Jan. 3 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
January 3, 2021

Full Service Stream

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Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prelude: “Love Came Down at Christmas”

Maxine Easom

Invocation

Katie Calkin

Opening Hymn: “We Three Kings”

Chet Valley Churches (Norfolk, England)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-18

Katie Calkin

Sermon: “American Herod”

The Rev. Laura Patterson

Anthem: “Gesû Bambino”

Janet Frick and Molly Stanley

Prayer / The Lord’s Prayer

Katie Calkin

Closing Hymn: “What Child is This?”

The Choir of King’s College (Cambridge, England)

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude: “Angels We Have Heard on High”

Maxine Easom

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Dec. 20 Online Service

Oconee Street United Methodist Church
December 20, 2020 • Fourth Sunday of Advent

Full Service Stream

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Call to Worship

Joel Siebentritt

Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prayers of the People / The Lord’s Prayer

Mike McClelland-Williamson

Old Testament Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Casey McClelland

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Brian McClelland

Sermon: “You Are Home”

The Rev. Laura Patterson

Anthem: “Coventry Carol”

Janet Frick (piano) and Laura Patterson (violin)

Lighting of the Advent Wreath

Brian, Ginny and Casey McClelland, and Mike, Simon, Fox and Leo McClelland-Williamson

Closing Hymn: “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates”

First Plymouth Church (Lincoln, Nebraska)

Announcement

Carla Dennis, church council chair

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude: “Angel Song”

Maxine Easom

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Advent Devotional: Dec. 9, 2020

by Tom Drewry

Luke 2:13-15 (The Message):
“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.  As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over.”

For the last month or two, in our SALT Sunday School class, we have examined the theology, themes, and poetry in Charles Wesley’s hymns. Wesley’s words have inspired some rather intense and honest discussions about the nature of God our parent, what it means to worship Christ the king, and how we can love others amid a broken world.

It is hard to imagine that in the 1640s, a generation or so before Wesley, Oliver Cromwell and his puritanical perfection parade dismantled the practice of Christmas, banning carols as a popish excess and December 25th celebrations as worldly indulgence. For one Puritan grinch, the celebration of Christmas was complicit in rampant “wickedness” and various “fooleries” that filled beer mugs, crowded dance halls and let the dice roll. Perhaps the “war on Christmas” was initially a strike from Christians, not Starbucks baristas. For authorities who wanted to moralize their way to God’s good graces, Christmas celebrations mocked the bent knees and penitent hands worthy of the arrival of God’s Son.

While our Christmas season too often trades the “triumph of the skies” for the traditions of hearth, family, and gift-giving, this Incarnation needs exhilarating celebration—one filled with glorious song. In every season, we need a boisterous tune from Heaven to announce the arrival of our Redeemer in our world and in our hearts. If “heaven and nature sing,” it seems right for us to sing along. If the “choirs of angels sing in exultation,” surely we too should rejoice. Indeed, most of us, probably unintentionally, reserve the word Hark! only for the Advent season. To what better news could we ever attune our hearts and affix our ears?

The arrival of our Deliverer demands a glorious song, one exalted by heavenly hosts, discussed by lowly, illiterate shepherds, and pondered by a young teenage mother relegated to a humble stable out back. This song and all of our Christmastime celebrations are not parties to control with parliamentary decree, but expressions essential to experiencing the joy found only in adoring our Lord.

Lord, let the carols of this season remind us of the heart-fluttered memories of friends, family, and Christmases long, long ago. But better still, may our caroling point us to those heavenly hosts who sing over us right now, proclaiming the hope we have in a God who is indeed with us. Let us join that joyful refrain.

Advent Devotional: Dec. 2, 2020

by Laurie Norris

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.” —Psalm 130:5-6

Waiting sucks.

I’m the absolute worst at waiting on anything.

The idea of just sitting around, doing nothing, unable to control everything going on around me because I’m trapped in stasis waiting on someone else to do something that, ugh, couldn’t I just do it myself already and get on with it?

Like I said, I’m the worst at waiting.

