Call to Worship (Psalm 96 and Luke 2: 1-14) (from Advent Come as You are, http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/year-b/ace/advent-come-just-as-you.html)
Leader: Sing to our God a new song; Sing to our God all the earth
People: Glory to God in the highest heaven, peace on earth to all!
Leader: The heavens are telling the glory of God, let the earth rejoice, let trees of the forest sing for joy!
People: Glory to God in the highest heaven, peace on earth to all!
Call to Offering (from Advent Come as You are, http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/year-b/ace/advent-come-just-as-you.html)
What can I offer, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise one, I would do my part…what can I offer: all my heart.
As we open our purses and our pockets, may the gifts we bring be in proportion to the gratitude of our hears at Christ’s birth.
Scripture Reading (Isaiah 9: 3, 6-7) “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
Gospel Reading (Titus 2: 11-15) “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”
In case no one has ever told you before…today is not about you!! I am so sorry. So sad, too bad! I know it’s so sad to hear. Today, you woke up and you were excited to crawl under the tree and look for your gifts and wow just what I always wanted!!!! Or maybe instead you said…uuum thanks and made a mental roll of the eyes (if you had my mother, you better not get caught!).
I remember being a kid and looking forward to the season of advent thinking, about the gifts that I wanted. My mother and grandmother would tell Luis and I the story of the birth of Baby Jesus, preparing us for the day that the Wise Men would finally get to our house, but you had to remember to fill your shoe box with hay for the camels! You see, for us the big gift day is still two weeks away.
But I remember, I remember my grandmothers manger, each piece set up slowly, like pieces of a puzzle, and I remember the story.
Mary (Luke 1: 26-38): First Abuela Yeco would have us visit with Mary. No, not Mary, the mother of Jesus, this was the Mary she used to be. Before they had stuff to say about her. We would look at her and talk about who she was, most of you remember that talk right: Did you hear what they said about Mary? The pregnant virgin! The marry who teaches us that the world is going to say what they want, but they don’t know the you that God knows. They don’t know your worth, how can they, when they can’t see into your heart.
Joseph (Matthew 1: 18-24): Then we would hang out with Joseph, the Joseph who had a dream where an angel spoke to him, an Angel who changed his plans. See, for Joseph life was going perfectly well. According to his plans and his traditions! Joseph had met a beautiful girl named Mary. The bible doesn’t say she was beautiful, but for a man to decide he is finally ready to settle down and get married, she had to be HOT!! And not just was her outside good, her inside, the core of her, was even better. She had a great reputation. See in the older translations the word virgin means pure of heart, God-centered, innocent in every sense of the word. Joseph and Mary, decide they are meant to be together and begin planning their wedding day. Things are going smoothly, everything according to their plans. Just picture it:
What I’m about to say is true. Joseph asked for Mary’s hand in marriage, they have already bought their new home, they had furniture together, that’s how far along they were. Mary is practically living at his parents’ house, making sure she knows how to cook his favorite foods, learning from his family what life with Joseph will be like! They probably have already sent out invitations. The caters are almost paid up! When an angel tells Joseph that Mary, his Mary is pregnant! And even though it was a dream he asks her about it in the morning…imagine how bad of a dream it must have been for him to remember it and tell her all about it. And then…IT’S TRUE! Talk about a hassle…what would his boys have to say about that? Which one of them would claim to have been with her? But this is Mary. His Mary. The Godly Mary that has always been respectable…
Everything according to plan. Their plan, but God is the planner and the executer of all plans. He can change them, He can rearrange them, see unlike our plans, God’s plans have purpose and reason that go far beyond our greatest imaginings. Joseph does the unimaginable…Joseph, during possibly the darkest of times, when people are talking about him, when his girls reputation is in the gutter, when any other guy would run away…he sticks around!! WAIT….
Last week the Pastora said, WAIT, en lo que…!!! And when she said it, I don’t know about you, but I thought aaaah not me! I can’t wait. I have things to do and places to go and if this is not for me, PEACE OUT DUDE!! I am out of here.
See, waiting is not for the faint of heart, waiting the kind of waiting Joseph did, deciding to sit with her, stick by her, let the haters hate and wait to see who this UNBORN BABY REALLY WAS…all while doing NO-THING, but expecting something to happen, stopping so those haters could catch up to what you already know…It is not for the faint of heart.
Jesus (Luke 2: 1-21): And then, on a night like last night, Abuela would finally get to my favorite part of the story… I told you it was like a puzzle right! She would set up the manger and have an empty food trough all ready for the animals to eat and I would think to myself, where is the baby?!
But, on a night like last night, on a cold night when nothing seems to go according to plan. A star shined bright. What I’m about to say is true. Having travelled on foot and by donkey, from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem (think about it from New Britain to NYC) – Joseph and his very pregnant wife arrived at an inn…and the star shined brighter…and they knocked and they waited and there was no room. And they went door to door, they knew everyone was traveling trying to to make sure they were counted in the census, but Joseph and Mary needed a room! And the star got brighter…So they knocked. Door to door. Inn by inn. They knocked. Mary felt pains and she was uncomfortable, and they knocked. Mary was dilating and she bit her tongue and they waited. And finally on the outskirts of town some body opens the door and says my house is full, but you can sleep in my manger.
And Jesus, the Jesus we have been waiting for, was born in the most uncomfortable of situations. Not ideal at all!
But on the day of his birth, his Heavenly Father, sent messengers of good tidings to the shepherds of the land, those living in the fields. And off in the distance, too far to even imagine, that star that shined just for him was seen by wise men who had been preparing his physical gifts as his father had put into their hearts. And the shepherds in the field…to them suddenly appeared a great company of angels, praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And far from the city of Nazareth, on the outskirts of a town called Galilee, behind a farmers cottage, was a cave where animals lived, and in the cave was Mary (formerly a pregnant virgin, now the loving mother of the Son of God), Joseph (a man who out of love, stepped up when most of us would have run away), and Jesus (who, according to his Heavenly Father’s plan, would save the world). For unto us is born this day, a savior: and he was a gift just for us, from our Divine Creator!
(from Advent Candle Readings, found in https://www396.ssldomain.com/tcpc//library/article.cfm?library_id=897) May we hold fast to this sliver of mystery, this truth upon which we set the whole of who we are.
May we call ourselves back to it time and again, until we are filled with the wonder that is our life– its hope, its peace, its joy, its love.
Infused, then, with all that we are, may our energies be given to the transformation of this world–from despair into hope; from darkness into light; from fear into love.
May we be bold . May we be daring. May we be love.