The First Sunday of Advent
A Symbol–Light

Liturgy: 

Light the First Purple Candle

as everyone says together:

“Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will nver walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Someone Asks:  Why do we light this candle?

Someone Responds:  The first candle reminds us of a symbol, light.  The gift of Jesus brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Read Aloud the Scripture and Devotion for today found on the next page.

Time for Sharing:  Can you identify places that “darkness” has crept into your life unnoticed?  Share areas of your life into which trouble and darkness have snuck.  The scripture reminds us that the light of Jesus shines into our darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.  How can you allow Jesus to shine into those dark areas of your life?  Share how you will allow Jesus to be the center of your focus and allow His light to shine this season.

Sing Together:  “Silent Night”

Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

Pray:  Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Light for all of us.  Help us to allow the light of Jesus to shine into our lives.Amen

Devotional:

“Light Shines in the Darkness”

Hailey, age three, likes to take a walk around the block with her grandmother.  One summer day when they were part of the way around the block she announced, “Mimi, I need to sit down and cool off!”  She selected a spot in direct sunlight.  Momentarily a cloud drifted across the face of the sun casting its shadow of “darkness” all around. Hailey exclaimed, “Mimi, where did the sun go?”  She noticed the change right away!

We live in a transitory world in which shades of darkness play in our circumstances to the point of becoming near second nature for us.  There are times when we “notice” right away. At other times the influence on our life comes gradually, going unnoticed until a moment of regret.  

The Christmas celebration approaches!  Let us focus on God and His gift.  He makes it clear to us that He is life and “the light of all mankind”.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) By allowing Jesus to be the center of our focus He will overcome the darkness and reflect His light off of us.   Joy!

Oral Lambert 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

Pastor Mark Miller has prepared Discussion/Reflection Questions to go along with the sermon: A Classic Christmas — A Symbol.

You can access the Discussion/Reflection Questions in these two places:

  1. VA Beach UMC app – Download the VA Beach UMC app at the App Store
  2. www.vbumc.org/sermons

From the app touch the three dots at the bottom right of the screen … (More) there you will find Sermon Weekly Guide. Click the arrow next to the date and sermon title for the week.

On the webpage, click on the sermon series graphic A Classic Christmas. There you will find the Discussion/Reflection Questions for each Sunday in this series.

You can also listen to the sermon from the website or app which will be posted by Sunday afternoon after the sermon is preached that morning. To listen to the sermon:

  • from VA Beach UMC app click on the headphones at the bottom of the screen.
  • from vbumc.org hover over worship and click on sermons.

Devotional:

John 1:9-14 

“Light and Word”

“That was the true light, which lights every man that cometh into the world.  He was in the world and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.  He came unto his own and his own received him not.  Which were born not of blood nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of man but of God and the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.”

My Father, Julio M. Fuentes, sacrificed many years and hours to give me the best education any child could have.  He paid for a private Catholic education administered by Irish Immaculate Conception nuns, then 4 years by Marisi brothers.  I loved the Lord and felt that he loved me.  Upon graduation the United States Government stepped in and took control of my life.  I remembered “that shalt not kill”.  For 14 years I lived it.  Vietnam changed all of that. When I returned, America threw eggs, tomatoes, and other things at my uniform.  No one would hire me and the beginnings of a very lonely dark part of my life began.  At first it was just a resentment. It grew into anger then hate.  It was not toward the government where it should have been, but it was towards God.

I could not sleep more than 2 hours without waking up in Vietnam. I heard the voices of soldiers calling out, sweating, the ammunition going off.   It did not stop.  I started to drink, smoke marijuana and cocaine just to get some sleep.  I had cut off the light by hating what loved me.  I came home in 1972.  For years I lived without his light.  It wasn’t until 1996 that someone told me that God did not send me to Vietnam but “he brought me home.”

I fell to my knees that day. I asked him for forgiveness.

That day I found myself in a V.A. hospital in the Bronx.  Don’t know how I got there, but I do know I said a prayer for the first time in 24 years. I asked him to forgive me.  I asked him to teach me how to sleep and to introduce me to the strongest people on this planet that could teach me more about him.

I live in Virginia Beach now and he has led me to the most amazing family of love on earth.  Not only have I seen his light but I am fed by “his word” by the wonderful army of teacher angels that have accepted me.  The new birth I have received has been nightmare flashbacks, voice – free – sleep – filled nights. He not only forgave me, he gave me a whole church full of teachers.

His light is his son who is his word.

Danny Fuentes

Devotional:

“Let There Be Light”

Genesis 1:1-5

“Gran Martha, I saw Jesus,” my four-year-old brother exclaimed from his hospital bed. “What did he look like,” she asked. Cret responded something like this, “He has brown hair, a long white robe and there was a bright light!”

