Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Service
Fourth Sunday of Advent – Joy
December 20, 2020
Welcome in the name of the one who is Joy. We find joy in the anticipation of the Christ Child as well as the transformation that is being born within us. May the fruits of this journey be an endless blessing. Welcome!
“And in those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For I am he who was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.”
“What A Wonderful Beginning” by Kathy Mattea
Call to Worship
My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest. Could the world be about to turn?
Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.
My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin, espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favored of the Lord. The Lord is with thee, for thou art chosen and blessed among women. And when she saw the angel, she was troubled at his saying and pondered in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel; How can this be? And the angel answered and said unto her, Of the Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest. Therefore also, that holy child that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Song of Anticipation: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by Enya
Message: “The World is About to Turn” by Elder Jim Deering
On this fourth Sunday of Advent we are making preparation to experience the “Joy” of the birth of a child. I am sure that anyone who has been blessed with the birth of a child also knows that the world did indeed TURN.
The story of the birth of Jesus as told to us in the book of Luke, is the perfect model for birth stories throughout history. Above all it shows us that God is always full of surprises. He chooses an unmarried girl from a small village in the Middle East to be the baby’s mother. He chooses a man from the line of King David to raise Him. He chooses a time when “word of mouth” is the preferred method of communication.
The Bible teaches us that in the Creation story He gave us a perfect world, and we messed it up. Through Noah He gave us a second chance, and we eventually messed that up too. But with the birth of His son, we were given a gift that was and is PERFECT. As we anticipate the celebration of His birth, let us remember what it means.
A few years ago, when we were still blessed with a congregational newsletter, I was asked to contribute to the Christmas edition. This is a part of what I wrote:
“In this age, when none of us seems able to WAIT for anything. Christmas can still surprise us. In a time of microwave popcorn, 5G, timed defrosting, and instant messaging, it is amazing that we can still be surprised by the unexpected.
When I was very small I remember moving my little chair very close to the Christmas tree. I could sit there in the front room where NO one ever sat, and stare for the longest time into the tree at all that glittered. In those days we still used tinsel. It seemed to be an actual place I could go and imagine all that was to come. The anticipation seemed to be made bearable by all of the lights and their reflections in the “land of the tree”. In fact, I think in many ways I wanted Christmas to never really come, because then all this beautiful wonder would have to be put away for another year.”
Now as I look back on what I wrote, I realize that if we wish, we never have to put away the wonder of Christmas. Instead we can carry it with us every day of every year. As we anticipate the end of 2020, we can choose to be a part of the turning of this world into an even better place.
For those who have ever welcomed a new child into the world, you know it changes EVERYTHING. On an infinitely larger scale, the humble birth of the Christ child did the same thing some 2000+ years ago. God chose circumstances that would challenge expectations and norms. He made broad sweeping statements about the very nature of his love through this humble event.
In this season filled with so much anticipation, and so much hope, let us share the life God wants for us with everyone we meet. Let us remember what it felt like to wonder and ache for the possibilities in life. Let us celebrate a love like no other, sent to us in the form of the child Jesus!
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkein
Meditation Moment: O come, O come, Emmanuel by the Piano Guys
Disciples’ Generous Response
What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him: give my heart.
During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart. Consider what joys you have experienced in your life that you could share with others. As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings.
Prayer for Peace
Giver of True Joy,
We come with gratitude in our hearts for your generosity. As we have journeyed through this Advent season, we are keenly aware of your presence. You have steadied our feet along sure paths and assured us of the joy that is lived through you. Many in our world do not know this joy. Their world is darkened by the circumstances of their days.
Remind us to shine the light of your love and compassion. Empower us to share our stories so that others may begin to see the sun’s rays shining through their dense forests. Ignite their souls with the knowledge of your light within them so that their hearts may be filled with joy. We pray in the name of your greatest light, Jesus. Amen.
“The Star” by Kathy Mattea
May our Father in Heaven watch over you tenderly as this Holy Season continues.
May He enfold you in His wonderful arms of LOVE, and fill you with the PEACE of the presence of His angels and their songs of JOY.
May you bask in the LIGHT of His shining star, and be blessed with His promised HOPE of eternal life. Amen
This service was prepared by Carolyn and Jim Deering.