December 4, 2022 Getting Ready To Love God (Advent 2)

Image by svklimkin from Pixabay

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/777704568

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3le0gVvcf0

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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 239 Silent Night
Kelly Clarkson Featuring Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood – Silent Night (LYRICS)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QGP6f9nVC8

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 420 Breathe On Me, Breath of God
Breathe On Me, Breath Of God · Steve Green
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S140Ew5PhI8

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 God
Text: John 14:18-23, Luke 1:37-38, 46-55
Series: People Get Ready

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

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SERMON NOTES

John 14:18  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Luke 1:37 … For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

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HYMN 249 There’s A Song In The Air
There’s a Song in the Air
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FuXnYarhb0
or
There’s a Song in the Air – Adele Morgan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fBk5H2Pkhs

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

People, it’s time to get ready … for there is a savior that is coming. The old spiritual says there’s a train that’s coming. Don’t miss the opportunity to get on board. This is the season of us getting ready for Christmas. And part of what we’re getting ready to do is we’re getting ready to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our mind, with all of who we are, and with all of where we are. God’s love desires to come and fill all of it.

Let me tell you a story. It’s a famous story. You may have heard it before. I’ve changed it just a little bit. Paul Harvey would always tell this story on his radio show on Christmas Day. And he told a story about a man who was not a churchgoer, who was not a believer, a good man, but he just wasn’t much of a churchgoer. He didn’t believe in all the fuss the churches proclaimed at Christmas. He didn’t believe in all the mangers and shepherds and wise men and such. He just could not swallow the part about Jesus being God coming to earth as a man. It did not make sense to him. It did not seem necessary. He did not understand why God would choose to do that, and he was unwilling to pretend to be something he was not.

So every Christmas Eve, his wife and children would pack themselves into the family car to head to the midnight Christmas Eve service at the church. The church was across the farm fields from where they lived. They would always encourage him to come with them, but he would always say that he felt too much like a hypocrite to attend. He would wait up for their return, sitting by the fire, reading the newspaper.

Just moments after the family drove away, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries, each seeming to get heavier and bigger as they crossed the panes of glass. The beauty was breathtaking but the wind and blizzard conditions made standing next to the window a cold proposition. He wandered his way to the fireside chair and began to read his paper.

Minutes later, he heard a loud thumping sound. First one, then another, then another still. He thought, some kids must be throwing snowballs at the house, so he stirred to go outside and chase them away. But when he peered out the barely opened front door, he was startled to see a flock of birds huddled, coated with the frozen precipitation. They had been caught in the blustery conditions and in their desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through the large bay window.

He couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze to death. The old barn at the corner of the driveway would provide them a warm shelter if he could somehow direct the birds to it. Quickly, he put on his heaviest coat and boots and made his way through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened both doors wide and turned on the lights. But the birds stayed flopping in the snow, almost oblivious to their salvation.

The man figured that food would entice them, so he hurried back and grabbed a loaf of bread, and sprinkled crumbs in the snow, making a trail of food to the open door. To his dismay, the birds ignored the food and remained helplessly caught in the snow, except for an occasional brave one who would crash into the window pane.

He tried to shoo them into the barn by walking around them, waving his arms like a monster and rushing and hurrying to them to the barn. But the birds scattered in every direction except the right one. He then realized that the birds were afraid of him. To them, he was a weird and awful creature.

If only he could let them know that he was trying to help them and not hurt them. If only they could somehow know that he could be trusted, that he loved them and wanted the best for them. He thought to himself, if only I could be a bird, I could speak to them in their language. I could lead them, and they would follow the way they needed to go into the warm safe.

And at that moment, across the fields, the church bells began to ring. It was midnight. It was Christmas Day, and the sound of the chimes reached his ears above the whistling, piercing sounds of the wind. And he fell to his knees in the snow because now he understood.

Unfortunately, the church bears responsibility for teaching people to be afraid of God, when really what people need to learn first is to be aware of God’s love and God’s desire to help them. This has always been true. This scripture is not exactly a part of the Christmas story. But John 14, the night before Jesus dies on the cross, he reminds the disciples of an important fact:

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Before long,” Jesus says, “the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Look at verse 21. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. And I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

Then Judas – not Judas Iscariot – There were two disciples named Judas – said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Now, please keep that in mind. Jesus is going to show himself to them, not the world. Jesus is going to come to them, not to the world. And here’s Jesus’s answer to the question. Verse 23. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

And so the angel says to Mary, “You’re going to have a baby. God is going to come and be born as a human being. God is going to come to you and to all of us and to dwell with us by being born.” Mary says, how can this be? And the angel gives an explanation. But the end of his explanation is a good thing for us all to remember. “For with God, nothing will be impossible.”

Now, notice the response of Mary, which is a response of love toward God. Mary said, “Behold, I am a handmaid, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. And lo and behold, it happened just like that. A baby began to grow inside of Mary. Jesus Christ was dwelling literally within her body.

The angel had said to Mary, “Your cousin Elizabeth is expecting a child.” This child will become John the Baptist. That’s the confirmation of what the angel is saying. So Mary rushes to visit Elizabeth, and they rejoice together. And Mary knows that what the angel said is true.

But notice in this next verse what it means to her, verse 46. And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed. For he who is mighty has done great things for me. And holy is his name, and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree. Here’s what it means for Mary for Jesus to come: He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever.