It was the mid-1970s when my younger brother, Cret, had a nearly fatal accident in the yard. In the hospital our respected Dr. John Clarke explained to my parents that Cret had flat lined briefly. As a four year old my brother stood face – to – face with The Light of The World, our loving savior, Jesus Christ, who gently guided him back to this life. Forty years later my brother continues to carry out the great plans that our Lord has in store for him!

In the Bible we learn that light signifies God’s presence and favor. As Christians we have the responsibility to share and reflect God’s light. When we let ourselves grow in faith and let the Lord fill us with his light and goodness and we share this light with others, we have the amazing ability to aid in advancing the kingdom of God!

In the Gospel of John Chapter 8 Verse 12 we read that Jesus spoke to the people once more and said,” I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

God extends his love, light, blessings and grace to us! What an amazing gift he offers to us. We probably come in contact everyday with people who have not experienced God’s transforming love and grace. During this Advent season I pray that we will be able to reflect God’s light to others!

Lisa Anthony Miller

Devotional:

“Where is God Leading Me?”

Exodus 13:17-22

As a child, I knew how difficult it was for my mother to balance taking classes towards her master’s degree in the evenings, working nights as a nurse, and spending time with me and my sister during the day. However, she did it beautifully with grace and determination.

As an adult, I followed the path that I felt chosen for and became a teacher. Having my mother’s strong work ethic, I worked late into the evenings and on the weekends to be the best teacher I could possibly be. After my mother’s death in 2006, I delved into my work even more so, grateful that I had my job and my students to lift me up and take my mind off of missing my mother.

However, after having my own 2 daughters, I struggled to balance being the best teacher possible and also the mother that I wanted to be. I came to a point in my career when I sincerely considered quitting the profession, one that I felt called to since I was a child, in order to be able to be a better, more present and active Mom. I prayed about it and truly felt that my place was at home with my family.

At about the same time, I was approached by the Reading Specialist at my school and asked if I’d be interested in being a member of a cohort in a UVA Master’s Program. My immediate response was, “Heck NO! How in the world would I possibly fit that in, especially considering how busy I am already?” But, again, I prayed on it. I prayed, “Dear Lord. I am the clay. You are the potter. I am the work in your hand. I trust in you. Amen.”

God led the Israelites on a more difficult route, the road less traveled, that didn’t make conventional sense then and still doesn’t. But sometimes, God saves us from ourselves.

Against all the inner voices in my head that were discouraging me, telling me there was no way I could ever make time to do what’s necessary for a master’s program while also being a wife, a mother, and a teacher, I followed God’s will and I began the UVA Master’s Program in the fall of 2015. And after 3 long and difficult years, I graduate this May. I could never have done it without the Lord’s continuous support and encouragement, day and night.

God encourages us by giving us signs of His presence in the day and in the night. He wants us to know we’re not alone.

By next September I will be a Reading Specialist, a position that will not only provide me with the work/life balance that I was looking for when I considered taking the easier path, but it will also still provide me the opportunity to continue the work that God intended me to do all along; to teach. And although I took the longer, more difficult path to get there, I know I’ve made myself, my Mother, and our Father, proud!

Life has meaning only in the struggle. Taking the more difficult path as we are led by God is difficult. And possibly, only a few trusted friends or family may know just how much you had to struggle in order to follow God. But have faith that God will take care of you and provide for you. He will walk alongside you each step of the way as a pillar of strength. Hold on to the hope that if you can just make it through, you will grow because you have endured. You will have a testimony!

So, please ask yourself, “Where is God leading me?”

Lisa Austin

Devotional:

“Light in the Darkness”

John 8:12

My Life Group brother, Rich, and I were making our way down the hallway of the Virginia Beach Correctional Center as part of Virginia Beach UMC’s prison ministry. The facility has that institutional disinfectant smell, guards walk by in their dark blue uniforms from their corner monitoring stations and food trays with half eaten corn bread remain on push carts outside the cell blocks. It was toward the end of our evening shift when the guard opened the last door that looked like a meat locker and we entered to a small area in front of a row of bars with about 20 men inside. We could barely see because the lighting was so poor and we were suddenly taken aback as out of the darkness a man yelled “well, what do you think is the greatest commandment?”. In the cell two middle – aged men were debating the scriptures and began to engage us in their debate. As we wheeled our book cart closer and began handing out Bibles it became evident that not only was their scriptural command greater than ours but the two men in that cell block had a peace and confidence seldom found outside the walls of our local jail.

