Listening for the Promise

Third Sunday in Advent - December 17, 2017

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)


Everyone wants to know what is God’s will for their lives, right? Does God want me to become a teacher, or an architect, a housekeeper, or an engineer? So often we are concerned with the details of the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” that we miss the big picture. There are so many vocations that God would be glad to have us work in and not one is better than another! The truth of the matter lies deeper, but at the same time simpler, than what courses to enroll in at the Community College or University.


Martin Luther once wrote in his commentary on the letters of Peter, “We exist for no other reason than to be of service to our neighbor.” (Author’s paraphrase.) St. Paul taught his friends in the faith about the will of God in their lives and he never mentioned anything about being a nurse, rancher, gas station attendant, or utility worker. Following the will of God has to do with serving our neighbors in love and humility, looking out for the needs of those in trouble, comforting those who are grieving, feeding, tending, and sharing the Good News of Christ. All of that can happen in any job we happen to be assigned to, if we pay attention to who we are truly serving. When we serve our neighbors, we are serving Christ.


Paul went on to give some advice on how that happens. We are to respect one another, esteem each other, love each other so that we live together in peace. We are to admonish the idle, encourage the troubled, lift up the weak, and show patience. We are to avoid revenge but rather seek to do good for others. And above all, we are to rejoice always, pray without stopping, give thanks in every situation no matter what we or who we encounter. THIS, he said, “Is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


If we truly want to know what God’s will is for us in our lives, then we will remember that it has little or nothing to do with us: and everything to do with those we are called to love and serve.


Service Supplement

(Congregational responses are in bold print)


Prelude                                                            Mark Hurley, Organist


Call to Worship                                               ELW # 248, vs. 3

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim, one more light the bowl shall brim, shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as sun and moon together. People look east, and sing today Love, the Star, is on the way.


A prayer during the lighting of the third candle of the Advent wreath - the Shepherd’s Candle:  Lord of light, as we light the Shepherd’s Candle on the Advent wreath, help us to hear your call to come and worship the Messiah. As you led a group of shepherds to the manger of Christ, so lead us to a deeper obedience to Him who was born to save us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Welcome and Announcements                       Pastor John


*Gathering Song                                             ELW # 264


*Confession & Forgiveness    (Pastor)                      

Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, humbly asking him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.


Our help is in the Name of the Lord. Who made heaven and earth.


I will confess my transgressions to the Lord. And you forgive the iniquity of my sin.


Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess to you that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against you by thought, word, and deed. Therefore we flee for refuge to your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring your grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Let us pray…O most merciful God, who gave his only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy on us, and for his sake grant us remission of all our sins; and by the Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of him and of his will, and true obedience to his Word, that by his grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us, and has given his only Son to die for us, and for his sake forgives us all our sins. To them that believe in his Name, he gives power to become a child of God, and bestows upon them his Holy Spirit. He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved. Grant this, O Lord, unto us all. Amen.


*Greeting                    (Pastor)                       ELW pg. 156

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.


*Kyrie             (Worship Assistant)                 ELW pg. 156-157

In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy. For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy. For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy. For this holy house, and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy. Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord. Amen.


*Prayer of the Day                  (Pastor)

Let us pray…Lord Jesus Christ, give ear to our prayers, and lighten the darkness of our hearts by your gracious visitation; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.



Anthem Hymn            11AM Adult Choir     ELW # 267


First Reading:  (Worship Assistant)                Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

This passage spoken by Isaiah was the very words Jesus spoke in Luke 4:18 when he stood before his people and proclaimed the coming kingdom. Sent to the brokenhearted and captive, both Isaiah and Jesus were given God’s commission to free people and remind them of God’s covenantal love and mercy.


1The 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; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to 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. 4They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.


8For 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. 9Their 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. 10I 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. 11For 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. The word of the Lord, thanks be to God.


Psalm: Psalm # 126                (Worship Assistant)

The hearts of those who recognize the generous hand of God in their midst sing for joy, as did the heart of the psalmist who proclaimed that the Lord had done great things for his people and made their hearts glad. His goodness was a like a dream come true for his people, who struggled in pain but were then filled with joy.


When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.

Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.


Second Reading:  (Worship Assistant)           1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Saint Paul proclaimed to the Christians in Thessalonica that God’s will for them in Christ was that they would give thanks in everything, rejoice always, and pray unceasingly. Though hard to do, Paul reminded them that God is always working in their lives and they ought to take care not the quench the Holy Spirit among them.


