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We Have AIDS

The Church Must Respond

Advent is a time of waiting and expecting thecoming of our Savior. The Hebrew people faithfullyawaited the promised Messiah during atime of captivity, and we also live and wait amidpain and suffering. We await the second comingof our risen Christ and we anticipate the fulfillment ofGod’s promises, even in the face of global tragedies.

AIDS is one of those tragedies. With more than 12 millionchildren orphaned by AIDS (www.avert.org) and entiregenerations of people dying, it is time for Christians totake a stand.

Throughout history, the church has been the backboneof compassionate ministry. Through food banks, benevolencefunds, and other community outreach efforts, thechurch has accepted Jesus’ call to love our neighbors andshare our blessings.

Today the church is uniquely positioned to respond tothe AIDS crisis. Our global reach touches outposts, ministrycenters, churches, and ministries in nearly every communityaround the world. But to tackle a global blight such asAIDS, churches around the world must work together.

The church must begin talking about AIDS and thechurch’s role in the face of this crisis. Leaders must helpde-stigmatize the disease so those infected with the AIDSvirus feel welcome and supported by others in the church.Churches in developing countries must begin using theirresources to reach out to those at risk of infection as wellas those already infected. Local church leaders must workin their local communities and congregations to encouragebehavior change in those at risk of infection.

Why not make Sunday, December 2 (the day afterInternational AIDS Day), a day to bring the AIDS crisis tothe attention of your congregation? Perhaps you could setaside this first Sunday of Advent to remember the sufferingof people around the world, lament the church’s insufficientresponse to AIDS thus far, and express our hope fora better future.

On the following pages you will find a number ofresources to help your church address the AIDS crisis in thecontext of worship. Note that portions of these suggestionshave been adapted with permission from the Advent AIDSliturgy prepared by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance(www.e-alliance.ch); from an Advent chapel service heldat Kings University College, Edmonton, Alberta; and froma worship service at Covenant Christian Reformed Church,St. Catharines, Ontario. For additional suggestions, visitCRWRC’s website (www.crwrc.org) and check out theResources section.

Greeting

The days are surely coming, says the Lord,when I will fulfill the promiseCome, Emmanuel, come.A righteous Branch shall execute justiceand righteousness in the land.Come, Emmanuel, come.My people will be saved and they will live in safety.Come, Emmanuel, come. Fulfill your promise.—adapted from Jeremiah 33:14-16

We Respond with Praise

Songs

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CH 244, PH 1, PsH 329, SFL 122
“Open Our Eyes” SNC 263

Opening Litany

We gather in the name of the crucified and risen Christ
over whom death had no power and through whom
there is life eternal.
We gather as a caring community
a community of faith and hope united by God’s love.
God calls to us
to care for one another, to be compassionate and merciful.
We are the creation of one Creator God.
The child who cries is every child.
The woman weakened and tired is every mother, wife, sister,
daughter.
The man is every father, husband, son, and brother.
AIDS leaves gaping wounds in the lives of those who have
lost the ones they love the most.
God gives us the strength and courage to be present in
the midst of loss.
Across the infinity of space and time a common heart beats
in every breast.
Bearing each other’s pain and clinging to hope, we come
to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.
We are a family of nations, and each of us is created in the
image of God.
AIDS is a worldwide crisis in the midst of which there
is no “we” and “they.”
We confess that we are all affected;
when one of God’s creation suffers, we all suffer.
When our sons and daughters are touched,
we remember Mary’s agony over the suffering and death
of her beloved child.
We know Jesus identifies with all who suffer;
through him come healing and wholeness.
Come, Emmanuel, come. Fulfill your promises through us.

We Respond with Praise

Songs

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SWM 81, SFL 123,
TH 194, WR 154
“Whatsoever You Do Unto the Least” PsH 210
“Lord, Make Us Servants” SNC 204
“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” SNC 77, SWM 207, WR 248

Prayer of Confession

Gracious God,
we confess to you that we are trapped by sin and cannot
free ourselves.
We have failed to love one another.
We have failed to love those living with HIV or AIDS.
We have failed to keep our promises to you.
Forgive us and fill us with your love.
Fill us with your Spirit so that our world will know
your redemption draws near through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sung Response

“Lord, My Petition Heed” PsH 86
“Hear Our Prayer, O Lord” CH 641, PsH 624, TH 728
“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” PsH 625, SWM 170, SFL 54,
WR 489

Words of Forgiveness

God’s promise is not empty. God reaches toward the longingheart with redemption. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, cameto save sinners. In him we are given new life, filled up,overflowing, free. Heaven and earth will pass away, buthis words will not pass away. We have God’s promise. Hewill lead us to life everlasting. Amen.

God Speaks Through His Word

Suggested Scripture Passages

Psalm 18: God delivered me when I cried.
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16: God is our refuge.
Psalm 103:3: God forgives all sin and heals all diseases.
Psalm 72: The righteous will flourish, the poor and
needy will be protected.
Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage
the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:5-13; Matthew 4:12-23: Light in
the darkness; Christ’s healing power.
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11: Bind up the broken-hearted.
Micah 6:8: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.
Matthew 6:25-34: Strive first for the kingdom of God.
Matthew 9:9-12, 18-26: Jesus and sinners; healing
miracles.
Matthew 9:35-10:8: Jesus’ compassion; command to
heal lepers.
Matthew 10:7-8: Preach the kingdom; heal the sick;
freely you have received.
Mark 2:17: Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy.
Luke 9:2: Preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick.
John 10:1-10: “I have come that they may have life. . . .”
Romans 8:12-25: The suffering of creation.
James 1:27: The religion that God our Father accepts as
pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and
widows in their distress.We Respond with Devotion

Songs

“What Does the Lord Require” PH 405, PsH 293, WR 686
“Go to the World” SNC 294, WR 553
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” SNC 545, WR 587

Closing

To touch, bathe, feed, or clothe a person who is ill is to do
this to Christ Jesus.
Today we are called to be joyful, thankful people upheld
by God’s goodness and grace, and reaching out in
God’s love.
In thankfulness we commit ourselves to be a nurturing
community that seeks justice.
We commit to God and to one another to support,
encourage, and pray for persons whose lives have
been touched by HIV and AIDS.
We will oppose all forms of discrimination against persons
with HIV and AIDS.
We will support the right of all persons with HIV and
AIDS to housing, employment, services, transportation,
accommodations, and health care.
We will care for one another and love one another.
We will be Christ’s presence in each other’s lives.
We will be witnesses to God’s unconditional love.
Blessing and Dismissal

Songs

“Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love” PH 367, PsH 601, SWM 249, SFL 251,
WR 273
“May the God of Hope Go with Us” SNC 282, SFL 82

Excerpt

Continuing the Theme Through Advent

For the second Sunday in Advent, the theme might be
connected to preparing the way of the Lord in the face
of AIDS. What practical things might your congregation
do to receive the coming Christ? How might thismanifest itself in the midst of the AIDS pandemic?

For the third Sunday in Advent, we might ask what
kind of repentance John the Baptist would call us to.
So often persons with HIV are told that they need to
repent for their sins. But would John the Baptist also
have messages for drug companies, for government and
church leaders, for ordinary Christians trying to live
faithful lives? Consider an offering of postcards or letters
to those in positions of authority. Bring John the
Baptist’s voice to those who do not follow through on
the promises made.

On the fourth Sunday in Advent, with the greeting
of pregnant Mary and Elizabeth fresh in our minds,
wrestle with how local churches can help prevent HIVpositive
mothers from transmitting the virus to their
unborn children. Scientists have found the way to
block transmission; we need to ensure that all women
have knowledge of and access to this treatment.