December 12, 2021 - Advent 3

December 12, 2021 3rd Sunday of Advent - JOY

Morning prayer Merciful God, You sent Your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (UM BOW)

Hymn #240 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

  1. Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King,
    peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
    Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
    with th' angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"
  2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord;
    late in time behold Him come, offspring of a virgin's womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th' incarnate Deity,
    pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"
  3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die,
    born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"

Lighting of the Advent Candle – JOY

Zephaniah 3:14-20

3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

3:16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.

3:17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

3:18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.

3:19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

3:20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

We light this candle as a sign of the joy found in Jesus.  Light 2 purple candles and 1 pink candle.

Children’s message – Talking to the prophets – Zephaniah

During Advent, we get to hear from the prophets, like no other season in the Church. We have been hearing their messages and seeing how God has fulfilled them all in the promise of Jesus and in Jesus’ next coming. Zephaniah is no exception. He is the great, great grandson of King Hezekiah, but Zephaniah doesn’t lead a life of royalty, he calls them into repentance and accountability before God. The times are changing and the nation of Israel is being called back into faithful worship of the one true God, not the gods they had been worshiping – the gods of the surrounding nations. They have a decision to make, just like in the days of Joshua. Joshua was the leader of the Hebrews after Moses and he plainly asked the people to choose who they would serve, God, the God who rescued them or the neighboring gods? Joshua told the people that he and his household would serve the Lord, God Almighty.

The message Zephaniah brings to Israel and to us today is a message of hope and great joy. It is what the world will look like when God returns, when Jesus walks the earth again. It will be a time of great praise and all will be restored. Zephaniah describes the rejoicing as songs to God and that God will sing also. Imagine the joy of all creation in song with God, that will be the time of joy that will never end.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, give to us Your joy. We too want to be able to sing and rejoice with all creation. Lead us in Your song. Write it on our hearts and continually remind us of the joy You supply. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You most gracious and forgiving Father for hearing the cries of our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight:  The Gatehouse, transitional housing, whose mission is to address the basic needs of all God’s people who are temporarily homeless in our communities.

Offering prayer:  God who gives all gifts, in this season, we focus so much on giving gifts to one another. Help us, we pray, to remember what John the Baptist tells us is on Your wish list: that we might bear fruit worthy of the repentance that is the very heart of this season: fruit of compassion, fruit of sharing, fruit by denying ourselves so that others who have little will have enough. In response to You, we give that our fruit might please You. In the Savior’s name, we pray. Amen.

Preparation Hymn: #254 We Three Kings

  1. We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar,
    field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

  1. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring to crown Him again,
    King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.
  2. Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh;
    prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.
  3. 4. Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom;
    sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
  4. Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice:
    Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies.

Message scripture: Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but One who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His granary; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Message:  The Good News of Joy                  Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Do you want the good news or the bad news? I am sure each of your minds went to a time you were asked that question. I, after I take a deep breath, usually respond with, give me the bad news first. I saw that, in the very hope that 1 – the bad news isn’t really all that bad and 2 – if it is bad, hopefully the good news will be the best news and neutralize the bad news. I guess I just have high hopes.

Today, John doesn’t give us a choice, he just jumps right in with the bad news for those gathered on the shoreline. I mean, he calls them vipers and in a not so direct way, calls them stupid, because he sees no way, these people could have any idea of what is to come or how they got themselves into the mess they and we are in. He also tells them, nobody you are related to or anyone you know of isn’t getting you out of this mess. You think you can rely on being Abraham’s children? Nope, God can make anything into children of Abraham – God can replace you with a rock. Take that in a minute. John is comparing them to rocks, and you get the impression, John would choose the rocks; at least with rocks he can expect hardness and density. It is hard to get mad at a rock for being well, a rock.

He tells them God is ready to cut them off and burn them up. In short, people get your act together! He is calling them into repentance, to turn away from what is leading them away from God and he wants them to be aligned with God. He is ushering in Jesus’ ministry and the Kingdom of God.

And here is the good news, it is not too late. John gives them simple instructions, instructions they have been hearing since the beginning of the law given to Moses – love God and care for your neighbor. He tells them to give to the needy, whether it is clothing or food. But the beautiful part of the good news comes in the questions of the tax collector and the soldier – What should we do? Realize, these would have been the two most hated people gathered, right? They represent the empire, the system that is oppressing them, withholding justice from them, marginalizing them – see where I am going, nobody loved Rome, but Caesar. Now the representatives of the system are asking how do we make right what we are doing? John tells them, in essence, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with their jobs, but they aren’t to use the power/authority they have to wrongly gain for themselves. Because on the ground, as long as Rome got what they deserved, they didn’t care what else was taken, so tax collectors and soldiers wielded power over the powerless with no restraint. Be content was John’s instruction to them.

Then there is even more good news, God has come near and it is in Jesus. John tells them of Jesus, that they may have joy and rejoice in Jesus and with Jesus comes the Holy Spirit, the news just gets better and better. What part of the good news gives you joy? How do you share that joy? It is more than warm snugglies; it is a way of living that counters the world and declares the day of the Lord. Bask in the joy of the Lord.

Let us pray: Father Almighty, thank You for seeing our need for Your presence and sending it to us in Jesus. Move us to repentance and the lifting up of justice, mercy and love for the glory of Your Kingdom here. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn #218 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

  1. It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
    from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
    "Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven's all-gracious King."
    The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.
  2. Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled,
    and still their heavenly music floats o'er all the weary world;
    above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing,
    and ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.
  3. And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
    who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
    look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
    O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!
  4. For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,
    when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold
    when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
    and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

Benediction:  Go into this week with the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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