16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil. 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Word of God, word of life, thanks be to God.


*Gospel Acclamation (sung)                          ELW pg. 160

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. 


*Holy Gospel: (Pastor) The Holy Gospel according to St. John, the 1st Chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.  John 1:6-8, 19-28: John proclaimed the arrival of John the Baptist, who was not the light, but the one who was sent to bear witness to the Light. The goal of his witness was that all would come to believe in the Messiah of Israel through him. The Light, Jesus, was coming into the world, and it was John the Baptist’s call to prepare people to receive him.


6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.


19And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The gospel of the Lord, praise to you, O Christ.


Sermon                                                            Pastor John


*Hymn of the Day                                          ELW # 715


*Nicene Creed                                               

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.


We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


*Prayers of Intercession          (Worship Assistant & Pastor)

(P): Walking in the light of the coming Savior, let us pray for the church, the world, and all who await God’s justice. A brief silence.

(W): God of light and life, by the power of your Spirit and the light of your Word, enable us to continue our Advent waiting in faithfulness as we prepare to receive the one who is the Light of the World. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.  

(W): Holy Lord, in these early days of winter the creation groans with change. Some places in your world will begin to experience snow and bitter cold. Fields will lay fallow, trees and plants will no longer blossom or bear fruit.  In other places, more moderate weather allows for growth and food production. Bring to each region the moisture, sunshine, and time of regeneration that is needed. Allow your people to experience that same rest and regeneration so that we would have strength for each new day. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.  

(W): Holy Spirit, giver of faith, empower us to bear witness to your light and life in the wilderness places of your world; in war-torn countries, dilapidated neighborhoods, poverty-stricken lives, and in the empty and searching hearts that we encounter daily. Fill with your love and hope, those who are struggling with addiction and despair. Help us to be bearers of your Good News to all who need to hear a word of love. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.  

(W): God of strength, stir in us and make us aware of the needs of the whole human family. Help us to bring words of understanding, comfort, and hope to those who are unemployed, ill in body, mind, or spirit, or grieving. Keep us mindful that while most of us experience this as a time of joyful expectation, for many it is a difficult time of the year. Bring light to those who are in darkness so that the coming Christ would lift their hearts in joy. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.  

            (P): Into your hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray; trusting in your steadfast love and faithfulness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


*Peace:            (Pastor)                                   ELW pg. 161

The peace of Christ be with you always. And also with you.



Offering                                                          ELW pg. 161


Offering Anthem                                            Organist or Adult Choir


*Assembly Song         (Come, Thou…)          ELW # 254 vs. 1

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art, dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.


*Offering Prayer:        (Worship Assistant)     ELW pg. 107

Let us pray…God of all creation, all you have made is good, and your love endures forever. You bring forth bread from the earth and fruit from the vine. Nourish us with these gifts, that we might be for the world signs of your gracious presence in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


*The Great Thanksgiving: (sung)(Pastor)      ELW pg. 161

The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.


*Preface                                                          Pastor John


*Response to Preface: (sung)                          ELW pg. 162

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.


*Words of Institution:             (Pastor)           ELW pg. 108, #II

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.


Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.


*The Lord’s Prayer:                                        ELW pg. 163

Our 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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


Communion (distribution & song): (sung)     ELW pg. 164

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant us peace. Amen.


Communion Hymn                                         ELW # 471


*Table Blessing          (Pastor)

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in his grace. Amen.


*Post Communion Canticle    (sung)             ELW # 254 vs. 2

Born thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a king; born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all-sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne.


*Prayer after Communion       (WA)               ELW pg. 114

Let us pray…O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Spirit and strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



*Blessing                     (Pastor)                       ELW pg. 115

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.


*Dismissal       (Worship Assistant)                 ELW pg. 115

Go in peace. Christ is with you. Thanks be to God.


*Sending Song                                                ELW # 545


Postlude                                                          Mark Hurley, Organist


Flowers are given in celebration of Paige Duvall’s 25th Birthday by her Family.


For gals who are desiring to read & learn God’s word together… “Journey Sisters” bible study has resumed. We are meeting on 1st & 3rd Thursdays of every month…See you there!


“Meet, Greet & Eat”  Fellowship * Sundays 9:30 -10:45 am * a time to gather, get acquainted, talk about church events & have a bite too!…open to everyone!... your food & beverage donations support this weekly mission, thank you for your generosity… for volunteer training & commitment schedules or donation coordination, please contact Irene (443-465-9087)..Peace!


