Due to the increase in virus spread in our area, services for Sunday will be by Zoom Only .
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Sunday Worship Service Recording, Bulletin and Sermon
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St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Sunday, December 6th, 2020 s 10:00 a.m. Worship Service
Second Sunday of Advent
The Rev. Joan Priest, Worship Leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Elder Dave Gaiewski, Liturgist
GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.PRELUDE O Come, O Come Emmanuel Carlton Young
GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
ADVENT READING AND CANDLE LIGHTING
Last Sunday we lit the candle of Hope, remembering the hope which comes in Christ. (Light Candle). Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle of Peace.
God has a peaceful dream for the world, and we dream it too. We dream of a peaceful world full of wolves and leopards and lions eating and sleeping and dancing with lambs, kids, and calves. We dream of a peaceful world where nations come together, where war is a memory, and we eat at one table.
We light this candle in Peace.
On this day, we remember the Lord of All who brings peace surpassing all understanding.
CALL TO WORSHIP
The God who speaks comfort to us calls us here.
The God who addresses us with tenderness meets us here.
The God who guides us with gentleness cares for us here.
We come to prepare a way for the Lord.
We come to ready ourselves for the transformation of our lives.
For the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it. Let us worship God.
*Hymn 96 On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry WINCHESTER NEW
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!
Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.
We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.
Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.
This hymn shows how once-unconnected parts can work together. The text about John the Baptist was written in Latin in the 18th century and translated into English in the 19th century. Similarly, the 17th century melody was adapted to its present form in the 19th century. John the Baptist’s announcement “Prepare the way for the Lord” (Matt. 3:3, a quote from Isa. 40:3) is the primary basis for this Advent hymn. Stanzas 1 and 2 apply that message to people today; stanza 3 is a confession by God’s people of their need for salvation; stanza 4 is a prayer for healing and love.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Merciful God, how many John the Baptists, how many prophets of your light, have we ignored because they were not what we were looking for? How many times have we ignored voices crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” How many times have we breathed a sigh of relief, and turned our backs on your messengers, because they did not speak the message we expected to hear? Help us hear anew, the cry of those who would lead us to Christ. Tune our ears to your heralds, that we might also testify to your light. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE
PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL)HEARING
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Isaiah 40:1-11
40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. SECOND READING Mark 1:1-8
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” 4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SERMON Patience: The Art of Hoping
The Rev. Joan Withers Priest, Preaching
Every year around this time, my parents would begin baking the bread. The “Christmas Tree Breads”. Just about everyone in our town knew of these breads. One year my father was featured in the local newspaper holding the beautiful bread, but he never gave out the recipe, except to family. My sister and I used to sit by the chopping block watching my father roll out the dough, my mother carefully taking the rolled pieces and shaping them into branches, braiding three pieces down the middle for the trunk; and our job – to place red or green candied cherries on each stem. It really did look like a Christmas tree.
But by far, my favorite part was on Christmas Eve, when my parents would bring about a dozen breads they had made to church (always leaving one or two at home for our Christmas morning) and decide who to give them to that year. Usually, after giving them to their closest friends, they would give them to – maybe someone who had a hard year, someone who was new, someone whom you could tell needed something special that Christmas. I loved watching their faces light up or their question – what is it?
The part I didn’t remember until a couple years ago, when I decided I would make a Christmas Tree bread, was how very long it took to make one. After making the dough, you had to knead it forever, and then wait forever for the dough to rise, and then knead it again and make the trees and then wait forever for it to rise again before baking. I’m just not so sure I have the patience to bake bread. But I’m trying, because traditions, family rituals, preparation, and patience are all part of this season. Yes, especially patience. Let’s think about patience for a moment.
What is it that really tries your patience? How about these . . .
Listening to a crying infant learning to fall asleep for 30 minutes or holding a colicky baby crying for 3 hours. Patience. OR
Sitting in line to get a COVID Test, waiting for the results, or waiting for this pandemic to simply end! Patience. OR
Putting 1,000 little white lights perfectly on the trees outside in freezing cold temperatures. Patience OR
Putting together the 1,000 piece K’nex Roller Coaster or your son’s bicycle on Christmas Eve at midnight. Patience. OR
Simply waiting; waiting in line – at the DMV, grocery store, you name your favorite place, waiting in the line that is by far the slowest one of them all. Patience.
