May this worship service and resource for Sunday, December 27, 2020, fill your heart and soul with love as we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
-Chris Aho 2019
In June of 1999, Natalie and I had bummed our way to Maui on my dad’s acquired airplane and hotel miles for our honeymoon. On our last night, we splurged and followed our Frommer’s guide to the Plantation House at the Kapalua Golf Resort, ready for a fancy meal. We were bright-eyed 22-year-olds who considered the Outback Steakhouse fine dining and immediately, it was clear, we were out of our league.
Wanting to fit in, we ordered tea because we didn’t drink wine and were too embarrassed to order Sprite. But when the tea came, it was not sweet. It was not even unsweet. What arrived was two cups with saucers and a porcelain kettle of hot water to pour over tea bags. We kept our composure as we learned to steep tea, on the spot.
I have no idea what I ate that night. I am sure it was a steak. I suspect it was excellent. All I remember is the feeling of not fitting in, ordering tea, and paying the bill. That night, my bill was $81. I had never seen an $81 meal tab before. The Outback was $40. The number 3 at McDonalds was $3. $81 dollars was Outback twice or Chili’s three times!!!
At our wedding, Mikey, our family friend (who was also a dead ringer for Travis Tritt), gave me a $100 handshake. I left that bill with the tab that night. All $100. A 25% tip because, well, I wasn’t going to ask for change.
That story doesn’t seem like it has much to do with Christmas, but I wonder if it has EVERYTHING to do with Christmas?
I suspect, if some reporting was done with the shepherds from Luke 2, they probably felt out of place in the stable.
And Mary and Joseph? They surely felt out of place after an unexpected pregnancy, a long journey, and no room in the inn.
Later on, how do you think they felt when the Magi showed up with valuable gifts?
We could go on about the ways different people didn’t fit in to this miraculous story, but the point is this:
When it comes to this story, the gospel, and the good news of Jesus, no one fits in which is exactly the point.
Jesus was born to a poor virgin, in a stable.
They went on the run to Egypt to avoid a massacre at the hands of the rulers.
When Jesus started his ministry, he didn’t call the established religious leaders, he went to the poor fishermen.
If he wanted to fit in, there were ways he could have. There were families, circumstances, cultures, rulers, or even professions he could have drawn close to if he needed to feel completely assured of their place in the world. But the good news of the Gospel, the power of this birth, and the wonderful significance of Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection is that he meets us even we don’t fit in. Maybe especially when we don’t fit in.
Today, we celebrate Jesus’s birth and we welcome our Savior. When we think about it — though we do our best in every way — we are still outsiders who do not quite fit in, and the best news is that is precisely who Jesus arrives to first. This gospel story is not about all the things we do right or the ways we get everything right. Instead, this story is powerful because we don’t fit in, aren’t fitting in, and Jesus welcomes us anyway. Jesus is the savior for those who don’t fit in perfectly and are ready to acknowledge our deep need for something more.
Thanks be to God that on this Christmas day, we can welcome him just like he welcomes us.
Alex Drake, 2018
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -John 3:16
Think about our Love as parents… we Love without end, we sacrifice, we teach lessons by letting our children struggle to find the solution. We endure heartache to help them grow, we feel joy with their elation. We want them to enjoy life, safely learn the ropes, and in the end feel that they have had a fulfilled & meaningful life (in all areas).
So, what exactly is Love? As I write this devotional, I have tried to find the time during this hectic time of year to pause and think and figure out what Love means to me. Even though its meaning can be very different for each of us as individuals, I suspect we share many of loves underlying themes.
For me, Love is Family. Love is going to sleep every night beside our loved ones and waking up each morning to find them still there.
Love is looking into the eyes of our spouses and knowing we still Love them just as much or more than the day we first met.
Love is our children. Love is watching them play and sing in bubble baths. It’s that lump in your throat we all get when we watch them walk away into school with their backpacks on and we realize they are growing up way too fast.
Love is working hard each day so we can rush home to be with them for those final few minutes before bed.
Love is loving a child that cannot always outwardly show signs that they Love you back even though we all know they do just the same.
It is a pet who is always happy to see us when we walk through the door.
Love is always being there for each other to help no matter what in times of need or life’s difficult trials.
Love is allowing us to struggle to deepen our faith. It is believing in something that we cannot see or fully understand.
Love is leading by example, the way God would want us to.
As I think about all of these aspects of Love, I also fully realize that the only reason we have the privilege to experience these things is through God’s ultimate Love for each of us. God, too, feels this same type of Love for us, times infinity. He knows where we are coming from, before we do.
It’s hard to understand the Love He has for the billions of humans he calls His children. It would be easier for us to understand if He had only a few children like each of us, but Billions?!?! He showed us His Love for us with the absolute ultimate sacrifice…His Son. That Love for us is so great that He sent His only Son to Earth to teach us about Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love (but the greatest is Love). He wants us to also have a joyful life on earth filled with Love. He wants to instill the tools necessary for each of us to make our way back to Him. He wants us not to perish but to have eternal life. Therefore, through His everlasting Love for us, He has prepared a room for each of us in His home as part of His family. All we have to do is believe & accept Him. We simply Love Him and through our lives show all others the immense & unwavering Love that He has for us.
