Bethesda United Church of Christ Worship Service
“We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the spirit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors and the world.”
For Your Reflection: “Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
Question: Where is “home” for you? Do you believe that “home” is within you, or outside of you? How has your concept of home changed through your life?
In today’s service we will share Holy Communion. Those who plan to join our Zoom, bless and receive the sacrament at home, please prepare a slice or roll of bread, a corn tortilla, Naan, cracker, or rice cake and a cup of juice — perhaps grape or cranberry — or wine, with or without alcohol prior to service for yourself and those who are sharing in worship with you.
Thank you for your preparation.
God’s Light Grows
Call To Worship (Responsive)
Comfort, o comfort my people! This is the cry of the Holy.
Let the weary find rest.
The captive be set free.
The despairing encounter hope.
Challenge, o challenge my people! This, too, is the cry of the Holy.
Let the apathetic be convicted.
The privileged choose solidarity.
The greedy be released from excess.
Through divine comfort and divine challenge,
God is drawing near.
#133 O Little Town of Bethlehem (verses 1-3)
Opening Prayer (Unison)
Spirit of Creation, how you must weep over all that has been exploited. Extracted. Exiled. Excused. Kept from flourishing as you intended. We feel the ways we have both endured and enacted this violence. We grieve with you over all that is unnecessarily lost and pray for your guidance towards what restores, revives, and redistributes. Amen.
Passing The Peace
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.
Lighting Of The Second Candle Of Advent (Responsive)
You are invited to light a candle as you worship with us.
Shirley Baker & Kathy Wallace
Reader One: Our lists are long, even in this strange mess where we live these days. And we want to do it right, we want to be safe, but we want to be able to enjoy the season. We’ve got work to do to put right what has gone wrong, to heal what is broken, to mend the relationships, and to prepare for the company that will come.
Reader Two: The prophet Isaiah reminded us that there is work to be done. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” When God comes in, then healing is to be found, but we need to make the way; we need to open the door into our lives.
Reader One: So, we light these candles as a sign of our faith that the God we worship is not far from us and that we can clear the way for that God to come and dwell with us.
We light these candles in faith that company is coming.
Reader Two: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
We Gather ‘Round An Advent Candle Song
Tune: THE FIRST NOWELL, Anonymous, 1833 Lyrics by Rev. Elana Keppel Levy, 2020
We gather ‘round so weary for peace
Hearing anger and distrust that will not cease –
Not cease ‘til the day we reach out with grace
And see each as God’s child for us to embrace.
Refrain: The candles glow, showing us God’s light /
Calling us forward, united in Christ.
The Contemporary Reading
Special Video “All Human Beings” Max Richter
The children may depart to the breakout room for their classes and activities.
A Reading From The Hebrew Scriptures
40 Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak 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.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every 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.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;[a]
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,[b]
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He 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.
Homing Instinct by Rev. Dee
Joys/Concerns, Pastoral Prayer
Now is the time of our joys and concerns. Please unmute to share any joys or concerns or type them into the chat.
Prayer Of Dedication For The Offerings, Pledges, And Gifts Of Today And This Week
If you wish to give to support the work of Bethesda UCC, you can donate via Venmo @Bethesda-UCC or send a check via mail to Bethesda UCC c/o Treasurer; 10010 Fernwood Road; Bethesda, MD 20817
One way God invites us to return home is through sharing what we have. We are not made for the cold ways of greed and individualism. Deep within us lives something far more alive.
In the assurance of this hope, let us bring together our offerings with gratitude.
God of return, you are always calling us back. Back to what we know and believe, but forget.
Back to the places that need mending. Back to the parts of ourselves we have lost. You call us away from lands of destruction, costly to our souls. For your grace that leads us home, we bring these offerings with gratitude. Amen.
#121 Toda la Tierra (All the Earth is Waiting) –sung in English/Spanish, as you wish!