Ironically, this is a big reason why Advent is my favorite time of year. I can’t speed things up and just get to Christmas already. I can’t control time or its effects on the season. I have to shut up and wait for Christ to arrive on his schedule on God’s kairotic timeline. Since waiting is like wearing someone else’s shoes, Advent is for me the time of year I wear my faith most uncomfortably. It’s the time of year I become most aware of myself as a person of faith. Because I have to cede control to God’s schedule, and all of our rituals throughout the Advent season are designed to emphasis this act of letting go and waiting, Advent means I end up stopping to to think about who I am and what my role is in this palimpsestic day planner God’s got going now. This season and our rituals remind me that my mundane obsessions are just teeny blips in a larger, grander plan for the perfection of all reality. If God could wait some 13 odd billion years for me to show up on the scene to play my part in creation, then I can wait for four simple weeks for a holy ritual reminding us all of the overwhelming and consuming love of a creator who made every single thing in the universe and even then made me, too. And Des you.

So, waiting sucks, but Advent is amazing. #WorthTheWait

“Waiting as Prayer” by Jaunita Ryan

I wait. I wait for you to answer. I wait for the first light of dawn. I wait for you. I wait for you. I wait for you. I wait. My waiting is my prayer. In the pain of the waiting I feel my longing for you. I long for you to be here. I wait for your arrival, you who has always been here. In the waiting I know a larger space in my soul is being excavated. I can feel the growing emptiness. But I know that it will be filled with your gracious, loving presence. Make me ready to receive you. I wait

Advent Devotional: Dec. 25, 2019

The Word Became Flesh

by Richard Puckett
December 25, 2019

Read John 1:1-18

John 1:14 — “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory as a parent’s only child, full of grace and truth.”

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Have you ever gazed at a newborn baby and thought about the life to come?  When the baby’s eyes have focused and can begin to see things in the world around them, have you ever wondered what it sees and what it feels?  Have you ever held a very young baby in your arms and imagined all of the possibilities that life holds for that particular child? If you and I had been able to be there and to look at the newborn Jesus on that winter’s morning could we have imagined what was to come?  Could we have imagined how the world would be changed through the life of that baby?

How could we have imagined the power and truth of that life?  How could we have foreseen the grace and healing that filled the world because of that child?  How could we have known the hope and vision and strength that would be given to generations of believers who have hungered and worked for a world of peace and love?

Well, the simple answer is that, no, we couldn’t have foreseen any of these things as we gazed upon the newborn baby lying in a stable on a winter’s night in Bethlehem.  On that night, we couldn’t have envisioned those things any more that we can see the path to a world of peace and love and justice and righteousness in our own day. And yet, in the life of that Christ Child, grace and love did come into the world in a new way.  God’s power and truth did speak a new word with authority into a world of violence and hate. And on this Christmas morning in 2019, in a world filled with too much violence and hate, the birth of the Christ Child bears witness that justice and righteousness and love and peace CAN live in this world, and not only live, but prevail.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory as a parent’s only child, full of grace and truth.”  God came down at Christmas, as a model for a faithful life and as a promise that all will be well in the end. Have faith in that promise, live a faithful life, and tell the story well!

Jesus Christ is born today!  

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you that you gave us a living example in Jesus, of your will and way in the world, a way of grace and truth and love and kindness. Thank you for showing us in his life, death and resurrection, that no matter how dark the time, all will be well in the end. Help us to believe and to trust and to follow you, to do justice and righteousness, and to love mercy and kindness.    Help us to dwell in your promise and in your peace, this day and every day. In the name of Jesus the Christ we live and pray. Amen.

Advent Devotional: Dec. 24, 2019

The Work of Christmas

by Dee Cole Vodicka
December 24, 2019

Luke 2:15 — “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Christmas Eve … the busyness of the season is about to be behind us. These weeks have been filled with good music in worship and holiday concerts, perhaps a few holiday parties, and preparations and planning for various gatherings. You may be experiencing pressure to do things in a certain way (and purchase certain items), to create lasting memories, and to add another event to an already busy schedule. 

