings the vision of a world redeemed. On knees that buckle under burdens of despair and grief, we pray for liberation to a life of justice and of love.

In darkening days we seek the word of ancient prophets and the light of God’s self-giving power. And so today we light this candle in anticipation of the love that comes to save the world.

Lighting the Candle

Prayer of Dedication

O Holy Giver of All Life,

Even as Elizabeth and Mary felt their babies leaping in their wombs, so may we today be filled with tremors of anticipation for a world renewed. In our silence may we testify to God’s amazing promises. In our song may we renew the harmonies of righteousness and peace. In our deeds may we reveal the beauty of your boundless love. In our steps may we walk roads made smooth by God’s undying care. For in your power and grace, we pray. Amen.

Third Sunday of Advent

 Call to Worship

In the wilderness of quaking hearts

            We hear the laughter of a tiny child.

In the midst of work-worn animals

            We smell aromas of a banquet for the poor.

In the darkest night of age-old terrors

            We see a sun burst forth in universe-creating joy.

Out of the anguish of a woman’s labor

            We hear the exultation of a world redeemed.

 ( A Hymn is sung)

Invocation Prayer

O God of Promise, God of Peace,

Amid the countless galaxies we stand in awe before your power. In the intricate design of every facet of our world we see your wisdom and your faithfulness. In every helping hand and warm embrace we feel the mantel of your love. By your grace a boulder soon becomes a door, a stone becomes a blooming rose. In the clouds of our despair a rainbow flashes promise in our eyes. And so today we pray your presence in the promise of your peace, your joy that liberates us from the prison of our fears. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Statement

Out of a woman’s labor pains emerged a bearer of God’s peace. In her self-giving came a song of joy and liberation. In the darkest night burst forth the light illuminating all our worlds. In her victorious words we feel today the purposes of God. The animals stand witness in our destructive fires. The still small voice endures beyond the shouting marketplace.

The act of lovingkindness builds the temple that no hands destroy. Released from self-concern we enter joyfully the symphony of God. And so today we light this candle in remembrance of the joy that saves our world.

Lighting the Candle

Prayer of Dedication

O God, Our Savior, Joy of the World,

May the joy you set before us lead us to your new creation. May our feet be steady on the path of justice. May our tongues break forth in praise and gratitude. May our hands reach out in mercy to a suffering world. And may the heart of our rejoicing fill the world with peace. Amen and Amen.

1 thought on “Words in Waiting”

  1. I always enjoy reading your contributions. I don’t always agree with the positions, but I appreciate your voice. I do suggest that we take the words of hope, peace, love, and joy and apply them to our world views. As the voices of these core values, I pray that we no longer speak from the perspective of despair, fear, division, and hopelessness. The post-pandemic world is one that will be better than life was before. We have seen what life is like when we are sequestered, alone, afraid, and blind. I offer you the challenge to no longer be limited by the past but freed to live in the life-giving Oikos that is open to us all.

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