Sunday December 12, 2021
Green Eggs and Ham
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome everyone. Well, this is the third Sunday of our Dr. Suess Advent and we are more than half way to Christmas. So far, we have read O The Places You’ll Go and The Sneetches. Today we will read Green Eggs and Ham, as we look at the theme of Advent Joy. So, let’s begin now with our introit and our call to worship.
Introit (Tune MV#178)
Christmas is coming, but it’s not here yet.
Advent, it calls us, to prepare.
We don’t prepare with gift or our greeting.
But when we welcome Christ right here.
Call to Worship:
Hooray for the Joy that each Advent brings
With a babe on the way to whom Angel sings.
But the Joy that we have goes beyond this one season
And in case you are wondering, this is the reason.
No matter what happens our Joy will not end
Because of the message each Advent will send.
The message is Emmanuel, God with Us
And that my dear friends, explains all the fuss!
For our God is with us, forever to stay,
So let’s worship together this Advent Joy Day.
Advent Candle Lighting
Advent 3 – The Hope Candle’s flame burns bright once again
As we hope for the blessing of God among men.
(relight Hope candle)
As peace we long for and work hard to create
The Peace Candle lights up the world as we wait
(relight Peace candle)
We don’t wait in fear or in gloom and despair
We wait in deep joy for the One to appear
Who offers us hope and peace and deep joy
Who offers us more than the best Christmas toy.
He offers surprises that open our mind
To blessing and treasure of heavenly design.
He offers to show us the best we can be
But the choice to respond is for you and for me.
(light pink candle)
Advent Prayer – Joy is the thing that we seek as we pray
A joy that will last far beyond this one day.
The joy that we seek fills our lives to the top
So God’s hope and God’s peace and God’s love will not stop
Enriching our lives as we wait for the birth
Of the one who is hope, peace and joy for this earth. Amen.
Gift of Music Sing Till Sundown VU#78
Theme Story Green Eggs and Ham
Scripture Readings Isaiah 35:1-7 Matthew 2:1-10
Our first scripture reading today is once again taken from the Prophet Isaiah. It offers the beautiful image of deserts in bloom with streams of water flowing through them. It also holds the promise that the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and dance, and the mute will shout for joy.
The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the Lord’s splendor, see his greatness and power. Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue, coming to punish your enemies.” The blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear. The lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy. Streams of water will flow through the desert; the burning sand will become a lake, and dry land will be filled with springs. Where jackals used to live, marsh grass and reeds will grow.
Our second reading is taken from the Gospel According to Matthew 2:1-10. It is the first part of the story that we normally read on Epiphany Sunday, the story of a star that guided three magi to the town of Bethlehem.
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they answered. “For this is what the prophet wrote: ‘Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least of the leading cities of Judah; for from you will come a leader who will guide my people Israel.’”
So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”
And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
Did you know that the story of Green Eggs and Ham began with a bet? Ted Geisel’s publisher, Bennet Cerf, bet him fifty dollars that he could not produce an entire book using only fifty words. Seuss not only won the bet but he produced one of the best loved and most widely read of all his books. It became a classic beginners reading book used in many schools to start children reading. And just to make it even more accessible, forty nine of those fifty words consist of only one syllable. And for those of you who just won’t be able to concentrate on anything else until you figure it out, that one extra word is ‘anywhere’.
Whenever I think of Green Eggs and Ham, I can’t help but think of my youngest daughter. I had just finished making an Eggplant Parmesan when she walked in the door. I said, “You’ve got to try this, it’s so good.” She kind of rolled her eyes and said, “Mom, you know I don’t like Eggplant.”
“Well, you’ve never had it like this,” I replied, “you really should try it.” Again, in that contemptuous voice that only a teenager can perfect, she said “Mom, I don’t like it!” “OK” I said. “If you will try one bite, and if you can honestly tell me that you don’t like it, I will never ask you to eat Eggplant again.”
“Fine!” She took one bite. There was dead silence and I could see her struggling to figure out what to say next. Finally, she gave in. “OK. You’re right. It’s good. Can I have some more?”
Now you’re probably wondering why would I choose Green Eggs and Ham as the Seuss book that, for me at least, best represents the Advent theme of Joy? Well, to be honest, this was actually one of the easiest choices. The discovery of something new, whether that is a new food, a new experience, a new acquaintance, a new destination, or a new idea has always brought me great excitement and joy even if, at the same time, it has also brought anxiety and fear.
I am not by nature a brave person but many of the best experiences of my life have been when I have pushed myself to the very boundaries of my comfort zone. Two years ago, when I committed to travelling alone, and spending a week at a Zen Buddhist monastery, then driving across 9 states and later spending two weeks in Israel and Palestine, I have to admit that there were times when, if I could have found a good excuse, I would have backed out. I was terrified. But if I had, I would have missed not one but two, of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Joy is not always found where we expect to find it. Sometimes joy comes along when we’re not even looking for it. And sometimes it may even be in the midst of times of deep anxiety, sorrow, disappointment or challenge that joy suddenly and unexpectedly appears.
When we think of the story of the Magi, we generally think only of the excitement they must have felt during their journey and the joy they felt when they finally found Jesus. But there is so much more to the story. These astronomers were searching for a king. They came to pay him homage, likely in the hope of solidifying relationships with the kingdom into which he was born.
So, when they realize that the star that they were following was leading them towards Judea, the Kingdom of Israel, they travelled to the most logical place to find a new-born king. The palace. Imagine their disappointment when they learned that no king had been born there and that none was expected. How could they have been so wrong? Had they misread the stars? Had they wasted all their time and energy searching for a king that did not exist? What now? Should they just turn around and go home?
