Advent ~ Close to Home
Gathering Music - “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” by Zach Unke [tune: Wachet Auf]; Jan Green, organ
Welcome to the Mantua Center Christian Church and the Season of Advent.
- We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
- We want to welcome everyone who is in the house today and everyone online. We are grateful for all the many ways you can join us for worship on this Lord’s Day.
- Announcements will be on one sheet at the back of the sanctuary.
- In worship today… we begin the Season of Advent. The season when the anticipation is real, but the babe is not yet in the manger. Where When we are Close to Home...but not there yet. Yet...we still have HOPE!
- Rev. Sarah Speed wrote, “The last hour of a road trip is always the hardest. You think to yourself: ‘This is the home stretch! We’re almost there! We’ve almost made it!’ But then the road continues and we are led to ask the inevitable question, ‘Are we there yet?’ Advent feels a little like the last hour of a road trip. We are close to home. God is coming. We can feel it in our bones—something is about to change.”
- Let’s Stand and Sing and Prepare the Way of the Lord!
*Response - Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
*Call to Worship
ONE: Can one be homesick for something you’ve never known?
ALL: We are homesick for a just world, for peace like rivers, for the end of suffering.
ONE: Yes, we are homesick—
ALL: for joy that is contagious, for nations that feel like neighbors, and for hospitals that run empty.
ONE: We are homesick for the world God promises.
ALL: We are homesick, but we are on our way. God is here. God is still creating. Let us worship Holy God.
Advent Candle Lighting
A: We hope for a world where all are fed.
B: We hope for a world with more bridges than walls.
A: We hope for a world with wide open doors.
B: We hope for a world with contagious laughter.
A: We hope for a world where trees grow tall and creeks run clean.
B: We hope for a world where all people feel at home—in their bodies, in the church, in their physical homes.
A: We hope for that world.
B: We long for that world.
A: We are homesick for that world.
B: So today we light the candle of hope, because hope keeps our hearts alive as we wait.
A: May this light be a reminder that the wait is always worth it.
B: We are close to home. May we carry hope with us. Amen.
*Opening Hymn - O Come, O Come Emmanuel #119 .
O come, O come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Offering of Praise
Call to Offering
Family of faith, it does not take long to see that we are not home yet. There are people who are hungry, oceans that are polluted, churches that are fading, walls that are growing. We are clearly not home yet. So until we reach that promised day, until we make it home, giving what we can to
make a better world matters. When we give our tithes and our offerings we help build God’s home here. So with hopeful hearts, let us give.
Prayer of Dedication
We are homesick. We long for the day that you spoke of when swords will be beaten into plowshares, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and justice will roll like waters. Until that holy day comes, take these gifts and use them to build that world here. We are hopeful. Amen.
Children’s Moment - Ally Bozeka
Read: This is what Paul wrote to his friends in the city of Thessalonica while he was away: “We pray that we can see you again and give you all the things you need to make your faith strong. We pray that our God and Father and our Lord Jesus will prepare the way for us to come to you. We pray that the Lord will make your love grow more and more for each other and for all people. We pray that you will love others as we love you and that your hearts will be made strong.” —1 Thessalonians 3:10b-13a (ICB)
Wonder: I wonder what Paul was feeling when he wrote this letter. I wonder if you’ve ever felt those feelings, too. I wonder what you do when you miss someone. I wonder if you’ve ever missed your home. I wonder what it feels like to have to leave your home.
Say:The good news is that God is always with us, even when we are away from home, even when we miss the people we love, and we can wait with hope for the day we get to see them again.
Pray: Let’s pray. Dear God, we pray for the people we love who are far away from us. We pray for everyone who misses their home or who can’t go back home. Keep them safe until we can see them again, and make their hearts strong. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Extend: - Write a letter to or draw a picture for someone you miss seeing. Ask a grown up for help mailing it to them. - Tell a story about a place or activity you miss. What did you love about it? - Read The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield. United Kingdom: Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2016. - Learn about the lives of refugees. Find out what organizations serve refugees in your community and learn more about how you can help.
Pastoral Prayer - Rev. Chad Delaney
God of the weary and waiting,
Scripture tells us that where two or more are gathered, you are there.
So we trust that you are here—listening to these words, drawing us close, stirring hope awake in us. And for that we are grateful. We are so grateful.
Today, Holy God, we feel close to home, close to you when . . .
when the candles are lit,
when we enter this space and someone knows our name.
When the warmth and love of this community is tangible to our senses...
We feel close to home when our children are curious,
when we find moments of true connection,
when we are brave enough to be who you call us to be.
However, God, even with gratitude for our close-to-home moments, we also recognize that buried deep within us we have homesick hearts.
