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November 29, 2020, First Sunday of Advent

Where are you God? watercolor

Watercolor by Martha Knouss

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:To walk through unknown streets in cities where you are merely learning the language is to force yourself into a new state of hypervigilance. You are a traveler, and hopefully not just a tourist, and must appear calm, but maintain your bearings. Not to get too lost, too off course and without alternatives, without an escape plan in the event of a dangerous situation.”
― M.B. Dallocchio, The Desert Warrior

Question: In what way have you had to be vigilant in your lifetime?  How has Covid affected your personal vigilance or lack thereof?  What would it mean for your spirit to rest in this time?  How might you “keep awake” for blessings and not merely dangers?

Welcome

Rev. Dee

Prelude

Musical Selection

Announcements

The Congregation

God’s Light Grows  

Call To Worship

Let the faithful prepare!
The time will come when this era will end. 
The seasons will turn.
The powers that destroy will be turned over. 
Signs of new life will emerge.
We do not know the day nor the hour. 
Come, Incarnate One,
and turn us toward the age to come.

Gathering Song

#116 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel   (verses 1, 2, 3)

Music and lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712

Music and lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel pt 2

Music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712

Opening Prayer (Unison)

Faithful One, hear the groans of your people, weary in body and in spirit. Loss. Grief. Isolation. Exhaustion. They wear down the soul. Where there are ways we can better care for ourselves and others, enable us to make it so. Where we are doing all there is to do, and still it is difficult, sustain us day by day. May your presence abide until the new dawn breaks. Amen.     

Passing The Peace

Leader: he peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.

Lighting Of The First Candle Of Advent  (responsive)

You are invited to light a candle as you worship with us.

–JoAnn Linseisen and Andy

Reader One: If ever there was a year we needed Advent, this is the year. We hardly know how to describe the year we have lived through. We hesitate to reflect on all the mess around us in 2020. All we know is that nothing seems right, nothing seems like it used to be, nothing. We need Advent!

Reader Two: The prophet Isaiah cried out for us, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down … To make your name known … so that nations might tremble at your presence.” So tear through the mess, O Lord, and come down to us again. We long to be your people, a people of hope.

Reader One: We light this first candle as a sign of our hope. Hope that you can meet us, even in the mess of our world. Hope that you still see us, though we feel we are lost in the rubble. Let this light be the guide that brings us to Emmanuel once more.

Reader Two: O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

A Word With The Children

The children may depart to the breakout room for their classes and activities.

The Contemporary Reading

“The Advent Calendar,” written by Rowan Williams

Hymn

We Gather ‘Round, An Advent Candle Song  

Tune: THE FIRST NOWELL, Anonymous, 1833
Lyrics by Rev. Elana Keppel Levy, 2020

  1. [Hope] We gather ‘round in hope and faith
    Looking for the savior for whom we pray.
    We pray that we will see him near
    Bringing forth life and justice for all in fear.

Refrain

The candles glow, showing us God’s light 

Calling us forward, united in Christ.

A Reading From The Gospel 

Mark 13:24-37

24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert;[b] for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Message

Rev. Dee, Vigilant  

Musical Meditation

Joys/Concerns, Pastoral Prayer And Lord’s Prayer

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.

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

We know the kindom of God is always near. At any moment, we may choose to turn from what destroys. We may work together to disrupt evil’s entrenched ways. We may imagine into being relationships that transform. For the divine possibilities, always within reach, let us bring our gifts of thanks. 

Holy One, we give thanks for your presence that lingers with us:
Through those that labor for justice.
Through those that mourn with the mourning.
Through those who feed, who listen, who make beautiful things.
You surround us with gifts that sustain.
May we share them generously with one another. Amen. 

Hymn

#110 Now Bless the God of Israel

music and lyrics to Now bless the God of Israel

Music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712

Benediction

We do not know the day nor the hour but we know God will usher in a new age. 

The exiled will be brought home. The captives set free. The hungry set before a feast. 

To make it so, we collectively labor. 

We rest. We resist. We dream. 

These are our Advent prayers. 

With faith they will be heard, go in peace. Amen.

Postlude

Musical Selection

Liturgical Resources/Credits:   Unless otherwise noted, our liturgy and “More Food for Spiritual Thought” comes from enfleshed.com and is adapted use for our worship today.

More Food For Spiritual Thought

  • What are some concrete practices and means of resource-sharing your community can engage in that encourage and enable rest for those from whom the world is demanding far too much – in new and old ways? 
  • What is one sign that you believe would indicate the nearness of a new era, a new age, a new way of living together was taking hold? 

What are some of the popular but shallow messages about change that you feel most vulnerable to in this difficult time? What temptations could lead you astray from staying with the trouble and practicing solidarity until a new era is born?             

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
301.365.3387

www.bethesdaucc.org

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.