But then Herod tells them that there is a legend among the Hebrew people of a Messiah, one who would save them, who would be born in Bethlehem. Of course, the Magi didn’t know that Herod actually hoped to eliminate a possible threat to his power and position, but they decided not to turn back and instead to keep going. And we are told that, they saw the same star they had seen in the East. And when they saw it … what joy was theirs!
This was not what they had expected. This was not what they had planned. They had come in search of a powerful king and now they were on their way to a small and insignificant village far from the halls of power. Why even bother? They could not possibly hope to find a king, with whom they could build a political relationship, living in such a place.
I do not like this Bethlehem. I do not like it Sam-I-Am!
But they proceeded on their journey anyway and the star seemed to be guiding them forward, reassuring them that they were on the right path. No, this is not what they expected, but in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty, the Magi found joy.
Real joy seldom comes when or where we expect to find it and perhaps it is the very fact that it is so unexpected that makes it so overwhelming. For me, this is the message of Green Eggs and Ham, but it is also the message of Advent.
Advent Joy is not about being excited about Christmas. It’s not about the carols or presents or decoration or even about the gathering with family and friends. These are all wonderful parts of this holiday season and they do bring us much joy.
But the real Joy of Advent is about something deeper. It’s about finding those unexpected moments, often in the midst of difficult or trying times, when we are touched and changed by the unexpected presence of grace. It’s about the overwhelming sense of gratitude deep within us for the certainty that even in the worst possible situation things are OK because we are not alone.
I think this must have been the kind of joy the magi experienced when they realized that, despite the disappointment of not being able finding the king they expected, they could still continue their quest because they were not alone. They had been given a star to guide them and they knew with all the certainty of faith, that they could trust that star to lead them where they needed to go.
This type of joy is not something that can be planned for or that we can expect to experience in specific circumstances. It is the type of joy that hits us suddenly and powerfully and often moves us to the very core of our being.
Isaiah describes this type of joy when he says “The desert will sing and shout for joy, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands.” Even when we least expect to feel joy, it can hit us with an overwhelming sense of awe. Like a flower than suddenly appears in the desert, we can’t explain how or why it has happened. We can simply respond to it with a sense of deep gratitude and awe.
And what is it that inspires this awesome feeling? According to Isaiah it is the Lord’s splendor. According to the Magi it was the star that shone with a light that was like nothing they had ever seen before, a heavenly light. And for us, during this time of Advent, the source of that deep joy comes form the presence of the one whose birth we celebrate.
And how do we respond to such an amazing, overwhelming joy? “The blind will see, and the deaf will hear. The lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy.” We respond with all that we are. We respond from the very depth of our being. Such overwhelming joy calls our very souls to leap, to shout, to sing and to dance. This Joy of Advent is the Joy of Christ and nothing could be more amazing, more overwhelming or more unexpected than the wonder of this amazing gift of Joy. Amen
Gift of Music Hark the Glad Sound #29
We Offer Our Gifts
Invitation – With joy we receive and with joy we now give
Our gifts and our offering that others might live
In the joy and the peace and the hope of season
Knowing that Christmas comes just for one reason
To help us remember how much God has given
And to calls us to share of our gifts and our livin.
One of the ways in which we respond to God’s love for us is to share what we have with others. In this church we do not pass the offering plates, but instead we invite people who would like to contribute financially to this church to place their gifts in the offering plates in the entryway. You can also arrange for donations to be made directly through Pre-Authorize Remittance or online. But we stress that the financial contributions that people to make are only one way in which we can give. The gifts of your time or talent are just as important to this church and every bit as valued. So whatever it is that we are able to offer this day, let us take a moment to ask God to bless it. Let us Pray.
Offertory Prayer –
Dear God, with great joy we offer a token
Of gratitude too deep for words that are spoken.
And so, now we ask that you bless every penny
That our gifts may help to bring your joy to many. Amen
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
God of our Highest Joy, we come before you this day as we gather in worship. As we continue this Advent journey, we ask that, amidst the commercials, the cooking, and the company, you will help us to remember the true meaning of this season: that your love for us is so great that you would come to us in human flesh to live among us and to promise to remain with us forever.
Even as we share the joy we find in you, we are mindful of those for whom joy is hard to find …those who don’t have enough food … those who don’t have warm and comfortable clothing … those who don’t have appropriate shelter … those who are denied educational or employment opportunities … those who are denied justice and respect … those who live in constant fear and uncertainty … those who lack the very necessities of life. We know that there really is “enough” for everyone, but that reality is that all to many suffer because so much is hoarded by the few who have more than they will ever need. Help us to be ever mindful of those around us without, during this season of giving. We pray also for those whose needs and longings are spiritual. Invigorate us with your Holy Spirit that we may boldly share your love, your hope, your peace and your joy. Show us how to be live by the example given us in Christ Jesus, that we may help shine your light wherever we go. We pray this day that the hope we have found in you may bring hope to the hopeless, that the peace that we seek may help the restless and troubled of our world also find peace, and that the joy that we receive through your Holy Spirit, may bring joy to others. May the joy we find in you never become a commodity to be hoarded but always be gift to be shared with one another. In gratitude for your presence among us as we continue our Advent journey, we offer you this prayer and all our prayers. Amen.
Closing Hymn Never Ending Joy MV#40
Let’s go out in joy and to joy let’s be open
To find joy where we’re not expecting or hopin’
For Christ’s joy can fill us from bottom to top
With a deep joy that never … no never will stop.
So go out today with the joy of this season
And always remember that Christ is the reason.
Choral Blessing (Tune MV#209)
Go now in joy, Advent offers joy.
Go take Christ’s joy into the world.
Go now in joy, take this Advent joy.
Go take Christ’s joy into the world.