December 18, 2022 - Advent 4

For the week of December 18-24 – the 4th Sunday of Advent

Morning prayer: God of the ages, we praise You, for in the dawn of time You created the world sending light by Your Word to dispel darkness. In Jesus Christ You began a new creation, sending Him to be the light of the world, to drive away fear and despair, and to rule in peace and justice, holiness and love. Let us seek Him today. Amen. (UM Book of Worship 255)

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.

If you light an advent candle at home:  LOVE Light three of the purple candles plus the pink one

I John 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

We light this candle as a symbol of God’s love.  May the love of God rest firmly in our hearts and transform us into a people ready for the coming of Jesus.  O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Children’s message Isaiah 7:10-16

The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name Him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time He knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Children’s Message  Looking for signs

How do you know Christmas is coming? Maybe it's the radio stations changing to playing all Christmas music, the decorations in the stores and the change in the weather. We are always looking for signs. We need them for information, it can be vital to our survival and this is the message Isaiah had for King Ahaz today.

King Ahaz is facing enemies from at least two different directions and he is consulting with Isaiah about what the Lord has to say about this. The Lord wants to give Ahaz a sign, but Ahaz fakes his fear of God and says no. That was not the right answer and the Lord gave Ahaz a sign anyway. He tells the King that as a sign, he points to a young woman who is pregnant and declares that before the time that child would be able to tell the difference between good and evil, the threats against Ahaz’s kingdom would be gone.

This is good news! The time was coming soon that the kingdom could live without fear, the problem was King Ahaz decided not to trust God.

The sign God was offering was good news and in this Christmas season and throughout the year we have to be looking for signs of God’s good news to us, we have to be looking for signs God loves us and the biggest sign of God’s love for us is Jesus. We need to embrace this love and use this good news and trust God, because we don’t need to live in fear. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin 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 spotlightYour financial tithes provide our buildings, utilities, today’s Together time breakfast and Sunday School curriculum for adults and children.  The cooks (both those in the kitchen and those preparing food to share) are using their time to bless all of us with a great meal.  The Sunday School teachers and students are using time and talent to entertain and educate us.  Our offering – God’s blessings.

Offering prayer: Holy God of hope and promise: when the children were in deep despair, You promised them a sign, the indication of a Savior coming into their midst. As we bring You our tithes and offerings this day, so many of us are discouraged, trying to find our way. We need Your sign, we need Your Son, not as simply a reminder of history but as a new direction, a revolution of love that starts in our hearts, a resurrection of compassion that looks beyond self and the accumulation of more and more things that don’t satisfy. We need what only a Savior can give us. Guide us by Your signs on this day and as we begin the journey to Bethlehem once again. In the Savior’s name, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #213 Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates

  1. Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates; behold, the King of glory waits;
    the King of kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here!
  2. Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple, set apart
    from earthly use for heaven's employ, adorned with prayer and love and joy.
  3. Redeemer, come, with us abide; our hearts to Thee we open wide;
    let us Thy inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in us reveal.
  4. Thy Holy Spirit lead us on until our glorious goal is won;
    eternal praise, eternal fame be offered, Savior, to Thy name!

Scripture Lesson Luke 1:59-79

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has looked favorably on His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty Savior for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Message:    What Then Will Become of This Child?             Pastor Becky Cuddeback

In this conversation surrounding Christmas, God’s vision of God’s Kingdom that God shares with all of creation; we have been privy to a multitude of conversations – the angel and Mary, the angel and Zechariah, God and Elizabeth and Elizabeth and Mary. All of these conversations lead us into discovering anew what the Kingdom of God will look like: God’s vision. This is a kingdom of living in the light of God’s divine will, filled with abundance of grace, mercy and forgiveness – not just so we have a place to go when we die, but a life lived fully in the here and now.

But this conversation we are hearing today differs from all the others in one important way – it happens in community. There is a crowd Zechariah is speaking to. All the neighbors have assembled to bear witness to this child’s circumcision. They are praising God for the mercy God has shown in delivering a healthy baby to a woman advanced in age. There is excitement and anticipation in this crowd. They want to know the child’s name. In John’s naming Zechariah is able to speak after having been unable and the first thing that pours from Zechariah’s mouth is praise of God. He begins telling the crowd all that was told him concerning this child, his child. There is fear and awe in this interaction and Zechariah is compelling them to be part of the conversation – this ushering in of the kingdom of God that his son will herald as the prophet of the Most High – Jesus. This conversation leads to the question the crowd asks: What then will this child become?

The thumbnail is this: John becomes John the Baptist, he develops disciples, baptizes the masses and prepares the way for Jesus’ ministry to start. He is there from the beginning to walk ahead and is there to step aside and let Jesus continue on in the teaching of the Kingdom.

Yet at the very beginning, Zechariah is reminding the crowd of what they may have forgotten. He reminds them of the covenant God has with the descendants of Abraham, who God is and what they mean to God. Zechariah is inviting them into this long anticipated reconciliation and the vision of what the world is to become as the Kingdom of God. Zechariah sees what God is doing through his son, John, and is calling all to be a part of that vision.

What Zechariah is doing should lead us into also asking this question of each of our children. We hear what Zechariah speaks over his son, are we as invested in our children’s participation in this reconciliation of the world? Have we embraced our participation into the reconciliation of the world?

Each time we bring a child of God to the baptismal font, we as a congregation are asked 2 questions:

  1. Do you, as Christ’s body, the church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ? Our response is, “we do.”
  2. Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons before you in your care? Our scripted response is detailed and hopefully for us, more than just printed words on a paper – but a real, loving pledge – here it is: “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.”

This parallels what Zechariah speaks over his son in community and it should also lead us to want to be the community God desires for each child to grow into the persons God has ordained each of them to be with the gifts, graces, and talents imbued in each for the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Closing Hymn: #428 For the Healing of the Nations

  1. For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord;

For a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords;

To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word,

Help us rise and pledge our word.

  1. Lead us forward into freedom; from despair Your world release,

That, redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace.

Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase,

Fear will die and hope increase.

  1. All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned;
    pride of status, race, or schooling, dogmas that obscure Your plan.

In our common quest for justice may we hallow life’s brief span,

May we hallow life’s brief span.

  1. You, Creator God, have written Your great name on humankind;

For our growing in Your likeness bring the life of Christ to mind,

That by our response and service earth its destiny may find,

Earth its destiny may find.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.

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