Humility”

Worship Script 4


 Worship Script (4 of 5)

Christmas: The Season of Humility and Awe

OPENING WORDS

“In Whom Shall We Be Reborn” by Alix Klingenberg

We come together tonight to remember the history, or the myth, that says hope was born in the form of a baby named Jesus. 

What is so compelling about the story of Jesus’s birth, his life, his love? Why has this story reached across the ages to us while so many others have faded into history? 

Jesus embodies the best of what humanity can be: compassionate, humble, brave, and mortal. Jesus asks us to make the most of our life, to create joy where there is pain, to care for the poor and question the powerful, and —perhaps most importantly — to question the purpose of our own lives. What will we leave in our wake? In whom will we be reborn? What light can we bring in the darkness? [Today] we contemplate the significance that one person can have, and revel in the joy of possibilities. 

 

HYMN #226 People, Look East

 

FIRST READING

Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)

 

And Mary said:

 

My soul glorifies the Lord

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,

    from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

    remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

    just as he promised our ancestors. 

 

SECOND READING

“Christmas Is Subversive” by Kendyl Gibbons

 One of the great things about Christmas is that it is a sturdy holiday. Christmas doesn’t wimp out when times are hard – it comes anyway, even if there are hardly any presents, even when there isn’t much food to make a feast with, even if you’re sad, even if the world around you is at war, even if you are living in fear and danger and oppression, Christmas still comes.

And when it comes, Christmas is subversive. Christmas, with its story of an unwed mother and a doubtful father; with its legend of a helpless baby, born in a stable, who was worshiped by some of the wisest, richest men in the world; with its tale of the child pursued by the deadly wrath of kings, who escaped as a refugee to a foreign land far from home.

Christmas, with its ancient, enduring summons of peace on earth, good will to all people, everywhere. You can’t stop a day like that with a little hardship, or greed, or injustice. It will show up anyway, shining the light of a midnight star into the darkest places of our collective lives.

Do not underestimate the power of the manger, and the hope it holds. The Christmas song of the angels is not as innocent as it sounds. It has turned the world upside down before now. It still can.

 

HYMN #229 Gather 'Round the Manger

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“Meet Jesus” Adapted by Lynn Tuttle Gunney from Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher by Lynn Tuttle Gunney (Skinner House, 2007), available from inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop.

 

This is the story of Jesus, a beloved teacher. Although he lived long ago, his lessons of love and kindness still bring hope and joy to people all over the world.

 

Jesus was born more than two thousand years ago in a land now called Israel. He grew up in the town of Nazareth with his parents, Mary and Joseph. 

(Luke 2:4-6, 39-40)

 Joseph and Mary raised Jesus in the traditions of their Jewish faith. Jesus learned to read the Torah, a sacred book that Jewish people believe was inspired by God. As Jesus and Joseph worked side by side in the carpentry shop, they talked about religion. Jesus felt a strong connection to God. He began to sense that God had called him to bring people a new message of love and forgiveness. 

(Luke 14:6-7) 

When Jesus grew up, he began to travel to countryside and tell people his ideas about living together in peace and harmony. Soon crowds gathered to hear him preach. People who were sick often came to him, and he helped them feel better. News of Jesus as a healer and teacher spread. 

(Matthew 4:23-25)

 Jesus did not do this work alone. A group of men and women traveled with him. He chose twelve friends, called disciples, to help him teach his ideas to others. Together they walked from village to village, sharing their new ideas with anyone who wanted to listen. 

(Luke 8:1-3; Mark 3:13-14)

 Jesus said we should love one another because God loves us. Jesus taught that God loves each of us, even when we make mistakes or do wrong. 

Jesus often told stories, or parables, to teach people about God. One day he told this parable: 

Once there was a shepherd who looked after a flock of one hundred sheep. When the shepherd noticed that one little lamb was missing, he was very upset. Leaving the flock, the shepherd searched high and low from dawn to dusk. When he finally found the lost lamb, he was filled with joy. 

This parable helped Jesus explain how God loves and cares for each one of us, just like the shepherd loves and cares for each one of his sheep. 

(Luke 15: 3-7)

 

Mothers and fathers brought their sons and daughters to meet Jesus. At first, the disciples waved them away, worried that the children would bother Jesus. But Jesus gathered the children around him and blessed them. "Let the little children come to me," he said. 

Jesus believed we should love one another, even people who aren't our friends. "Treat everyone the way you would like them to treat you," he taught. We call this the Golden Rule. 

Jesus taught his followers to look for ways to live together in harmony, to learn to forgive, and to settle arguments in a peaceful way. "Blessed are those who work to bring peace to the world," he said, "for they are children of God." 

As he went from village to village, Jesus reached out to help sick people get well and to feed those who were hungry. He treated everyone with the same kindness—women and men, Jews and non-Jews, rich and poor, good and bad. 

(Matthew 9:35, 15:32-38; John 4:7-10; Luke 19:1-7; Mark 2:15-17)

 

By now, Jesus had many followers, and not everyone was happy about that. Some people worried that the crowd might get out of hand and disturb the peace. This would get the leaders in trouble, since they were in charge of keeping the peace in their city. 

Once the disciples knew the leaders disapproved of Jesus, they were worried. When they gathered for the Jewish holiday of Passover meal that year, Jesus blessed the bread and wine and gave thanks to God. "May peace be with you," he said to the disciples. Jesus asked them to remember him and his lessons, no matter what happened. 

Today that meal is known as the Last Supper. In some churches, people share bread and wine as a way to remember it. 

