Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Thrill of Hope & Expectation

Nov. 27, 2016 The Thrill of Hope and Expectation Pastor Carol P. Taylor

Psalm 122
122:1 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
122:2 Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
122:3 Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together.
122:4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
122:5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
122:7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
122:8 For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."
122:9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Romans 13:11-14
13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;
13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.
13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

How was your Thanksgiving?

It's the first Sunday of Advent.
So what does that mean?! Advent is the season of waiting- of expectation, before the birth of Jesus. In the early church it was a season very much like Lent. It was a time to repent, to be in prayer and even fasting to prepare for the new birth! In the last century or so advent has less of a focus on repentance, as our culture is more focused on the commercial aspects of the holiday.

Our scripture lessons today are from the lectionary..the three year plan for churches to use in worship and study. There is for every Sunday and Christian holiday an old testament lesson, a Psalm, a Gospel lesson and a reading from one of the Epistles (or letters) the lectionary texts for these first weeks of advent are challenging! The gospel lesson for today is Jesus speaking about the end times-the rapture! Not exactly warm, fuzzy, “sip hot cocoa and cuddle a puppy” texts are they?

Because Advent is a season to remind us to turn BACK to Jesus, to wait in expectation! There's a tension here of the secular and of the scriptures telling us to put God and Godly things first. And I have to admit, I struggle with this as much as anyone. I have cards to send, gifts to get and wrap, menu to plan...and work to do and we have to do some car repairs... just all the stuff of life. All of which CAN take our minds off Jesus and the reason we do all this Holiday stuff in the first place!

So let's look at our texts.

The Romans text―we see contrasts here, night and day, light and dark, wake and -sleep. Night is nearly over....people walking in darkness have seen a great light is the prophecy from Isaiah.

13:12 The night is far gone. The “light of the world” has come, and we must prepare for the Second Advent of Christ and the age to come.
let us put on. The use of the metaphor “armor of light” stresses that developing positive spiritual graces, is essential to spiritual growth and well-being.
13:13 Paul’s warning against a sinful life-style strikingly includes not only the traditional sins of the flesh (“orgies and drunkenness . . . sexual immorality and sensuality”) but also insidious vices  (“quarreling and jealousy”). these can destroy families...and churches! 

13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ. A further exposition of what it means to “put on the armor of light” (v. 12), showing that those who are in Christ must live consistently with their new status (Eph. 4:1). wrap yourself in Jesus' Love!

SO we're to get ourselves ready, for the new birth, for the coming again of the Baby Jesus. We need to put things in order!

"What does it mean to “get your house in order” for the coming of the Lord? Can we ever be perfectly ready for Christ’s return?" (from Feasting on the Word, edited by Kimberly Bracken Long)
When we entertain guests in our home or office, typically we tidy up the space to make it more welcoming and presentable. Most usually this involves cleaning, perhaps some sprucing up with a few special touches or decorations. We prepare. But what do we tidy when it comes to welcoming the Lord Jesus? How may we be prepared for His coming, and in what ways do we spruce up our minds, hearts, and our souls to welcome Him in? --to tell that beautiful story, to celebrate again His birth!!

Our Psalm is one of the “psalms of ascent”.. these were sung as people ascended... actually walking uphill to Jerusalem to worship! The Psalmist, King David, is proclaiming his love of the city, which was the cultural center, the center of government, and also the worship center. No matter where the Hebrew people lived, Jerusalem was their spiritual home. And they returned to Jerusalem several times a year to celebrate certain feasts.

When he sang “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, he was praying for the Shalom, God's perfect peace, to reign in their home. The Hebrew people were singing literally for the peace, protection, joy, wholeness of life to be in and throughout their city, their home and by extension--their lives!

so hope and home.... the home idea is that home is safety & security.
We too can pray for the peace of the city. For Jerusalem, named City of Peace, and is one of the more war torn cities of all time.

We can pray for the peace of other cities... for our centers of government, Washington DC, and Madison. For cities that are in terrible need, whether of jobs, like Detroit, cities grieving like Chattanooga. And we pray for Beloit and the surrounding areas. When we pray for our cities and for our church, we are praying for our ‘home’, not just the buildings in which we live, work and worship, but for the whole community. For the leaders, for those who work to protect us, for those who clean up after us! For the children and their teachers, for everyone!

Spending time in prayer and devotional time is a powerful tool to help our faith life. Even a few minutes a day more than usual will help us be more centered and able to focus on the 'reason for the season!”

