December 6, 2020 - Home Worship Service

Welcome & Announcements: Good morning church!

We continue to offer in person worship at Lightstreet.

 8am contemporary service in the Lighthouse and 10:30am is our traditional service in the church sanctuary. You will need a mask and will be asked to be spaced apart from others unless you are sitting with those in your household. 8am & 10:30 offers live musicians.  

 

Another alternative for worship is Sunday 9:00 am Zoom Worship & Prayer

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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

 

8am: Donna Winn   9am: Ellen & Bill Withrow    10:30am: Norm & Tawna Parko

 

Lighting of the First Candle of the Advent Wreath: the Candle of Hope

Reader - As a family here today, we come together in a celebration of hope. But what do we hope for?

 

Reader - As we head towards Christmas we often hope that we can survive the days of work, school, shopping, and decorating. We often hope we can survive the chaos and messiness of the holidays. 

 

Reader- The Hope of the Nations came to us on a night of messy circumstances. The Light of the World was born in a stable, laid to bed in a feeding trough and was attended to by field hands. They were messy and chaoitic circumstances, and yet it was just right for Jesus Christ, a perfect child, surrounded by all of the love two parents could give.

 

Reader - This morning we light the Candle of Hope, as we pray for Christ to come into our hearts again:

(Light a purple/blue candle.)

 

Let us pray: Lord God, help us not to be so overwhelmed by the chaos of this season that we miss out on the hope that only you can bring to us. Amen.

 

Opening Song: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by the 10:30am Congregation of 11/29

https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/come-thou-long-church

 

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.

 

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.

 

Opening prayer: Lord, in the weeks to come, our attention to this blessed and holy event, the birth of your Son, will be continually distracted. Help us to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and to remember the true meaning of our joy and excitement. Help us to refocus our minds and hearts on your loving and most precious gift to us, the hope of the world revealed in your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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!

 

I bet if you look around you, you will experience many different ways that we know it is Christmas. Like the music you hear on the radio. Most of the songs are about Christmas. Or the decorations people have on their homes, in their yards, in the stores and schools. Same with the stories we watch on the television. And of course we are decorated in the church and Lighthouse.

 

What many people do not know is that some of those decorations offer symbolism of the Christmas story we celebrate in the church, the birth of Jesus. Each week, I want to share with you some examples of what may seem ordinary decorations or stories in this holiday time, that are actually a great way to celebrate our faith.

 

Today let’s talk about candy canes. Legend has it that the candy cane dates back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he bent the candies into shepherds’ crooks.

 

With time the sugar sticks also had color, the color of red. And so Christians have used the sugar sticks as symbols of our faith:

 

 

So the next time you see a candy cane, may it remind you of what we celebrate at Christmas, Jesus.

 

Let us pray: Thank you God, for the beauty of this season, that teach us about Jesus. Amen.

 

Joys & Concerns:

Precious Lord, we gather here this morning in this beautifully decorated space to prepare our hearts and lives to receive the gift you gave to us in Bethlehem. It is in the gift of the Christ child that each of us has been blessed and called into your family. And as a family we take the time to praise you for the joys you have revealed in our lives….

 

We are so thankful for your answering of our prayers, and for your guidance. We are thankful for the endless love and mercy you continue to show towards us.

 

It is that same mercy that we call upon now for those we know who are currently finding it difficult to feel your hope in their lives. We pray for..

 

We commend to your care these people, Lord. May you lift them up with your grace and peace and give us all the faith to accept with thanksgiving your will for all our lives.

 

Most of all Lord, we pray that as we are drawn into the celebration of Christmas, may we hold onto the truth of the message of this season. You came to save us from our transgressions, our fears, and our doubts through your Son, who gives us your hope, guides us to your way, heals us in hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, and who is the one 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: In gratitude for all that God has given us, we receive this morning offering, pledging these gifts and our lives in God’s service.

 

Offertory Prayer
Giver of the most precious Gift of all, we return to you this day our thanks represented in these gifts and in the lives of all these dear people. Bless these gifts and all these people that they may be lights of your love in our dark world. AMEN.

Sermon: Coming Home to Hope

 

You may have noticed the signs posted out front of the church or at either end of Lightstreet off of Route 487. You may notice the posters hanging up in our buildings. They all offer the same invitation: A Place for You This Christmas. When I ordered all those signs and posters, and by the way they were part of a generous give away from The United Methodist Board of Discipleship, my thinking was we live in a chaotic time that has unfortunately made us question our place.

