Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent at the Upper Room, Albany, NY

Kathie Ryan, ARCWP and Santa Orlando led the community liturgy using the theme: Light Out of Darkness.

Joan Chesterfield, ARCWP, placed stoles on each one with the words: We your community call you forth and bless you as you lead us in liturgy today.

Advent Prayer
We light this fourth candle and remember that we are called to create, share and be light in all our ways of relating … to commit ourselves to the works of peace and justice needed in our world.
And so we respond: Let us kindle the light of love!

Opening Song: Fire of Love by Kathy Sherman
from CD: All Is One

Fire of Love, burn within us,
Fire of Love, we are your flame!

First Reading: A reading from Biblical Literalism, a Gentile Heresy

Matthew had experienced a “God presence” in Jesus of Nazareth. He was convinced that Jesus’ origins were of God and were therefore holy. Matthew was a scribe and was writing of his experience. He introduced a creative way to tell the story of Jesus’ virgin birth, a narrative he knew had nothing to do with biology.  Matthew prefaced the birth story with a genealogical chart of Jesus’ ancestors. The genealogy included 4 very compromised women, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Matthew knew neither the genealogy nor the birth story was literal history. When we put the genealogy and the birth story together Matthew’s message becomes clear.  His message is:

We have experienced the presence of God in the life of Jesus.  We believe that Jesus is from God, that God is the Source, the Creator of life.  God can bring holiness out of any human symbol of brokenness, inadequacy, or even evil. God can bring holiness out of incest, prostitution, seduction, and adultery. We know God was in Jesus and we know that God can work through any set of human circumstances to bring holiness out of life.

These are the inspired words of John Shelby Spong, a disciple of Jesus.  We affirm these words by saying AMEN

A Responsorial Psalm by Nan Merrill

O Love, my Beloved. How powerful is your Name in all the earth!

You, whose glory is sung in heaven by the angels and saints,
Who with the innocence and spontaneity of a child,
Confound those who are mighty and proud,
You comfort the unloving and fearful.

O Love, my Beloved. How powerful is your Name in all the earth!

When I look up at the heaven’s at the work of Love’s creation,
at the infinite variety of your Plan,
What is woman that You rejoice in her, and man that You delight in him?
You have made us in your image, You fill us with your Love;
You have made us co-creators of the earth! Guardians of the planet!
to care for all your creatures, to tend the land, the sea, and the air we breathe;
all that You have made You have placed in our hands.

O Love, my Beloved. How powerful is your Name in all the earth!

Gospel: A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew

This is how the birth of Jesus came about.

When Jesus’ mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, her husband, and upright person unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her quietly.

This was Joseph’s intention when suddenly the angel of God appeared in a dream and said, “Joseph, heir to the House of David, don’t be afraid to wed Mary; it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.  She is to have a son, and you are to name him Jesus—‘Salvation’—because he will save the people from their sins. All this happened to fulfill what God has said through the prophet:
         “A Woman, will be with child and give birth, and the child will be named Immanuel”
--a name that means “God is with us”.

These are the inspired words of Matthew, a disciple of Jesus.  We affirm these words by saying AMEN!

Homily starter by Kathie Ryan:

Scripture is full of truth and sometimes there are facts too.  At the time Matthew was writing his world was in chaos. 40 years had passed since Jesus was killed.  The temple destroyed, the Jewish people were in mourning.

Jesus was not just born a Jew he was a Jew, he died a Jew. Jesus and his disciples gathered at the local synagogues, they were part of the Jewish community.  Matthew’s story of Jesus birth is true but not factual. The story was not meant to be taken literally but so those who heard would understand and believe Jesus’ connection to the Holy One.

Matthew quoted Isaiah’s Hebrew scripture passage-- an ‘almah’ translated woman and then from Hebrew to Greek translated “a virgin will give birth.”  He wanted to show that the Jesus experience was very important, that Jesus’ message of love and hope was real in his time, in the past and into the future.

What is the truth you hear? What does it mean in your life today? What will it cost you?

Communion Song: Song of Thanksgiving 
by The Dameans from The Best of the Dameans, Vol. 1

Love that’s freely given
wants to freely be received.
All the love you poured on us
can hardly be believed.
And all that we can offer you is thanks
All that we can offer you is thanks.

Creation tells the story
That began so long ago
A love that longed to share its life
In hope that love would grow.
The sun repeats each morning.
The story is retold.
And just in love’s retelling
New chapters yet unfold.m (refrain)

Your care called other people
Your love made them your own.
You freed their hearts and calmed their fears,
And finally brought them home.
It is when our trials are ended,
We most easily forget.
But your friendship never ceases;
Your love shows no regret. (refrain)


May we continue to be the face of God to each other.  May we call each other to extravagant generosity!  May we, like Jesus, be a shining light and a blessing in our time! 
Closing Song: Be Light For Our Eyes
By David Haas

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