Love Sunday 2020 | South Church Worship | 12/20/20

good morning church what a blessing it is to have the brass with us

two sundays in a row and i hope you noticed there were five 10 or 15 versions of kathy in the prelude playing the bells thank you kathy for your creativity as we worship together virtually in bringing so much great music to us today is certainly not the exception to that as we have two special musical offerings surrounding the sermon so i hope you are excited for that as i am welcome to each of you this morning welcome to you whether you are young or old or a little bit of each male or female or a little bit of each queer or straight or a little bit of each believing or doubting or a little bit of each wherever you are in life’s journey wherever you are worshiping from today you are welcome here a special welcome to you if you are new if you feel new you’re invited to take a moment and you can do that right now visit connect there you can provide a bit of information about you and we’ll follow up to say hello and welcome you into the fullness of our community so feel free to please take a moment to do that later in worship we will have a time of prayer in which we will light candles for all the joys and the concerns the things that are a little bit of each in our hearts we invite you to take a moment any time during worship and you can type your prayer requests into the chat if the chat is difficult for you you can visit prayer and there there’s a google form you can fill out and we will get that and be able to pray with and for you live this morning i have a few announcements for you today as i think all of us know christmas is coming up this week we have some outdoor services planned and we are watching the weather for those services we will have more information about if there are any changes to those what they might look like how best to prepare in the coming days you will get an email so please if you are signed up for one of those services keep an eye out in your email just so we can provide you with up-to-the-minute information about how we are worshiping together safely during this time if you are not able to worship with us in person for a variety of reasons you still have opportunities to worship with us we are having two online virtual services one at 2 p.m and 1 at 10 p.m on christmas eve they will be lessons and carols we have a variety of voices some excellent music and a hopeful uplifting word from pastor dana for each of you this week so please tune in even if you come in person tune in and we hope that you will share these opportunities with your friends and your

family this is a great time and an easy way to share south church around the world with folks and bring them a bit of hope peace joy and love during this time jen our youth and family minister wants you to know that today is our last children’s chapel of the year you can join us for an afternoon of spreading light and love from 12 to 12 45 outside behind the church our youth groups are shifting times today slightly for their annual christmas parties middle school will meet from 1 to 2 15 and high school will meet from 2 15 to 3 30. if you have any questions reach out to jen there are so many announcements i could share with you today there’s so much going on in the life of our community but you haven’t come here to hear announcements you have come to this time of worship to praise god so in the season of advent we begin our worship we begin our praise by lighting our advent wreath our symbol of light in the midst of the darkness our symbol of hope when hope is hard to find today we light the final candle of the advent wreath before christmas and that is the candle of love i invite you to join me if you have a candle in your home it can be any candle one right in front of you you can go and run and get it right now or if you have one of our advent boxes you can flick that last candle on join us in this liturgy as we light this candle of love for our world we now like in homes we gather around wreaths to pray our lost hopes broken peace and limited joys and love so hard to find and share in the season of coronavirus we affirm that our candles mean we claim the power to call this season advent when god’s light comes into the world and nothing can overcome it we light the candles of hope peace joy and love on this fourth sunday of advent we now light the candle of love even when many things dim in times of loss grief and loneliness god’s love illuminates a compassionate heart and brings the path to the birth of christ let us pray emmanuel god be with us in the week to come letting hope peace joy and love in the wicks of our lives so that we may shine on our world your unconditional welcome to all amen happy sunday beloved it is so good to be together this morning for our final sunday in advent our