But what about patience when we are in the wilderness places in our lives – patience waiting for the medical test results, waiting for pain to subside – how about the wilderness place we are all in right now – waiting for a vaccine, waiting to go back to work, waiting to go back to church, waiting to see friends and family, waiting for good news. That kind of patience. It has been said, Patience is the art of hoping. That is the kind of patience the people of Israel had. Patience in hoping for a Messiah to come, for peace and freedom and love to come.
Hundreds of years ago, the prophet Isaiah spoke to a people of great patience who had been waiting and waiting. They had been exiled, taxed, dishonored, moved, discriminated against, and much more. And the prophet provides them with – not only hope – but also something to do while waiting, get prepared he said, in your hearts. “For God will be revealed and give you strength – for God will gather his lambs in his arms like a shepherd and lead his people – for God will watch over his people and care for those who struggle. Be not afraid, for good news is coming, just you wait;” and they did.
Hundreds of years later, the Gospel of Mark brings this good news. In Mark there are no lengthy birth genealogies, no Jesus being born in a stable, no announcements from angels; Mark gets right to the good news – right into the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Literally the narrator is saying “now hear this!” What an exciting way to begin – “guess what, I’ve got great news, remember when the prophet Isaiah said, ‘see, I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare the way’, well, he’s here and his name is John and he will prepare you because, guess what, Jesus is the Messiah is coming, soon. And he’s not just a quick fix to a creation-gone-wrong, he’s the one, the Christ, who has been central to God’s plan all along. And he’s coming.”
“So”, he goes on, “go to the wilderness and look for this man named John – he looks a little funny, quite hairy, with a camel’s hair coat and a leather belt around his waist, and will probably be seen crunching on locust with wild honey on them, but he’s the one you want to see to be baptized”. And the people went in flocks to the wilderness. – Wait a minute – the people just went? Out of their comfortable homes in the city and into the cold dangerous wilderness to see this strange hairy man? Would you have gone?
What we must remember is that the people of Israel were quite familiar with the wilderness, and knew all about its meaning and significance. John, one of the few true Nazarenes who lived in the wilderness studying and preparing; appears to the people just like the prophet Elijah whom they expected to come. It had been 300 years since a prophet was active in Israel – so the people must have been so excited about John. They had probably heard all the stories about John’s birth, Jesus’ birth, and went to the wilderness with great anticipation. For the wilderness is where the people of Israel experienced all of their history, it is where they experienced God and learned of the Messiah to come in the first place. “It is in the wilderness that God tests the people, and it is in the wilderness that they rebel. The wilderness was both a route to the Promised Land and a place of exile for those who disappointed God. It is the place where people sin, and it is the place where they repent to restore their relationship with God once again.” (1) That’s why the people went.
Mark’s words of preparation must become ours – repent, straighten the roads, smooth the valleys, be baptized, and get ready for celebration. But let me make one thing clear, the Greek word for repentance does not mean being immersed in guilt for our sinful behaviors, but rather it means a change of mind or a change in direction, it means establishing a new way of thinking. We too need a new way of thinking and preparing. Because right now, in this strange time we are in, we are changing, God is moving us into a new place of being – of being family, of being church, of being a community.
And John proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me, so be prepared.’ This is a point all preachers and worship leaders need to always keep in mind – our sole purpose is to point to one far greater than ourselves. So great is the one to follow, John tells the people, that he is not even worthy enough to untie his sandals, a task of the lowliest gentile slave to their master – that’s how great he is. John said, I clean but Jesus purifies. So let’s go.
While Christmas is a time of celebration, Advent is a time of anticipation or preparation. And preparing or waiting is perhaps the most important part of Christmas. All of us spend a lot of time preparing our homes and our families, but how many of us prepare our hearts for spiritual renewal? Our waiting, our preparation, should echo the hopes and anxieties of our ancestors in faith, who awaited hundreds of years the coming of the Messiah. We need to learn how to wait. How? It begins with Good News! – and a call from a strange man – repent, change your ways, get washed, and prepare your heart. John didn’t say – prepare for Christmas – prepare for relatives and friends to come by cooking up a storm – prepare your children by buying every present they have on their list – prepare your home by decorating for days and days – he said – prepare the way for the Lord, open your heart for the spirit to enter again.
My friends, this road we are on is long and the hill we must climb is steep, and in this season of darkness, we need to walk through it into the light and make this a season of hope, so that our lives may be filled with love, our hearts with peace, and our souls with the strength of God. And then and only then may the light of God which permeates our lives, shine from our hearts to others. So before I close, let me suggest to you three ways to open our hearts, to prepare our souls, and to walk through the darkness, and witness to the light and peace of this Advent Season.