You see, even for Mary, it was not just that Jesus was coming to her, but that Jesus was coming to her and through her to bless all people.

In the 2000 years since, we in the church have learned a few things that are perfectly illustrated by that little story of the birds freezing on Christmas night. We have tried for centuries to open the doors and turn on the lights, as if unlocking doors and turning on lights would be all that was necessary for the world to come here to receive everything that Jesus Christ could do for them. But friends, I’m sorry, no matter how bright the lights– lately, our custodian, Joyce, in Christmas times, she likes to leave the lights on so the stained windows are lit up. But no matter how bright the lights, no matter how beautiful the windows, no matter how big and wide open the doors are, the birds don’t understand.

We can make a trail of food. As Patsy pointed out, there’s cake in there, and there’s cookies, and there’s going to be coffee, right after worship. And there’s soup suppers and potlucks and SALT potluck lunches and all kinds of things. But the world does not seem to understand that this is where Jesus Christ can fulfill all the hungers of the heart.

And if you go out there and try to wave your arms and herd people and force them to come in, all you’ll discover is that they are afraid, just like the man in the story. If only they could know that we could be trusted.

Many centuries ago, there was a division between the churches in the west, headquartered in Rome, that became the Catholic Church. And the churches in the east of Rome, centered in Constantinople, that became the Orthodox Churches. In the Orthodox Church understanding, their word for Mary was Theotokos, the God-bearer. Which literally means the one that gives birth to Jesus, but it also means the one who is carrying Jesus, who everywhere she goes, is bringing Jesus. Literally, wherever she goes, God is with us.

And this, of course, is the doctrine of the incarnation, that God is now with us. And this is why Jesus has another name, Emmanuel, God is now with us, because wherever God dwells, he goes, and he is with the people there.

Let me tell you another story. This story is known by several names. One of them is Lunch with God. One day, a little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it would be a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Twinkies and root beer and started off on his journey searching for God. When he had gone about three blocks from his home, he saw an old man sitting alone in a park on a bench just staring at some pigeons. The old man had white hair and a big white beard. And the little boy thought, “You know, that’s what I’ve always thought God would look at. This must be God.” The little boy sat down next to him and opened his backpack and he was about to take a drink from his root beer when it seemed to him that the old man looked hungry. So he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy. His smile was so beautiful that the boy wanted to see it again. So the boy offered him a root beer. Again, he was graced with a beautiful smile. The boy was delighted. They sat there all afternoon, eating and smiling, eating and smiling, but never saying a word until all the Twinkies were gone and all the root beer was gone.
And it grew dark. And the little boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave. But before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man and gave him a hug. He was rewarded with the biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” And before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.” Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His wife had died. He was living with his only son. His son was actually quite worried about how depression was having its way with his father’s emotions. But his son was stunned by the look of peace on his father’s face. And he asked, “Papa, what did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I ate lunch today in the park with God.” And before his son could say anything, he added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

The Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t want to dwell only in Mary’s body; the Lord Jesus Christ wants to be born. And as you heard in John 14, the Lord Jesus Christ wants to dwell with us. And so, ideally, in an ideal and perfect world, the Lord Jesus Christ in you will recognize the Lord Jesus Christ in someone else. In a perfect world, you will be the God bearer who brings Jesus with you into every kind of human situation. And when the Lord Jesus Christ gets there, he’s going to begin to change people’s lives. He’s going to begin to heal those who are ill. He’s going to begin to mend what is broken. The Lord Jesus Christ is going to dwell within you and go with you into every place and do what a savior does. And that’s an important meaning of Christmas. The love that God has for you is not just for you, but it is also through you … for God to love everyone.

You see, this is incarnation. God with us. God goes with us. When someone wants to obey Jesus, the Father will love them. And Jesus says, “We will come to them and make our home with them.” So it won’t just be Mary that’s carrying the infant body of Jesus, but it will be all of God’s people who are carrying the loving, saving presence of Jesus everywhere we go.

And you never know what can happen. If you go out looking for God, you may find Him wherever you go, maybe even on a park bench. Let me remind you of words that you prayed just a moment ago. Remember the Prayer of Humble Access that we prayed just before taking Holy Communion? That Jesus would dwell within you. That’s what you prayed. You took the bread, you took the cup, and it’s a symbol of Jesus being within you. Some churches say it’s not a symbol, it is literally Jesus in you. You are, in a sense, refueling. Because the meaning of Christmas is that God goes with us wherever we go.

The hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem, ends with a prayer that I wish you would take it literally. I wish you would think about how it could change your life and the lives of people all around you. It’s a prayer:

“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in.”
And here’s the meaning of Christmas:
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.”

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we pray that you would be born in us this Christmas season. For many of your people, you were born in us years before, but we need to renew this faith. We need to add fuel to the fire that may have died down, so that the warmth that you bring into a cold world might bless the people that we encounter. Lord, I pray that you, living within us, might be perceived by people around us. Perhaps perceived by a smile on our face that is beautiful and speaks of a beautiful truth of God’s love. Perhaps simply by the warmth of God’s love shining through us. Perhaps sometimes, Lord, we pray that you would be known by the kindness of Twinkies and root beer and coffee and all the other ways that we show kindness to people. Lord, I pray that you will live in us today, and live through us, so that others might know not only the joy and the meaning of Christmas, but the joy and the truth of what it is like to be loved by God and to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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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