Why? The Light had shown itself even in the darkest of places. In this place the battle is REAL between Light and darkness and it is fought every day. In that cell block and others the Light and hope that Jesus brought into the world is found through a combination of reading the Word and at night at “prayer calls” when a leader will rally others to pray before bed. It is there also amongst that fellowship and in the midst of reflecting on their circumstances that many men are handing their lives over to the Lord and yearn for the day they get out so they can go to church and be baptized. Maybe sometimes it’s easier to see the Light in the darkness. Thank you Jesus for bringing and being the Light!

Chip Wittmann

 

Devotional:

“Mighty Works”

John 9:1-7

A year and a half ago my life was changed forever with an emergency trip to the ER that ended with a diagnosis of Stage IV Endometrial Cancer. While trying to digest this unexpected news, my thoughts immediately went to what I had or hadn’t done that had caused this. Why didn’t I get myself to a doctor sooner? Why was I so stupid as to ignore the symptoms? Yet when I tearfully shared this self-loathing with a close friend, her response was, “God isn’t going to hold those things against you, so why should you?” Over the coming months, as I endured a multitude of tests, scans, biopsies, and eventually chemotherapy and radiation, I was cared for by a team of amazing medical professionals, and I spent a lot of time with other women battling cancer right alongside me. I witnessed miracles as God not only allowed me to tolerate my treatments with few serious side effects, but my prognosis changed from a deadly, aggressive form of cancer to one with a much better survival rate. Biopsies came back negative, and scans showed that my treatments had been highly successful. Through all of this I was able to share my story with anyone who would listen and to give God the glory, as I saw and experienced the good that could come out of a potentially terrifying situation.

In reading these verses from John, I realized that my cancer was not a punishment from God, but an opportunity to display His mighty works. This Christmas season, let us be reminded of how blessed we are that we have the light of the world who opens our blind eyes and allows us to see!

Karen Millman

Devotional:

“Salt and Light”

Matthew 5:13-16

A pastor I knew once would close his prayers with “Be the salt and light in a dark and tasteless world.” While some may think that’s a relatively pessimistic view of our world, let’s face it – the media organizations perpetuate it with sensationalizing “bad news.” But what do these passages from Matthew mean?

Salt was used as both a preservative and a seasoning in Jesus’ day. Jesus used this as a metaphor to point out to that we as Christians have a responsibility to maintain our Christian values so that we can keep the Word alive and fresh. Our society, as evidenced by the last 50 years, is in moral decay. If we – the salt – lose our “saltiness”, i.e., our Christian values, then what is there to prevent further decay? While there are millions of Christians in the world today, think of Jesus’ time – he and a band of disciples and followers were it. Armed with the Holy Spirit, they went about “purifying” the world, one person at a time.

As the previous sentence points out, just being “salty” isn’t enough. Salt in a shaker doesn’t accomplish anything. You have to shake it out to season, or spread it over the raw meat as they did in Jesus’ time, to stop the decay and destroy the bacteria that would putrefy it. It’s the same today. We can’t sit around in our Lazy Boys at home, or when out in the world conform to what the world says. Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. He knew that his days were numbered, and that the light that he brought into the world must be kept burning. We are challenged with the same responsibility – the time has never been more critical. We are heirs to these early Christians, and the light that was born into the world that first Christmas day – the Light of the World – must not be hidden but must be displayed, so that our words and actions bring glory to God and make others want to know the source of our joy.

So how do we share our “light” in a multi-cultural world where the fastest growing religion is “none”? Beat them on the head with our Bibles? Of course not, but follow the advice Pastor Mark gave us:

1. be respectful and gracious (but share with conviction)
2. be curious about other religions, even the “none” (make yourself smart)
3. be careful (condemnation can undo the best witness you give)

Now go and let your light shine this Advent season!

Steve Burich

The Second Sunday of Advent
A Story–A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens

Liturgy:

Light Two Purple Candles
As everyone says together: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will nver walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Someone Asks: Why do we light two candles?

Someone Responds: The first candle reminds us of a symbol, light. The second candle reminds us of Ebenezer Scrooge and the story, A Christmas Carol.

Read Aloud the Scripture and Devotion for today.

Time for Reflection: The rush and busyness of the Christmas season can lead us to focus more on material possessions than the real meaning of Christmas. Share how the focus on “things” and “stuff” has been a part of your life lately. We too can change our perspective just as Ebenezer Scrooge did. Share how you might live out the lesson of “God gave us people to love and ‘things’ to use” this Christmas season.

Sing Together: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels.
O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!

Yea, Lord we greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n.
Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.
O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!

Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, help us not to focus on the worldly goods around us but on the people and true gifts you have given us. May the peace of God, which is far beyond human understanding, keep our hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. Amen. (Philippians 4:7)

Devotional

We had a relative who, over the course of a working life, amassed a large amount of “stuff.” Upon her retirement, after 50 years at her job, she decided to return to her hometown to live. She had already furnished the house she would move into. She sold her current house but, instead of downsizing, she decided to move the contents of the sold house to the retirement house.