First, is what I have been talking about – practice patience, really practice patience. Let me ask you this: Has your time of preparation, of waiting, whatever you are waiting for right now, whatever tries your patience right now, has it become a time of dread, frustration, anxiety, loneliness, depression? Or can you be open to letting John’s words change you for the better. While this is a season of strong emotion, unrealistic expectations, it is also to be a season of good news. And good news begins in the wilderness. The church, all of you, are the voice in the wilderness to the outside world – the dark chaotic world we live in – the church speaks of love, new life, new paths, new hope, and is a community, even if remote, even if separated.
This season, as we light the Advent Candles, we need to light a candle and sit patiently and wait. We need to prepare him room, share a meal of bread and wine with one another, even remotely, and be a guest at Christ’s table.
Second, we need to be quiet! Seriously, we need to shut up. Every year we are all guilty of it, we easily get caught up in the constant noise, the fast pace, the black Friday, cyber Monday shopping sprees – even if on your couch! And while singing as loud as we can with our favorite Christmas Carols – you know that favorite Nate King Cole CD – hope you don’t ever see me driving down the road this month – I love to sing in the car! And how we love watching our favorite Christmas movies – like the Griswold’s Christmas Vacation or It’s a Wonderful Life – classics! We also need to spend a little time in silence. Some of us purposely avoid the quiet of this season, and some of you are alone right now, in quiet most of the day, but going to a place of quietness on purpose, is creating a place of peace and hope.
This season, as we light the Advent Candles, we need to light a candle and be alone for a while, and just sit and listen. For solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from all of the news that is sometimes just overwhelming. And it is in those moments, that we learn how to pray to the Prince of Peace, it is there that we may actually understand God’s vision of hope for us, God’s light to guide our way.
Third, we need to create lasting memories. While the stuff of Christmas, the presents, the baking, the shopping, is fun; it’s the traditions, the memories, the sharing, that we really cherish. This season, as we light the Advent candles, we need to light a candle of our own and think about those who don’t have a family to share memories with, the lonely, the grieving, those serving in the military so far from home, maybe someone living right next to you. And start a new tradition of reaching out to others in new ways, maybe a ZOOM neighborhood gathering, a FaceTime call to a friend you haven’t heard from in years, be creative and create a new tradition. To begin to lift the valleys of pain and begin to smooth the rough road for others, to create peace, love and light, all around.
Will I make a Christmas Tree Bread this season? Probably – because it will teach me to stop and pause and wait forever for something wonderful. Will I make a dozen of them and pass them out on Christmas Eve – no way – I don’t have that much patience! During this season of rapid preparation, when things try your patience, when you have to wait, remember how much patience God has with us, waiting for us to turn and be renewed, waiting with us and transforming us even now. Remember all those in the wilderness places who are waiting for a word of hope. And if you are one of those who is in the wilderness, be comforted, for God will feed his flock like a shepherd, there is good news coming for us all. So, during this Advent season, try to learn a little patience, a little silence, a new memory because if you don’t, you will never hear the bells ring, you will never hear the angels sing, you will never feel the Christ child’s love, you will never know the art of hoping, and you will never have prepared at all. In name of the prince of peace, who comes to us anew each day, AMEN.
(1) Donovan, The Rev. Richard Niell. “SermonWriter: Resources for Lectionary Preaching”, Second Sunday of Advent Year B.
RESPONDING GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY.* AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Brief Statement of Faith
In life and in death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.
With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
* HYMN 347 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence PICARDY
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heav’nly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the pow’rs of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.
At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
alleluia, Lord Most High!”
The flowering of English hymnody in the 19th century included the rediscovery, translation, and versification of ancient Christian hymns, such as this text from one of the earliest existing Christians liturgies. It is set here to an adaptation of a 17th century French melody. Evidence suggests that the Greek text of “Let All Mortal Flesh” may date back to the fifth century. The present text is from the Liturgy of St. James, a Syrian rite thought to have been written by St. James the Less, first Bishop of Jerusalem. It is based on a prayer chanted by the priest when the bread and wine are brought to the table of the Lord.
PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS
(If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING & DEDICATION
With these gifts, dear God, accept the praise and thanksgiving of our hearts, which rejoices in your goodness and love. Let our gifts point to your presence in the world and be an act of our faith in you, as we seek to make our entire lives an offering. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
THE SACRAMENT OF COMMUNION
Prayer of Thanksgiving
SENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION
POSTLUDE People, Look East Barbara Harbach
*Please rise in body or in spirit.