1st Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Call to Worship

Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Christ is coming!
We place our hope in the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the infant lowly.
Can you see it? Can you smell it? Christ is coming!
We place our hope in a Middle-Eastern child born in poverty.
Can you taste it? Can you sense it? Christ is coming!
We place our hope in an infant born in the margins of society.
Come, friends, the season of Advent begins.
We gather to worship Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

Prayer of the Day

To you, O Lord, do we lift up our souls; Ps. 25
our weary, weathered souls.
This year has seen such violence and such division.
We wonder if justice and righteousness still have a home. Jer. 33:15
But then comes the season of Advent and, with it,
the promise that you will make your home in our arms.
And where you are, there will be justice and righteousness.
May we welcome you with open arms and open hearts. Amen.

Call to Confession

Friends, the season of Advent is a time of preparation -
preparing to welcome Emmanuel to our midst.
Part of that preparation is the honest practice
of confessing our sins before God and one another.
Together, let us confess our need for forgiveness.


Loving and Merciful God,
today we light the candle of hope,
a beacon of light that shines in the darkness.
Today, we confess the ways we have caused others to feel hopeless.
Some feel the hopelessness of hunger because of our greed.
Others feel the hopelessness of violence because of our apathy.
Still others feel the hopelessness of racism because of our ignorance.
Forgive us, gracious God.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
Ps. 25
for they have been from of old.
This we pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Friends, all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and righteousness.
I declare to you, in the name of Jesus, that our sins are forgiven.
Alleluia! Amen.

Prayer for Illumination

Blessed Spirit,
come to this place
and make us increase and abound in love for one another 1 Thess. 3:12
by the reading of your word. Amen.

Prayers of the People

Let us pray to God, saying:
God of Hope, draw near to us.

In this holiday season,
we pray this day for our Jewish friends and family
as they begin the celebration of Hanukah.
In the midst of a year that has seen an alarming rise in anti-semitic violence,
we pray that they may worship in peace
and that they and those they love might be held in God’s care.
God of Hope, draw near to us.

In this season of merriment and mirth,
we remember those for whom this time of year is difficult:
for those who have lost loved ones in the last year,
for those who are undergoing serious medical issues,
for those who suffer from seasonal depression,
for those who cannot be with their families,
for military personnel serving overseas,
and for all others who struggle during the holidays.
God of Hope, draw near to us.

In this season of hope,
we ask that you would reinvigorate us
and redirect us to the hope that we find in you, Gracious God.
Lead us not into despair, but lead us beside still waters
that we might invite others to the peace that passes all understanding.
God of Hope, draw near to us.

Healing God,
we pray this day for those among us who are in need of hope
that we name before you in silence…
God of Hope, draw near to us.

Merciful God,
hear us as we pray to you as your child taught us to pray, saying: Our Father…

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving

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.

God of our salvation,
we do not deserve your love and yet you lavish it upon us.
Not being content to be apart from us,
you came to us in human form,
donning flesh and becoming one of us.
You are not a God that is removed from our reality
but is intimately present in our lives and our struggles.
We lift up to you our thanks for your presence among us.
We give thanks for your son, Jesus Christ,
the very incarnation of your being on this earth.

With all of creation, with all peoples in every time and place
we join the ever lasting chorus:

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.  Hosanna in the highest.

We remember how you called your servant Mary to bear your son,
how you called your servant Joseph to accompany her,
how you called the wise men to search and the shepherds to ponder,
how you called John to proclaim and Jesus to be baptized,
how you called Peter and the disciples to follow and serve.

With them, we gather on the night on which Jesus was betrayed,
when, after having dinner with his friends, he took the bread,
blessed it and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying,
take, eat, do this in remembrance of me.

Likewise, he took the cup and, pouring it, said,
this is cup of the salvation, shed in my blood, for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in remembrance of me.

For as long as we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim the resurrection of our living savior until he comes again.

As we wait, during this blessed rest known as the season of Advent,
we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

We give thanks for your gifts of grace,
and ask that your Holy Spirit would come to bless this sacrament,
that you might draw near to us.

Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,
all glory and honor are yours, Holy God,
both now and always.  Amen.

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Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.