Third Sunday of Advent – December 14, 2014
(General explanation of how we order our services.)
This third Sunday of the Advent season, we continue our expectant anticipation of the Coming of our Savior. In this service, we contemplate the great mystery of true God becoming true man, and we take a look at the response Jesus’s own mother had to such a wondrous revelation.
Our Prelude is a setting of a wonderful hymn whose text is one of the oldest in our tradition: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” This setting for trumpet and piano by our very own R. Christopher Teichler beautifully sets these rich Christological words, fitting for the Advent season:
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 heavenly 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 powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear 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!”
Our opening reading is from Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
This passage prophesies many of the wondrous realities that will occur at the coming of Christ to earth, that day when he will establish his Kingdom with peace and justice for all.
Our response is one of joy in anticipation of this coming by singing, “When the King Shall Come Again.” We then lift our hearts in a Prayer of Praise and the Greater Doxology, that song of the angels: “Gloria in excelsis deo! Gloria in excelsis deo!“
As is our annual Advent tradition, a family in our church will process as the children sing “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.” The head of the household will light one of the advent candles and then read the Advent passage of the day, John 1:6-8, 19-28, which focuses our attention on the fact that the Eternal Word became enfleshed.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 calls us to be blameless as we await the coming of the Lord, a fitting beginning to our time of Confession. We will ask the Lord to help us examine ourselves with the hymn “Search Me, O God,“ and we will spend time in both a Silent and Corporate Prayer of Confession.
We hear Good News of forgiveness and pardon from Philippians 2:5-11, which directs our attention to the salvation realities that resulted from God come to earth:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We respond with joy and thanks, praying to the Lord once again, “Savior of the Nations, Come.”
The Sermon of the day looks at Mary’s prayer of thanks, known as the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46b-55.
We respond by singing a hymn setting of the Magnificat, “Tell Out, My Soul” and by the giving of our Offering.
Since we have been accepted by God through his Son who came to earth and atoned for our sins, we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace with our time of Intercessory Prayer.
We conclude the service by being sent out into the world with “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers!,” in which we encourage one another to let the light of Christ shine through us to others as we await his return.