December 6, 2020

Prepare the Way of the Lord
Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Worship
December 6, 2020


Welcome to this service in the name of the one who is Love. We are unified by our individual and collective experiences of God as Emmanuel—God with us. Love became incarnate in the form of the Christ child. May we continue this journey of Advent together, not only confident of God’s immeasurable love for us, but expectant that what is being birthed within us will become blessings to others.

Opening Hymn“Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” by Collin Rae

Call to Worship

This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The prophet Isaiah said, “I am sending my messenger who will prepare your way.”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie his sandals. I have baptized you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer for Peace – “God is With Us” by Amy Grant

Scripture reading: Isaiah 40: 1-5

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God…The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Comfort Ye, from Handel’s Messiah, by Nicholas Sharratt in a 2012 London, England performance. You may want to read the message below as you listen to this presentation.

Message by Elder Rick Lindgren

We usually associate this scripture from the 40th chapter of Isaiah with the Advent season because George Frideric Handel opened his famous 1741 oratorio Messiah with a tenor “recitative” of this passage. Messiah is often presented during the Advent season. The gospel of Mark opens with a reference to this passage, but it refers not to the birth of Jesus, but rather to John the Baptist’s ministry some thirty years later.

I wish I had a video version of this oratorio that was conducted by my Graceland University friend and colleague Jack Ergo, who directed the Community of Christ presentation in the Independence Auditorium for many years. Watching Jack energetically conduct the chorus and the orchestra in “full tux and tails” was itself a great evening’s entertainment.

Most scholars, however, place this scripture as originally referring to the preparation and anticipation of the Hebrew people in returning to Jerusalem from their almost 70-year-long exile in Babylon, over 500 years before the birth of Jesus. But like all great poetry, the original setting gets lost in the mists of time, while the words find new life and meaning in new situations and new translations, many years later and many times over. Prophecy is not so much “future telling,” rather much more “telling it like it is.” In our own religious tradition, we understand prophecy much more in this vein. It speaks to us in many times and places.

I tend to be an over-preparer when I travel. I have many spreadsheets on my computer containing flight arrangements, hotel reservations, confirmation numbers and itineraries from long-ago vacations and business travel. I often have a Rick Steves travel book for my destination well-marked in preparation and in anticipation of a new destination to explore.

Despite my best preparations, some of these itineraries are for trips never taken, including one journey to Scandinavia and Russia planned with our elder son and his wife for the summer of 2020. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” That quote is often attributed to John Lennon, but it was not original to him. Nevertheless, it is, at some point, true for all of us.

My favorite character in Luke’s Christmas story (Luke 2) is the innkeeper who sent Mary and Joseph out back to spend the night in the barn. I have long thought that this innkeeper got a bad rap. He doesn’t even get named in the story (verse 7). I am sure that he had other plans for that night as well, and had probably prepared well for his expected influx of guests, only to have this man and very pregnant young woman show up on his doorstep.

There is a great Yiddish word that applies well to that innkeeper. He would be called a schlimazel. You might be more familiar with a related word, schlemiel, which literally means a clumsy person who spills the soup on somebody else. The schlimazel, on the other hand, is the innocent person who gets spilled on by the schlemiel’s soup. Both words were part of the lyrics of the theme song for the old television series Laverne and Shirley but go back centuries.

The innkeeper is the schlimazel in the Christmas story, stuck in a very bad situation through no fault of his own. And think about it: How would that Christmas Story in Luke read if the innkeeper had realized who was standing in front of him, and ushered the couple up to the Presidential Suite?

This year, we are all schlimazels, with a big pot of coronavirus soup poured all over us. And like the innkeeper, we have all been scrambling just to find our way to deal with our unplanned “guest.”

And yet, the Advent of Jesus is here on our doorstep one more time. We can tell the familiar story once again, adapted to our own language and time, with both new songs as well as the old favorites. I wrote a song long ago for an Advent presentation, and the last verse went like this:

Light a candle for the Savior of the world:
Jesus comes when we believe.
Light a candle and He lives in us again;
Light your candle and receive.


The North Ft. Myers congregation has invited us to join them in their Zoom communion service. You should have your own emblems ready to participate if you wish. Click here for information on how to join this service.

Disciples Generous Response

During the Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart. 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.

Sending Forth – Doctrine and Covenants 157:11-12

Hear, O my people of the church, I am Jesus Christ of whom you have sung and testified and in whose name you pray. I am the spirit of love and peace which is in the world and yet not known by the world. I have heard your prayers which have been raised to me without ceasing, and I have sent my healing ministry as a dove to be in your midst. Therefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice in the promises which have been given for your assurance.

Closing songGaudete by Sherry Lindgren

Gaudete is a chant from Piae Cantiones, a Latin hymnal published in Finland in 1582, resurrected by the British folk group Steeleye Span in the early 1970s. Sherry recorded this version with English verses back 2005. The Latin refrain is translated as:

Gaudete, gaudete! – Rejoice, rejoice!
Christus est natus – Christ is born
Ex Maria virgine – Gaudete! – From the Virgin Mary – Rejoice!

This service was prepared by Rick and Sherry Lindgren.