Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

Advent Reconciliation Celebration
December 2018

Opening Hymn:                 You Are Mine  by David Haas

Greeting:

 Leader:        The grace, mercy, and peace from God our Creator, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 All:               And also with you.

 Leader:

  • This year our ceremonies with the Advent wreath have been focused on God’s Promise of Peace and rooted in our solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    • We have reflected on 3 essential elements of God’s Promise of Peace:
      • Peace can only result from justice, from just leaders called forth and supported by witnesses to God’s justice, no matter the cost.
      • The prophetic Promise of Peace included the promise of the return of the people from the bondage of their exile.
      • The prophetic Promise of Peace opened up a vision of God being near, working to free and protect them, inviting their gratitude and rejoicing.
    • It is fitting at this point in our Advent journey to pause and review our own personal response in each of these areas of Advent invitation and to seek healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.

And so we pray:

Almighty and merciful God,
You have brought us together in the name of your Son,
to receive your mercy and grace in our time of need,
Promising us Your peace, the peace that rises from Your justice.

Open our eyes to see our failings in responding to Your Call and to recognize the systems of evil
that we participate in.  Touch our minds and hearts and convert us to yourself.
Where sin and blindness have divided and scattered us, may Your love make us one again;
where sin and blindness have brought weakness, distraction and loss of courage and resolve,
may Your power heal us, strengthen us, and refocus us; where sin has brought death,
may your Spirit raise us to new life.

Give us minds and hearts to love you and to discern what is truly of value,
so that our lives may engage with Your redeeming work in our world, contribute to the building of your Kin-dom of Peace, and reflect the image of your Son.
May the world see the glory of Christ revealed in us, your People, and come to know that He and we are the ones whom You have sent.

We ask this in the name and the Spirit of Jesus, the Christ, your Son, our Lord, now and forever. Amen.

[Please be seated]

Leader:       The first element of God’s Promise of Peace is the Truth that

  • Peace can only result from justice, from just leaders called forth and supported by witnesses to God’s justice, people who long for Your justice no matter the cost.
  • The Promise of Peace relies upon the prophetic promise from God to raise up a just leader from the Root of Jesse…. That leader is the Christ.
  • The Promise of Peace today relies on the hope of calling forth leaders in the Spirit of Christ committed to justice with peace for all and of raising up among us witnesses courageously calling for and supporting justice that brings peace.

And so, in solidarity with all men, women, and children all around the world, who long for peace, we prayerfully relight the 1st Advent candle of promise, a candle of hope that in the light of Christ a just leader will be given who will lead us, our communities, and the human family into the Way of Christ’s peace.

[1st Advent Wreath candle is lit]

1st Reading:           A Reading adapted from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah:

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.  In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot who will do what is right and just in the land.  In those days you will be safe and all shall dwell secure.  This is what they shall call you: “The Lord our justice.”

[Brief Pause]


Examination of Conscience:

[During the following questions for the examination of conscience,
pause after each question for a moment or two of silent reflection]

  1. Do we pray for our Church and our Country leadership that they may be wise, compassionate and committed to justice for all as they guide us into the future?
  2. Do we acknowledge and support those political leaders who choose for the common good?  Do we invite them to consider ways of greater justice in their decision-making?
  3. When we are the leaders in an area or of a project, do we listen to the insights and desires of those involved?  Do we share our power and express appreciation for those who assist us?  Do we let the task become more important than the participants?
  4. Do we remain open and receptive with an awareness of the common good?  Do we seek change in our usual life patterns when we learn that there is a more just choice?
  5. We are called to be leaders in justice: do we help one another to understand the justice issues in our communities and our world and to respond justly?
  6. Do we study and seek truth so that we can address the injustices of today and the heresies being used to legitimate them – heresies legitimating greed, consumerism, abuse of power, disregard for the planet or the common good?  Are we brave enough to let our voice be heard when speaking out or what we have to say is not popular?
  7. Do we support those among us who do speak out, march, organize, and work for greater justice?
  8. What grace of leadership or witness do we long to receive this Advent?

Sung Refrain:        O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, verse 5

Leader:       The second element of God’s Promise of Peace is the promise that God will bring back the people from the bondage of whatever “exiles” them.

  • The Promise of Peace in the world today must include the work of healing, of returning people from the trauma, loss and suffering that imprisons them still.

And so in solidarity with all men, women, and children all around the world, who long for peace but suffer from the violence and traumas that have afflicted them, we relight the 2nd Advent candle of promise, a candle of prayerful hope that God will bring back from their physical or psychological imprisonment all those among us and in the world who feel exiled.  Let it shine as a prayerful hope that God will end their marginalization, and reestablish their belonging in communities of justice and peace.

