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Worship Preview 12.17.23. Advent 3: Joy and Tears

This Weekend: “Advent in Plain Sight: Tears” 

Scriptures:  Psalm 80 and 126, Jeremiah 13:15-17, Ecclesiastes 3:16 – 4:4, Luke 7:36-50;  19:37-47, 2 Timothy 1, John 11:35, Revelation 7:9-17

 

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is typically a theme of Joy. This year we will explore that in a perhaps counterintuitive way. This is “the most wonderful time of the year!” It can also be a difficult and painful time, especially for those who mourn.  Joy and sorrow are deeply intertwined. Some years I have specifically led a “Blue Christmas” service to acknowledge that, and a few people attend and find such a service helpful. This year, since “tears” are one of the “ordinary objects” that Jill J. Duffield reflects on in her Advent in Plain Sight devotional, I decided to incorporate such themes on Sunday morning. We will hear several powerful stories of tears from Scripture such as a sinner, known as Mary, scandalously anoints Jesus’ feet with her tears. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem… and about Lazarus; we are promised that every tear will be wiped away.

 

In her reflection on Psalm 80, Duffield writes “However, the message of Advent is not one of superficial optimism, but rather one of tenacious hope. Jesus becomes incarnate not because the world overflows with peace, joy, kindness, patience, and justice. Jesus comes to earth in order to bring light to those who sit in deep darkness.” Later in the book, she shares “If we who prepare for Jesus’ birth and anticipate Christ’s return know the end of the story, God’s promise to wipe every tear, alleviate hunger and thirst, gather together people from north, south, east and west, what are we prepared to do… to make manifest the prayer we pray week in and week out, that God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven? As we journey through Advent bombarded by worldly headlines of division, violence, upheaval, and suffering, can we remember that Jesus is coming not to condemn the world, as condemnation-worthy as it often seems, but instead to save it? Can we remember that the Messiah comes that we might have life and life abundant, and participate in this life-giving God-vision? Knowing that God will wipe every tear from every eye, will we get a head start on that intimate, loving, unquestionably present comfort now? If we know God’s promised future, can we who follow the Incarnate Lord help embody it in the present, no matter the cost or risk such counterculture living requires?”

 

We will ponder such questions this week. We will breathe deeply, knowing God is with us in Emmanuel, the person of Jesus and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we will make room for all of our emotions. One of Duffield’s reflections ends with this prayer and I invite you to make it your own. “Lord, you do not send us away when we come to you in tears, overwhelmed by our need for your mercy. When we hold back our tears and keep our emotions in check in order to save face or appear to be in control, you urge us to be honest about our sin, our failings, and our total reliance on your grace. You honor our vulnerability and meet it with compassion and forgiveness. When we kneel at your feet and pour ourselves out, you look at us with love and set us free to live in right relationship with you and others. Amen.”

 

Whether this season is one of joy or of tears (and really it is both for most of us), you are invited to join in worship at 10:30am at 301 S. National, coming just as you are, with your questions, doubts and hopes, your laughter and your tears - and to experience the transformative, healing love and grace of Christ - which makes us whole. Visit www.firstumcfsks.org/newvisitors for more information on what to expect. 

 

Upcoming Events: 

Wednesday, December 20, 5:30–6:30pm: Feeding Families in His Name – this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. A reminder: Please do not block nearby driveways while waiting. Thank you. If you would like to support this ministry, you can make donations online at www.firstumcfortscott.org/onlinegiving

 

Sunday, December 24th is both the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. We will have our normal 10:30am worship service that morning, celebrating Advent 4 and then at 7pm that evening, our Christmas Candlelight and Communion service. This year we are again passing the light using real candles! All are welcome at Christ’s table, and we hope you’ll join us at one or both services this holy day for a wonderful celebration of God with us!  

 

Sunday, December 31st we will gather for a special worship service at our usual 10:30am time but gathering in our Fellowship Hall instead of the sanctuary. This service will draw from two Wesleyan traditions: the “Love Feast” and “Watchnight.” We will start with a potluck breakfast and share a liturgy of welcome, repentance and anticipation as we prepare to enter into 2024. We will also revisit the ancient Christian tradition of “Chalking the Doors” for Epiphany. It will be a great morning and you are welcome to be a part of it!

 

 

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