Hurricane Harvey and Irma: We are continuing to collect items for Disaster Relief. Please see both lists posted in the Narthex! Thank you for your continued support of our disaster relief!


FROM OUR ORGANIST: The keyboard is back but still under repair. We are in need of donations to meet our additional service calls and adjustments from the repairs. Please give! A special envelope is in the Narthex. Thank you for your donations to our music ministry!


WNALC Group is collecting old, unwanted and broken cellphones. Every cellphone that we turn in to be recycled will send 2 calling cards to active service men and women in the field. There is a basket in the Narthex for your donations. Thank you for your support!


Birthday Dinner will be held at Jad’s Caddy Shack on Back River Neck Road on Thursday, December 21st at 6:30pm. If you plan to attend in December, please contact Pam Keller at 410-335-7226 by Wednesday, 12/20. Come join the fun! Get to know fellow parishioners on a different level! It does not have to be your birthday to attend.


Hershey Bears Annual Hockey Game has been scheduled for Saturday, February 3rd at 7pm. The Bears will play the Charlotte Checkers. It is Faith & Family night and our tickets are in section 110 (yes, we are back to the lower level). The tickets are $20.50 per person and the first 5,000 in attendance will receive a free Bears baseball cap. Please contact Joe Hauer at to reserve your tickets or for additional information.


Raffle Tickets on sale now for a Luther’s Rose blanket and The Case for Christianity book. Both items are on display in the Fellowship hall. The raffle will be drawn at the Christmas Eve fellowship between the 8:30pm and 11pm services. Tickets are available between services in the fellowship hall. Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.


Christmas gifts for Hurricane Harvey and Irma victims. This year we are collecting gifts for the victims of the hurricanes that hit our south. Please pick up a star from the tree. There is no spending minimum or maximum. All gifts will go to the families of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma through our Disaster Relief Center. For more details, please see Maria Dobry.


Christmas Eve Service Schedule

Morning Traditional services will be held at 8:30am and 11am. Children’s Christmas Eve service will be held at 6:30pm. Christmas Eve Candlelight services will be held at 8:30pm and 11pm. All services will have fellowship in between. All are welcome to attend!


Annual Poinsettias Sale! Today is the LAST day to order!! Please help us decorate our Church Altar for Christmas by ordering one or more beautiful poinsettias. The cost this year is $7 per plant and you have a choice of red, pink, or white in color. Envelopes are available in the Narthex! Help spread some Christmas spirit! Thank you for your continued support.


Shut-in Baskets are available in the Narthex for pickup for distribution. Thank you for your continued support!


Donations for Christmas Food Baskets are being collected now for distribution on December 20th. We are in need of 20 food baskets and hams for our community members in need. Please consider filling a basket!! For more information, please see Maria Dobry.


Christmas Decorating will be held today at 4:30pm. The Youth Group will be here to lead in decorating our church for Christmas. Please join them for this holiday celebration and stay for Contemporary Service on Sunday evening at 7pm.


Sunday School/Confirmation Class: On Sundays, December 24th and 31st, we will NOT be having Sunday School or Confirmation classes. The Streets of Hope men will be housed at St. Matthew from 12/23 - 1/7, and using some of the classrooms for their personal belongings and for sleeping. Also, if the temperature is too cold, they remain at the church instead of leaving from 7am - 6pm. Our students and families are encouraged to come to morning worship on both Sundays at 8:30 or 11 am., and one of the Christmas Eve worship services (6:30, 8:30, or 11pm). 


Christmas Eve fellowship between the Children’s Service and the 8:30pm Candlelight Service: The Parish Education Committee & Youth Group are sponsoring the fellowship refreshments between the 6:30 and 8:30 pm. services. Please bring a favorite side dish/appetizer, snack, or dessert (Parish Ed & Youth chairpersons will provide the beverages). 


Clothing Drive to benefit the Youth Group will be held from today until Sunday, February 11th. Proceeds from the clothing drive will go toward the ski trip. Please bring in all your gently used clothing, linens, towels and small housewares for donations! Please see Vicki Borreson for the full list of items eliglible for donation. Thank you for your continued support of our Youth Group!


Hoagie Sale begins in January! Please watch for order forms and details for this year’s Hoagie Sale!


Souper Bowl of Caring: The youth will host this yearly event to collect funds and non-perishable food items for the church's food pantry. More will be in January bulletins. Final collection is Sunday, February 4th.