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Resting in God's Promises

An Advent Series on Isaiah

Lately I’ve been struck by the frantic pace of life. Some folks are complaining about being overloaded; most simply look tired. Meanwhile, I feel increasingly compelled to help people rest in God’s presence.

Traditionally Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for the Savior’s coming, but Christmas doesn’t occur until December 25. Advent offers an ideal opportunity to rest, even as schools and communities conduct Christmas programs and carol festivals and the pace quickens. I suggest we use this season of waiting as a time of worship and renewal so that we’ll be ready to welcome the Savior into the world all over again.

The prophet Isaiah knew what it meant to wait. He lived in a tumultuous time in Israel’s history: Assyria was expanding; Israel and Judah were growing weaker. The Lord had given Israel laws to follow and promised them blessing for obedience. But the people had disobeyed God’s law, and judgment was forthcoming. Isaiah was sent to call the people of Judah back to God before it was too late. He announced the coming judgment for disobedience—but he also announced a future hope: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

The child whose birth Isaiah announced is Jesus, who would arrive centuries later; there was a long period of waiting before he was born. So let us join Isaiah in waiting for the Messiah and resting in God’s promises.

Note: Several of the readings in these services come from The Worship Sourcebook (TWS), available from www.FaithAliveResources.org.

First Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Call to Worship: Isaiah 2:2-5 (TWS, D.1.2.1)

Welcome

Opening Prayer: “Open the Eyes of My Heart” WR 656

God’s Greeting: Isaiah 41:9-10

Mutual Greeting

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” CH 3, PH 138, PsH 249, SWM 28, TH 100, WR 136

Call to Confession: Isaiah 6:1-4

Prayer of Confession: adapted from Isaiah 6:5

“Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a person of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 6:6-7

Song: “Holy Is the Lord” (Chris Tomlin; worshiptogether.com)

Offering

Advent Prayer (TWS D.1.4.23)

In anticipation we gather.
With expectation we wait.
We gather to watch for the coming of the good news
into our world and into our lives.
We wait to see the fullness of God’s vision.
O God, open the doors to our hearts,
that this year we may have room for the birth of Jesus.
O God, as we marvel over all that you are doing,
overwhelm us with so much wonder
that words of praise spring forth from our lips!

In this time of waiting, let true worship begin in our hearts.
Let our praises rise up to the heavens!
Let our celebrations spread new hope over a tired world!
Let us gather together all our dreams and lives
to worship our God! Amen.

— R. Mark Liebenow in And Everyone Shall Praise: Resources for Multicultural Worship. United Church Press, 1999. © 1999 R. Mark Liebenow

Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Children’s Moment: Lighting of Advent Candle (See TWS D.1.4.27 to D.1.4.33, which all relate to Isaiah in some way, or RW 29, p. 19.)

Congregational Prayer and Prayer of Illumination (based on TWS D.4.2)

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 7:1-17

Message: “The Sign of Immanuel”

Time of Silent Prayer, Reflection, and Rest

God’s Blessing: Isaiah 42:6-8

Song of Praise: “All Hail King Jesus!” CH 103, WR 92

Postlude

Second Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Call to Worship: Isaiah 2:2-5

Prayer of Invocation: based on Psalm 126 (TWS D.1.4.12, Harry Boonstra, RW 9, p. 22)

If our lives are dry and parched,
Lord, send the living waters of your Spirit
to revive us, to enliven us,
to bring forth new life.
Immanuel, come quickly.

If our times are empty and barren,
Lord, grant us a rich harvest,
send us home with sheaves of blessing,
fill us with your abundance,
and teach us to share the harvest with others.
Immanuel, come quickly.

If our bodies are weary and heavy-laden,
Lord, fill us with laughter;
give us shouts of joy;
envelop us with your gladness.
Immanuel, come quickly.

If our lives are small and trivial,
Lord, make us see great things;
enlarge our vision;
widen our borders.
Immanuel, come quickly. Amen.