At the new place, she had several sheds built and rented storage space to house her “stuff.” All her remaining years of good mental health were spent trying to figure out how to arrange and what to do with the “stuff.” Just a few days ago, we gave the last of it to Goodwill. Our relative made the mistake of building “bigger barns” trying to keep it all.

From what we know, Luke’s “rich fool” was not a bad person. Neither was our relative. Both had lost perspective about the relative unimportance of “things.” The rich man did not live long enough to enjoy the abundance of his recent harvest. His thoughts were centered on the personal pleasure the harvest would bring him. Our relative’s thoughts became centered on how to arrange everything in order to hold on to it. She was tormented and fretted constantly over her belongings.

Based on the conclusions of wise men, St. Augustine among them, there is a three-fold lesson we might take away from Jesus’ parable and our relative’s experience.
• Observe how much God has given us and take from it what we need; the rest is needed by others.
• God gave us people to love. He gave us things to use.
• Things should enable us, not define us.

We should be careful not to begrudge others the material possessions they have honestly earned. The Scriptures do not dictate that we be rich or poor. They do acknowledge that there will be rich and poor. Poverty should not be smiled upon if one has the wherewithal to do better. If we are poor, it does not follow that we are lazy. If we are rich, it does not mean that we are thieves. What we must realize as the Scriptures tell us is that “All things come of thee, O Lord.” Let us use these lessons to govern ourselves in the use of the abundant blessings God has granted us.

John and Lecettie Simpson

Discussion/Reflection Questions

Pastor Mark Miller has prepared Discussion/Reflection Questions to go along with the sermon:  A Classic Christmas — A Story.

 You can access the Discussion/Reflection Questions in these two places:

  1. VA Beach UMC app – Download the VA Beach UMC app at the App Store
  2. www.vbumc.org/sermons

From the app touch the three dots at the bottom right of the screen … (More) there you will find Sermon Weekly Guide.  Click the arrow next to the date and sermon title for the week.

On the webpage, click on the sermon series graphic A Classic Christmas.  There you will find the Discussion/Reflection Questions for each Sunday in this series.

You can also listen to the sermon from the website or app which will be posted by Sunday afternoon after the sermon is preached that morning.  To listen to the sermon:

  • from VA Beach UMC app click on the headphones at the bottom of the screen.
  • from vbumc.org hover over worship and click on sermons.

 

Devotional:

Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

As young children growing up in Christian households, our actions were not only influenced by God’s teachings but also through storytellers like Charles Dickens who wrote the wonderful novella, A Christmas Carol in 1843. We all know the story about the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge who was a very selfish businessman who loved money more than anything else. As the story goes, it took the visit of four ghosts to scare the spiteful Ebenezer into reflecting on his own past, his current lot, and what the future would hold if he did not lay aside selfishness and treat others with respect and common courtesy. Just as Dickens was inspired to write his story based on a visit to a shelter for street kids, so too must we be visually reminded of the plight of others so as to not be blinded by our own selfishness. Philippians 2:3 reminds us that it is only through our humility that we can gain a true perspective of ourselves which in turn helps to build the church and link us closer to Christ’s example. Likewise, A Christmas Story provides us a very important lesson about the true giving spirit of Christmas. The story serves not only as a seasonal reminder to help others less fortunate than ourselves but as one throughout our Christian lives.

Tony Hunter

 

Devotional:

John 5:1-9

John’s story occurs on the Sabbath of a feast day, a time to follow the Jewish laws of Shabbat. I learned something of these rules firsthand on my recent trip to Israel, particularly regarding elevators! The hotel had a designated Sabbath elevator, which automatically stopped at every floor so that those who were observing the Sabbath would not have to push the buttons for their floor and thus violate rules against working on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ rules were paradoxical for first century Jerusalem. He acted out of concern for humanity, breaking Sabbath law by instantly healing the man who could not get to the spring when it bubbled. Secondly, Jesus gave the man a direct command that violated the law, because it was forbidden to carry a mat on the Sabbath. The healed man did not stop to think about whether or not he would be breaking the law. He gladly accepted healing and his new life.
When we sense God telling us to do something, we may try to decide whether we are really hearing from God, sometimes using our deliberation as an excuse not to act. We may miss the blessing intended for us or another by not responding without delay to God’s call.