(Luke 22:8, 14, 17, 19-20; John 14:27)

 

After the Last Supper, things happened fast. Soldiers arrested Jesus, saying he was stirring up trouble. In those days, the worst criminals were punished by being nailed to a wooden cross and left to die. Jesus was punished in this terrible way. 

(Mark 14:43, 46; Mark 15:15-29)

 

As Jesus suffered on the cross, his mother, Mary, and his friends gathered at his side. They knew Jesus had done nothing wrong. They were filled with sadness. 

(John 19:25-27; Mark 15:40-41)

 

After Jesus died, his followers carried on his teaching and honored his memory. Jesus' message of love and kindness spread throughout the world. Years later, people who learned from his followers wrote down what they wanted people to know about Jesus' life and lessons. The best known of these stories later became part of the Christian holy book, the Bible. 

Some people said that Jesus was the son of God and started the Christian religion with that belief. Some said that after Jesus died, God resurrected him, or brought him back to life. They celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. 

Many Unitarian Universalists say that Jesus was a wise and beloved teacher, whether or not he was the son of God. They say it is important to remember him because he taught us to treat people with love and to stand up for justice and peace. They believe that now, two thousand years later, we can still learn from the life and lessons of Jesus. 

No one knows for sure what day Jesus was born, but many people celebrate his birthday on Christmas Day, December 25. This is a day of joy and generosity spent with family and friends, sharing food, singing songs, and giving gifts. 

We can celebrate the life of Jesus on any day, by trying to live as he did, with full hearts, loving words, and kind actions.

 

  

MEDITATION

“Everyone Searches for Bethlehem” by Tom Schade, Adapted in brackets by Emily DeTar Birt

 

 

We listen in the stillness for the songs of angels.

Like shepherds, we aren't too sure of what is happening.

We don't know why we are so expectant.

We don't know why we long so deeply for miracles.

[...] We pray that we might know the one we are seeking.

[...] May we kneel like kings,

before that which is greater than any kingdom on earth.

[...] May we see the holy family that we are a part of.

And may we hear the music that reminds us of our truest home.

 

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

REsources for Living, by Lynn Ungar, minister for lifespan learning, Church of the Larger Fellowship

What is your favorite Christmas carol? Mine is the English carol “The Friendly Beasts,” which begins:

Jesus our brother, kind and good

Was humbly born in a stable rude,

And the friendly beasts around Him stood.

Jesus our brother, kind and good.

The rest of the verses are from the point of view of the animals in the stable, which is always a win in my book. You can never have too many friendly beasts, I say! But there’s something else I love about this carol. It really emphasizes the humble nature of Jesus. Not only is he humbly born in a plain, rustic stable (which is what the word rudemeant at the time—it wasn’t a stable with bad manners), but he is also described as our “brother, kind and good.”

In most stories when God or gods become incarnate they are powerful, imposing. They are born to royalty or to other gods. They are pillars of fire or capable of throwing thunderbolts. They don’t get described the way you would a favorite babysitter, as a particularly gentle and caring sibling.

The Christmas story makes kind of an extraordinary statement about humility. God is born as a baby. Not a baby with magic powers or extraordinary gifts, just a baby. With ordinary parents—a young woman and her older husband who have no important social connections and no particular gifts beyond an ordinary job as a carpenter. They are not even the long-suffering, put-upon heroes of fairy tales who we know will rise to the top through a combination of wit, courage and goodness. They’re just…folks. With a baby.

And who gets first word of this miracle that God has appeared on Earth in human form? To whom do the angels choose to announce this wonder of the word become flesh? Just some guys. Shepherds out tending their sheep. Just doing the everyday kind of things that shepherds do. The story never claims that they were particularly virtuous or wise or holy to deserve this honor of angels bringing them tidings of great joy. They were just…there.

Of course, literature and music is full of descriptions of Christ as Lord and King and Conqueror. But that all came later. We have a hard time with the whole humility thing. We want to worship power, might, success. We want to be on the winning team, to know that our God could take your God in a fight. But that’s not the Christmas story.

In fact, after an angel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear the child of God, Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. They share their joy, and Mary sings this song:

My soul glorifies the Lord

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

 for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

    from generation to generation.

 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty….

God, Mary exclaims, has been “mindful of the humble state” of God’s servant. Mary was chosen for this honor not in spite of, but rather because of, her humble state. And why would God do this? Well, the song goes on to talk about God toppling the proud and lifting up the humble, filling the hungry and sending the rich away. Much later, some Christians would come to look upon wealth as a sign of God’s favor, but that’s not what’s in the story. What’s in the story is the radical claim that God is on the side of the humble, the poor, the ordinary. The Kingdom of Heaven is not the kind of kingdom that comes with a crown.

After he grows up, Jesus spends a good deal of time trying to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is, without much success in terms of getting people to understand him. The Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. It is like yeast that gets in with flour. It is like a mustard seed. It is like seeds that grow in the ground. Whatever the Kingdom of God is, it’s a small thing that has a big effect. It belongs to the humble, to those without power. But yeast is a humble thing that utterly transforms flour. A mustard seed is a tiny thing that grows into a bush large enough for the birds to roost in it.

There is a power in humility, declares the Christmas story. It isn’t the same kind of power that you are used to, the power of wealth and royalty. It is the power of transformation that lies inside the tiniest seed, inside a defenseless baby, inside you and inside me.

 

HYMN #241 In the Bleak Midwinter

 

BENEDICTION
“Now the Work of Christmas Begins” by Howard Thurman

 

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and 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 the people,

to make music in the heart.