December 12th 2021
3rd Sunday of Advent Joy
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· masks are required by Session, as well as social distancing
bulletins are placed in the pews to help with social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship will be continuing with beverages only, in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Dr Dyke, Bonnie and Jon Pillers, Mike Niles, Harlan Marx ,Tom Kelly, Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Family of Jack Braden, Lucy Melvin. Bob Emmert, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, and Rich Lewis is having more tests this week.
ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING
Words of Introduction & Scripture
The Lord’s ransomed ones will return and enter Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads. Happiness and joy will overwhelm them; grief and groaning will flee away. (Isaiah 35:10 CEB) In the midst of difficult times, God promised that his faithful would return with joy. Let us hold onto that promise for our own times as we light the third Advent candle for joy.
Sing (from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel): Chorus Only #9
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
*CALL TO WORSHIP from Zephaniah 3:14-20, CEB
Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.
The Lord has removed our judgment; he has turned away our enemy.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you will no longer fear evil….
The Lord our God is in your midst—a warrior bringing victory.
He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over us with singing.
The proclaims: I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast.
I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth.
God promises: I will bring all of you back, at the time when I gather you.
I will give you fame and praise among all the neighboring peoples
when I restore your possessions and you can see them—says the Lord.
Lord, as we gather in your presence, gather all your beloved in your Spirit. May we worship you from our pews, from our homes, from wherever we are this day and every day. Amen.
*HYMN Rejoice, the Lord is King! #155
*CONFESSION AND PARDON
Let us make our confession to the Lord.
God of all that is good. We confess to you that we are quick to complain and slow to praise. We get frustrated and even angry with situations around us or conditions with which we live. Yet we fail to notice and give thanks for many of the blessings surrounding us every day. Teach of patience and gratitude, that our lives may be filled with your joy until it overflows to bless someone next to us. Amen.
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON Isaiah 12:2-6
God sent us salvation through Jesus, God’s own Son. Through Christ we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
*SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
*PASSING THE PEACE (facing those across the aisle from you)
Left: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Right: And also with you. May the peace of Christ be with you.
Left: And also with you.
(You may be seated.)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally focused on the word “Joy!” Heaven rejoiced when God’s Son was born on earth to bring God’s salvation to the world. Humans who had patiently waited and recognized their Messiah in Jesus also rejoiced. The Wise Men who came seeking a new king following the star were filled with joy as it came to rest over Bethlehem. It is a joy filled time of year for many.
For two Sundays we have had readings from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I think from one perspective we could say this is the Joy letter. In chapter 1 Paul wrote that every time he thanks God for them and prays for them, it is a prayer filled with joy. (v.4) In Chapter 2 he begs them to “complete [his] joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other.” (v.2) In Chapter 3 he asks them to “rejoice in the Lord!” (v.1) In Chapter 4, Paul claims that they are his joy, and continues to plead with them, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (v.4) As we read Paul’s encouragement in joy, we might forget Paul’s own circumstances at the time. He is writing from prison. As verses 12-13 will go on to say, we rejoice in spite of our circumstances, because Christ is our strength.
This is our second Advent and Christmas season in the pandemic that history will remember as marking the beginning this decade. I’m pretty sure we are as tired of the pandemic as the Jews were of the Roman occupation at the time Jesus was born. As that circumstance dominated every aspect of their lives, so does the corona virus
dominate ours. Just as their reactions and compliance varied, so do ours. As they looked at the world around them, it may have been hard to rejoice. It was still hard as Paul wrote his letters. Not only did the Romans still control a vast region, but those who believed Jesus was indeed the Messiah were persecuted by those who did not agree. I look at the things over which our world disagrees and the persecution that results, and I groan that not much has improved in how humans treat one another. Labels and issues may change, attitudes toward those different from us haven’t changed nearly enough. From pandemic to injustice, the daily news makes it hard to rejoice, and yet….
And yet, what God still longs to offer us is hope, and for Christians that hope is based on Jesus the Christ, God’s Son, born in the flesh into our world, Emmanuel meaning God with us, born to save us from our own sin and to bring light to all the areas of darkness in our world. Jesus came to bring hope and peace and love and joy!