Holy God, we are homesick for...
Things to be “normal” -- whatever that means now.
We are homesick for a world where oceans are clean, trees are green,
and habitats are preserved and valued.
Where children are fed and weapons are beaten into plowshares.
We are mental health is not stigmatized and all can get the care they need.
God who never leaves us alone, we are carrying both hope and homesickness all at the same time. In our hearts and bodies we carry these two sides of the same coin tenderly, and fan the flame of both. For we also realize that hope is a gift and homesickness is a reminder. For each one we give you thanks.
Together we lift our hearts to you in silent prayer….
Meditation - Katie Baird
Communion Hymn - “People, Look East” #142
People, look east, the time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east.... Love, the Guest, is on the way.
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer
Words of Institution
Prayer of Illumination
God of the stars and God of our hearts—our days will pass but your words will last. The earth might fade but your words will last. Our memories might blur but your words will last. The grass will wither but your words will last. The sky could go dark and your words would last. So as we listen today, help us to hold onto what will last. Help us hold onto you.
Gratefully we pray,
Scripture Reading - Luke 21:25-36
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
Sermon - "Homesick" - Rev. Chad Delaney
This Advent Season begins with a striking passage from The Gospel According to Luke. IT is odd to start Advent with the passage so late in the gospel, however the passage is filled with images that are so in sync with the message of Advent: Waiting. Uncertainty. Longing. The world is not as it should be and we notice something is missing. we may notice it in the world around us or even within ourselves. And so we look for God.
Let’s think about a time when you felt homesick. Maybe as a kid. Maybe as an adult. Let me give you a moment….
As many of you know I've been an Otter Camp counselor or director for the last five or six years at Camp Christian and that’s the camp that has the 3-5th graders. For many of them it's their first time away from home. A worried parent drops them off on Sunday afternoon and a worried kid watches them head out the door and into their cars. Most kids have a bit of anxiousness, but then dive right into the fun. But each year, one or two of the 100+ kids have a harder time. It's hard to be away from home for the first time.
Some of us have felt homesick in our own house. Ever had a remodeling job done? Or when one of the family members isn’t home or gone on business? Just doesn’t feel quite like home.
Or imagine but for a moment the people of the world who have been driven from their homes because of famine, flood, or fire. Those driven from the homes and homeland because of political or economic or military violence. There are over 84 million displaced people in the world today longing for a place to call home or yearning for what was taken out from underneath them.
To differing degrees, we all understand an ache for home. Could be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. We feel that something is just not quite right inside of us -- unsettled and looking for the path to come home.
In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus admittedly doesn’t paint a pretty picture. This passage is affectionately called by biblical scholars “The Little Apocalypse.” Apocalypse is not about predictions and fortune-telling. Apocalypse in the Greek means to uncover. To reveal. Jesus reveals the world for what it is and uncovers the realities present before us. If we ever thought that Jesus looks at the world with Rosy-tinted glasses...he doesn’t. No sense in denying the difficult.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
There will be distress. Confusion. Fear. Foreboding. Earth and Heavens shaken.
Enough to make anyone homesick. Enough to make anyone ache inside and out. We see it in the world. We feel it in our bones.
Yet, the unveiling of the truth doesn’t stop there. God will not leave us in the dust. God will not drop us off never to return. God does not ignore the pain and the loss, the absence and the uncertainty.
Jesus tells us, that even in a season of darkness, do NOT be weighed down by the worries of this life. Instead stand up and look around. Pay attention. You might miss it. In the hustle and bustle. In the worry and handwringing. In the complaining and doomsdaying. You might miss it. The unveiling. The uncovering. The Truth which is right in front of us. That will last and sustain all things. Jesus says reminders of this coming redemption can be found all around us. Written into the Creation itself. Even in the fig leaves...reminders that summer is near. Glimpses of the Promise. Of Life. Of hope abound. Just pay attention.
There will be fear and trembling. There will be struggle. The ache and longing for home inside of all of us is real. And just at that critical moment when we may have just about given up hope...Jesus says,
“Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Stand-up church, stay awake. Our hope is come. Prepare the way of the Lord….
Closing Hymn - “O Little Town of Bethlehem” #144
1 O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
2 Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting Light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.
*Benediction - Rev. Chad Delaney
As you leave this service, your service begins:
Comfort the homesick.
Open your doors to others.
Be brave enough to go home by another way.
And remember that here in God’s house, all are welcomed—so come back soon.
In the name of our Foundation—God, Spirit, and Son— go in peace.
Departing Music - “Celebration on ‘Truor’” by Edward Broughton; Jan Green, organ