love sunday and so we have left a very special item from our box for last our south church ornament we left out the south church ornament because together we’re going to talk about how south church teaches us about love but love is a funny concept right how do you learn about love in your life because love is one of those funny things where it’s both a feeling and an action it’s something we feel inside and also something we do in our lives so how do we do that where do we learn about it one way you learn about it is through your family through your parents or your aunts and uncles whoever takes care of you at home your siblings your friends you also learn about love through your friendships right maybe in school or at work or wherever you are in your life we learn about love through really good solid friendships but something is special about learning about love at church because family and friends all are one in church right often you hear people talk about being a church family because we care for each other all the ways you care for each other at home we try to take care of each other like that here too whether that’s by writing a card or baking some cookies or making a phone call just to check in and make sure you’re doing okay a lot of people jump on the meal trend they try to make sure that people are fed right the same way that your families probably make food for you too the church tries to make food for each other as well but how did the church learn about love right did we all just show up one day and say hey i think we should love each other well maybe right that’s pretty cool but i think the really important thing for us to remember and learn this advent and all of our lives is that we learn about love as a church from god from god who loved humanity so much that she was like i’ve got to go be close to them and so she came to earth as jesus emmanuel god with us god loved people so much loved each of you you who you are right now sitting down wherever you are standing wherever you are living wherever you are god said i love that person so much they are so precious to me that i’ve got to get to know them i’ve got to come down and help them and teach them so they’ll know that this love i have for them is real and true and that they’ll know how to spread that love to others what are some ways you could spread that love to others this week well you could write a card to someone right we’ve been doing a bit of that this christmas season maybe you could make a phone call to someone you think might be a little bit lonely maybe you could bake some cookies maybe you could just go for a walk with god and say a prayer because you know what everything we do is a chance to show love and to point people toward god every single time you pray every time you provide a service for someone else you are pointing other people you’re pointing your own heart toward god’s love and so as a church we practice that love that’s both a feeling and an action we feel the love and then we do the love we feel all of god’s goodness and love for us and it causes us to go out and share one of the things i love about this ornament can you see it see how bright the church looks it’s just shining in the middle of the dark it’s like a great big beacon of hope and maybe it’s even a beacon of peace and probably a beacon of joy and definitely a beacon of love it’s a place where everybody is welcome it’s a place where love is an action and it’s a place where you are loved and welcome today and tomorrow and all the time

so when we act with love this day when we live in love when we embrace the love of god let’s remember that we learned about love here and we’re going to bring love everywhere else too let’s pray god thank you for loving us for saying how dear we are to you for showing us that all of us are made for and with love as we place our ornaments on our tree this day help us to embrace the love of our church so that we might also be a beacon of hope peace joy and love in the world amen matthew 1 starting with the 18th verse now the birth of jesus the messiah took place in this way when his mother mary had been engaged to joseph but before they lived together she was found to be with child from the holy spirit her husband joseph being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace planned to dismiss her quietly but just when he had resolved to do this an angel of the lord appeared to him in a dream and said joseph son of david do not be afraid to take mary as your wife for the child conceived in her is from the holy spirit she will bear a son and you are to name him jesus for he will save his people from their sins all this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the lord through the prophet look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him emmanuel which means god is with us when joseph awoke from sleep he did as the angel of the lord commanded him he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son and he named him jesus this is the word of god for the people of god what are the words we hear a lot this time of year what’s the refrain that we associate

with advent and christmas is it deck the halls tis the season happy holidays hope and peace joy and love all of these are true we hear them often but it’s not what i’m thinking it’s not what we encounter in our scriptures especially our bible stories from last week and this week and the ones that we’ll hear on christmas eve there’s a clear message and one that we need this year more than ever before last week we heard the angel gabriel announce do not be afraid mary for you have found favor with god and then the angel tells the young unmarried peasant girl that if her heart was open to it she would be the one to smuggle god’s love into the world through the birth of a baby but first do not be afraid in today’s text from the gospel of matthew the angel delivered a similar message to joseph as he dreamt joseph son of david do not be afraid and then the angel went on to proclaim the very awkward truth that he the soon-to-be husband but not the father was being called to name that baby jesus and to adopt him as his own loving him and raising him and then learning to let him go just as mary would learn to do but first do not be afraid the shepherds heard those same words as well there they were minding their own business watching their sheep out in the field in the dark of night when a brightness broke out all around them and the angel appeared and proclaimed do not be afraid and then told the shepherds of the birth a birth that was to be good news of great joy for all people and immediately the shepherds took off to see what they could find but first do not be afraid be not afraid do not fear fear not these my friends are christmas words more than deck the halls and jingle bells these are the words of this season when we look into our scriptures this is the refrain we hear over and over again and it’s actually some of the most powerful words in our text for every day of our lives not just for christmas this holy call to have courage to not be afraid speaks in direct opposition to the fear that permeates so much of our weary days i never thought there would be a time in which fear was associated with a normal trip to the grocery store or with a visit from a close family member with the rampant spread of coronavirus we’re all on edge and that fear is layered on top of all of the other fears we carry around with us like fear of death and fear of aging and fear of deepening depression and fear of isolation

