December 18 Worship
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Hello Union Church Presbyterians,
Worship this Sunday, December 18 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.
YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 AM, https://www.youtube.com/user/NewburghPresby
ORDER OF WORSHIP
December 18, 2022 10:30 AM
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
USHERS today are Dan Olson and John Safran.
CONGREGATIONAL MEETING TODAY after worship to ELECT new Elders and Deacons.
SESSION meeting TODAY after Fellowship Hour.
LIVING NATIVITY TONIGHT from 5:00 to 6:30pm. Join us for our second annual Living Nativity, complete with animals. Tell your friends and neighbors to come by and get their pictures made with donkeys, sheep, and goats in our “stable.”
JOSHUA TREE: Gifts due TODAY! Please remember to wrap your gift and attach the address of the recipient from the ornament. Thank you to all who took ornaments for gifts!
CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE at 5PM, without communion.
CHRISTMAS DAY: The church will be closed Christmas Day. Worship & Music Committee voted to change the previously mentioned meditation hour.
PHOTO DIRECTORY: Outreach will begin taking pictures of individuals and families, during Fellowship Hour after services, for the new photo directory.
FOOD PANTRY has been selected again to receive $1 from every reusable Fight Hunger Bag sold during January at Hannaford at 2636 Rt. 32 in New Windsor.
OPEN MON, DEC 19 and WED, DEC 21 from 9:30-11:30 AM. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.
PER CAPITA: As of DEC 4 , the church has received pledges for the amount of $46,488 as compared to last year at this time the church had received 26 pledges in the amount of $86,466. Our 2023 budget is hoping for annual pledges to be $88,000. I am sure that many of us still have not sent in our pledge cards and that the next update will be much more positive!
ORDER OF WORSHIP
If you have individual prayer requests, please write them on prayer cards in the pews and bring them up or give them to an usher during the prelude.
**Kindly stand if you are able
PRELUDE “Away in a Manger” arr. Karl Osterland
WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
LIGHTING THE ADVENT CANDLE – Hope and Peace and Joy and Love
The Brooks-Hannon family
CALL TO WORSHIP (adapted from Psalm 80)
Leader: Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth PEOPLE: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Leader: Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. PEOPLE: But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Leader: Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name. PEOPLE: Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Dearest Lord, we join together in rejoicing our love and adoration for you and for the long-awaited arrival of he, whom you sent to live and dwell among us, to teach us the way to faith and love. Amen.
**OPENING HYMN “What Child is this?” Red #150
CALL TO CONFESSION
In these busy times in our busy lives, we often lose sight of the true beacon that lights our way along faith’s journey. Let us reach out to that true light as we pray together.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of all revelation, we confess that we have often closed our hearts to your will. We have read your scriptures only to justify our human prejudices and preferences. Forgive us, we pray and do not lose patience with us. Confront us once again with your compelling and challenging word as manifested in Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen. (a moment for silent personal confession)
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Sister and brothers, believe the Good News of the Gospels and know that in Jesus’ name we are forgiven. Amen.
**PASSING OF THE PEACE
**APOSTLES CREED (Adapted by John Redman)
I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was born of a young peasant woman, trained as a carpenter, and baptized by His cousin John. He taught many, He healed many, and He angered many. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He defeated death and He offers us grace and love in the name of God the Father Almighty; from that time through all time to come. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit; the universal Church of Christ; the Communion of sharing our gifts with others; the forgiveness of our sins; the Grace of God’s love, and that each soul may have life everlasting. Amen.
**HYMN OF PRAISE “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Red # 171
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, as we turn to your Word for us, may the Spirit of God rest upon us. Help us to be steadfast in our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, and in our living. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT Isaiah 7: 10-16 James Phillips
GOSPEL Matthew 1: 18-25
SERMON Did it Happen Just Like It Says? John Redman, CRE
(full sermon text at the bottom of page)
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
And Lord we pray for those in our own hearts whose names you already know, for their own healing and comfort, in your name and that of our redeemer Jesus Christ, who taught to pray, saying:
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.
OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
We can hoard the gifts with which you bless us, God of generosity, or we can share them with others. May what we offer in these moments be the very blessing, the very hope, the very peace others need. This we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
OFFERTORY “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” setting by Paul Manz
PRAYER OF THANKS
Lord God, we thank you for these gifts. During this season of Advent may we find ways to honor you by giving of our treasure, our time and our talents to glorify you and your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
**HYMN OF PARTING “Angels We have Heard on High” Red #152
May the Source of Life hold you in the faith; the Word of Life speak clearly in truth around you; and Breath of Life, of grace sing in your inmost being this day and all your days. Amen
POSTLUDE “Toccata on ADESTE FIDELIS” Richard Purvis
SERMON TEXT: Did it Happen Just Like It Says?
Arguments and disagreements between those who follow the literal interpretation of Scripture and those who prefer a more spiritual interpretation are nothing new; they have been back and forth for centuries. One of the more famous examples is Thomas Jefferson, who used a razor and glue to literally cut and paste those portions or passages of the Gospels that he didn’t think were true or relevant. The result was an account of the life of Jesus in a much thinner book than most of his contemporaries. His account of the life and morals of Jesus includes all the parables and many sayings, but none of the more supernatural miracles. And it ends with the body of Jesus begin placed in the tomb.
