Joy to the World: Christmas Cantata

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Micah 5:2-5a.

Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized, not only for the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent Candle on each Sunday of the season. The flame of each new candle reminds us, the worshippers, that something is happening, and something more is still to come.

The candles are arranged in a circle to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows neither beginning nor ending. The large white candle in the center is the Christ candle and points to Jesus as the Christ, the Light of the world.

A progression is noted in the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath each Sunday. Each candle symbolizes various aspects of our waiting experience. For us this year we are focusing on four ideas of the Christmas event: Hope, Purity of Heart, Love, and Joy. The culmination of the season comes as we light the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve, and from the Christ candle, sharing the light throughout the congregation, which represents sharing the light of Christ to all the nations.

As I concluded my annual “Christmas Candle Lighting Instructions” with a congregation – if your candle is lit, it remains upright and unlit candles move towards the flame – I walked towards the Christ Candle with taper in hand. A five-generation family – all of the relations present – were happily nestled in the front three pews nearest the Advent wreath. In silence I extended my taper towards the Christ Candle and it ignited to the excited chorus of two-year-old Adella, “Ooooooo!” “That’s right, Adella!,” I said. “That’s right!”

May we all have that kind of wonder – Adella-Wonder! – as we are caught up in the light of Christ, and especially, as we share the light of Christ with others.

This week both services will receive the gift of a Christmas Cantata presented by South Shore’s Sanctuary Choir. I am grateful for the choir’s preparation and for the leadership of Drew Golding and Nancy Jackson – all of which makes this Cantata possible. This will be a wonderful opportunity for you to invite family, friends, and neighbors to worship this week as the choir sings us ever nearer to the nativity of our Lord.

Prayer: “O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home. The captives from their prison free, and conquer death’s deep misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.

*”O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.

Hum For The Holidays

Scripture ~ Luke 1:46-55

I have heard this refrain and request from several in the Tuskawilla Family over the past couple of weeks:

Oh Pastor Sarah! I sure hope we get to sing Christmas Carols soon! They are my favorite part of the season!

Rest assured, Tuskawilla Family, we will begin singing Christmas Carols this week as our Sanctuary Choir leads us in our annual cantata entitled Ceremony of Candles. And we will sing a Christmas Carol on the 4th Sunday of Advent. And then we will sing all of the Christmas Carols you can imagine between Christmas Eve, the Sunday between Christmas and New Years, and Epiphany.

(We might even sing a Christmas Carol on Baptism of our Lord Sunday…who knows how festive I will be feeling in 2016!?)

There is a method to the madness (my madness) of waiting to begin singing Christmas Carols.

(1) It is a way for us to build up anticipation, to cultivate appetites, and to look forward to an activity that is long treasured and wholly enjoyed and when we receive it, we savor it.

(2) It is also a way for us to learn and learn from the carols of the Advent season that sing of anticipation, that sing of repentance, that sing of desires for a new world, a new you, and a new me, that is delivered to us as we sing our joy at the birth of the Savior.

Our Scripture passage this week sings Mary’s Song. She sings with gratitude for the ways that God has recognized her lowly state and affirmed “Yes, you are worthy; yes, you are treasured; and yes, you have a valuable place in my future.”

This affirmation for Mary rings true for us, too. In her song may we feel God’s affirmation, “Yes, you are worthy; yes, you are treasured; and yes, you have a valuable place in my future.”

Mary’s chorus of thanks continues as she foreshadows the coming Light that will be the Light of the nations, “He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised” (Lk 1:54-55a). Our God is so faithful. Our God’s promises will not fail. 

This Sunday through song and growing candlelight we will praise our God for all that God has done and is doing in our lives, in our church, and in our world as we move closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I would especially like to thank Tim, the Sanctuary Choir, and the Audio/Visual Team for their diligence and hard work in preparing this Advent worship experience for our congregation. 

(Also, Choir, thanks for inviting me to sing with you! That is such a treat!)

Please join us this Sunday at 11am for Ceremony of Candles. Invite a friend. And be ready to sing a carol or two!

Prayer: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessing of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in. O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”* Amen.

*”O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The United Methodist Hymnal 230.