December 20, 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.

Reader 1: We have lit two candles—for hope and for joy. Today we light the third candle—the candle of love.

 

Reader 2: With this flame we signify the love of God that surrounds and fills us at all times, but that we recognize in a special way in the Christmas story.

 

Reader 3: There is no greater power than love. It is stronger than rulers and empires, stronger than grief or despair, stronger even than death. We love, because God loves us.

 

[light two purple and one pink candle.]

 

Will you join us in the opening prayer:

 

Loving God, we open ourselves to You this Christmas season. As these candles are lit, light our lives with Your love within us. Amen.

 

Opening Song: In the Blead Midwinter by Donna Farver & Linda Creasy

https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/in-the-bleak-midwinter-4-verses

 

1. In the bleak mid-winter 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 mid-winter 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 mid-winter 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 only His mother in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped 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.

 

Children’s Message:

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!

 

We’ve been talking about the history and connection of some of the most common Christmas decorations to our faith. This week we will talk about the Christmas wreath.

 

If you notice the wreath is a circular shape to symbolize eternal life and the unending love of God. In the 16th century, the use of Advent wreaths became custom for Christians. These wreaths were traditionally made of evergreens, which also symbolize eternal life, holly oak, and red berries. The red berries and the thorny leaves of the holly oak represented the crown of thorns worn by Jesus and the drops of blood that they drew. The Advent wreath is meant to hold four candles, three purple/blue and one pink. One candle for hope, another for joy, one for love, and another for peace. In the center is a white candle which is the Christ candle, and it's lit on Christmas Eve. These candles symbolize the coming of the light of Christ.

 

Today, a wreath that's hanging on one's door at Christmas is said to symbolize the invitation of Jesus into one's home.[1]

 

So as you look around your neighborhood, be sure to look at all the different wreaths you see hanging, especially on the door, and maybe this week, say a prayer for the people of that house, that they may receive the love of Jesus.

 

Let us pray: Thank You God, for the Christmas wreath that celebrates Your love in Jesus. Amen.

 

 

Prayer & Lord’s Prayer :

Holy God, You call us to do things that are unexpected. You call us to work for justice and be peacemakers in this world when we question our abilities to make a difference.

 

You invite us to receive the message of the gospel in Jesus Christ then take up our cross to follow and serve Him, which we know is not going to be easy.

 

You challenge us to love one another, to love each other, with forgiveness, turning the other cheek.

 

You invite us to overcome our fears and respond with faith.

 

How difficult it all seems Lord. But that difficulty stems from us thinking we have to do all that on our own, when we know we don’t have the strength, the endurance, or the peace to do Your work.

 

Yet, it’s not about what we can or cannot do, what we can or cannot give, it is all about letting You work through us, by the power of Your Spirit. A power in which nothing is impossible.

 

Holy and gracious God, as we come closer to receiving the Christ Child again, may we receive the miracle of what He brings, Your love for each one of us. A love that Your Spirit fills us with to inspire, motivate, and generate those things we think are impossible, allowing change to come into our lives and the lives of those suffering.

 

So, here we are, servants of You Lord. Let it be with us according to Your word revealed in Jesus Christ, 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.

 

Offering Prayer:

O Lord, our God, we praise You for Your generosity. Today, You give us what we need to live, work, and rest in peace. Help us never to take for granted Your provisions for us: shelter, food, and Christian fellowship. We give these offerings for the ministries of our church to bless people in need of Your help and love. May they come to know Jesus Christ, whose kingdom will last forever. Amen.

 

MATTHEW 1:18-25

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

 

“COMING HOME TO LOVE: JOSEPH, THE FORGOTTEN MAN OF CHRISTMAS”  Pastor Ron

 

DECEMBER 20, 2020

 

            If you were given the opportunity to meet any person in the first Christmas story, who would you choose? I’ve been thinking about that, and it’s not easy to decide. There are so many fascinating people:

 

Herod

That wicked old toad squatting on the throne of Israel, insanely jealous lest a baby steal his glory.

 

The Magi

The Wise Men from the East. Who were they? Where did they come from? Were they astrologers? How did they know about the star?

 

The Innkeeper

I can see him in my mind’s eye. A good man, harried, frustrated to turn away business. Did he ever discover who he turned away?

 

The Shepherds

Here’s something you might not know. Nearly all the shepherds in modern Israel are teenagers – many of them girls. That gives us every reason to think that the shepherds were not the old men of tradition but teenagers who were 15 or 16 years old.

 

There are so many others. Anna the prophetess. Simeon who took the baby Jesus in his arms and blessed his parents. And then there is Mary. Luke wrote his story about her. Wouldn’t you like to meet the mother of Jesus? I would.

            But there is someone I’d like to meet even more. He is the forgotten man of Christmas. Matthew wrote his story about him. His name is Joseph. He is the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus. He’s the person from the first Christmas story I would most like to meet.

            When I call Joseph “the forgotten man of Christmas,” that is not an exaggeration. Not much is said about him in the Bible. Not many sermons are preached about him. As a matter of fact, there’s not much written about Joseph at all. This week I flipped through the hymnal to see how many times his name is mentioned in the Christmas hymns. This is what I discovered:

The Angels are mentioned so many times I lost count.

The Shepherds are mentioned at least 9 times.

Mary is mentioned at least 7 times.

The Wise Men are mentioned at least 6 times.

