December 13, 2020 - Home Worship Service

Welcome & Announcements: Good morning church!

LUMC is not having in-person worship services.

 

8am will be on Facebook Live

9:00 am Zoom Worship & Prayer

Pastor Jenn and your church leaders invite you to ZOOM, Sunday morning, 9:00 am. 

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85441468430?pwd=aEJmcnJ3SGdkbWphMnlRV3JwQ3dXQT09

  Meeting ID: 854 4146 8430        Password: 279040

One tap mobile:  +19294362866,,85441468430#,,,,0#,,279040# US (New York)

For audio only using a landline or non-smart phone:  1 929 436 2866 US (New York)

Worship: I invite you to receive this morning’s reading to light a candle to welcome the Light of the World for worship this day.

Dec 13th: 8am: Brian and Beth Snyder    9am: Bruce & Patsy Weir

Last Sunday we lit the first candle—the candle of hope. Today we light the second candle, the candle of joy.

Reader 2: This should be the easy one, because joy is all around us—in the children, the lights, the music, the gathering together. But how often do we let our preparations—or our memories—push joy to the side? Joy is like an underground spring that wells up within us, but joy is also a choice, an attitude. Like a muscle, it needs to be exercised.

Reader 3: So today we open ourselves to joy, trusting that God has already planted it in us. All we need to do is give it care and offer it to share.

Light two purple/blue candles.

Reader 1: Please join us in this opening prayer:

Prayer: Loving God, we open ourselves to You, trusting that this is how You made us: You created us for joy-filled hearts and lives. Fill us with the kind of joy that cannot be contained but must be shared. Amen.

Opening Song: Away in a Manger by the Praise Band

https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/away-in-a-manger-pb

1. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

2. The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

3. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.

Children’s time:

It's our children's time and I want to start with a question I ask you each and every week: Who are you? Children Respond: Special Gifts of God!

PJ: That's right, you are special gifts of God each and every day and I'm so lucky to spend time with you!

Last week I mentioned that we would be talking about the history and connection of the most common Christmas decorations to our faith.

This week I want to speak about the Christmas tree. Evergreens have been used by Christians for many years as a symbol of everlasting life with God. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree around the 16th century, based on this legend:

Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the doorstep, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest son’s own bed (He had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after Him.

So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes![1]

There is a Christmas carol that celebrates the Christmas tree, called O Christmas Tree and its lyrics tell us about the joy of faithfulness, which in turn is a symbol of the joy we have due to God’s faithfulness to us.

https://youtu.be/F2CocMgE48o

Let us pray: Thank You God, for the beauty of a Christmas tree, that tells us the joy of Your faithfulness to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joys & Concerns:

Give peace to our racing hearts, O Lord. We have gathered here to sing our praises to You; to celebrate the fast approaching coming of Your Son. We wait to see Your glory as well as we give thanks for the blessings we have received. (Name some joys you have experienced lately.) We thank You God for such great joys in our lives.

And thank You for this time that we can request that You bring Your healing love into the lives of those we have mentioned before You. (Mention the concerns you have.) In Your mercy, receive our prayers.

In this hour of worship, may You bless us through the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit and through the timeless stories of this season that as we gather, we can receive Your help to encourage us to once again believe and share the promises of Your joy and salvation revealed through the gift born in Bethlehem who taught us to pray, saying… 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: As God has so richly poured gifts of love, peace, hope, and joy into our lives; let us receive the morning’s offering as tokens of our gratitude for all these blessings. AMEN.

Prayer of Dedication  Lord, You have blessed our lives in so many ways. Receive these tokens of our blessings and cause them to work in this world to Your will. We offer these gifts in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Sermon: Coming Home to Joy

What are the joys of Christmas? What makes your Christmas merry? Is it the singing of your favorite Christmas songs or carols? Is it decorating your home and your tree? Is it finding the perfect gift for a special someone? Could it be baking? Eating? Reuniting or reconnecting with friends and family you only get to see or communicate with this time of the year?

There is no doubt about it, there is joy in the season. But today God invites us to find our place of joy with each other in worship as we receive the lesson taken from the 1st chapter of Luke.

Scripture Lesson: Luke 1:39-56

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Here’s a refresher to the background of this text. Six months prior to this time, the angel Gabriel had been to see Zechariah, who is married to Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. They are an older couple who were not able to have children, but one day Gabriel announces to Zechariah that his wife will have a child. Luke 1:13-15 Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. And then Gabriel adds this in verse 17, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ This is in reference to John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for Jesus.

If you recall, Zechariah questions Gabriel and is made mute from that time on, so that he cannot reveal what was said to him, even to Elizabeth, his wife.

Then a few months later, Gabriel comes to Mary, a young lady, engaged to a man named, Joseph, who is a descendent of King David (that of course is important to fulfill the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’). And one day Gabriel shows up and says to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:28

God has found favor in Mary, meaning God is with her. It does not mean that God will bless her with wealth and good standing, it means God has chosen her, called her, to do something, that God promises to be with her through.

In response to this news, Mary asks how can it be, and the angel informs “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God”. Luke 1:35

And then Gabriel shares this news with Mary: 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Mary then responds in verse 38, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Next, Gabriel leaves, and Mary plans a visit to see Elizabeth.

