This is our worship service for December 13, 2020, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, ready to go live at 10am! We are getting closer and closer to Christmas!
The worship bulletin for this service can be found here. Keep in mind we are using the Tree of Life setting, found only in the Tree of Life booklet, which is available to borrow if you wish (just let me know). The page numbers in the bulletin that correspond with the Tree of Life booklet are marked with a TOL. The bulletin also has all the words of the liturgy, readings, and sermon. But as always, all the words that you need will be on your screen (with your responses in bold faced type).
For a fuller worship experience, please have some elements in your space: a bowl of water, something small to eat and drink, and a lit candle. These of course are optional, but are meant to help you in your worship at home.
And here is the worship service!
Holy God, you give us life and light and may your Word illumine our hearts and minds as we bear witness to your glory, through the power of the Spirit. Amen.
One thing that I’ve noticed throughout this pandemic is that in the midst of the social distancing, throughout all the self-isolating and quarantining, even after what people have been calling “Zoom fatigue” from all the online video conferencing meetings, I’ve found that people really seem to miss just talking with other people. And it makes sense that this is the case, I mean we have been deprived of social interaction and casual conversation for like 9 months now. Over the equivalent of a typical grade school year, we have been told to stay mostly in our homes, refrain from visiting friends and family who don’t live with us, and avoid the indoors with others as much as possible. In the time that it takes for babies to grow in their mother’s womb, we have been starved of warm hellos from strangers, random run-ins with friends while out and about, and perhaps above all, just the platform of a listening ear upon which we can unload our rants and ramblings. And it’s really starting to show.
When all of this started, I remember going to meetings with great ease and efficiency. We enter, talk about what we need to talk about, and then we leave. There were days when I’d be able to have back-to-back-to-back meetings without even batting an eye. But as time progressed, as we continued to meet exclusively online, as people grew tired of only interacting with those in their homes, which were usually either small kids or a spouse that has been a spouse for many years, and as people felt more and more disconnected with their colleagues and friends… I found that suddenly people began to look forward to our online meetings and everyone wanted to chat and chat and chat. It’s like the floodgates have opened and give anyone half a chance and they’ll tell you their life story.
It’s almost as though everyone is thinking, “gasp, someone’s listening to the words coming out of my mouth!” so they go on and on and share as much as they could while that window for talking to others is open. I was in a few meetings this past week that didn’t go overtime per se, but it sure went off track much more often than usual as people just want to talk, want to share, want to connect with other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all. In fact, if I were being honest, I kind of like hearing people’s life stories (I’m weird that way) and I miss the talking and chatting as well. And so it’s nice that people are feeling more comfortable in opening up, exposing their inner selves more, and taking the time to communicate more than they have before. It’s just a shame that it took us 9 months of a pandemic to get here. And I really hope that after this pandemic, we won’t all shift back into our default of, not necessarily anit-social behaviour, but back to our less chatty and perhaps more reserved selves. It’s been cool to see people more as themselves than just the show and the masks that so many of us are used to.
Perhaps one of the most anti-social characters we read about in our bibles is highlighted in today’s gospel lesson. Good ol’ John the Baptizer, the Baptist, the son of Zechariah as he’s been labelled in all the other gospels, but in this gospel, the gospel according John, he is just referred to as “John” (a different John, by the way). This guy John lived out in the wilderness, ate strange food and wore strange clothing. I always thought of him like one of the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars, except without the banthas to ride on or the need to walk in single file to hide his numbers. Because there were no numbers, it was just him. Just John. All by his anti-social self.
And John didn’t really seem all that talkative. Or at least, he didn’t seem to be much of a conversationalist. Which I guess would make sense as there might not be too much opportunity for a conversation living by yourself out in the wilderness. But as the priests and Levites very clearly interrogate him about just who he thinks he is to be doing all the things that he is doing, John was only about the cryptic one word answers. And I guess we can’t really blame him, as these guys were all up in his face and making him feel bad just for being who he is. Anyone would be a little standoffish at this point.
But once anti-social John was given that half a chance? He went on and on about this light that was coming into the world. He made it known that he wasn’t the light, but he was to point to this light. And point to it, or I should say “him”, he did.
See John had a message inside him that needed to come out. He had a great tale that needed to be told. He had in him some good news, and he was anointed by God’s Spirit to proclaim it to all people. He was anointed, as are we anointed to do the same.
Whoa whoa wait, we might think, we aren’t qualified to do what John did. We can’t make straight the way of the Lord! We don’t even know what the way of the Lord is, let alone know where it needs straightening. And no way are we leaving suburbia to live in the woods, not in this climate at least.
But you see, John’s testimony, his witness didn’t come from a fancy schmancy education, it didn’t come from years and years of ministry under his leather girdle, it didn’t come from a special exclusive knowledge that no one else had. Rather, his witness came from his experience, an encounter that he had with the light, with the good, with God. And once that experience happens, wild locusts wouldn’t be able to keep you down. It is something that needs to be told.
Like how the great social commentator (i.e. comedian) Chris Rock said in one of his routines, if you were to find 50 dollars on the street, you’ll remember that spot for the rest of your life. Every time you walk past it, you’d be like, “This spot I found 50 dollars! Right here!” And it’s true, when we have good news, we can’t help but remember it, share it, post it on social media or whatever, and proclaim it even when people may or may not ask about it.
Be it some great vacation you had, your first award for a job well done, or a literal 50 dollars you found on the street, you’ll remember it. Or maybe it was the day you were married, your first promotion, or the greatest movie you’ve ever seen, you’ll want to tell others about it. Or maybe it was you getting engaged or pregnant, a significant purchase like a car or a house, or the miraculous birth of a child in the most humble of settings, you’ll testify to it because the joy within you just cannot be contained.
This is the life that John was called to. This is the life that we are called to. This is the life that has been touched by and infused with the good news of this light that has entered the world, the light which darkness cannot overcome.
This isn’t to say that we all must become preachers, we don’t all have the gifts for that (present company included). This isn’t to say that we must all step up on our soapboxes with a megaphone and “Jesus loves you” sandwich boards around our bodies. This isn’t even to say that we have to talk about God with everyone we ever talk to.
But it is to say that we have been given a gift. We have been given good news. We have been given the experience of love and joy and life by the grace of God. And this experience drives us to tell. It drives us to testify. It drives us, anointed by the Spirit, to proclaim this good news through our lives of joy, through our actions of grace and mercy and love, and when necessary, through our words.
In this season in which we prepare ourselves for the Advent of Christ, may we be reminded of and be strengthened to testify to the joy of community, relationship, and the love of God, a joy that no pandemic can overcome. Thanks be to God. Amen.