Celebration Of Our Lord’s Supper
The story is told that during the Blitz in World War II Britain, when the city was strafed and bombed, Operation Pied Piper evacuated many children to the country, but some remained in London and many of those were orphans. Some were sheltered in a Jesuit order of brothers, who noticed the children had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, night after night. When the children were being put to bed one night, one of the brothers guessed the children’s problem was that they were anxious because of uncertainty in their lives, and gave each child a small piece of bread, saying something like this –
“Hold on to your piece of bread while you are sleeping. Remember when you woke up this morning, we fed you and took care of you. When you wake up tomorrow, and we will be here for you. Let the bread remind you of this. Good night, children.” The children slept.
Come, to be comforted
in the story of Bethlehem,
and in this the House of Bread.
Come to be comforted at this table
by a handful of bread
and a cup of love,
that will stay with you always.
Words of Remembering
O, we remember God’s promises
of Emmanuel, and a branch of Jesse’s root,
of Leader, Wisdom, Monarch,
Key of all that is locked,
and Dawn of every morning.
And we remember the sacred story,
that happened in the House of Bread
for a new mother
and a fostering father,
sheep and shepherds,
a few wise travelers with gifts
and many, many angels.
And we remember that the baby
grew up to heal people,
and teach them with strange parables,
that made people angry.
At Passover he broke unleavened bread.
and poured wine and love freely.
Prayer of Consecration
Emmanuel, God with us,
in our lonely nights, under our guiding stars,
with the hopes and fears of all our years,
we come for comfort,
for peace of mind and peace on earth,
for a blessing on our hands and the bread in them,
on our lips and the cup we lift to it.
Touch the bread before you, blessing it. Touch or pour and touch the cup before you, blessing it.
May this bread and cup be your holy Life,
that we may ponder in our hearts,
and pray in our community …
Prayer of our Savior
Our Mother/Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Sharing of the Elements
Leader: The Holy Child of Bethlehem descends to us,
Unison: and is born in us in these days.
Leader: Let us share the bread.
Unison: We hear the Christmas angels their great glad tidings tell.
Leader: Let us drink deeply, Christ abides with us.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
God, we give you thanks that you have come to us – in the child of Bethlehem, in this bread and cup, and in your answer to all of our hopes and your offer of peace, deeper than any truce, truer than the upheaval that surrounds us. You have comforted us with your promise and your presence so that we too may spread the welcome wings of your good tidings. Amen.
#131 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
What would it mean to truly come home?
To God. To each other. To ourselves. To the land.
The Divine calls tenderly to us and sets our hearts on paths of return.
The journey is long but the place is not far.
Within, the Spirit of Christ already dwells.
Peace and courage go with us.
Liturgical Resources/Credits: Our Advent Candle-Lighting liturgy is from /www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/advent-candle-lighting-liturgy-2020. Our Communion Liturgy was written for churches for use during the pandemic by Maren C. Tirabassi, and comes from giftsinopenhands.wordpress.com. Unless otherwise noted, our liturgy and “More Food for Spiritual Thought” comes from enfleshed.com and is adapted use for our worship today. All resources are used with permission from authors/source.
More Food For Spiritual Thought
- If one way that God comes to us is through concrete processes that level and redistribute (vs 4) in order to end oppressive suffering, what could that mean for your community’s spiritual preparation this Advent season?
- In what contexts do messages of comfort become dangerously close to moral affirmation of complicity with structures of evil and oppression? When and for whom is comfort a way out of accountability?
- What are some of the dominant norms you have internalized or learned to practice well – even though they harm or confine you? What would it feel like to focus on one and return home to yourself?
More about us
Bethesda UCC was founded in 1957 as Bethesda Congregational Church. United Church of Christ is the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
We are located at the corner of Fernwood and Democracy. Our postal address is:
Bethesda United Church of Christ
10010 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20817
Minister: Rev. Dee Ledger
Music Director: Kay Krekow
Today’s music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712
A ONE LICENSE Reprint License grants churches, schools, religious communities, retreat centers, and other worshiping bodies permission to reprint or project music for their congregations from any of our Member Publishers.
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE, License #A-726712. All rights reserved.