Rosemarie Scotti Hughes

 

Devotional:

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

I could give you so many examples of my own regret and yet I really wondered what would happen if we saw regret through the eyes of hope and our Savior. When Jesus revealed these thoughts to my heart, I was overwhelmed with sadness and cried for him. We like to think of Him as being invincible and yet He was humanly frail in so many ways.
We celebrate Christmas because it represents Jesus being born to this world as God’s gift to us. Yet Jesus didn’t come to this world for a happy life. He came with one purpose and mission – to die so that He could save us. His was anything but an easy life. During His time here there were moments as a human that Jesus struggled with regret and Satan tried to make Him unsure of His path. The mission was almost impossible and there was so much against Him. But instead of allowing those struggles to define Him, Jesus constantly went to His Father in prayer. He gave it all to God over and over again and God continually gave back to Him the strength and love that He needed to fulfill His purpose. It was not a one time thing. Jesus had to depend on God and take the same struggles to Him many times. Our individual missions may look different but we were all born with the same purpose – to learn to love and learn to be loved. We constantly need help to overcome our regrets and struggles. Jesus didn’t fulfill His mission to save us by His own greatness. He did it through His complete dependence on His Father. If Jesus needed constant help, don’t we?

I ask you to search your heart right now. What regret is holding you back and defining you? Aren’t you tired of holding it? Take it to the Father in prayer. Trust Him the best that you can and see what He will do with it. Don’t continue to let regret keep you from fulfilling your purpose in God.

Tonya Brown

 

Devotional:

“Repentance”

Luke 19: 1-10

Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

When our son, Watson, was 3, we stopped at a Sheetz gas station on our way to West Virginia. An hour down the road, we discovered that Watson had taken a Miss Piggy purse from the shop. We turned around and practiced what Watson had to say to the cashier at the store. He was resistant – angry, embarrassed, and frustrated. When we finally arrived back to Sheetz, Watson said the 3 steps we practiced in the car. 1. I took the Miss Piggy purse. 2. It was wrong. 3. I’m sorry. He was ready for the consequences and was very relieved when the police weren’t called and he wasn’t hauled away to jail.

I‘m proud of Watson and wish I would always follow these 3 steps when I sin. It is easy for me to justify my actions. “Everyone is watching that show on television. “ “I’m not gossiping. I’m sharing a concern about a person I know.” “No one will know. I’m not hurting anyone.” Until I admit what I do is wrong, repentance is impossible.

Zacchaeus took that step of repentance. 1. As a dishonest tax collector, he admitted that he took money from the poor and cheated people. 2. He knew it was wrong. 3. He was sorry and was ready to repay the money he owed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present helped Scrooge see his need for repentance. Why did Zacchaeus realize he needed to repent? Zacchaeus actively searched for Jesus. Jesus responded by stopping under the tree Zacchaeus had climbed, calling Zacchaeus by name, and inviting himself to Zacchaeus’s home to hang out with him. Zacchaeus could change because he had a relationship with Jesus.

That’s the relationship that will change our lives. Search for him, and Jesus will be there for you, too.

Tommy and Brenda Stahl

 

Devotional:

“Ghost of Christmas Future – Forgiveness and Salvation”

Luke 24:44-48

Do you worry about your future?

When you are controlled by fear you become irritable, unable to think clearly and your health may start to decline. Unchecked fear and worry may affect your well – being, and that is a trespass against God.

God is the only one who can protect you from the negative side effects of fear and worry. He can and will provide for all your needs, and fill your mind with peace.

Luke 24 tells us that Jesus said that everything written about him had to come true for your sake. He suffered humiliation and physical torture. Died on the cross and arose on the third day, so that we could receive salvation. Confess your trespasses to one another, as he told us, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. He who turns the sinner from his ways will save a soul from death. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Prayer will not just enable you to face life’s circumstances victoriously, it will enable you to show others how repentance and God’s forgiveness can bless all people.

The Lord is your strength and your salvation. Forgive one another even as Christ forgave you.

D. Etheridge

 

Devotional:

“God bless us everyone.”- Tiny Tim

Psalm 67

Good things come in small packages just like tiny blessings. It’s very hard to see the tiny blessings in the oversized things during the Christmas season. Several tiny blessings come to my mind on or around Christmas. Christmas Eve for my family meant making our way to church without Dad so it was always harder than it should be. One Christmas Eve as we were leaving home for the service tiny sounds of the sweetest music cut through the cold night air. A trio playing in the neighborhood…A tiny blessing in all the hurry of the holidays… or the Christmas Eve it was too cold for the people in the live Nativity but the animals were perfectly happy to be there under the tent…a tiny blessing in all the hurry of the holidays. Tiny Tim was the best part of that Christmas story… he was the tiny blessing when he declared “God bless us everyone”. I wish a tiny blessing for everyone in all the hurry of this holiday season.

