November 27, 2022 - Advent 1

For the week of November 27 – December 3 – the 1st Sunday of Advent

Morning prayer: Eternal God, in Your providence You made all ages a preparation for the kingdom of Your Son. Make ready our hearts for the brightness of Your glory and the fullness of Your blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

Hymn: #196 Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

  1. Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
    from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
    Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
    dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
  2. Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
    born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
    By Thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
    by Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

If you light an advent candle at home:  HOPE  Light one of the candles

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Children’s message Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Children’s Message

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and we lit the candle of Hope. Isaiah is speaking God’s vision for God’s people and it is a message for an end of war. This may seem more like a message of peace, which in some ways we can hear it that way. But what Isaiah is expressing is the hope that people will move toward God and learn God’s ways and accept God’s words.

Let me ask you something. Can anyone make you go anywhere? How about force you to learn or accept the truth?

The Holy Spirit equips us to do these things, partners and walks with us when we do those things and grows us in understanding. But the Holy Spirit can’t force us to do anything. But we have to want or desire to do these things and that is God’s hope for us. God will establish God’s Kingdom, but God won’t make you be part of it. We have to embrace God’s hope and live into God’s will and Kingdom. We have to accept what God is offering and God won’t force Godself on us.

Sometimes we have to surrender our wants and desires to be part of the Kingdom, not to make us weak or less than – but to grow us stronger in desiring the Kingdom for all of creation. God is looking to us to move closer and God hopes you do.

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 spotlightUnited Methodist Student Offering calls the church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. The special offering provides scholarships for qualified United Methodist applicants. Use the envelope in today’s bulletin to donate to this cause.

Offering prayer: God of peace and justice, in the past year we have once again witnessed the fruits of war: lives cut short, children made orphans, homes devastated, and hearts broken. We pray to see the day that Isaiah saw in his heart, when swords are pounded into plowshares. These gifts we give this morning, may they be used to make human hearts ready for peace and for the reign of Your Son. In His holy name, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #221 In the Bleak Midwinter

  1. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
    snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
  2. Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
    heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
    In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
  3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
    but His mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.
  4. What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
    if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Scripture Lesson Luke 1:5-15

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Message: The Making of a Prophet                  Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Christmas is a conversation, one between God and creation. God is speaking God’s vision and creation, or more precisely, God’s people hearing and seeing the vision which is the Kingdom of God.

Historically, when a king began his reign – whether that was in the United Kingdom of Israel or after the split into the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah – he had a prophet sent from God. This prophet was one who would speak God’s truth alongside the king and whether the king wanted one or not, God sent him a prophet. The prophet was an encourager and a corrector. Every recorded king had a prophet.

       King Saul had Samuel.

King David had Samuel and Nathan.

King Ahab had Elijah, King Joash’s prophet was Joel. Isaiah was the most prolific prophet as he served 4 kings: Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. The kings ranged from wholly obedient to God all the way to denying God and their prophets always spoke truth to them, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

The prophet not only spoke to the king, but also the people. He was to point them to the right path and correct them., He was also instructed to pray for them and the peoples.

Our King – Jesus, also had a prophet. John was also Jesus’ cousin and their stories rely heavily on each other. But there relationship was different from the historic relationships of kings and prophets in that John and Jesus were both given the same message. It was first given to their parents as witnessed in the angelic encounter in the temple for Zechariah and the angelic visit to Mary in her home. It was then instilled in John and Jesus. John was a partner, the one who make a way and readied people’s hearts for the coming of Jesus.

John was to do this 2 ways, 2 ways were to bring preparedness:

1- to turn the hearts of parents to their children

2- the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous

Ultimately this was to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Let’s take a look at these 2 ways.

The heart turning isn’t because children were being abused or neglected; they were getting fed and clothed. John was calling the parents to turn to the future of what the Kingdom was to be.

For a moment, rest your thoughts on the remembrance of the impending birth of a child. Do you remember bearing witness to one of their birthdays and seeing them blow out their candles? What did you wish for them?

Health, prosperity, peace? There are thousands of dreams and wishes we hope for children. A future without war, childhood cancer and illness, or going to school without fear. In those tiny drifting moments, the real moments of our hearts, there isn’t anything we wouldn’t give up or sacrifice in the face of this child. We have made promises as we’ve held new babies. We swear no one will hurt them, they will never go unloved, and they will be cared for and I’m quite sure you can add to the list. But we get sucked back out of those moments of promise and in return we compromise and lean on traditions, loyalties, affiliations and institutions hoping they will hold up the promises we make. The trouble is they can’t. They all serve opposing purposes and aren’t aligned with the Kingdom of God. They are aligned with earthly power, the power of authority, accumulation. They support the status quo and continue only because we have been taught to wait, instead of living toward the Kingdom Jesus ushers in and John is instructed to reach the parents for the good of the future.

John’s next way was to call the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. Well, that is all of us, the message of God’s Kingdom is meant for all. Humanity falls under the label of the disobedient. We are to mirror God (the only One righteous) by being righteous in ourselves in the observance of God’s will and our behavior towards each other.

We come up short; we miss the mark and John is call all of us into repentance. Repentance is more than just I’m sorry and I’ll never do it again. Repentance is turning from who we once were and what we used to do that was not aligned with God’s Kingdom. John is calling us to move toward God, who is the source of all righteousness. It is to lean heavily into God’s ideal of us, how we are to be known and Leviticus 19:36 gives us a glimpse of that: “You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin.” Our interactions with others are to be honest. It is more than treating others as we want to be treated, it is treating others better than how we desire to be treated.

John is looking to us and the future. He isn’t looking to redeem the past but to begin in the moment, this moment. The impending birth of the King’s prophet is to begin clearing the hearts and minds of those who are waiting and those standing in the way of the Kingdom to make a people ready.

Yet, remember I said Christmas is a conversation between God and creation. We read this account, we see ourselves in the story of redemptive love, and have to ask ourselves – does it change us? Do we only use Christmas to look back and only be moved for a moment or do we resolve to live out the truth of Jesus’ coming? This should cause us to look at the future we have given our children and change what doesn’t support justice or sustain abundant life. What in each of our lives, individually and corporately have we embraced but puts us in opposition to the Kingdom? Christmas has to mean something about our future, not our past.

Closing Hymn: #593 Here I Am, Lord

  1. I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin My hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Refrain: Here I am, Lord.  Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

  1. I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them.  They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak My word to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

  1. I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.  My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied. 

I will give My life to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

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

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