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First Sunday of Advent — Family faith formation for November 28, 2021

 

Welcome

Before you begin this week, gather

  • a circle form (this can be a florist wreath form made of oasis or metal or a carved, wrought iron or ceramic pre-formed advent wreath.)
  • Four purple or blue candles
  • One white pillar candle
  • Greenery (natural or artificial)
  • Matches or a lighter

One:    Today we celebrate the beginning of Advent. We wait for the coming of Jesus.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.  

One:    We begin with a circle to remind us of God’s unending love and presence.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.  

One:    We bring evergreens to remind us the hope we find in Jesus is eternal.  

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.

One:    We gather four candles to mark the four weeks of joy and anticipation as we wait for the babe in the manger and the coming of Christ again.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.

One:   The candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.  

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.   

One:    Four candles are blue or purple as a reminder to prepare for Jesus’ coming.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.

One:    One candle is white, in the center of our wreath, a symbol for the purity of Jesus.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.

One:    Today we light the first candle and remember the promises God makes and keeps.

All:      Emmanuel, God with us.

(place the first purple or blue candle in the candle holder and light the first candle)

God sightings and prayer offerings

Invite each person to share where they saw or experienced God this week. Invite each person to share something – a person, community, experience, event, etc. – for which they want to offer prayer.

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the ways you were and are present in our lives and in the world…[invite each person to say aloud the sighting they named earlier]. We bring our prayers to you, prayers for…[invite each person to say aloud the prayer need they named earlier]. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Connecting with Scripture               Jeremiah 33:14-16

Read the scripture aloud the first time using the New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible.  

For the second reading of the text, especially if there are children in your family, you may want to use this paraphrase.

Today is the first day of the new church year. Each year, the church tells the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection so that we can learn and know this very important story of faith. This new church year always begins four Sundays before Christmas in the season called Advent and continues all the way through the Sunday near Thanksgiving called Christ the King Sunday. Every week we hear a story about God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ and how God continues to be with us through the Holy Spirit. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. During the next four weeks we wait and watch and prepare for the coming of Jesus. Many, many years ago – before Jesus was born – God’s people in ancient Israel forgot to love God by loving their neighbor. They disappointed God and failed to be faithful. The consequences of their behavior were living in a foreign land without a king of their own. The good news was and is, despite their unfaithfulness, God is always faithful and always loving. God did not abandon them and promised to send a new king to save them and bring them back into a better relationship with God. Like us, they waited for the new Savior King. In today’s scripture, Psalm 80, the people are praying and asking how long it will be before God gives them this new King. They promise to never turn away from God again if only the new King would hurry up and come rescue them.

Connecting through Story

Watch and listen to the children’s book

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXjnvyN9qK0&t=1s

  • What were some of the promises made in the book?
  • Which one(s) do you think are most important and why?

Connecting with our lives

Engage in dialogue

  • What was God’s original promise?
  • What promise is God making in today’s passage?
  • Who is acting in this passage? Who is doing the work?
  • What is on the receiving end of this act?
  • Why do you think God made it happen that way?
  • What is righteousness and why is it important to God?
  • What is justice and why is it important to God?
  • Why do you think God is placing an emphasis on justice and righteousness?
  • Why should righteousness and justice be important to us?
  • In what ways do you think justice and righteousness would save our ancient foremothers and fathers of the faith?
  • In what ways, do you think justice and righteousness will save us now?
  • Where do you see God’s compassion (righteousness) in the world?
  • Where do you see God’s justice (love embodied in systems) in the world?
  • In what ways do you participate in God’s righteousness and justice?
  • What difference do these two make in your life?

Teaching Points that can be incorporated into your discussion

  • Every year the church rehearses the story of God’s grace embodied in Jesus Christ. Each Sunday a selection of scripture walks us through the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. This collection of scriptures, read in a three-year cycle, is called a lectionary. The years are labeled A, B and C and begin on the first of the four Sundays preceding Christmas Eve. Each Sunday there are four primary texts for the reader to consider: an Old Testament, a Psalm, an Epistle and a Gospel passage. A primary gospel is assigned to each lectionary year – A is Matthew, B is Mark and C is Luke. John’s gospel is highlighted during special Sundays and celebrations throughout all three years.
  • Today is the first day of the new church year, the first day of Advent.
  • During the next four weeks we will focus on four themes – Promise, Proclaim, Rejoice and Love.
  • This week our text from Jeremiah leads us to focus on Promise. God made a covenant, a promise, with David that one of his descendants would always rule over Israel. When God’s people rebelled against God and turned to the ways of the world, rather than being faithful to God’s ways, they found themselves in trouble. Assyria and then Babylon overcame them militarily and took control of the cherished Promised Land. The Babylonians even sent most of God’s people away from their homes to live in a strange and foreign land. (The Exile.)
  • Today’s passage is a word from God sent through the prophet Jeremiah to remind the people that God had not abandoned them. Even though God would have been completely justified in turning away from Israel because they broke the covenant relationship, God had a depth of grace and love that would not allow God to abandon God’s people.
  • Jeremiah, who earlier in Chapter 31, spoke of a new covenant in which God would bind the people to God not through the actions of humanity but rather through the grace of God within the hearts of the people. As Christians we understand that new covenant to be Jesus Christ who atoned for our rebellious ways and restored our relationship with God.
  • God promised to take the ancient Israelite as God’s own people and to always be their God. God’s promises endure forever because God is forever faithful even when we are not.
  • However, the way in which God keeps divine promises can sometimes be surprising. In this passage we learn the good news that the restoration of God’s people and of the relationship between God and the people is not because of anything the people have or can do but because of God’s own righteousness and God’s commitment to justice. We, God’s people, have proven, repeatedly through the centuries, that we do not have the capacity to be faithful and earn our way into God’s good graces – it is God’s grace, manifested in righteousness (acts of compassion and kindness) and surrounded in justice (systems that reflect God’s love in public policy and structures) – that is our only hope.
  • Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “to come,” or coming. It begins on the 4th Sunday preceding Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. It marks the beginning of the church
  • Advent is a time of preparation and expectation as we celebrate the coming of Christ – as he came to earth the first time as babe in a manger and as he will come again as the King of Kings.
  • Purple has been the traditional color for Advent symbolizing “penitence” or a feeling of sorrow. It is the same color that is used during Lent. In recent years some churches have moved to using blue candles for Advent, which symbolizes hope. Either color is appropriate for this liturgical season.
  • One candle is lit each Sunday during Advent until all the Candles are lit. As the new candle is lit the ones from the previous week are relit. The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
  • Some churches use the same color blue or purple candles for all four weeks. Some churches use three purple or blue and one pink. The tradition of using a pink candle is from the ancient Roman Catholic Church’s practice of connecting Advent and The pink symbolized “rejoicing” or “joy.”
  • The symbolism of the candles varies among Protestant traditions. Sometime the candles stand for words that help us understand the season of Advent better: wait, prepare, hope, joy or love. Sometimes the candles are aspects of the Nativity that help us hear the familiar story in a new way: prophets, Bethlehem, shepherds and angels. No matter what names we give the candles each year, the purpose is the same: to prepare our hearts, minds and lives for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Create your Advent wreath from the items you assembled in the opening ritual.  There are several instructional videos on YouTube that range from using live greenery to artificial. You can also purchase a ceramic or metal form that can be used year after year. No matter your choice, you will need a circle with four places for purple or blue candles and a white taller candle in the middle.

Prayer

Close your time together by praying for one another, your neighbor, community and the world. Extinguish the candle.

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