December 27, 2020

Guided by the spirit
Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Service
First Sunday after Christmas
December 27, 2020

Greetings on this first Sunday after Christ is born!

Call to worship

Praise God from heaven and the mountain tops,
Praise him sun, moon and morning stars.
He set them in place from all time to eternity
Praise from all who love God! Allelujah! Psalm 148 adapted

Prayer of Praise

God beyond all praising
you are mystery beyond understanding.
God beyond all praising
you are love beyond imagination.
God beyond all praising
we pray and sing our gratitude for your gift of Jesus, who came to show us the way.
In praise and gratitude we pray, Amen.

Sharing a Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures
Isaiah 61:11-62:3 NRSV

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest…” Opinions differ on the speaker of this passage. Is it the voice of the prophet, the Messiah, or God? Whichever way you read it. the message is clear: I will not give up on the hope of Zion..

Reading this passage on the first Sunday after Christmas day reminds us of God’s ultimate act of reconciliation through the Incarnation. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s desire for reconciliation with humankind. More than that, God seeks to revitalize us and bring about new life within us. But reconciliation can be a difficult journey that requires rebuilding and repairing what was destroyed. The work of rebuilding and reparation is the desire for Shalom—peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness—in our relationships and our society.

As we celebrate the Christmas season, may we strive to bring about God’s redemptive work of Shalom by healing divisions and offering hope of new life to those who long for reconciliation

The First Noel – Claire Crosby and Family

Prayer for Peace

God of love, of peace, and of justice:

We live in a violent world, Lord. Wars between nations and tribes exist all over the world and it must trouble you deeply. We pray for a cessation of hostilities, that differences might be settled through negotiations, through getting to know and empathizing with “the other”—who we all too often demonize.

We have treated as less-than human beings of other religions, other races, other ethnic groups, other gender identification, other tribes. Women are still treated as property in much of the world, and far too often, still, in this country.

We are inspired by the model of Jesus, who saw all people as persons of worth, and by Joseph Smith, who echoed this message.

May we remember—from the teachings of Jesus, and of Gandhi, and of Dr. King, and of Nelson Mandela—that returning hatred for hatred, violence for violence, only escalates the existence of hatred and violence in the world. Let us respond to hate with love, to violence with non-violence. Help us work to create the peaceable kingdom, Lord.

We ask this in the name of the humble carpenter from Nazareth, whose life and courageous facing of death helped us see what kind of people you would have us be. Amen.

Disciples’ Generous Response

Fresh in our memories is the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the generosity of God to gift the world with God’s son. Our Enduring Principle of Grace and Generosity is spoken to in Doctrine and Covenants 163:9:

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraints.

Offertory Prayer: God of Love and Light, In this season of hope, love, and joy, may the peace of your son Jesus be made real in the world. May our hearts, minds, hands, and resources be useful in the cause of bringing your light where there is darkness and your love where there is despair, anger, fear, and suffering. May our offerings be used toward your purposes we pray. Amen.

Little Drummer Boy by For King and Country

Jesus Presented in the TempleLuke 2:22-40

When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived. When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are releasing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary,

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

This particular lesson preaches itself. The importance of these two elderly sages was in their recognition and prophetic declaration of whom Jesus was and that he had been sent for the world’s salvation. This confirmed what Mary had been told previously by the angel Gabriel and by her relative Elizabeth. This was a validating experience for both Mary and Joseph.

Anna and Simeon were just ordinary people who listened to the Holy Spirit and responded. They went to the Temple and encountered Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus through the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus was going to do important things for God.

The last verse records the family’s return to their home in Nazareth, where Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” This description of Jesus’ obedience and devotion is significant as we do not have other information about Jesus’ upbringing until his visit to Jerusalem at age twelve.

We can learn important lessons from today’s text. Simeon and Anna were not authority figures. Like Joseph and Mary—and therefore Jesus—they were ordinary people. Yet God, through the Spirit, graced them with the insight, devotion, and faith to be instruments of blessing at this formative time in the life of Jesus and his parents.

It invites us to find expressive rituals for celebrating the presence of God in the ordinary people and experiences of life. We may not do this in the same ways as did our forebears. But it is just as important for our spiritual well-being and our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we will keep our lives focused on the One who was sent to redeem the world. Listen and hear the Spirit.

Ode To Joy To The World – The Piano Guys

Sending Forth

Go, guided by the Spirit into an awareness of Holy Presence all around you. Go in peace.

This service was prepared by Nanette Dizney.