Worship at Home for Sunday December 12 2021

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Third Sunday of Advent when we will think about what it is that we want to do and be as we prepare for Jesus’ birth. If you would like a home visit, conversation, or home communion, please call me at 573-437-2779 (church) or 573-832-2475 (cell).

Announcements:

  • Sunday School after worship
  • Choir Practice at 6:30
  • Christmas Cookie Sale will be on Saturday, December 11 from 9am until sold out.
  • The Youth will meet on Sunday, December 12 at 4:30 to shop for their adopted families, have a pizza party, and practice for the Christmas Eve program.
  • Offering envelopes will be available for pick up on Sunday.
  • Church Council meets on Monday, December 13 at 6:30pm
  • Dorcas Christmas Party on Wednesday, December 15 at 11am at First Street Eats. Some members will be meeting at church to carpool or walk over together.
  • Sign up for Salvation Army Bell Ringing, Saturday, December 18 (4-6 is available).
  • Christmas Eve Youth Program at 6:30
  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 11pm

Prayers and Blessings,

Pastor Stephanie DeLong

Scripture Lessons: Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18 To read online https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=97  

 

Sermon:       Wanting Joy 

What do you want for Christmas this year? Take a moment to think about it. Do you want material things? Have you made a list? When we are younger, we write letters to Santa with our Christmas wants listed carefully (or not so carefully) on the paper. Children, whose families take them to sit on Santa’s lap in the weeks before Christmas, will make plans about just what to say when Santa asks the important questions: “Have you been a good little boy/girl?”, to which the only answer is yes. When Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas this year?”, you had best be prepared answer quickly or you might miss your chance at getting what you really want.

Sometimes what we really want is not what is best for us. In the 1983 film “A Christmas Story”, the central character is a boy named Ralphie. Ralphie really wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie makes his want known, but keeps getting the same answer, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie places his hopes in asking the department store Santa. After waiting in an incredibly long line to sit on Santa’s lap, Ralphie’s hopes are dashed when Santa too responds with, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie’s want is not good for him. (If you have not seen the movie and are wondering, if Ralphie gets his gun. Well, I will not spoil the ending for you.) We are all a bit like Ralphie.

We want things that we believe will make us happy. Our imaginations conjure scenarios where a Red Ryder BB gun would be useful. We might be the hero who rescues our family from imminent danger with our shooting skills. Children’s imaginations may run wild with a new toy. Video games allow us to enter whole new worlds where we are transformed into heroes or villains, fantastical creatures, and professional race car drivers. Oh, what fun! Too bad none of it is real.

Happiness is fleeting, but true joy lasts. Joy can be held in our hearts even when life is serving up difficulties. True joy is the knowledge that God is working in and through our lives. True joy is what the passages from Zephaniah and Philippians are speaking about. In Zephaniah God is amid the people gathering up the lame and the outcast, restoring fortunes and saving people from disaster. The people are forgiven and saved from their past errors. In Philippians, Paul reminds us not to worry but to pray prayers of supplication. We are to be gentle and rejoice. Following and serving God leads to joy.

Wanting joy is tied to wanting the arrival of Jesus. John the Baptist is crying in the wilderness and shouting out some troubling words as he prepares the people for the arrival of the Messiah. It may seem odd that people who are seeking joy would willing subject themselves to being called a “brood of vipers”, but John is offering a new way of life that leads to God’s joy. The crowds know it and ask, “What should we do?”

John has some very direct answers. If you have more than one coat, give the extra one away. The joy comes not from having, but in giving. Tax collectors are told not to cheat. Soldiers not to extort. Wanting joy creates a desire to do right by others.

Doing the right thing may not always be easy. Just how will the cheating tax collectors react when a former cheater starts being honest. How will the other soldiers act when one of their comrades stops extorting people to supplement his wages? Wanting joy may have difficult consequences.

Still wanting joy is better than returning to the old ways that gave us fleeting glimpses of happiness that only leave us wanting more. Possessions can be burdens when they are not shared. Cheating and extortion make unforgiving demands on our souls. Past mistakes may keep us filled with guilt and remorse. Leaving behind the things that weigh us down, allows true joy to fill our lives.

Rejoice and lift up your hearts in prayers of thanksgiving and supplication. Live wanting the joy that comes from the arrival of Jesus. Take time this Advent to make a list of the true joys in your life, then pray prayers of thanksgiving for your joys. We all want joy. Advent is a time to listen to our wants and prepare our hearts for Jesus. So, take time in prayer, praise, and preparation for the true joy of Jesus.

 

Prayer: God of joy and rejoicing, be in our hearts and minds today. Help us to remove from our lives those things that weigh us down and keep us from true joy. Be with those who are struggling this year. Surround them with your loving grace and strength. Help us grow in your love today and every day. Amen.

Prayer list: All who have been on our list in the past and Elizabeth, Cheryl, Peggy, Mindy, Dave, those who are struggling financially and emotionally. Give thanks for the joys in our lives!

 

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