Welcome

God’s Greeting: Isaiah 41:8-10

Mutual Greeting

Songs of Praise

“God of Wonders” (Marc Byrd, Steve Hindalong; worshiptogether.com)

“When I Look into Your Holiness” CH 649

Call to Confession: Isaiah 1:2-4, 18-20

Prayer of Confession (TWS D.2.2.12; modified beginning)

Almighty God, we confess to you the ways in which we block the peace of Christ in our lives.
God of peace, hear our prayer.
The rushing and scurrying to get things done,
we confess to you, O God of peace.
The worry about the little details,
we confess to you, O God of peace.
The financial burdens we put on ourselves,
we confess to you, O God of peace.
The impatience and irritability we feel and take out on one another,
we confess to you, O God of peace.
The bickering and quarreling we get into because we are too busy,
we confess to you, O God of peace.
Though we make ourselves less than peaceful at this time of year, your peace is always there for us.
Instill within us your peace, O God.
When we feel overwhelmed,
instill within us your peace, O God.
When we are filled with worry,
instill within us your peace, O God.
When we become irritable,
instill within us your peace, O God.
When the guilt of our ways threatens to overcome us, help us to remember that we are forgiven in Christ.
Instill within us your peace, O God.
Instill within us your peace, O God. Instill within us your peace and help us to make choices that bring us closer to you. Help us to be more peaceful so that we may spread Christ’s peace and love to others. Amen.

—Susan R. Tomlinson in Let Us Pray: Reformed Prayers for Christian Worship.
Edited by Martha S. Gillis. © 2002, Geneva Press.
Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. www.wijkbooks.com

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 40:1-2

Song: “The Power of Your Love” WR 467

Offering

Advent Prayer (TWS D.1.4.23)

Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Stuttgart: PsH 329, SFL 122, Hyfrydol: CH 244, PH 2, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153

Children’s Moment: Lighting Advent Candles

Congregational Prayer

Scripture in Song: “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” (George Friderich Handel)

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7

Message: “For Unto Us a Child Is Born”

Time of Silent Prayer, Reflection, and Rest

God’s Blessing: Isaiah 54:4-8

Song: “Jesus, Name Above All Names” CH 86, SNC 114, WR 177

Postlude

Third Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Call to Worship: Isaiah 40:3-9

Welcome

Prayer: “Adoration” (Diane Karay Tripp. ed., Prayers from the Reformed Tradition, Louisville, Kentucky: Witherspoon Press, 260)

God’s Greeting: Isaiah 40:10-11

Mutual Greeting

Songs of Praise

Prayer of Confession (TWS D.2.2.12)

Words of Assurance: Isaiah 40:1-2

Offering

Advent Prayer (TWS D.1.4.23)

Song: “The Prophets Came to Israel” PsH 334, SFL 128

Children’s Moment: Lighting of the Advent Candles

Congregational Prayer: Testimonies of thanksgiving and prayer requests (Isaiah 40:25-31)

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

Message: “The Servant of the Lord”

Time of Silent Prayer, Reflection, and Rest

God’s Blessing: Isaiah 41:8-10

Song of Praise: “Glory to God”/“Ere zij God” PsH 214

Postlude

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Call to Worship: Isaiah 49:13

Welcome

God’s Greeting: Isaiah 49:14-16

Mutual Greeting

Songs

“Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down” CH 227, SWM 3

“Meekness and Majesty” SNC 109, WR 97

“You Are My King (Amazing Love)” CSW 12

Prayer of Confession (TWS J.2.2.16)

O God, our great shepherd,
you tenderly gather us as lambs,
carrying us with your all-embracing love.
Yet, like sheep, we wander from you:
following our own ways, ignoring your voice,
distrusting your provisions.
Forgive our stubborn rebellion, our hardened hearts, our lack of trust.
Refresh us once again by your quiet waters of mercy
and restore our souls by your redeeming love.
Guide our paths, that we might follow you more closely.

—Tom Schwanda in The Services of the Christian Year,
The Complete Library of Christian Worship, vol 5. Edited by Robert Webber.
© 1994, Star Song Publishing Group. Used by permission.

[Silent confession]

Through Jesus Christ, our good shepherd, we pray. Amen.

Words of Assurance (TWS I.2.4.1, based on Isaiah 40:11; 53:4-5)

Giving Gifts of Gratitude

Advent Prayer (TWS D.1.4.23)

Song: “Hark the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes” PsH 335

Children’s Moment: Lighting the Advent Candles

Congregational Prayer

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Message: “The Suffering and Glory of the Servant”

Song: “Once Again” (Matt Redman, worshiptogether.com)

Communion

Time of Silent Prayer, Reflection, and Rest

Our Response and God’s Blessing: Isaiah 54:1-8

Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Stuttgart: PsH 329, SFL 122, Hyfrydol: CH 244, PH 2, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153

Postlude