How did we get to the fourth Sunday of Advent?!? I know, I know, there are four Sundays every year, but this year is a bit more compact. For the church I serve, First United Methodist Church, the last few days are filled with special and moving events.
Last night we held our Blue Christmas service. The last three years Leslie Coates who preaches at our evening service off site and works with our outside “art” connections has done an amazing job of creating a meaningful service. Along with the lighting of the four candles, he finds poems that speak to different kinds of loss and uses actors to memorize them.
We have a gospel group that sings powerful music, with a short sermon, then a variety of rituals: lighting of candles, holy communion and anointed prayer. Every year, I think it can’t get any better, but it does. The poems if interested were: “Ending With a Line from Lear” by Marvin Bell, “To My Future Caregiver” by C.W. Buckley, “To the Young Who want to Die”, by Gwendolyn Brooks, then Isaiah 40: 1-5, 28-31.
Today we celebrated the fourth Sunday of Advent and the candle of Love. Bathsheba’s story is in many ways harder than the others. In 2 Samuel, she is silent, passive almost. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth actively were part of their story even when they crossed all kinds of boundaries. Bathsheba is used and probably would have discarded had she not become pregnant. She ends up being the mother of a king, and honored and blessed.
In Matthew’s gospel, however, she is the only one not named by her name, but by the name of her first husband. David’s sin and abuse and outrageous behavior is noted and remembered. I paired that with Joseph’s story. I am grateful for Emmanuel “God with us” in this messy world. The full service or the sermon alone can be found here.
This Sunday was the last Sunday that Brett Valliant our director of music and organist would be with us. He is moving to Arizona to be one of the principal organists at Organ Stop Pizza. Brett is truly one of the most amazing musicians I have ever worked with. I have been so honored to work with him the last three and a half years. His videos show his great range. He is known all over the world. I am grateful for his music and am so happy for him.
Tomorrow night is Brett’s 20th annual Christmas concert. He started the concerts to pay off the debt on our great Schantz organ and has continued his concerts to build a maintenance fund for its upkeep. the concert will be live streamed.
And of course, Tuesday is Christmas Eve with two services.
Thes last few days of Advent have all the “feels.” Joy, sadness, gratitude, wonder, hope, love, and peace. Preparing for Emmanuel, for the birth of the Christ always seems like surprise. Like the first Christmas, I am never quite ready, never know quite what to expect.
What I do know, is that God comes whether I am ready or not. God enters the world, this world, messy, painful, exciting and joy filled when we are not looking. I know that Christ comes again and will bring light in our darkness and hope into our despair and love into the most hateful places. I lean into that faith and trust that Emmanuel is here and will bless us again.