Music helps us set the mood and helps tell the story. Don't you just love Christmas music? And there are so many songs that tell stories. The little Drummer Boy... And some that don't tell the story, but are just lovely, like the The Christmas Song..and some that are really fun―like Feliz Navidad.

Our Advent series is about some of the favorite Christmas Carols. The Thrill of Hope, is of course from O Holy Night. I found the story of the hymn...

In the year 1847, a man named Placide Cappeau was the commissioner/inspector of wines in a small town in France. Known to be an avid poet, Placide was approached by a priest to compose a poem for a Christmas service in Paris.
Initially, Cappeau. After reading the Gospel of Luke for inspiration, he envisioned what it might have been like to have been in Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus. From there, he penned the now famous words to “Cantique de Noel”, or O Holy Night.
Upon delivering the poem in Paris, Cappeau determined that “Cantique de Noel” would be even more powerful if set to music. For help, he turned to well known composer Adolphe Charles Adams. At first, Adams was reluctant to participate. As a Jew, the celebration of the Christian savior did not appeal to him. Still, something about the words of the poem inspired him, and thus he endeavored to compose an original score unlike anything that had been heard before. It only took Adams three weeks to complete the work, and it was immediately performed at a Christmas Eve mass.
Churches across France embraced this amazing new hymn and it became a popular staple for choirs to sing at Christmas time. However, Cappeau eventually left the Catholic church. This information, combined with news that the music was written by a Jewish man, caused the Catholic hierarchy of France to ban the singing of “Cantique de Noel”, claiming it was too secular. It baffles the mind how the worshipful lyrics to this song could ever be considered secular, but the church had spoken, and the song was no longer part of traditional services.
This did not silence the song forever. Common folk continued to embrace it, and refused to let the church bury it. They continued to sing “Cantique de Noel” in their homes and in social gatherings. O Holy Night had gone from a mainstream hymn to an underground hit. About ten years after the official attempt to bury the song by the Church in France, “Cantique de Noel” found its way to the ears of an obscure American writer, named John Sullivan Dwight.
Dwight instantly felt moved by the lyrics and the grand, soaring score. He determined that American audiences had to hear it. Dwight felt that the song was the perfect marriage between the Good News of the Gospel, and the freedom that Jesus represented. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight was overcome with the power of a particular verse:
Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother;
and in his name all oppression shall cease.”

Dwight translated the lyrics of “Cantique de Noel” into English, renaming it O Holy Night, and published it in a magazine. The song found an audience in the American north, where it was celebrated as an anthem of freedom.
Meanwhile, the song continued to be celebrated by the common people in France and various parts of Europe.
In 1906, the only type of radios that existed were wireless transmitters that picked up code. On Christmas Eve of that year, a 33-year-old university professor named Reginald Fessenden was tinkering in his office and proceeded to do something that had never been done before. He broadcast a human voice across the airwaves. Speaking into a microphone he’d rigged, Fessenden read Luke Chapter 2 from his Bible. As he uttered the words, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…” amazed radio operators on ships and over wireless code transmitters heard the Gospel being read through their speakers. Those who heard those first words over the radio recall that they thought they were witnessing a miracle.
Meanwhile, Fessenden had no idea who, if anyone, was hearing his broadcast. After completing his reading from the Gospel of Luke, he picked up his violin, sat close to his microphone, and played the familiar music to O Holy Night – making it the first song to ever be played over the airwaves.
Since 1847, when a poet in France was inspired by Luke’s Gospel,
O Holy Night is a song that has managed to unite common people across France, inspire Americans as it highlighted the sin of slavery, and break ground as the first song ever to be broadcast through a medium that would eventually spread the Gospel all over the world. Perhaps it was a miracle!

We're praying for home/city/country/world that all oppression shall cease!

This is one of the more profound ways we pray. By rolling up our sleeves. By helping our church, and organizations. By respecting those who have differing beliefs.

we help make our community better By spending time with others, even those who are different! Worshiping together, working together side by side. This is how we can help bring about the peace of God.

Many of us were blessed to be at the Community Thanksgiving service this past week. Pastor Kenda spoke about learning to give thanks even if we are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very very bad day! We collected an offering to divide between Caritas and Hands of faith. Because on the eve of thanksgiving, just as during Lent, we are mindful of those who do not have enough to eat or a place to sleep. And we want to help those agencies who are working with these families. We volunteer our time as well as giving our money.

We will have more of these community services! Because God is not just in the Temple in Jerusalem, not just here in UCB. No, God is outside in the community, in our neighbors, in the hungry child, in the lonely. We will bring the thrill of hope and the expectation of the story of baby Jesus, by helping and living out our faith.  

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