December 11, 2022 Getting Ready To Love Others (Advent 3)

Image by Mike Gifford via Flickr

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/779995050

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3lXV6VvYZw

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; 
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. 
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; 
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

HYMN 230 O Little Town of Bethlehem
Gaither Vocal Band – O Little Town Of Bethlehem
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwfkGj51S2c

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: 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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 557 Blest Be the Tie That Binds
Blest Be the Tie That Binds … Praise and Harmony Loving God.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RUu93KoX-0

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Getting Ready To Love Others
Text: Matthew 1:18-25, 2:10-15, 19-21, Luke 2:6-7
Series: People Get Ready

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 1-18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

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HYMN 246 Joy To The World
Joy To The World (Lyric Video / Live At Mosaiek Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa/2006)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV_QLxXxjqU

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

There is a saying. It probably should be right off a Christmas card: The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love till you give it away. And part of the idea, the truth of Christmas, is that God is giving His love to us by sending to us Jesus Christ, into a world that throughout history has not been very loving.

Let me tell you one story that describes that so truthfully and horribly. In 1942, the German nation began to gather Jewish people up and put them on railroad trains, and transport them to concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Here’s the story.

In Crown Heights, a neighborhood in New York City, there was a Jew, Yankel, who owned a bakery. He survived the concentration camps. He once said, “You know why it is that I am alive today? I was a kid, just a teenager at the time. We were on the train, in a box car, being taken to Auschwitz. Night came and it was freezing, deadly cold in that box car. The Germans would leave the cars on the side of the tracks overnight, sometimes for days on end, without any food and, of course, no blankets to keep us warm. Sitting next to me was an older Jew. This beloved elderly neighbor of mine, from my hometown, I recognized. But I had never seen him like this. He was shivering from head to toe and looked terrible, so I wrapped my arms around him and began rubbing him to warn him up. I rubbed his arms. I rubbed his legs. I rubbed his face. I rubbed his neck. I begged him to hang on. All night long, I kept him warm in this way. I was tired. I was freezing cold myself. My fingers were numb, but I didn’t stop rubbing the heat onto this man’s body.

Hours and hours went by this way. Finally, night passed. Morning came, and the sun began to shine. There was some warmth now in the cabin and some light. And then I looked around the car to see some of the other Jews in the boxcar. To my horror, all I could see were frozen bodies, and all I could hear was a deathly silence. Nobody else in that cabin made it through the night. They died from the frost. Only two people survived, the old man and me. The old man survived because somebody kept him warm. I survived because I was warming someone else.

“Let me tell you the secret of Judaism,” Yankel said. “When you warm other people’s hearts you remain warm yourself. When you seek to support, encourage, and inspire others then you discover support and encouragement and inspiration in your own life as well. That, my friends, is Judaism 101.”

And if Christmas is a time for us to love one another, perhaps we could say that it’s also Christmas 101. The meaning of Christmas: God so loved the world that he gave his son. So let’s talk about the Christmas story.

Last week we talked about the Christmas story in Luke and all about how an angel appeared to Mary. And Mary was going to be the bearer, the one who would bring the baby Jesus to all of us. And I suggested that you and I could not volunteer to literally be Mary but we could bear Jesus Christ to the world around us.

But it’s interesting the Book of Matthew doesn’t mention Mary very much in its telling of the Christmas story. Matthew 1:18 begins: now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way… and all the rest of it is about Joseph. All the rest of it is about the decisions that Joseph made. All the rest of it is about Joseph’s choices and how his choices brought Christmas. And you know, friends, you and I can also make choices just like Joseph.

Let’s look at his choices. Verse 18, when His, Jesus’s, mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. And this has to do with the Jewish laws and cultural rules of betrothal. The couple that was engaged was considered to be literally and legally married. So consequently a fiance who became pregnant outside of the marriage was considered by Jewish law to be guilty of adultery and could be stoned, could be executed. The only way to save the life of the young woman would be the choice that Joseph considered in verse 19: And her husband Joseph being a just, fair man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. This would save her life plus she would not be embarrassed.

But as he considered this choice, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And now Joseph has a choice to make. Does he listen to the angel? Does he choose to do the forgiving and loving thing? Verse 22 says all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us.” And so Joseph prayed over his choice. Should he take the Christ child into his life or not? Verse 24, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife but knew or not until she had born a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Christmas is about choices. And so Joseph took care of Mary. Joseph took care of the baby Jesus. Joseph welcomed them into his heart and showed them love.

