A Service for Home and Hearth-Second Sunday of Advent

Advent Candles Hope

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Christ Be Our Light

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.

Longing for hope, many despair.

Your word alone has power to save us,

Make us your living voice.

Refrain

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in your church gathered today.

Advent Gospel Reading               

L:  The light shines in the darkness,

C:  but the darkness has not overcome it.

L:  During Advent our weary souls seek God’s daily strength.

C:  The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

L:  We grow weary when fear overshadows faith.

C:  The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

L:  We grow weary when destructive actions erupt in the world around us.

C:  The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

L:  For all of us feeling weary this Advent season:

C:  Grant that we might have the peace of Christ as we wait, the love of Christ as we act, and the grace of Christ as we speak.

Today we light two candles.  The first candle illuminates patience in the areas of our lives where God has called us to wait.  The second candle extends the promise of strength to all who feel weary and weak in the shadows of this world.  As we continue our Advent journey, may our hope be kindled as the light grows brighter.

Advent Prayer-God of mercy and compassion, scripture says that if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us.  In a shadowy world where human weakness and weariness reside, we ask for you to draw near and dispel the darkness around us.  May the light of this season illuminate our hope, strength, and steadfast endurance as we await the coming Savior.  We pray this in the name of Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Hymn: O Come, o Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

 

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, thou dayspring come and cheer

Thy people with thine Advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadow put to flight

 

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel

 

O come thou rod of Jesse free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of hell thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

 

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Morning Prayer:  Holy God, We long for your peace, and trust in your promise; We hear your call to turn toward you, to change our lives and welcome you in.  Meet us here and fill our minds with your wisdom and our hearts with your peace, That our worship time together may open us to your leading and to your dream of wholeness for all people.  On this day when we gather to keep warm by staying indoors to stay safe; we ask you make your presence known to each of us in our unique places. We ask you reach across the frozen miles that separate us from our churches and from the ones we love and we ask you to make us one. We ask you to make us one in spirit and one in love. This morning, let us truly worship as the body of Christ united by your Holy Spirit. In the name of the one who is coming, we pray. Amen.

The Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-11Comfort

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A  voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.   Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

New Testament Reading: Luke 3: 1-6

Jordan DesertIn the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

   make his paths straight.

 Every valley shall be filled,

   and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

   and the rough ways made smooth;

 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

Anthem: Comfort My People

Message                                                                                                                                        “Ongoing and In-Progress”

It’s cold outside, and none of us can be together this morning.  We all know in a few weeks we’ll have an early spring day and some trees will start to bloom.  Trees cannot tell time, they grow by the weather.  So on a warm day they bud thinking its spring.  Then in a few hours, winter returns and temperatures drop 30 to 40 degrees.

Trees and plants are not the only things that can become confused this time of year.  By November we are ready to move quickly into the Christmas season, not understanding why we go through this act of amnesia-Advent.  It seems we’re half-pretending, waiting for Jesus’ birth, when we know he’s been born.

We don’t do so with our birthdays.  I am 54 years old.  I have evidence I was born to Walter and Ruth Floyd in Florence Nightingale Hospital at Baylor in Dallas, 1959.  I don’t see any merit in pretending I haven’t been born yet.  I enjoy celebrating my birthday.  Why not do the same with Jesus?  He’s got to be about 2017 or 2018 years old, give or take a year.  (It sounds funny, but the truth is he was born about 4 or 5 years before BC.)  The real issue is not whether we pretend he’s going to be born.  The real issue is whether he is going to do what a messiah is supposed to do, set the world straight?Frozen FUMC

There are not many things in my life straight, except my golf bag.  The putter is next to the lob wedge and my back-up putter is near the driver.  If only I could get my life organized like my golf bag.  I wish I could get my feelings sorted, so they don’t cause me to say stupid things.  I wish I could set forgiveness on autopilot, so to bypass the pain.  I wish I could get the church figured out, so everyone trusts everyone else.  Instead, we have to live with ourselves and accept we are not what we wish; and God is not finished with the world or us.  We know intuitively and visibly all is not well.  We know the promises of the one who came have not been fulfilled.  Not every valley has been exalted and every mountain made low.  We see crookedness and rough places to be made straight and smooth.