and fear of not having enough or fear of losing what we have fear of feeling helpless in the face of systematic problems like racism and climate change in an interview with oprah the writer sue monk kid offers us an important reminder she says that we truly become what we pay attention to if we pay attention to our fears and our worries that becomes our life we need to take notice of what we fill our days and our hours with how are we filling these last days of advent in the lead-up to christmas let us pay attention to the words we say to the thoughts we think to what we are putting out in the world we become what we pay attention to and god knew that in order for us to not be afraid we needed a savior who would get down in the messiness and complexity of life with us god knew that in order for us to not be afraid we needed a savior who didn’t float above us but is present in the flesh and blood in the joy and the suffering of this world the great 20th century theologian carl bart said that when we think about god we think about the highest the absolute the ultimate the mysterious abstraction but the god remembered at christmas is a god with a name a god with a human face why would god choose to do such a thing to come into human history in the birth of a child the answer is love when god wanted to tell us how dearly and unconditionally we are loved god did it in the simplest and clearest way a way no one can misunderstand or misinterpret through the birth of a baby when god wanted to touch our hearts and call gratitude and love out of us god chose the birth of a child so friends let us hear the angel’s proclamation not just for mary or for joseph or for the shepherds but for each of us do not be afraid fear not soon we will see the face of our god as an infant in the manger and know the incomprehension depth of god’s love let us choose to lean into courage rather than give into fear trusting that god is still at work in this world and even at work in and through us just imagine what could happen in our lives and in our world if we all decided to heed the angels voices and to not be afraid may it be so amen ooh y’all i forgot everything i was gonna say to you after that musical offering if you

weren’t up on your feet and dancing i don’t know what to say y’all that was exactly what i needed this christmas season a reminder of the joy that should be moving through our whole being and praise of god even in this season in which we are feeling the weight of so many things that drag us apart and down we can still lift a joyful noise of hallelujah and praise to god for this story of christmas that reminds us that even when the night is darkest love comes into this world and chooses to do so every time somebody better say amen out there and i better stop before i preach my own sermon and dana already did that y’all but we have some prayers to lift up prayers of joy prayers of concern ones that are a little bit of each i thank all of you for letting us pray for you if you have prayers there’s still time to share them as we enter this time of prayer together we begin by offering a prayer from nancy prayers of gratitude for successful medical procedures

for her sister and her husband this week this is our prayer april prays for her son john who is struggling indeed this is our prayer linda offers prayers of strength and healing for her friend jesse in rehab and diagnosed with covid god in your mercy this is our prayer sherry prays for her aunt recovering from eye surgery and for her friend amy beginning cancer treatment god in your mercy these are our prayers pastor joe prays for all those who will be alone this christmas indeed this is our prayer joan prays for joanne and ron smith that god encircles them both in caring and love during these challenging times indeed this is our prayer kristen continue offers continued prayers of healing for lauren who is still in children’s hospital god and your mercy we send our love to you lauren this is our prayer stephanie prays for her nephew who is battling addiction and who needs love from south church to get through it keep him in your prayers y’all this is our prayer marie offers a prayer for joy a fellow brass player as she recovers from breast cancer surgery prayers for her doctors as they try to plan radiation treatment that will not also harm her lungs god and your mercy this is our prayer donna offers prayers for bill’s cousin dennis who is hospitalized with covered pneumonia god in your mercy this is our prayer robin prays for dan who suffered a heart attack this week and for frank who is recovering from a blood infection god in your mercy this is our prayer martha prays for celebration for her son stephen and his wife charlotte on the birth of their daughter audrey this past thursday this is martha’s first grandchild congratulations prayers of joy this is our prayer lisanne prays for her mother-in-law peg and for all who have lost loved ones and struggle during the holiday season indeed each and every one of you are in our prayers these are our prayers gen priest prays for the peace family betty recovering for from a car accident and their daughter anne recovering from back surgery blessings to them this holiday season this is our prayer carol carmichael a prayer as her family remembers the one year anniversary of her father’s death indeed for all who are holding grief and loss in this season this is our prayer indeed we lift up so many prayers this season prayers of joys prayers of concerns and those

