Third sunday of advent introduction

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December 14, 2014


"Rejoice always," begins the reading from First Thessalonians. Isaiah and the psalmist make clear that God is turning our mourning into laughter and shouts of joy. "All God's children got a robe," go the words of the spiritual. It is not so much a stately, formal, pressed outfit as it is a set of party clothes, clothes that make us feel happy just to put on. We receive that robe in baptism, and in worship we gather for a foretaste of God's party.
John of the Cross, renewer of the church, died 1591

John was a member of the Carmelite monastic order, and worked to reform it. His writings reflect a deep interest in mystical thought and meditation.

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,

who shapes the whole creation,

who comes with might and mercy,

who fills the hungry with good things.

Let us approach the throne of grace with repentant hearts.
Silence is kept for reflection.
Faithful God,

we confess that we have been unfaithful to you.

Like dry leaves and withered grass,

our lives are blown about by our sins

and the powers of evil around us.

Restore us, O God;

let the light of your face shine on us,

and we shall be saved. Amen.
God is patient, not wanting any to perish,

but all to come to repentance.

In the name of + Jesus Christ,

I bring you this good news:

You are free from all that imprisons you;

your sins are forgiven;

God heals your broken hearts.

Live in peace and harmony

as you wait for the day of God.


Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Alleluia. I am sending my messen-| ger before you,* who will prepare your | way before you. Alleluia. (Matt. 11:10)

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Psalm 126

The LORD has done great things for us. (Ps. 126:3)

Luke 1:46b-55 (Alternate)

You, Lord, have lifted up the lowly. (Luke 1:52)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28
FIRST READING: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Though the people had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, they continued to face hardship and oppression. In the language of the jubilee year described in Leviticus 25, the prophet, moved by the spirit of the Lord, announces deliverance for those who are oppressed and comfort for those who mourn.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

3to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

4They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

8For I the LORD love justice,

I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

9Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before all the nations.

PSALM: Psalm 126

The LORD has done great things for us. (Ps. 126:3)
1When the LORD restored the for- | tunes of Zion,

then were we like | those who dream.

2Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with | shouts of joy.

Then they said among the nations,

"The LORD has done great | things for them."

3The LORD has done great | things for us,

and we are | glad indeed.

4Restore our for- | tunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses | of the Negeb. R

5Those who | sowed with tears

will reap with | songs of joy.

6Thse who go out weeping, carry- | ing the seed,

will come again with joy, shoulder- | ing their sheaves. R

PSALM (ALTERNATE): Luke 1:46b-55

You, Lord, have lifted up the lowly. (Luke 1:52)
46bMy soul proclaims the greatness of | the Lord,

47my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior,

48for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your | lowly servant.

From this day all generations will | call me blessed;

49you, the Almighty, have done great | things for me,

and holy | is your name.

50You have mercy on | those who fear you,

from generation to | generation. R

51You have shown strength | with your arm;

and scattered the proud in | their conceit,

52casting down the mighty | from their thrones

and lifting | up the lowly.

53You have filled the hungry | with good things,

and sent the rich | away empty.

54You have come to the aid of your | servant Israel,

to remember the prom- | ise of mercy,

55the promise made | to our forebears,

to Abraham and his chil- | dren forever. R

SECOND READING: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians by encouraging them to live lives of continual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. The closing blessing is grounded in the hope of Christ's coming.

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil. 23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
GOSPEL: John 1:6-8, 19-28

John's gospel describes Jesus as the "light of the world." John the Baptist is presented as a witness to Jesus, one who directs attention away from himself to Christ, the true light.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 21And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23He said,

"I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

'Make straight the way of the Lord,'"

as the prophet Isaiah said.24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.


The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

With longing and hopeful expectation, let us pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.

A brief silence.

That the people of God prepare the way of the Lord by bearing witness to the light and giving thanks in all circumstances. Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

That governments, political leaders, and social service agencies will work together to free all those held captive by poverty, oppression, and disease. Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

That from the garden of this earth praise and righteousness will spring forth, and fruitful harvests will provide bread to feed all who are hungry. Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

That you teach us to pray without ceasing as we commend into your care all who are brokenhearted, lonely, grieving, or ill (especially). Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

That you strengthen the hands of all who serve in this congregation as teachers, musicians, worship leaders, and volunteers. Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

That you clothe us with the garments of salvation, until with (John of the Cross and) all your saints we behold the fullness of your glory. Let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

Receive our prayers, faithful God, as we watch and wait for your coming among us in Jesus Christ our Lord.


God of abundance,

we bring before you the precious fruits of your creation,

and with them our very lives.

Teach us patience and hope as we care for all those in need

until the coming of your Son, our Savior and Lord.


Come to Christ,

who comes to us in this holy supper.

Lord God, we give you thanks

that you have fed us even now

with the banquet that is yet to come.

Keep us alert for signs of your presence

in the world around us.

Send us as healing oil and sheltering comfort

to those in need,

and make us bold in testifying to the light

of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Gracious God,

whose mercy endures from generation to generation:

As Mary set out to visit Elizabeth

before she gave birth to her son,

bless those who go forth to share your word and sacrament

with our sisters and brothers who are


In your love and care, nourish and strengthen

those to whom we bring this communion,

that through the body and blood of your Son

we may all know the hope of your promised coming

in Jesus Christ our Lord.


God most high,

God with us,

God poured out on us,

Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit,

bless you now and forever.


Go in peace. Remember the poor.

Thanks be to God.

From Words for Worship, copyright 2014 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. Scripture quotations (except psalms) from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Used by permission of Augsburg Fortress.

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