I invite you to pause. To take a deep breath. And to consider another point of view, expressed by the author/philosopher/theologian/educator/civil rights leader Howard Thurman (1899-1981): 

“Christmas is Waiting to be Born”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Rather than being at the end of a busy season, on this Christmas Eve we are invited to anticipate a marvelous beginning! Indeed, we are invited to find Jesus in the here and now every day of the year (Matthew 25:40). 

What might it look like for you to engage in the ‘work of Christmas’ in 2020? 

Prayer: Mothering God, thank you for birthing newness into my life. Help me in my life-long journey of inviting you in and engaging in your work. Thank you for your grace. Amen.

Advent Devotional: Dec. 20, 2019

A Mother Waits

by Martina Bober
December 20, 2019

Read Luke 24: 44-49
Luke 24:49 (NRSV) — “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus is commanding his disciples to wait, and they do just that, waiting in the room for the promise to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit did indeed arrive as the gift of God. Like those who followed Jesus, we are also in a time of waiting, not just for Christmas; a time for remembering the birth of the God Man, but also waiting for the bursting forth of the Kin-dom of God on earth. How do you wait? How are you waiting this season of Advent?

Whenever I am given the opportunity to write an Advent devotional I always attempt to write for the 20th of December, a time of personal waiting. In 1993 on this morning my son, and second child, was forced into the world. He was a much-anticipated baby. Our daughter, Zosia, had been born on time and was brought into the world naturally in 1990. We had lost a baby in between and everyone we knew had such expectancy with and for us. Even the commanding General’s wife at Fort McClellan, Alabama had shouted out to a group of us who were caroling, “Is that you Martina? Haven’t you had that baby YET?” No, not yet, we were still waiting.

Conrad’s birth would be different, his due date was in early December. That morning my labor was induced and with every contraction, he would present and retreat. It was as if he felt this was not the time, Not yet! With a persistent doctor and anesthesiologist, Conrad arrived into the world and for a brief period laid in a warmer because his not so little body could not keep a normal temperature. Oh, how we had waited for his birth. Being born off post meant that there had been lots of sonograms, no surprise about his gender and anticipation of a healthy boy. We knew he was coming. Yet we waited, we anticipated.

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

Mary waited and anticipated as well. Young and probably afraid, she was in Joseph’s city with his relatives who did not want to go through the ritual cleaning of a room if she had gone into labor, no room for her among family. Joseph and Mary searched unsuccessfully for an inn. Turned away, Mary must have also thought not yet, not here, not now. The angel’s promises had come true so far, would such a lowly birth be expected? Soon her contractions arrived and with them the pain and pushing of labor. Not the scene songwriters portray of a silent night. Jesus, both Divine and human, was born in a way not expected. Yet his birth had long been anticipated, not just by Mary and Joseph but by millennium of God’s people waiting for the Promised One.

How do you wait? We have been anticipating Christmas this Advent, the season of Emmanuel, God with us. Truly God is with us here and now. The Holy Spirit within us calls us to live into this period of Advent, of a time of not yet. We know and love the story of the birth in Bethlehem. We, as United Methodists, acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit which Jesus told his followers to wait for in Jerusalem. As a people who follow Jesus Christ, how are we living into this time of not yet? Let us continue to love God and others, so that our actions more so than our words labor to bring about the kingdom as we wait for Jesus to return. So much to anticipate, so much work to be done in a season of not yet.

Prayer: Emmanuel, God with us, embolden us to live in this period of waiting. Strengthen us as a people of not yet, so that we may truly live as Jesus Christ, working to aid in the coming of your kingdom here on earth until yet another promise is fulfilled. Amen.

Sermon: “Mary’s Song”

Mary had everything going against her. She was carrying a child, walking hundreds of miles while pregnant, forced to give birth in a manger … but despite all these difficulties, Mary believed. And Her song echoes down the corridors of time to challenge us to pay attention to what God is really up to in the world.