Joseph is mentioned only 2 times.

The hymns are: Sing We Now of Christmas and Angels We Have Heard on High.

 

            So let me list briefly for you the things we know about Joseph:

His father was Jacob.

His family hometown was Bethlehem in Judea, but he lived in Nazareth in Galilee. (That meant that Joseph and Mary had to travel about 95 miles in order to register for the census.)

He was from the royal line of David. (The genealogy listed in Matthew 1 makes that clear.

He was a carpenter by trade.

He was a poor man. (We know this because when he and Mary presented Jesus in the Temple, they brought a turtledove to sacrifice. Jews only did that when they could not afford a lamb.)

He was a religious man, a devout keeper of the Law, a fact we will observe more closely in just a moment.

How old was Joseph? We don’t know the answer for sure, but most scholars agree that he was a young man and probably a teenager. (If we said 17 years old, we would probably be right.)

 

            Matthew tells Joseph’s story this way:

 

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (18:1)

 

What the New Revised Standard calls “engaged,” the older versions called “betrothed.” It refers to an ancient Jewish marriage custom. In those days most marriages were arranged by the parents – with or without the children’s approval. The two sets of parents would meet and draw up a formal marriage contract. When the contract was signed, the man and woman were legally “pledged” to each other. The period of betrothal would last up to a year, at the end of which they were formally married in a public wedding ceremony.

            That may sound like our modern day practice of engagement, but there are some major differences. In the first place, the “pledge” was considered as sacred as marriage itself. During the year, the couple were called husband and wife but did not live together. If the man were to die during that year, the woman would be considered a widow even though the wedding ceremony had never taken place. The only way to break the betrothal was through a legal divorce. In essence, to be “pledged” to each other was the same thing as being married, except that the couple could not live together until the wedding ceremony took place. The whole idea was that the one-year period was meant to be a time for testing commitment and faithfulness.

            This is where the story gets interesting. According to Deuteronomy 22:20-21, if a woman is found to be pregnant during the betrothal, that could only mean she had been unfaithful to her husband in which case the Law commanded that she be stoned to death.

            When Mary turns up pregnant, Joseph knows only one thing for sure. He is not the father. What words could describe a man at a time like this? Angry…Confused…Frustrated…Embarrassed…Ashamed…Disappointed. What did Joseph say to Mary? What did she say to him? Did she tell him about the angel Gabriel? And if she did, can we blame him for not believing her? Did he say to her, “Mary, how could you? You are pledged to me. We are going to get married. I was going to build a house for us in Nazareth. How could you do this? Why couldn’t you keep yourself for me?

            Now put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. You are a teenager in love and suddenly your girlfriend turns up pregnant. You aren’t the father, and you don’t know who is. What do you do? Joseph was an observant Jew and under the Law he had every right to divorce Mary for unfaithfulness. In fact, the Law forbade him to marry her under those circumstances.

            Here is the greatness of Joseph. He loved her even though he thought she had been unfaithful to him. His love for Mary covered the shame of the situation. This is how Matthew 1:19 puts it: “Her husband, Joseph being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” He was a righteous man which means he wanted to do what was right in the eyes of God. Not wanting to expose her to public disgrace means that although she had been unfaithful he still didn’t want to humiliate her. And so, he planned to divorce her quietly. This means he would give her the papers in the presence of two witnesses. It is entirely to Joseph’s credit that he chose to do it privately and spare Mary the humiliation of a public divorce.

            Having made his decision… he didn’t do it. He had every right to divorce Mary, but he just couldn’t do it. As one writer put it, there was a “short but tragic struggle between his legal conscience and his love.” Joseph hesitated, waited, and thought long and hard. Day after day he pondered the matter. Time was running out. With each passing day it became more obvious that Mary was pregnant.  Then one night, it happened. He had a dream and in the dream an angel spoke to him. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (20) To us, that might seem strange. But it didn’t to Joseph. God often spoke to people through dreams in the Bible. It was one way he used in those ancient days of communicating to his people.

            And it worked. Joseph needed assurance. He couldn’t marry Mary until he was sure it was the right thing to do. He had to know the truth. God met him at exactly the right moment. God sent an angel who told Joseph, in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…” (20)

            But the angel wasn’t finished yet. He told Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (21) The angel explains just enough and nothing more. The baby is “from the Holy Spirit” and thus not of man. Nothing more is said. It’s not a long message, but it is enough.

            Verses 24-25 reveal Joseph’s finest qualities. “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.” The only other thing I could say about Joseph is that I like him. He strikes me as a very good man. I wish I could meet him.

            Coming home to love. Joseph took Mary as his wife. He became the earthly father to Jesus. He loved Mary enough to take her as his wife. He loved Jesus enough to take him and Mary and flee to Egypt to save his life. It is my hope that you experience this kind of love this Christmas.

           

 

Closing Song: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by the LUMC Praise Band

https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/god-rest-ye-merry

 

1 God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day,
to save us all from Satan's pow'r when we were gone astray;

Refrain:
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

 

2 From God our heav'nly Father, a blessed angel came;
and unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same:
how that in Bethlehem was born the son of God by name, [Refrain]

 

3 The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
and left their flocks a-feeding, in tempest, storm, and wind,
and went to Bethlehem straightway, the Son of God to find. [Refrain]

 

 

Benediction:

 

 
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