In our Gospel lesson today, as people heard John the Baptist preach a message of hope, they asked, “What must we do?” As we await the fullness of the good news Jesus offers our world, we might ask the same thing. I have always believed that our faith is meant to lead us to cooperate with God’s work in our world. We cannot make a better world by ourselves. But God also chooses not to do all the work for us. Perhaps we can only experience the fullness of God’s intentions for our world when we cooperate to bring them into being.
How should we cooperate in a way that would bring joy to God and to our world? Luke records John telling the people to repent which means to turn around. We would say to turn their lives around, or as the Common English Bible translates it, to change their hearts and lives. The New Spirit Filled Study Bible Notes point to three concrete suggestions in verses 11 – 14 answering what people could do to turn their lives around in Jesus’ time. First, it tells them to share what they have, giving away a coat if they had two. Second, specifically to tax collectors, he said to collect no more than they should. If you remember Zacchaeus’ story, you know some tax collectors collected extra for their own wealth. Third, specifically to the soldiers present, he told them not to harass anyone, but be satisfied with their pay.
How would we translate John’s words to our own day? What should we do to turn our world around?
First, give generously of what you have. That might mean donating financially to charity. It might mean going through your cupboards or closets to downsize your excess and share them through a food pantry or thrift store, so that someone else might find what they need. You might have a talent to share and enough time on your hands to use it for someone else’s benefit. Everyone one has something to share. In this season of giving, think of what you can share, but don’t restrict your generosity to this time of year. Let it become a habit year-round.
Second, ask or expect no more than you should. That’s a little tougher to flesh out. Few of us are in a position to be collecting funds from anyone. But what other transactions are part of our lives? Do you have expectations that are sometimes hard for your friends or family to fulfill? What about your expectations of service staff in stores or restaurants, city workers, delivery services, medical personnel? Life is rough for them, too, especially this time of year. Let your gratitude, patience, and consideration be more than your expectations or demands or complaints. Expect what is appropriate, but not more than you should.
Third, don’t harass anyone. In our world this covers a lot of territory. Harassment comes in many forms from verbal abuse to cyber bullying. It includes physical assault and sexual inuendo. Harassment may take the form of stereotyping or common gossip. Harassment is experienced as racial, gender, and other forms of prejudice. It may be felt simply as intimidation or exclusion by the way we speak or even look at someone. Let me say, that to understand harassment you have to see it from the perspective of the person feeling harassed. Whether intended or not, your words or behavior might make someone else very uncomfortable, to the point that person feels harassed.
There’s not much joy for those who don’t have enough, for those who are weary from others’ expectations or complaints, for those who feel someone else is judging them, looking down on them, or taking advantage of them. One way we can bring more joy to our world is to carefully and respectfully evaluate our own resources, habits, words, and behaviors.
For others the holidays are a tough time because they are missing family. It might just be that they can’t get together because of the pandemic or the distance or someone has to work. But in other cases a loved one is no longer here, and that leaves a sad emptiness in the midst of the holidays. For some they have been alone a long time, but it’s still painful at Christmastime. Perhaps you know someone who needs a visit, a phone call, or an invitation to a holiday meal. What can we do to make life better for someone else?
The cards we signed last week will bring joy to those who receive them. The gloves and scarves and hats on your mitten tree will bring joy as well. A kind word, a cute joke, a little gift, a bright smile can bring joy to someone’s day. These are easy enough that all of us can become joy bringers. That thought led me to a fun slogan for today’s message. I imagined ringing a bell with the words “Brrring in the joy!” What a fun way to be Jesus’ helpers this season with the task of brrringing joy to the world!
