Sunday Worship Service ~ November 27, 2022

CALL TO WORSHIP
Come, Lord Jesus, come;
Fill our hearts with anticipation.
Bless us with patience as we watch and wait,
Knowing that you will soon be on your way!

UNISON PRAYER
Lord Jesus,
fill our lives with hope,
so that we might share your hope with others:
to cast out darkness, depression and disillusionment,
and drink in the light of your glory.
Amen.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE: Isaiah 49:23, NIV
Those who hope in the LORD will not be disappointed.

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.

OPENING SONG: Chris Tomlin, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

SCRIPTURE LESSON: Isaiah 11:1-4a, NIV

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

SUNDAY SERMON: “Hope”

In Centerport, this time of year is a little confusing. Two weeks ago, we were cooking and baking and preparing for company, and last week we had hundreds of guests for Christmas, and we sang Christmas songs, and then everyone went home, including Santa. And then it was Thanksgiving. And now it’s Advent.

In recent years, Advent has gotten lost in the shuffle, because we surrounded the first Sunday of Advent with three new holidays called Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Today is also National Bavarian Creme Pie Day, but most people don’t know that. (Now you do!)

There are two different ways that we can celebrate Advent: the church way and the secular way. We’re here because we’re interested in the church way, but even church people can fall into the secular way. The secular way is just what you would expect; if there were four candles, they would be the candles of Shopping, Cooking, Cleaning, and Decorating, and on Christmas Eve we light the last candle and it turns out to be a firecracker.

OR we can try the church way, which is to light the candles of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace and pray these blessings into our lives and the lives of others. In the old days, people had a lot more time to do this, since they had already gathered in the harvest and they weren’t expecting much for Christmas except for maybe a pencil and an orange. But they did put candles on Christmas trees, which led to its own set of problems. Christmas was a time for charity, whether helping the poor or reaching out to people with disabilities. The focus was on being kinder and gentler, and ending the year well – preparing our hearts for the King.

What do we hope for? Children hope for toys, families hope everyone will get along, and everyone hopes for peace on earth. We hope Christmas will feel like Christmas, just like the ones we used to know, even if our memories may be tinted with an inaccurate nostalgia. We want to feel simple and pure. Before Jesus, people hoped for a Messiah; now we hope for his return. Some people hope he’ll come back before Christmas, so they don’t have to shop; others hope he’ll return after Christmas, because they love Christmas.

But if you were to ask most people, they would likely say they would prefer the end of the world comes a little bit later so they can have some more Earth Time. O come, o come, Emmanuel, end the war in Ukraine. O come, o come, Emmanuel; be our President so we don’t have to go through another election. O come, o come, Emmanuel; stop the shootings, feed the starving children, take away the cancer.

So while technically we’re supposed to be hoping for Jesus to return, I think what we’re really hoping for is for Jesus to be more evident in the world, and for his teachings to be widely embraced. I’m hoping for a global realization that we’re all connected, and that we’re all hurting each other, and that everyone – including those who don’t believe in God – will be better off if we could all just try a little harder to love everyone, and if that’s impossible to accept everyone, and if that’s still too hard to tolerate everyone, and if that’s too much to ask, just not to hurt anyone, which is a very low bar and not at all what Jesus said, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

And of course it’s one thing to want that for the whole world and another to do it ourselves, which brings us back to the way we will behave in December. Santa has something in common with Jesus here, because “he knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” The nice thing about this verse is the part about being good for goodness’ sake, although the underlying assumption is that if you are not good, you will get coal instead of toys, or in Christian terms, you will go south instead of north, and north is where Santa is so it’s better – or something like that. I used to think, “How am I going to be good for 25 days?” But at least I was aware of the desire, whatever my motivations, and it caused me to do some soul-searching, which brings us back to celebrating Advent the church way.

So here are seven tips for an Advent that might actually work.

First, keep track of what week it is. This can get a little tricky, because different churches light the candles in different order, so just focus on one of the blessings each week until you get through all four.

Second, do things early if you can, so you don’t feel anxious and rushed. Or do things slowly ~ for example, buy one present a day in person or online.

Third, now that you’re not rushed, do something with a personal touch ~ a handwritten card that has more than your signature, a batch of cookies that you give away, a visit with someone who struggles with Christmas.

Fourth, light a candle every night and pray for something outside yourself ~ like peace on earth, or a spiritual revival, or for all the people traveling, or for all the doctors in the world, or all the patients, or all the poor.

Fifth, find time for silent meditation, and ask some big questions, such as, “What does it mean that Jesus is in my life?” or “How does my faith make me different?” or if you’re at a crossroads, “Which path leads to the Lord?”

Sixth, switch your inputs. Our usual inputs are news, politics, regular TV, stores and the internet. Instead, try Christian music and books, classic movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and walks in nature.

And finally, try to imagine life without Jesus ~ imagine there’s no Christmas, because the Messiah never came. Imagine a world still waiting for a Savior. As bad as things are today, imagine how bad that would be. Now remember that Jesus is real, and that he loves us, and that heaven’s doors are open; and let the gratitude lead you to praise.

May this Advent season be a blessing to us all, as we tell the tales and sing the songs and await the festival of Christmas! Amen.

CLOSING SONG: Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”

BENEDICTION
May your Advent be filled with all of the blessings of the season: hope, joy, peace and love; and may these blessings draw us closer to God. Amen!

Santaport 2022!

THANK YOU to all who made Santaport such a success! Our photo gallery is below. Santa sends his regards ~ don’t worry, kids, he’ll be back soon!

Advent starts this Sunday, November 27 with a festive service that will include our church band Leap of Faith, the lighting of the first Advent candle and a presentation by Lori Wasserman-Rizzo of Huntington Speech and Feeding. It’s also United Methodist Student Day! Coffee Hour and Youth Group follow immediately after worship ~ we hope you’ll join us, beginning at 10 a.m.!