[2nd Advent Wreath candle is lit]

2nd Reading:        A Reading adapted from the Book of the Prophet Baruch and the letter of Paul to the Philippians.

Take off your robe of mourning and misery.
Put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God…. You will be named by God forever “The Peace of Justice, the glory of God’s worship.”

I am confident of this that the One who began this good work in you will continue to complete it….  My prayer is that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is truly of value.

[Brief Pause]

Examination of Conscience:

[During the following questions for the examination of conscience,
pause after each question for a moment or two of silent reflection]

  1. Do we participate and build up our local communities so that each member feels valued and welcomed?  Do we truly listen to one another?
  2. Do we readily acknowledge our faults and ask forgiveness of each other?  Do we forgive those who have hurt us?  Do we forgive ourselves?  Do we act to help reconcile those who are not reconciled?
  3. Do we pray for those who are ill among us, suffering physically or psychologically?
  4. Do we pray for the healing of trauma in our local community, [pause] in our Church, [pause] in our nation? For people in zones of war and violence, discrimination and poverty around the world?
  5. Do we pray for ourselves and others to be freed from whatever keeps us from wise discernment and generous love for all, even our enemies?
  6. What “good work begun in us” do we long for God to bring to completion in us?

Sung Refrain:       O Little Town of Bethlehem, by Phillips Brooks, verse 5

Leader:      The third element of God’s Promise of Peace is a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins, an invitation to redirect our lives to gratitude and rejoicing that flow from seeing that God is near, working to free and protect us all.

The Promise of Peace in the world today, as in the world of John the Baptist and Jesus, demands a metanoia, a change of mind and heart from focusing on the evil and the hurt and the dangers to ourselves to focusing on the presence and action of God among us, inviting gratitude, joy, hope, and kindness.

And so, in solidarity with all men, women, and children all around the world, who long for peace, we relight the 3rd Advent candle of promise, a candle of prayer that our love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is truly of value, a candle of hope for rejoicing in gratitude, more and more conscious that God is near.

[3rd Advent Wreath candle is lit]

3rd Reading:

Rejoice in the Lord always!  Again, I say, Rejoice!
Fear not, be not discouraged!  The Lord your God is in your midst.

Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[Brief Pause]

Examination of Conscience:

[During the following questions for the examination of conscience,
pause after each question for a moment or two of silent reflection]

  1. Do we spend time in prayer, relating to the God within and among us?
  2. Do we pray to be freed of our hurts, our anxieties, our angers and resentments? Do we pray to be able to focus on the positive signs of God’s presence and action all around us – and to let the gratitude and joy rise in our spirits?
  3. Have we alienated ourselves from the cosmos? Can we celebrate earth, all creatures, and other people as sacred signs of God’s presence?
  4. Are we gentle with others? Do we model true care and reconciliation?
  5. Do we honestly seek truth, make peace, and reverence life?
  6. What grace of metanoia do we long for this Advent?

Sung Refrain:       O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, verse 5

 

GENERAL CONFESSION                 Please stand.

Leader:        God who is infinitely merciful pardons all who are repentant and takes away our
guilt. Confident in God’s goodness and mercy, let us ask for forgiveness of all our sins and faults
with sincerity of heart.

All:    I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.
Therefore, I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Leader:        Our God, Loving Source of unrelenting mercy,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus, You have reconciled the world to
Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sin and the
nurturing of fuller, more graced Life.  And so, we pray for pardon and peace

All:     Amen.

[Take a few moments of quiet now: identify an action of renewal for yourself that you will commit to….]

Leader:         Let us offer each other a sign of peace. 

[Shared Greeting of Peace]

 CONCLUDING RITE

Leader:       And now as we prepare to go forth, wrapped in God’s mercy and sent to be mercy in our world, let’s pray for God’s blessing: 

Leader:       May the Loving Creator God bless us, God’s children,
born to eternal life.

All:                 Amen.

Leader:        May Christ the Son show us his saving power, for he showed us
the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he died and rose for us.

All:                 Amen.

Leader:       May the Spirit Who dwells in our hearts give us the gift of holiness
and lead us by the right paths now and forever.

All:                 Amen.

 

DISMISSAL

Leader:        Let’s pray our closing hymn in anticipation and hope for the coming of Christ in our hearts.

 All:                 Amen.  Thanks be to God.

CLOSING HYMN:                     O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Tr. By John M. Neal