Fourth Sunday of Advent A, December 18, 2016

Isaiah 7: 10-16
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19
Romans 1: 1-7
Matthew 1: 18-25

CALL TO WORSHIP [ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING – JOY]
One: Prepare the way for the Christ child.  God is about to be born among us.
All: We humbly wait for the light of the world to descend into our midst.
One: The child is almost here, the birth announcement has gone out, and preparations are being made.
All: Do not be afraid.  The day is ever closer when the unquenchable light shall shine.
[One: Today we light the candle of Joy for the one to come, crying and helpless into the world.
All:  We are filled with joy for the assurances from the past and new possibilities in God.]
One: And he shall be named Emmanuel, “God is with us.”
All: With quiet expectation, we come to worship the God who is, was, and is soon to come again.

OPENING PRAYER
O Lord, this world is not as you created it to be, and we don’t fully know what to do about that.  We don’t even somewhat know how to restore things.  But we still come, receiving signs and love and the hope of boundless joy to come in the Lord.  We are scared, worried about what others may think, and living in fear, but the story is not done yet. We come almost ready and waiting.  We are here, excited. Amen

CALL TO CONFESSION
Stir up your might, O Shepherd of Israel, and come to save us!  Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Let us confess our sins.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Holy God, we have not been your people.  We have fed others the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.  We have scorned our neighbors and laughed among ourselves at our enemies and even supposed friends. We have been a people living without you, not wanting a sign of your will for us.  We have walked away from our Shepherd and gotten ourselves utterly lost.  Please guide us back to you.  Please forgive us and help us live by your ways and not our own.  Help us be ready for your presence with us so that we can live into your hopes and desires for us.  Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Dear ones, the Shepherd has not abandoned you.  The Lord’s face is shining, providing light to call you back home.  I declare to you that in the name of Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven.  Now go forth having been restored, and sin no more.  Amen.

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