Literal acceptance of every word in the Bible as fact has long been the tradition and in fact was law for hundreds of years, and the crime of heresy was common during the centuries of the Inquisition. But even as early as the third or fourth century, there were questions about this whole virgin birth. Even the words of Isaiah used as the prophecy have been questioned, with the original Hebrew using the words that mean a young woman, but the Greek was translated as virgin, since the philosophical understanding of the Greeks assumed that all young women were virgins, especially those as young as thirteen or fourteen, what is now presumed to be the Mary’s age at the time. And the writers of Matthew and Luke both took the Greek translation literally. So where do we end up in all this interpretation? Our friends the fundamentalists insist that each word is true, especially these words about a virgin birth, but is that the important issue? What may have been a more important social issue at the time would have been Mary’s unwed pregnancy, and the connotations that would thus have been raised toward Joseph. Ever think about that?
As Bishop Spong encourages us, we can read the scriptures in a new and different way. They are not recordings of what Jesus actually said. They are not photographs of things Jesus actually did. The Scriptures are rather like portraits painted by Jewish artists of the first century.
They must be read as one would “read” a portrait in a gallery or a museum. Stand before these pieces of art until you can catch the beauty and the power that the artist was trying to convey. Then look at how other artists have interpreted this through the centuries that have followed. Think about how those simpler people of the first century looked at the world and at the heavens above them. How would they have explained the visitation of angels? Look at the doubt and worry that furrows the brow of Joseph in this painting from the sixteenth century. Or was he just contemplating the arduous journey to Bethlehem? See the possible fear, or is it just the wonder of expectation, much like our season of Advent, in the image of Mary. Is that what we see? Was at least part of the motivation to visit her cousin Elizabeth and stay for five months to remove herself from the probable shame of an unwed pregnancy? And just how does this young peasant girl, at most fourteen or so, explain an angel visiting her?
How might we, in our enlightened age have addressed those questions?
And how do we address those other issues and questions of the Nativity? Yes, our Living Nativity tonight will meld the stories of Matthew and Luke into one, with both shepherds and Magi, even though the Magi might not have appeared for several weeks or months, and if Herod’s anger at having been duped by them resulted in a mass slaughter of innocent newborns wouldn’t that have been noted in his story, since his killing of both a wife and two of his sons was recorded as a part of his life? But no, we only have Matthew’s account of this slaughter, which dovetails neatly with the story of Moses rescued from the Nile and the flight of the Holy family into Egypt. But I recently read a different version of the Magi story, that if they were three wise women, they would have asked directions sooner, they would have arrived on time, they would have helped with the birth of the baby, they would have cleaned up the stable, made a casserole, and brought true peace on earth.
And our other birth narrative from Luke has these poor shepherds, shivering out there on a hill in the dark when the sky is lit up by a chorus of angels. Can you imagine how freaked out they must have been? How would you feel? And what language do angels speak? Do we even know? But these simple shepherds somehow get the message and off they go to the stable and then they go raging and running around telling everyone of what they have seen. But let’s face it. A bunch of slightly shell-shocked shepherds stumble into a crowded tavern in the middle of the night telling you about a choir of angels announcing the birth of a king in a nearby stable, what would you expect to believe?
Mark’s Gospel forgoes any birth narrative and introduces Jesus by way of John the Baptist’s sort of curtain speech at the beginning of the book, and the Gospel of John’s birth narrative is perhaps the truly most dramatic since Jesus has been with us since before time began and he makes an appearance to dwell as flesh among us. More about that on Christmas Eve.
Isaiah’s prophecy from the eighth century BC is more than a prediction of the Messiah. It is Isaiah’s vision of the future of Judah and Israel and the entire nation of the Chosen People. As such, it’s an almost impossible prediction, so this whole idea of virgin birth is perhaps nothing more than comparison of a camel walking through the eye of a needle or some other impossibility. But Matthew seizes on it as a critical point and then has poor Joseph going along with it, even though it may be only a poor translation from Hebrew into Greek.
But it’s not the circumstances or details of the birth that are the critical pieces of the puzzle – it’s the event itself, that Come O Come, Emmanuel, the phrase itself meaning ‘God is with us!’ Yes, God is with us, as we wait in anticipation, angels hovering above us and that star shining crystal clear through the night.
So, we need to broaden our perspectives on worship, fitting ourselves and our lives into the life of the subject. Then everyone can see themselves through the light of God’s love and the pathways of faith in this new world of worship reflected by the immensity of God’s love and we see ourselves as we truly are and the best version of ourselves. When you and I do that, we will gain a greater understanding of the Christian faith and we will be empowered to move beyond all of our previous boundaries into a new humanity and a new faith journey. Some Come, O Come, Emmanuel, as God is with us. Amen.
John Redman, CRE
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44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
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