For me, that is the Gift of Love.
-Mary Katherine Washington, 2017
I love the song “Mary, Did You Know?” and picturing the Christmas season from Mary’s point of view.
I wonder what was on her heart while she was pregnant?
After the shocking announcement that she would miraculously give birth to the Savior of the World, I can only imagine she would be scared, excited, confused, and asking “why me?”
We have the same emotions and questions in our lives today. News of a pregnancy, a new job, a death of a loved one, or an unwanted diagnosis. I think it is ok to ask, “why me?”
Although we may never know the answer to this question, I find peace in knowing that God knows. He knew what he was doing when he selected Mary to be the mother of Jesus. He knew what he was doing when he sent his son to die on a cross for our sins. I hope that as Mary prepared for the birth of her baby, that she felt God’s presence and His peace. As we prepare for this advent season, I hope that we will have the peace that only God can provide as we face the uncertainties of this world.
Prayer: Loving God, we live with many questions that cannot be answered, and even acknowledge that sometimes an answered question only leads to more questions. Help us during this season, and all seasons, to find strength though our faith, to live with the hard questions of life, and not demand that every question be answered, for that is not faith at all. Amen.
–Haven Parrott, 2018
As a long-distance grandmother, I am extremely grateful for the technology that allows me to see my grandson in Honolulu on a daily basis. A recent video showed Kai determinedly rocking back and forth on his chubby hands and dimpled knees – not going anywhere, mind you – just rocking back and forth with great intensity. Subsequent videos showed more in-place rocking, numerous face-plantings, heroic but failed attempts to gain traction, and undaunted efforts to push himself up and try again. The struggle was real. And as Kai struggled, his parents provided an environment of encouragement, cheering his every move. The much-anticipated video finally arrived, and a proud, goofy grin spread across my face as I watched Kai crawl like a champ across the room from one parent to the other.
Of course, Kai’s developmental struggles have only just begun. He’ll struggle to stand, walk, run, ride a bike, etc, and his parents’ job at every stage will be to encourage him through the struggle, not protect him from it, for the struggle is necessary to the struggler’s freedom and dignity. Besides, you can’t do anyone else’s crawling, walking, living, or dying for them. Parents of adult and trying-to-adult children are often called upon to witness our children struggling in ways we are desperate to waive, if only we had the power. We long to take away or take on their struggles, only to find that such strategies prove ineffectual at best and crippling at worst.
As Advent dawns, I find myself pondering the mystery and wonder of the incarnation with fresh appreciation for God’s willingness to witness – not waive – Jesus’ struggles. God, the ultimate parent, and with unlimited power, elevated all human struggling by entrusting his son to the same reality. From cradleto cross, the Omnipotent’s self-imposed impotence to make life easier for Jesus lends dignity to our struggles, particularly the struggle to watch, not fix, as our children struggle.
-Darcy Drake 2019
I’m sitting here in front of my Christmas tree thinking about how my two three-year-olds feel when they look at it. They must be in awe of the beauty of the ornaments they got to hang on it. And oh how lovely are the bright white lights winding around it from the top to the bottom. They’re so interested in the presents that sit beneath the tree; especially the ones that say their names. I can imagine all the questions and thoughts that are running through their heads…
“…what is this Christmas thing mommy and daddy and big sisters are making such a big fuss about? …it’s so exciting with all these decorations around the house and neighborhood and church; …we enjoy getting to see all the people who love us;…there are so many fun things we get to do at this time; …the Christmas music and movies are always on; …AND oh how we love hearing the story over and over in lots of different books about Mary and Joseph bringing baby Jesus into the world beneath the star’s light; …bedtime songs have even changed to ones that sing about this sweet baby.”
Christmas is truly a wonderful time of the year!
Lay all the “grown up” hustle and bustle aside.
Simply live in the present like a child, even just for a short moment.
Witness the beauty of what this season does…it brings us all together.
EVERY BIT of it brings us together.
It wouldn’t feel right without a service of Lessons and Carols so we pray that this service and resource, adapted for video, will help connect your heart and soul to the stories of the season. It is offered with great love, joy, and humility and the hope of an in-person version in 12 months.
Welcome to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Today we light the candle of Love as we complete our Advent Journey. Our next service will be Christmas Eve, but first, we hope you find today’s service meaningful and inspirational as we worship the Lord together.
The Service LiveStream should begin about 9:50, but if it is not there, continue to check back.
Should you miss us at 10am eastern, you will be able to find the service in the Past Live Streams section of our YouTube channel.
As you join us for worship, you may want to use the bulletin to follow along with our prayers and hymns. The link for that is here:
After December 20th, through January 31st, all of our services will be available each Sunday on YouTube. We will refrain from any in-person worship gatherings from now through the end of January.
The church office will be open regular hours after the holidays and the church remains available for Sunday School classes, circles, and committees to use for meetings.
If you have any questions about any of this, check our Forecaster, E-News, or contact the church office.