Paula David

 

The Third Sunday of Advent
A Song
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Liturgy:

Light Two Purple Candles and One Pink Candle as everyone says together: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will nver walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Someone Asks: Why do we light three candles?

Someone Responds: The first candle reminds us of a symbol, light. The second candle reminds us of Ebenezer Scrooge and the story, A Christmas Carol. The third candle reminds us of a song, and all the songs and carols we sing at Christmas.

Read aloud the Scripture and Devotion for today.

Time for Sharing: God has given us many Christmas carols and songs that we sing during the Christmas season. Share one of your favorite Christmas carols or songs and why the song is significant for you.

Sing Together: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by
Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love
Oh, morning stars together, proclaim thy holy birth
And praises sing to God the king, and peace to men on earth

Pray: Dear God, thank you for the gift of song. Thank you God for showing us your love by sending your most precious gift, your only Son, into the world so that we might have life through him. That is what love is; not that we have loved you, but that you loved us and sent your son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. Amen. (1 John 4: 9-10)

Devotional:

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Psalm 23:1-3

The shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem were waiting for the coming of the Savior as was their teaching from youth. Little did they know that this particular starry night their lives would be changed in a way they could never imagine as they encountered the Angel of the Lord, while tending their flocks, who announced to them that the Savior was born in Bethlehem, the City of David.

I also experienced such an amazing night Christmas Eve 1992. I was drawn to the 11pm Christmas Eve service that night at my church. Earlier that day, I had put my 8 year old daughter on a plane by herself to spend the Christmas Holiday with her Dad at his family’s home in Kentucky as stipulated by my divorce decree. As I walked into the back of the Sanctuary of the church, I could see it was packed with people, except for the very back row, which was saved for a family who was participating in the service. I reasoned that if I sat down in the pew, I could always get up when the family returned if they needed the entire row. I began to pray to God with a heavy heart filled with fear and sorrow, asking Him for safety and protection for my beloved daughter. I was deep in prayer, when suddenly I experienced a sense of being ‘lifted up’ as if into the hands of a Loving Father, with all-consuming pure and perfect Love. This candlelit night, I would receive God’s love, mercy and saving grace through Jesus the Christ Child just as the shepherds in the fields so long before me. God meets us at the lowest point of our lives and shines His Glory upon us, giving us hope and strength when we need it the most.

Glory to God in the Highest. Peace, Good Will Toward Men. Amen.

Corey Tullar

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

Pastor Mark Miller has prepared Discussion/Reflection Questions to go along with the sermon:  A Classic Christmas — A Song.

You can access the Discussion/Reflection Questions in these two places:

  1. VA Beach UMC app – Download the VA Beach UMC app at the App Store
  2. www.vbumc.org/sermons

From the app touch the three dots at the bottom right of the screen … (More) there you will find Sermon Weekly Guide.  Click the arrow next to the date and sermon title for the week.

On the webpage, click on the sermon series graphic A Classic Christmas.  There you will find the Discussion/Reflection Questions for each Sunday in this series.

You can also listen to the sermon from the website or app which will be posted by Sunday afternoon after the sermon is preached that morning.  To listen to the sermon:

  • from VA Beach UMC app click on the headphones at the bottom of the screen.
  • from vbumc.org hover over worship and click on sermons.

Devotional:

Proverbs 14:1

had most of the pieces of the puzzle early on in my life but I really never started putting them together until a good while later. The old adage of many miles to go feels about right as I look back over the years. Like most of us, I was my own worst enemy. I graduated with high honors from the school of hard knocks. The Lord was so patient with me while I insisted on doing everything my way. The blessing of his patience paid off and I have since put most of the puzzle together. Not to be naïve, still many miles to go.

Fast forward, I have a wonderful husband who truly loves me. He is kind, considerate, and loves the Lord. He never fails to ask what he can do to help around the house, praises my dinner creations, compliments my appearance (even with his glasses on), and is an excellent father and grandfather. We have a beautiful daughter who is a feather in our cap. She is truly a blessing and loves the Lord. Even in grade school, she would always mail a donation to Billy Graham. She and her wonderful husband have raised their children with our Lord’s word. Our grandchildren are wonderful assets to the world.

I had a very long career as a registered nurse and pride myself in the comfort that I provided my patients over the years. However, nothing has been as thrilling as being a wife and mother. I like to keep my house tidy, cook my family good meals, clip coupons, dote on my grandchildren, and other probably not so exciting sounding things. I am so very thankful for my blessings. On my daily walks, God and I have the best conversations. How wonderful it is to be loved in spite of myself. I can honestly say that my days are full and my blessings are many.

I will be home for Christmas with my family and loving every minute of it. I’m pretty sure, by the grace of God, I am now a wise woman. Ever aware of the blessing of many miles to go and the good sense to know it.