Who is Mary’s song for? It’s for the mothers in Honduras torn by extreme poverty, the mothers in Syria and Afghanistan where war has token its toil, the mothers in the United States among the immigrants who are so far away from home who find themselves detained and separated from the children that they love. These are the ones for whom Mary’s song are good news.

The ones who are seated in the high places have too much at stake to want to sing along — their world is collapsing in the justice of God’s mercy. The ones at the bottom can hardly wait for Mary’s song to begin. Mary’s song defines for us what it means to be a faithful follower of God.

“Mary’s Song” • Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett

“Mary’s Song”
Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett
Luke 1: 47-55
Dec. 15, 2019 • Third Sunday of Advent

Advent Devotional: Dec. 14, 2019

Relish the Waiting

by Joshua King
December 14, 2019

Isaiah 40:8 (NRSV): The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

It feels appropriate to think about divine, apocalyptic transformations during Advent. We’re preparing for one of the Church’s two universe-shaking transformations: the birth of Christ, celebrated in the dead of winter, when the dark backyard at 6 p.m. can feel downright apocalyptic. This is just the time, then, to remind ourselves of Isaiah’s reminder. Everything ends. We wait for the yard to turn brown, the garden to die back, for the light to fade earlier and earlier. But there’s something after that ending. If we wait patiently, we experience the transformation of apocalypse to rebirth. We experience Christmas.

So as I go into this week, just a week and a half before Christmas, I’m working to see the familiar as something in the process of transformation. It’s not dead grass; it’s grass that’s waiting for renewal. The flowers are gone now, but they’ll push up through the ground again in spring. The lights and garlands, trees and wrapped presents all speak to waiting. Our Christmas decorations turn the rooms in our houses into spaces for glorious waiting: why wrap presents if not to enjoy the anticipation?

Christmas helps us not only bear, but relish the wait. It reminds us that even in the cold dark winter, the word of God is waiting for us, and the Word of God, Jesus Christ, arrives to bring us out of waiting into grace.

Dear God, help us be eager in our waiting. Help us see our world as a place in the process of becoming, and help us celebrate with Jesus when our long winter wait is over.

Advent Devotional: Dec. 13, 2019

Waiting

by Carla Dennis

Psalm 40:1 (The Message)
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened.

Are we there yet? When will dinner be ready? As a child, my dad would frequently remind me that “patience is a virtue,” and I would usually snap back, “a virtue I don’t have!” 

Having patience when you’re waiting is not easy. The other evening our family was waiting for Matthew’s 3rd grade production of the Nutcracker to begin, and I was asked three times about when the play was going to start (of course, after about song number six that same person also asked me when the play was going to end). 

As I reflect on this year’s Advent them waiting with purpose, the concept of waiting seems contradictory to all of the hustle and bustle happening in preparation for the holidays. At work, people are rushing through end-of-the-year tasks to get to winter break. Schools have scheduled classroom parties, field trips and other events in the race to end the semester. Stores are filled with customers trying to hurry through their lists to wrap up their Christmas shopping. 

It is for those reasons that I never really saw Advent as a time of waiting. The world around me seemed way too busy this time of year, and I felt way too impatient to take a pause. It was just easier to rush through Advent to get to Christmas as if I was checking things off my list. I wanted to jump to singing carols and opening Christmas presents as if the Advent candles each Sunday served as a countdown to Christmas rather than a chance to focus on the preparation for the arrival of Jesus. 

Most people are not good at waiting. Waiting is often uncomfortable, and at times, boring. Sometimes when waiting for the unknown, fear can enter in. Patience during the waiting is often difficult because things feel out of control. It’s no wonder why we want to complain when we have to wait for things! Yet because we know God is in control, we can be patient. We can relax and we can wait because we know that God loves us. We can take time to pause during Advent to remind ourselves to prepare not just our homes for Christmas, but more importantly our hearts and our minds.

Prayer: Loving God, I appreciate that you are in control and that I can let go. Although everything around me feels so busy, I pray for the patience to wait with purpose this Advent season. Please grant me a calm and present heart to allow me to truly prepare for your coming.