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.

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Collect Moments With God: Who

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 139:1-6

I think name tags have super powers.  Yes, they reveal the names of the people who wear them – as long as every person is wearing their corresponding name tag – but they also have the power to make people forget their names.

And by people…I mean me.

Inevitably when I am wearing a name tag on a lanyard around my neck and I meet someone I do not know, I look down at my name tag to confirm what my name is before I say “Hi, I’m Sarah.”  Uhhhh…how is it that I have forgotten my name?!  Obviously, name tags have super powers.

After meeting someone new and exchanging salutations the conversation shortly turns in the direction of “Tell me about yourself.”  This is a who question…yet many of us – myself included – interpret this question as a do question.  “Tell me about yourself” = “Tell me what you do.”  And so we respond with a litany of tasks we complete or roles we fulfill.  At times throughout our litanies we will reveal who we are…but we need to be sure we do not collapse who we are into what we do.

Our Scripture text for this week affirms that God knows every bit of us – our comings and our goings, our thoughts and our feelings, our joys and our sorrows, our strengths and our growing edges, our trials and our triumphs.  God knows our faithfulness and our waywardness.  God even knows my utter disdain for water chestnuts.  God knows what we do and God knows that what we do has an impact on who we are…but what we do is not in totality who we are.

Who are we?  First and foremost we are God’s children.  We are beloved.  We are precious.  We are known individually.  We are treasures.

At times, though, we forget who we are because of what we do.  When we sin we cloud, mask, hide, and possibly even forget who we truly are.  God’s truth that we are God’s children, beloved, precious, known individually, and treasures becomes obscured.  We forget, but God does not forget.  Our God is so faithful.  Our God continues to provide witnesses in our lives to remind us who we are by recalling for us God’s faithfulness through the ages.

Scripture tells these stories.  We tell these stories.  Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and fellow pew sitters – we tell these stories.

Our God is faithful.  Our God knows who we are – blemished by sin and redeemed by grace.  We are not what we do.  We are who God created us and calls us to be.

Recently I was introduced to the song “Never Once” by Matt Redman.  This song sings to God’s faithfulness.  “Never once did we ever walk alone.  Never once did God leave us on our own.  You are faithful, God.  You are faithful.”

I am assured that when we forget who we are because of what we have done, that God is quickly drawing us back to God’s side, whispering into our hearts and confirming in our minds, “I know who you are.  You are mine.  And I am with you.”

Prayer: Lord, “refresh thy people on their toilsome way; lead us from night to never-ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.”* Amen.

*”God of the Ages,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 698.