Joseph did his best. They traveled to Bethlehem because of the census. And in verse 6, we learn that while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. You see one of the strangest things about the Christmas story is that all of Joseph’s family are coming to Bethlehem. Joseph, at this time, is surrounded by his relatives … yet none of his relatives are available. Jewish hospitality laws insisted that your family take you in, stay with family, but Joseph’s family has apparently turned their back on Mary and him.

But also, the innkeeper has a choice. You wonder, couldn’t you put a bed somewhere for a woman who’s about to become a mother? You always have a choice. Something I’ll always wonder – did the innkeeper suggest the stable or did Mary and Joseph slip into it the way someone who’s homeless might slip into a barn to sleep in the straw. We don’t know. But we do know that you always have a choice.

Joseph continued to make choices to take care of Mary and the child. Matthew 2, “Now, when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and remain there till I tell you for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.'” The wise men had brought portable wealth and financed this escape. But Joseph had a choice to make. Shall I get up immediately and go? And he did. Verse 14, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.”

Not only that, a few years later, he had another choice. The angel appears again in a dream and says, “Rise. Take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And again, verse 21, “He rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.”

The Bible says that young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams. And I have been more aware of my dreams lately, because sometimes they wake me up, and I can’t go back to sleep. Sometimes they are about some kind of wrong that is happening. And because I can’t sleep, I take time to pray. But God encourages Joseph in a dream, and Joseph makes the right choice.

Friends, we have a choice in the Christmas season. C.S. Lewis once said, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, the bread and the cup that we share in Holy Communion,” C.S. Lewis said, “next to that, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Next to Holy Communion, the holiest thing you will encounter are the neighbors that surround you. And you always have a choice. How will I treat this person who is my neighbor? And not only that, I believe that God brings opportunities to us to love our neighbors. Sometimes, we don’t even notice that they are opportunities. And if we don’t notice, it’s awfully hard for us to make a good decision.

Let me tell you a few stories about good decisions.

One woman writes, “When the supermarket clerk tallied up my groceries, it was $12 more than I had on me. I began to remove items from my bags when another shopper handed me a $20 bill. ‘Please don’t put yourself out,’ I said to him, trying to give the money back. He then said, ‘Let me tell you a story. My mother is in the hospital with cancer. I visit her every day and I bring her flowers. I went this morning, and she got mad at me for spending my money on more flowers. She demanded that I do something else with that money. So here,’ he said, ‘please accept this. This is my mother’s flowers. She wants you to have them.'”

Another woman writes, “I saw a dress in a consignment shop that I knew my granddaughter would love, but money was tight so I asked the store owner if he could hold it for me. ‘May I buy the dress for you?’ the woman in line behind me asked. ‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘but I can’t accept such a gracious gift.’ But then she told me why it was important to her to help me. She’d been homeless, she said, for three years, and had it not been for the kindness of strangers, she would not have been able to survive. ‘I’m no longer homeless,’ she said, ‘but I promised myself that I would repay the kindness that so many had shown me.’ She paid for the dress, and the only thing she would accept in return was a hug.”

A doctor: As I walked through the parking lot, all I could think about was the dire diagnosis that I had just handed to my patient, Jimmy, pancreatic cancer. Just then, in the parking lot, I noticed a teenage boy handing tools to someone working under his stalled car.
That someone was Jimmy. I yelled out, “Jimmy, what are you doing?”
Jimmy crawled out and dusted off his pants and said, “My cancer didn’t tell me not to help people, doc.” Then he waved at the teenager to start the car. His kind and unwavering positive disposition greatly impressed me. The engine roared to life. The young man thanked Jimmy and drove off. And then Jimmy got into his car and took off as well.
Despite terrible odds, he beat cancer.

I was four months pregnant with our first child when our baby’s heart stopped beating. I was devastated. As the days went on, I was nervous about returning to work. I’m a middle school teacher and didn’t know how I could face the kids. But this past May, after four weeks of recovering from grief, I walked into my empty classroom for the first time and turned on the lights. Glued to the walls were more than 100 colored post-it notes, each with a handwritten message on it from current and past students. All of them had encouraging messages, “Keep moving forward. Don’t give up on God and know that we love you.” It was exactly what I needed.

I was at Walmart getting a couple of groceries with my wife and kids. It had been a particularly tough year. I had lost my job, bills were piling up, and we were close to tears every night because we had no idea if we were even going to be able to afford to give our kids anything for Christmas. I left my wife for a different aisle to grab something, and while I was gone, an elderly couple approached my wife, and the woman gave my wife a $100 bill and just said, “Merry Christmas.” My wife tried to give it back, but they wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently, they didn’t have any kids or grandkids. So every month, this woman would put a $100 bill in her wallet and through the month would try to find someone with kids and give them a gift. My wife burst into tears in the middle of the store and gave the woman a hug.