 

Let me explain. Because of COVID our students and teachers have had to find the safest place they could teach and learn. Sometimes it’s online, other times in rooms with dividers. Our businesses have had to force their workers to smaller shifts even though larger work loads continues. And at one point stores were keeping track of how many of us could enter their buildings.  

Finding our place in this time is uncertain.

 

So the solution? Well, time and time again we were told to stay home, it’s the safest place as we battle this virus. Home. But what if your home is living by yourself? And you are limited in what you can do, due to age or condition. And what if your home is small and relations within are difficult? There has been an increase in domestic violence, world wide, through this pandemic. And what if your home does not have heat or electricity because bills cannot be paid as you were laid off. Home is not always a haven.

 

However, God offers a place for each of us, a place of comfort, a place of protection, a place of hope, in His comforting arms, carried in his bosom. That’s what the prophet Isaiah promises in our lesson today, taken from Isaiah 40.

 

Scripture Lesson: Isaiah 40:1-11

40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

 

Here’s the background to this text. As I spoke before, not all homes are a haven. And the Israelites of the time of this writing definitely could relate. Authored during the exilic period of Hebrew history, the people of God were captives in Babylon, in a land not of their own, in a culture that was diverse from their own. And sadly this was not written a few months into the exile, but years. To the point that some even doubted God heard their prayers anymore.

 

In the midst of such despair Isaiah proclaims not only that God is watching and paying attention, but that God is preparing to restore God’s people. And so Isaiah begins his message with the words of comfort and reassurance. 40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins Feeling lost and cutoff the Israelites hear God’s words of promised comfort.

 

Isaiah proclaims the people’s waiting in a foreign land is over. 3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah declares that God builds a highway across the wilderness.

 

Moreover, God’s breath is breathing new life over the decaying grass and withering flowers. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

Using poetic images Isaiah depicts God turning a merciful eye towards the Israelites. God restores blessing and promise because God is at work regardless of how things may appear. But more importantly, Isaiah prophesies the imminent return of God’s people to the promised land, with God leading the people back to their homeland. 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

 

Not only has God promised renewal and salvation, God has promised to abide with the people. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

 

We can imagine how such images lead to a rebirth of hope for God’s people. Just as they should for us today.

Because the prophet’s words still hold true today. And that is, God is listening, watching, paying attention to us and God will help us find our way through the desert. God will change the rough patches, the bumps in the road we hit, to smooth them out because God is coming, tearing down mountains, lifting up valleys, to carry us forward.

 

You see, that is our hope. And honestly, isn’t that our hope each day? We proclaim that in our daily prayers and our actions, claiming: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable to you, O God. Wherever people are in exile, cut off from what they know. And wherever people are stuck in a destructive and oppressive setting, they are longing for the presence of God to carry them forward.

 

Here’s the good news. Wherever such people are, the prophet declares it’s okay, because God is coming to make things right. In fact Isaiah 40 ends with these words: Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 

Those who hope in the Lord, will renew their strength. That means there will be healing and encouragement.

Friends, that’s the promise of Advent. To begin a journey to a place God has for each of us. A place we should call home, a place, near to the heart of God, through the child born in Bethlehem. And it does not matter our location. Whether we are at a church building or outdoors, or at our residence, God’s heart is all around, in every place, in every crevice, beckoning us to feel at home, to find our place, in God’s plan and work of salvation.

 

The next few weeks we will be reminded of stories of those who found their home with God’s will. And as they did they experienced joy, love, and peace, just as the Israelites experienced hope through Isaiah. They all found their place at home with God.

 

And so in this time of Advent, may we all ponder this question: Where is my place in this story? Where is God leading me in this timeless story of hope and redemption? Because friends, there is a place for you. A place for all of us, with a God who smooths the rough roads of life. A God who promises to lift us up with a renewal of strength. A God whose comforting arms offer a place for all, a place to truly call home, through Jesus Christ.

 

Closing Prayer

God, we are confident you are coming, bringing a world where all will be made right. Calm our anxiety, strengthen our patience, and keep our hope aflame, as we work towards, and wait for, your new day. Amen.

 

Closing Song:Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by the LUMC Praise Band

https://soundcloud.com/jennifer-parks-snyder/come-thou-long-expect-church

 

Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!

 

Christ by highest heav'n adored Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!

 

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!

 

Benediction:

 

We are called to go into the world, confident in God’s loving presence. Go, with hope near to the heart of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

 

 

 

 
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