How do you do that if you are the one without joy in your own heart? Go back to Paul’s message to the Philippians a moment. “Be anxious for nothing.” Pray with gratitude” making your requests known to God.” And know that “peace of Christ that surpasses our understanding.” (all from Phil. 4)
Again the Spirit Filled Study Bible Notes claim that prayer and peace are closely connected and go on to say, “One who entrusts cares to Christ instead of fretting over them will experience the peace of God to guard him from nagging anxiety.” Sorrows and worries and other cares will come. That’s the nature of our human existence in a fallen world. But I remember someone once saying that doesn’t mean you have to let them take up permanent residence in your life. Whether it is your own burden or someone else’s you observe, continually surrender that burden up to Christ in prayer. I can’t tell you how long it will take, but I am convinced that God will be at work in the midst of that situation and that peace will come. One of my favorite promises in scripture is from Psalm 147:3, “He heals the broken hearted, binding up their wounds.”
Rather than allowing the concerns of life to rob you of joy, do what you can to make things better inviting God into the situation with the wisdom and strength and resources that are beyond your own abilities. Rest in your faith trusting God to be faithful, even when you can’t see the answer. Then turn your mind to focus on the things that do bring joy. In the very next verse of Philippians 4, Paul gives this advice, “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” As you consider these things, let them bring joy to your heart and life, even enough to share when someone else needs a joyful lift.
So let’s end with some joyful images of the season and bring a smile to our spirits! I asked on Facebook for joyful images of Christmas. I was surprised by some common answers from a variety of friends. Many relate to sharing time with family. Several revolved around Nativity sets. Many were about attending candlelight Christmas Eve services. Pause for a moment and let these images bring a smile and perhaps a related memory to your Advent.
A full house, full of my children, their spouses, and 5 grandsons. Full of love and excitement. (Rita)
I always like helping my Grandma the whole week before. She fed about 30 some. Each day was a different task. The one I remember most is setting the table in advance. She taught what order everything goes. (Laura)
Children, their joy and excitement. Family, enjoy every moment you have…(Patty)
My momma home and a quiet day with mom, dad and our family (this from a friend, Mandi, whose mom has been in the hospital)
A lit Christmas tree. And, I agree about the joy of the children!! My grandson makes our holiday!! (Barb)
My twin grandsons more excited about delivering everyone's packages than opening their own. (Renee)
Reading the Christmas story to the entire family, and watching the reactions of the grandchildren and great grandkids as we point out the various participants in the crèche! Celebrating the greatest gift God gave, His son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! (Judy)
The nativity scene & then when my family is sitting in my living room opening presents …I stop & look around & look at their beautiful faces & smiles…& I thank God for my family & his precious birth of our savior (Tanya)
Building a Christmas creche with our kids....imagining a midwife conversing with the angels while she waits on Mary....(Boo)
Watching my younger grandchildren playing with the nativity set. They act it out with the figures. The animals talk. Baby Jesus cries. Mommy Mary tries to console him. Priceless. (Jeanne)
My children also played with the nativity set. And when they were older it was my son’s job to set it out and arrange it. I love that memory. Even as a teenager he took such care. (Kathleen)
Candlelight service with my family & singing carols by Candlelight (Debra)
Candlelight Christmas Cantata when we were children at St John’s. Each year I can almost sing the entire piece in my head. (Susan)
Christmas Eve service at midnight at Riverside Presbyterian Church…all warm and cozy with only candlelight lighting in the church….I miss this soooo much… (Christina)
Singing silent night with the lights dimmed in church on Christmas eve (Beth)
The star (Dale)
The angel on top our tree watching over all of us, reminding us to share the good news. (Linda)
[These are some of the Facebook responses to my post. I did indicate at the beginning that they were to be shared in my Sunday message.]
In the midst of whatever bad tidings come in the daily news or personal frustrations and challenges may come your way in the next few weeks, I suggest that you take time each day to ponder the images that bring joy to you this time of year. Take care of the business that needs to be done. Speak to injustice and other concerns around you. But balance that with appreciating the joy God sends your way and brrring some joy to others as well. In the midst of it all don’t forget the words from Zephaniah in our call to worship, that God rejoices over you with singing, too!
*HYMN Good Christian Friends, Rejoice! #28
PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
We offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving for the many blessings in our lives. May we truly live in joy through Christ our Lord! Amen.
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
* AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version p. 14
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
*HYMN Joy to the World #40
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.