Which leads us to the passage we heard earlier. Notice the text begins with the words, 39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. In his Advent Bible study, Pastor Ron pointed us to the words that Mary went with haste, meaning she hurried to see Elizabeth. More than likely, she did so because as Mary was facing a difficult challenge and calling, Gabriel told her Elizabeth was too. She was thought to be barren, but now she was with child. Mary hurried to see Elizabeth because Mary knew she could find support and encouragement from someone else with similar experiences.  In fact, she not only found that, but she also found joy.

The text says, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Elizabeth affirms what is taking place in Mary’s life. And it’s not like God had told Elizabeth this would occur. Nowhere in the gospels does God or an angel have a conversation with Elizabeth of what is about to take place. If you remember her husband, Zechariah is told, but then made mute due to his questioning of God’s will.

All Elizabeth knew was she was with child and Mary was with child and the only way that happened was by the blessing of God, whom she praises. 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Upon hearing that praise, Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…Mary’s spirit rejoices, it has found joy, in the midst of the uncertainties, Mary has found joy, because by way of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth has assured her.

You see, this is a holy moment between Elizabeth and Mary, where both acknowledge the wonders and thanksgiving of what God is up to. And friends, some of the deepest joy we can experience is when we worship together. That is acknowledge God and God’s work in our lives and around us.

In fact, the words that Mary share are a form of worship, because they are words that praise God for what God has done for her, and all people.

Let’s look at this praise again.

Mary says, 48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary celebrates what God has done through Elizabeth and herself.

But just as important is the fact that in this song Mary also celebrates the saving work of God for all people, starting at verse 50:

50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

God has been busy, according to Mary. Busy with mercy, busy setting things right between the lowly and the powerful, the hungry and the rich. God has been busy, helping Israel, keeping the promise God made to Abraham and King David, so long ago. Because God has been working to save us. Therefore, God is to be magnified, and rejoiced in, as Mary and Elizabeth do. God is to be worshipped in the gift of the Christ Child.

What I love about this story is the responses, the reactions of everyone involved. From Mary saying “here I am, let it be” to Elizabeth’s proclamation of blessing and joy, to Mary’s song of thanksgiving and praise. All their responses are a reaction to what God is doing in and through them. And when they come together and acknowledge God and God’s will, they worship. Just as you and I are called to do, each week. We gather together in person or online to acknowledge that God in Jesus Christ has come to be with us, to save us. All of us. And today’s lesson reminds us how God wants to save us for joy.

In his book, Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It by Greg Forster, he tells the interesting history to one of the most famous Christmas carols, Joy to the World. Turns out the well-known carol was not written for Christmas. The author was Isaac Watts, who in the early 1700s was known to be a famous hymn writer and poet. In 1719, Watts published a book of poems in which each poem was based on a psalm. But rather than just translate the original Old Testament texts, he adjusted them to refer more clearly to the work of Jesus revealed in the New Testament.

One of those poems was an adaptation of Psalm 98.

1 O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises...He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Watts used this psalm as a celebration of joy that is found with Jesus as King of both his church and the whole world.

Forester claims that Watts laid out the flow of God’s joy for us in that psalm, revealed in Jesus.

Verse 1: Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature and sing.

In this verse, Watts claims that the church, the body of Christ, is the special community of people whose King transforms our lives with joy. And the Holy Spirit is at work through the church and our relationship with Jesus, to honor and praise God with open hearts and song.

Verse 2: Joy to the world, the Savior reigns. Let all their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy.

This verse carries on the thought that because God made human beings as social creatures, this joy of God is not locked up in an isolated heart; it flows among us and transforms how we relate to one another and creation as a whole.

Verse 3: No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow.
In verse 3, Watts points out that we live most of our lives out in the world, among people who are not yet transformed in this special way. Therefore, how we live in the world should reveal the change the Spirit is working in us, carrying the impact of the joy of God “far as the curse is found.”

Verse 4: He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

And to close the poem, Watts writes that we learn to display the Spirit’s work in our hearts, through the ways we live in the world, we work with Christ to make the world more like it should be, experiencing God’s righteousness and love.

In 1836 an American composer by the name of Lowell Mason of Boston, put this poem and its meaning to the music we know and love today. A song that that we share in worship. A song that honestly could be sung all year round, a song of great joy. [2]

Friends, Advent reminds us that God in Jesus has come to save us from ourselves, in order to be saved for something more. And that more is joy. Because in Jesus, God invites us home to God’s will that gives us all joy.

So, may you find joy in the community God has placed you in, and be a positive influence.

May you find joy in sharing the great things God is and has been doing in your life.

Most of all may you find your place, and come home to joy, to honor and worship the wonders of God’s love.

Prayer for Joy: Loving God, as we continue in this Advent season, prepare our hearts to be transformed by You that our lives may reveal Your joyous reign. Amen.

Closing Song: Joy to the World by Donna Farver & Linda Creasy

 https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/joy-to-the-world-4v

1 Joy to the world! the Lord is come; let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room, and heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing, And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.

2 Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns; let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains. Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found.

4 He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders of His love.

Benediction: May the joy of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless us and encourage us all now and always. Amen.

 

 

 
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