Luke starts with John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.  He quotes Isaiah, using lay of the land images to remind us political or ecclesiastical powers will not make things well.  Luke says it began when; Tiberias was in his 15th year as emperor of Rome.  Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod Antipas was in charge in Galilee along with Philip his brother and Lysanias in Palestine.  He then mentions the religious bigwigs: Annas and Caiaphas, who ruled the priests.  It is against this backdrop, Jesus and John spoke of repentance and offered the hope of peace.  This is a formidable bunch that has armies and law on their side.  They could bring about peace and goodwill to all.  But, politics are filled with imperfect people trying to do right thing, but sometimes end up protecting their power in the end.

John the BaptistThe Messiah would not come in power, arm wrestling people into saying uncle.  Instead, the word of the Lord came to John in the wilderness; a man, who most thought was a nut, eating locusts and honey, wearing camel hair shirts in the middle of a desert, ranting of repentance.  John is nobody, in contrast to others Luke mentions.  But he bellows like a cranky homeless person shouting at passer-bys, “Be ready for the coming of the Lord”.  God chooses someone of no apparent power to announce a change is coming in the world.  What would have been our best idea if we were members of the Redemption of the World Committee discussing with God how to save the world?

God has always changed the world-slowly, painfully, but surely.  The Savior we await will level inequities, rectify injustices, straighten perversities, and polish the roughshod.  But it doesn’t happen with shock and awe or swiftly and dramatically.  It’s not obvious; it’s slow and sure, deliberate and messy, clumsy and ambiguous.  That is the way it has to be if you start with a baby and a hick couple from the Galilee with no credentials but the truth of God.  God’s ways are not our ways.  We will not see God’s saving ways unless we read the Christmas story as ongoing and in-progress.

The text says all flesh will see salvation.  It paints an image of a king coming to town, and the people making a road to welcome the king, and making it possible for everyone to see as he arrived.  When John says see, it doesn’t just mean to catch an optical glimpse.  It means to be caught up in God’s saving ways by making rough places smooth and crooked places straight.  We prepare for Christ coming by making a road for all to see.

Sometimes our titles, status, wealth, and influence cause us to think roadwork is beneath us.  This why we may need to repent of our illusion that God is done because we have earned a good seat at salvation’s table.  God is not done until all can see the salvation of our God.  So we my have to assume a lower position to see God’s ways.  This is why the text invites us to go to the crooked, dry, and low places where there are no comforts of home.  In those places, it doesn’t matter who you know or what title you hold.  There, we are all creatures of the creator in need of God’s saving grace.  When we go to the crooked, dry, and low places, God pulls back the curtain for us to see God’s at work offering new life that is ongoing and in-progress.Hand up

God is standing the world on its head.  So we may have to look where we’re not accustomed to looking. When we do we will not only see the world being changed, but we too will be changed.  Salvation comes from on high, God not us; but it arrives on earth.  Go to God’s people who long for their physical stomachs to be filled and their spiritual hopes fulfilled and see the saving work of our God.  Employ yourself in one of God’s road projects, helping others see more clearly the coming of the one whose work is ongoing and in-progress.

Closing Prayer

Lord, we are grateful for all the blessings we have, even on this day when we cannot move about to places of worship.  Keep us mindful of those who are without warmth and food.  Let us be in service with these who have less; paving the way to the Kingdom of God.  Let us not grow weary until all are comforted, In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Go Tell it on the Mountain

Refrain

Go, tell it on the mountain

Over the hills and everywhere

Go, tell it on the mountain

That Jesus Christ is born

 

While shepherds kept their watching

Over silent flocks by night

Behold throughout the heavens

There shone a holy light

 

The shepherds feared and trembled

When lo! above the earth

Rang out the angels chorus

That hailed the Savior’s birth

 

Down in a lowly manger

The humble Christ was born

And God sent us salvation

That blessèd Christmas morn

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Published in: on December 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for making this morning as special as was planned. You helped keep the Spirit moving through the season and me.


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