Merry Christmas
Randy and Sherri Parks Ferguson

 

Devotional:

 1 John 1:5

“Jesus, Thou joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou light of men.
From the best bliss that Earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.
O Jesus, ever with us stay.
Make all our moments calm and bright.
Chase the dark night of sin away;
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light.”

“Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts” is a hymn with a long history. In its original form, it was a prayer written by Benedictine monk Bernard of Clairvaux in twelfth century France. His prayer is known as “Jesu, dulcis memoria,” and its Latin text has been given glorious musical life by many composers over the centuries. In 1858, Ray Palmer wrote an English translation of this prayer, which became the lyrics for the hymn “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts.” Of course, the true reference for both the prayer and the hymn is 1 John 1:5. “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” The pure light of God banishes shadows of worry, doubt, guilt, and other obstacles to joy. This light is the Advent promise to all who wait in darkness of any kind.

Lisa Smith

 

Devotional:

Luke 2:14

“Peace on earth; goodwill to men!”
We see and hear this phrase many times during the Christmas holidays. It is often on Christmas cards and other forms of greetings. It is part of the lyrics of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear as well as many other traditional Christmas carols.
And it is a prominent part of one of my favorites: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. This carol is based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War (1863). Not only was one section of our nation fighting against another, but Longfellow had lost his wife in a fire and his oldest son had been severely injured in battle. Rather than being filled with joy, this poem points us to HOPE. Read the words of the selected verses below and think about them:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
……
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Many of us have bowed our heads in despair this fall because of wars and rumors of wars, massacres, devastation from earthquakes and hurricanes and other disturbing events. Let us remember the words of the last verse printed above. “God is not dead. . . The right (shall) prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”
We have Christ’s promise in John 14:21 (CEB) “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” Even in the midst of any despair we feel, we can have hope, inner peace and show goodwill to our fellow men.
Betty Bridges

Devotional:

Haggai 2:7

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, by Charles Wesley
“The desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:7

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Recently we had a change of boss at work – bringing all the anxiety that comes with a big change. Questions filled my mind; will the boss be reasonable? Will I be able to do the work we’re asked to do? Will things be fair? How will we be judged when we make mistakes? I’d worked some with this boss before, but still, how will the boss look at me?
Charles Wesley reminds me what we know and believe, that you and I can find our rest in Him, and be released from our sins and fears. With the birth of our Savior, our house is filled with glory – and we can move from fear to strength and consolation, from sin to obedience and peace. And I can know where I can find my true rest, regardless of what the new boss brought. For,
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Rich Lee

 

Devotional:

“I Wonder as I Wander”

 Luke 3:4-5
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

I grew up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. My father had worked in the coal mines as a young man. He loved to sing the old mountain folk songs and taught some to me. I think this is what made me, as a child in the 1940’s, become so fond of the song, I Wonder as I Wander. It had the same feel as simple American folk songs. It became my favorite carol which I sang frequently as a solo at church. What really sparked my interest was reading that singer, John Jacob Niles, discovered the song one day as he was wandering in the mountains. He heard a little girl sitting on a bench singing a beautiful song. She said she learned the song from her mother and grandmother. Niles copied the words down and memorized the tune. He later introduced it to the public but always said that his version was not nearly as beautiful as when he first heard it sung by the little girl. He never saw her again and never knew where the song originated.

“I wander as I wander out under the sky,
how Jesus our Savior was born for to die.
For poor hon’ry people like you and like I,
I wander as I wander out under the sky.”

Betty Moore

Devotional:

Luke 2:8-11

The big day is almost here! The decorations are up, brightly shining, but has the season truly been a ‘thrill of hope’ for you? When you think of Christmas, it usually involves a list of shopping, schedules, cooking, putting up those twinkling lights, etc. More often than not, it becomes less of a thrill, and more like an exhausting, costly, and overwhelming season, right? We are indeed weary.

But let’s strip all that away; what remains? Hope! Our Savior was born to us on that night divine.

We are the shepherds, humble and hard-working, but still worthy of this good news. Our hope for the new and glorious morn comes from Christ’s birth alone, not the lights, tress, gifts, and parties. Let the angels’ voices wash over you as you fall to your knees, truly hearing the good news of this special season.

My wish for you is that you find time to listen to the music of Christmas, and feel the excitement the shepherds felt on that otherwise ordinary night.
O Holy Night, indeed.
Merry Christmas!

Jennifer Lundgren

 

The Fourth Sunday of Advent
A Savior

Liturgy:

Light Three Purple Candles and One Pink Candle as everyone says together: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will nver walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Someone Asks: Why do we light four candles?