After my father abandoned us, my mother fretted over her new worries. No income, the same bills, no hope to pay them, no way to even afford groceries. It was around this time that she started finding a bag of food outside our front door every Tuesday and Friday morning. This went on for months until she was able to land a job. we never did find out who it was who left the groceries for us, but they truly saved our lives.

Here’s the truth, friends. The holiest thing that you will encounter this week next to the Blessed Sacrament itself is your neighbor. And God loves you, and God loves your neighbor. And God may give you an opportunity to be someone like this because you always have a choice in how you treat your neighbor.

I began with a story of concentration camps. Let me tell you of a Jewish psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Viktor Frankl, who was taken to a concentration camp. They performed medical experiments on his body that were incredibly painful. And he came to a new understanding of mental health and psychiatry while he was in the concentration camp, and he wrote this:

“Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space, and in that space is our power to choose our response.” In other words, between the thing that somebody does to you and the way you respond to it, you have a space. It may be infinitesimally small, but you have a space where you are able to choose your response. Frankl said, “In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

He also wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man, but one thing. The last of our human freedoms. What is that? To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Friends, no matter how bad it gets, you always have a choice.

You get to choose your attitude; you get to choose your actions. You always have a choice as to how you will respond. You always have the opportunity to choose to respond with love, whatever that might mean at that moment. Sometimes love means to say, “You’re grounded.” Sometimes love means to say, “You go ahead.” In that moment, you will have to choose and make your choice. And we need to learn how to make these choices.

From time to time on Sundays, when we have children, we have this thing we call the Love Box. It says Love Box over the top. And we ask the little kids to come up and, from the Love Box, they’re asked to take a piece of candy. A piece of candy of their choice for themselves, a piece of candy for the person who takes them to church. But they’re also asked to take a third piece of candy and give it to the person right here in the sanctuary that they feel needs it the most. And I want to tell you, it’s a great joy to watch the children look around the room and you can sort of hear their minds praying, “God, who needs this one? Who needs this one?” Sometimes I try to encourage that by saying, “Boys and girls, look for the grumpiest person you can see. The person who needs this piece of candy has had a really bad week, so look for that person.”

But the idea behind it is, you can’t be too young to begin to listen to God and make a choice about who to love as your neighbor, even if it’s with such a small thing as a piece of candy. So, boys and girls, the love box will be here right after church. I invite you to take your three pieces of candy, one for yourself, one for whoever loved you and brought you to church, but also one for you to have practice choosing, God, who needs this third piece? This little sign of caring?

I’d also like to say that no matter how old you are, you’re welcome to be a child this morning and come and get three pieces so that you also can practice that choice of who to love. Because Christmas is about God giving to us. And in the choices of Joseph, which we can also make, it’s about us giving love and nurture and comfort to warm others who need it in this cold world.

The hymn we sang at the beginning of worship said this,
“How silently, how silently this wondrous gift is given.” The hymn talks about Jesus, but maybe it’s that bag of groceries that wound up on the front steps.
And so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, all day long, all week long, indeed, Lord, all month long and all year long, our lives are made up of one choice after another. Lord, I pray that our choices would be aware of the holy thing that is our neighbor, who you have put in front of us so that we might notice our neighbor, so that we might care, so that we might feel, so that we might be aware. And, Lord, perhaps we may give the gift. Perhaps it is nothing more than the gift to pray for them because You’ve reminded us of their situation. Perhaps the gift is a little more than a prayer. But Lord, help us to notice and make wise choices inspired by Christmas. Not just in this Christmas season, but throughout the year. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

SOURCES – where did these stories come from?
First, the story of Yankel: https://www.facebook.com/lovewhatreallymatters/photos/in-crown-heights-there-was-a-jew-yankel-who-owned-a-bakery-he-survived-the-camps/1039164436105954/

The rest: https://thesportsdrop.com/cl/people-share-the-most-heart-warming-random-acts-of-kindness-they-have-ever-seen/inf?utm_source=prezna-fb&utm_campaign=CAS1J-0812-montana-1ABGUL-F4-R4-SD-prz&fbclid=IwAR1ms3vY1XMgCwSaYQwKQ3U3IiCGePTjlFiK2wjFSB76VGNCjFnAMqwwCac

The two quotes from Dr Frankl: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20one%20thing%20you%20can,attitude%20in%20any%20given%20circumstance.%E2%80%9D&text=%E2%80%9CHappiness%20cannot%20be%20pursued%3B%20it%20must%20ensue.%E2%80%9D&text=%E2%80%9CLife%20is%20never%20made%20unbearable,lack%20of%20meaning%20and%20purpose.%E2%80%9D

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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