Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

A Village of Hope

December 24th:

A Village of Hope
Scripture:  Luke 2: 1-14
Second:  Luke 2: 15-20
Third:   John 1: 1-14
Read: W&S #3;  W&S # 7

            A Village of Hope

Is there any chance at all
   That you and I have sung the Christmas carols and hymns so often
      That we don't give the meaning of their words
         A second thought?
         Perhaps,    not even a first thought?

Have the Christmas hymns become a matter of
   Memorization and recitation rather than information and inspiration?

Have they become so pleasant and so comfortable
   That you and I are more interested in getting the words and the tune correct
   Than in getting the emotions and the messages correct?

Tonight in trying to tell, understand, and be enriched by
 the story of Christ's birth
We will focus on the words of our hymns
Allowing them to guide us through our celebration
   With the hope they add depth and meaning to that celebration
We begin with the words that literally called us to worship
   [and I can't read these from the pulpit without motions, so bear with me]

O come all ye faithful
Be joyful and feel triumphant,
O come,  O come,     to Bethlehem

Come so that you may see, behold, and experience him
For he   (that is this child in a manger in that small town)
was born       the king of angels

Yes, come   O come   O come
let us adore him
For the child born there is none other than Christ the Lord.
       The one for whom we have been waiting and preparing
       The one whose coming has been promised to us.  [pause]

That"s what that hymn says
   It calls us to come to him
   Because he is indeed our lord and our king

"O Come All Ye Faithful" isn't just a hymn
   It is an invitation
   And when we allow ourselves to really hear its words - rather than melodically recite them
      We recognize that we are being invited to Christ
      And we want    to accept that invitation.

Later tonight, after the candles have been lit
We will sing  "Silent Night"

That is a hymn of comfort
I t is a hymn where the music is beautiful and sets the tone,
but where trying to get the music right
can make the wording less clear

These are the words (slightly modified for clarity)

It is a silent night.   It is a holy night
All is calm and all is bright around the virgin mother and her child
   an infant who in age is  tender
and in disposition mild
and whose birth makes it possible for us to sleep as in a heavenly peace

And thus when we sing it
after the candles are lit
and while the baby is being placed in the stable
its music and its words, combine with our flowers and our candles
   to create an atmosphere of both calmness and brightness
      around us who follow that child
      and we do feel that heavenly peace.

And, of course, we close, with "Joy To The World",
   Thereby proclaiming what a joyous event we have experienced because we accepted the invitation
   And praying that earth will receive her king
      Something that will most assuredly happen
If all of us make room  for him  in our hearts.
Those hymns and our two hymn medleys
One preceding this time of reflection
              And focused on the place of birth
The other following this reflection
     And focused on the announcement of, and response to, the birth

Tell us
just like our candles reveal to us
the story of Christ's coming into the world

You and I have prepared for this day
By spending our Advent time
Getting help from the candles and the words
of Jeremiah, Malachi, Zephaniah, and Micah

Tonight that preparation reaches its climax
In the words of one of the hymns that focused on the place of birth

For its words,
   Written long after those prophets
   (but 144 years before we gathered to celebrate tonight)
Continue the dichotomy of tone   given voice by their words

O, little town of Bethlehem
   How still we see you lie
Above your deeply sleeping people
   The silent stars go by

Thus the hymn begins by painting a picture of calm and quiet and peace
   Very much like "Silent Night."
A picture that is to be dramatically altered, however, by what follows.

O, little town of Bethlehem
   How still we see you lie
Above your deeply sleeping people
   The silent stars go by

And then,
      In your dark streets shineth     the everlasting light
And thus
   The hopes and the fears of all the years
      The years of the past
      The years of the present
      The years yet to come
Are met in thee tonight.

In a manger;   in a stable;   in a small community,
   Hope met fear and fear met hope

Just like the prophets whose words both
Subjected us to chastisement, warnings, and punishment
But also provided us with the chance   -or even the assurance -
   That we could trust God to make things better

Tonight we celebrate that in this little town
   Some six miles south of the big city of Jerusalem
   Our fears and our hopes came together

They met in this small child
Who was there and is here
to disturb and to alter our world and our lives
   Through his everlasting light.

A dramatic change took place
   Even as the townspeople slept
and the silent stars continued to go by.

Throughout the centuries people have had fears
   Fears of drought that would destroy the crops
      And of wolves which would eat the sheep
   Fears of bandits and attacks
      And of losing ones job or being ostracized
   Fears of losing a loved one
      And of being unable to make it alone.

The antidote
   The means of preventing our fears from destroying us
is hope;

and hope is found in the love and the grace of Jesus the Christ

Thus when hope met fear and fear met hope
   In that manger in that stable in that small town
   You and I were given the freedom to live
      By His everlasting light

Tonight we celebrate that light
   And that it came into the world  on that sleepy, silent night.