Someone Responds: The first candle reminds us of a symbol, light. The second candle reminds us of Ebenezer Scrooge and the story, A Christmas Carol. The third candle reminds us of a song, and all the songs and carols we sing at Christmas. The fourth candle reminds us that the promised Messiah, the Savior, is coming soon.

Read Aloud the Scripture and Devotion for today.

Time for Sharing: Share a time when God asked you to do something that was “out of your comfort zone.” Did you say yes, and like Mary and Joseph, take on a task that seemed way too big, dangerous or difficult? Did you feel that God was with you? Is God nudging you right now to step out in faith? If so, share what that might be.

Sing Together: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”
Refrain: Go; tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere,
Go; tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.
1. While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. REFRAIN
2. Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. REFRAIN

Pray: Dear God, thank you that you break into our lives Lord, open our eyes so that we might see you. Unstop our ears so that we can hear you. Help us to listen. Let those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Help us to have ears to hear you, O Lord. Amen.

 

Devotional:

Matthew 1:18-21

What the angel said shocked Joseph. Mary and he were to be the early parents of God’s Son the Messiah. Joseph believed the angel and he and Mary married. Both of them realized that this path would be difficult and perhaps dangerous. For God to give them this task, their faith in and love of the Lord had to be very strong. They knew the Lord would be with them.

Like Joseph and Mary, our Father often asks us to take on tasks far out of our comfort zone. With all our knowledge of Jesus, we should know we can trust our God like this young couple did. Don’t be afraid to accept new challenges. We have a divine helper.

Thank you Father for the gift of your son.

Joyce Scott

 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

Pastor Mark Miller has prepared Discussion/Reflection Questions to go along with the sermon:  A Classic Christmas — A Song.

You can access the Discussion/Reflection Questions in these two places:

  1. VA Beach UMC app – Download the VA Beach UMC app at the App Store
  2. www.vbumc.org/sermons

From the app touch the three dots at the bottom right of the screen … (More) there you will find Sermon Weekly Guide.  Click the arrow next to the date and sermon title for the week.

On the webpage, click on the sermon series graphic A Classic Christmas.  There you will find the Discussion/Reflection Questions for each Sunday in this series.

You can also listen to the sermon from the website or app which will be posted by Sunday afternoon after the sermon is preached that morning.  To listen to the sermon:

  • from VA Beach UMC app click on the headphones at the bottom of the screen.
  • from vbumc.org hover over worship and click on sermons.

Christmas

Liturgy:

Light all Five Candles as everyone says together: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will nver walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Someone Asks: Why do we light five candles?

Someone Responds: The first candle reminds us of a symbol, light. The second candle reminds us of Ebenezer Scrooge and the story, A Christmas Carol. The third candle reminds us of a song, and all the songs and carols we sing at Christmas. The fourth candle reminds us that the promised Messiah, the Savior, is coming soon.. This fifth white candle shows us that the waiting is over. Jesus Christ, the Messiah has been born!

Read aloud the Scripture and Devotion for today.

Time for Sharing: Many expected the Messiah to be a political king or a military warrior. But God gave us the unexpected. Mary and Joseph were poor and humble folks from a small town in Galilee. They were open to God and God worked through them to bring to the world the promised Messiah. He was not what was expected. The Messiah came as an infant born in a room filled with animals and hay. He was wrapped in cloths and placed in a feeding trough for animals. God sees beauty and possibility in the most unlikely of places. God worked through humble people in humble surroundings to bring us the precious gift of His Son. Share how God has worked through the humble or droughts, rubs and nicks in your life.

Sing Together: “What Child Is This”
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch
are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard
and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.

Sing Together: “Joy to the World”
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Pray: Lord, help us to rejoice in You always. Rejoice! As we celebrate the wonderful gift of your son, Jesus, help us to show a gentle attitude toward everyone. Since you are with us always, help us serve others in your name, glorifying you always. Help us not to be anxious about anything, but in all our prayers ask You for what we need, always asking with a thankful heart. And with Your peace, which is far beyond human understanding, we will keep our hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. Amen. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Devotional:

Matthew 1:18-21

What the angel said shocked Joseph. Mary and he were to be the early parents of God’s Son the Messiah. Joseph believed the angel and he and Mary married. Both of them realized that this path would be difficult and perhaps dangerous. For God to give them this task, their faith in and love of the Lord had to be very strong. They knew the Lord would be with them.

Like Joseph and Mary, our Father often asks us to take on tasks far out of our comfort zone. With all our knowledge of Jesus, we should know we can trust our God like this young couple did. Don’t be afraid to accept new challenges. We have a divine helper.

Thank you Father for the gift of your son.

Joyce Scott

About Heather McEntee