that are a little bit of each let us continue now in a spirit of prayer oh god in your mercy we are so close to concluding our advent journey having journeyed through hope peace joy we arrive now at love indeed the last sunday you give us in this season is one in which you leave us with the thing that centers everything else we do love for if we have not love nothing else even matters so we pray today oh god for love’s sake we pray today for your love which knows no bounds no limits no exceptions that we all might feel it and become ambassadors of that love to a world in which it is sorely needed we pray that love might infect the hearts of those who do not know they are loved who long to feel love but do not know it might we be the beacons of your love in such a way that their lives are transformed from our acts and prayers of love might love be our center oh god whether we feel joyful whether concerns swirl around us might we center in on love here and now as we prepare to welcome you in this world in the form of a little baby whom we can do nothing but love one who does nothing to justify our love can utter a word can’t make any rationale for why we should love that baby but we do it’s that love oh god we long to channel one that we give out without worry of justification about worry of worthiness knowing that you pour out love to us we need only accept it and overflow with it for others might that love cover every pain every bit of brokenness in us might it heal the parts of us that feel wounded and as we enter into this christmas time might you birth something new in our lives which only a wild and bright love can unleash oh god be with all these prayers we’ve lifted up the joys the concerns those that are a little bit of each the ones we’ve spoken the ones we’ve written in those that are written on our hearts you know them all o god and we lift them to you in the name of our lord and our brother jesus who taught us to pray saying together our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever amen good morning my name is andrea stidson i’m co-chair of the missions team at south church

this month we’re asking for donations for an organization called dig deep that provides access to water for families here in the u.s incredibly more than 2.2 million americans still don’t have access to running water or basic plumbing like flesh toilets 44 million more don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water native american households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing home is the safest place to be right now but what if you can’t wash your hands becomes a lot harder to stay safe from covid that’s what 30 percent of navajo families are facing every day when they have to leave their home to haul water in this pandemic hundreds of 100 of every donation to dig deep supports water projects a special group of donors covers their operating expenses a home water system for a navajo family includes a 1200 gallon cistern that gets buried below the freeze line a water pump pressure tank filter water heater and if the home isn’t connected to the electrical grid it includes a solar array to power the pump water runs from a utility sink that gets installed inside the home the cistern is filled monthly by a water truck our goal for this month is to raise 4 500 which will provide a home water system that includes solar power to one navajo family thank you for your help what an incredible musical sunday this has been

i hope you enjoyed those musical offerings around the sermon we they were part of a special project that kathy has been working on the lift every voice project which is a collaboration with um the memorial congregational church in sudbury in which they’ve been exploring sacred music in a way that authentically approaches and lifts up music beyond the western tradition and particularly in the african-american traditions it was such a treat for you to bring that gift to us in worship kathy and we look forward to doing it again when we can do some of this in person as we depart from this time of worship i pray that each of you has been touched by love that you are ready to go out into the world and offer god’s love that has been so freely given to you go now from this time of worship with the hope peace joy and love of god our creator christ our redeemer in the holy spirit our sustainer good people go in peace amen