November 22, 2020

See Christ Among Us
Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation
November 22, 2020

Invitation to Worship

And so now; “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.” – Psalm 95:1-3

Opening Hymn: “We Gather Together” by Grace Community Church


Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, our loving Creator, Creator of all that ever was, is and ever will be. There is no one name that can capture your greatness nor can there ever be.

We your precious children have come to you on bended knee this day to worship you in Thanksgiving for your love, compassion and saving grace this week of Thanksgiving.

Lord, I would invite you to come into our presence, but you are already here, for you are wherever we find ourselves. You surround us and you are within us; there is no escape.

And so I pray, loving Lord, that you will grant us the ability to put aside our worldly concerns, as important as they are, so that we may receive a greater awareness of your presence, that through our awareness, your divine will for us well be more fully manifested. Please, Lord, bless us that we might bring blessings into the world you have so wonderfully created. In the name of Jesus, the Christ, I pray; Amen.

Prayer for peace

When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, thankfulness overflows. Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty, and his promise to be near us when we call (Psalm 145:18). Thank you, Lord, for your peace that transcends understanding and your love that endures forever. Amen!

Hymn: “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Michelle Swift

Morning message by Evangelist Al Mount

Our theme for this morning is “SEE CHRIST AMONG US.” This being Thanksgiving Week when we intentionally offer up our thanks to God with family and friends for the blessings he has given us, my mind has been drawn to the word “gratitude.”

I remember one Thanksgiving Eve years ago when Linda and I were at the food store when a woman in front us at the cashier didn’t have enough money to pay for her food. She paid for what she could and left all embarrassed. I grabbed up the remaining food and told the cashier Linda and I would pay for it and ran out of the store and caught up with her and said, “Ma’am, I think you forgot this.” I’ll never forget her look of surprise, then the tears, followed by the words of gratitude as she said, “Thank you.” As we stood there in the parking lot looking each other in the eye we both felt overwhelming gratitude. She was grateful to receive and I was grateful to give but neither of us would have experienced gratitude if she refused my help (how many times have I been guilty of refusing someone’s offer to help depriving us both the opportunity to experience gratitude?). As I looked into this women’s eyes, I saw Christ among us!

While I always enjoy Thanksgiving, I will always be haunted in remembering those like the woman in front of me at the store. Who will help provide for them this year? Me? I am grateful for this memory that keeps me grounded and more aware of other opportunities to reach out.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to be or even feel grateful as it seems I’m constantly being bombarded with “dark” news. It’s like not much good is happening. Don’t believe it! Don’t be deceived!

There is an old hymn found in “Hymns of The Saints” # 437 which says: “Look for the beautiful look for the true; Sunshine and shadow are all around you. Looking at evil you grope in the night; Looking at Jesus you walk in the light. Look for the beautiful, honor the right.”

If we Look we will see the sunshine and the goodness around us! As Jesus tells us, keep our eyes single to him, He is the LIGHT of the world. I believe we become what we focus on, sunshine or shadows. Look for the beautiful; be grateful, good things are happening all around you!

Here is but one example of “sunshine” around us from our neighborhood FaceBook page. A fellow named Andrew wrote: “Today, I could not pull my boat out of the water at the Manasota Marina ramp. My Toyota Highlander has front wheel drive and I had just filled the boat gas tank with over a hundred pounds of fuel. It was low tide and the ramp was soaked. My wheels simply spun and spun. I was by myself and I was getting a bit panicked. Thank goodness there were several good Samaritans there. We unhitched the boat from my car (I was afraid the boat and trailer would slip back into the ocean, but I got “lucky”). A super nice guy pulled my boat out with his truck. The ramps are always stressful enough, but the people were very patient. I hope the people who helped me will read this and know how grateful I am!”

Wow, isn’t that a breath of fresh air?! Things like this are happening all around us like the hymn says! Can you feel and sense THE JOY and Gratitude that boat owner was experiencing? Andrew, saw Christ in others as they “pulled” him out of a hopeless situation, just like Jesus does for us all the time. Those “others” may not have known it, but they were the hands and feet of Jesus. They were Christ among us!

You see, living with an attitude of gratitude will lead to happiness and better Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical health. Seems like Christ already knew this 2,000 years ago! But how and why?

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D, is a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, and is director of the university’s Emmons Lab, which creates and shares scientific data on gratitude, its causes, and its potential effects on human health and well-being attempts to answer “why”. Emmons explains: “For too long, the concept of gratitude has been ignored. He calls it “the forgotten factor in the science of well-being.” Below are is listed 5 ways to live and practice gratitude according to Emmons:

  • Counting blessings boosts your health. Emmons’ and McCullough’s research showed that grateful people had less depression and stress, lower blood pressure, more energy, and greater optimism.
  • Slow down the aging clock. In older adults, Emmons and McCullough found, a daily practice of gratitude even slowed down some of the effects of neurodegeneration that often occurs as we age.
  • Put the brakes on stress. Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone,” and when our bodies produce too much, it can deplete the immune system and raise blood sugar levels. A study conducted at the Institute of HeartMath Research Center in California found that positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol.
  • Being thankful helps you bond. Research by U.S. psychologists Sara Algoe and Baldwin Way indicates that gratitude also can lead to better relationships. The explanation may be connected to increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the “bonding hormone” because it fosters calm and security in relationships.
  • Gratefulness = good for the heart and waistline. According to research Emmons cites in his book Gratitude Works!, people with high blood pressure who actively express thankfulness “can achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20 percent.”

I don’t know about you but I (Al) truly want and need all the above, my waistline has certainly grown during these last months!

Let us wake up each morning with an attitude of gratitude looking for the beautiful and true each day by staying focused on Jesus, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, for then, we will see Christ among us!!

Offering music and thought

Music: “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart”

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16

Closing hymn: “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” (arr. Peter C. Lutkin)

This service was prepared by Al and Linda Mount.