Sunday December 19, 2021
Horton Hears a Who
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome everyone to the final Sunday of Advent. So far during this Advent season we have explored the theme of Advent Hope through Dr Seuss’s O The Places You’ll Go, the theme of Advent Peace through The Sneetches, and Advent Joy through Green Eggs and Ham. Today we explore the theme of Advent Love through the story Horton Hears a Who. So, as we prepare to worship together, let’s begin with our introit and 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:
Today we celebrate Advent Love
A Love that’s around us, within and above.
A love that has given us life and new birth
A love that at Christmas appeared on our earth.
A love that has given our lives deeper meaning
Each day and not just in this Advent Season.
Because of this love we have come here today
To worship and praise, to gather and pray.
Advent Candle Lighting The bright flame of hope we light once again
To remind us that hope now resides among men.
(relight Hope candle)
The peace that we long for and seek now to live
The Peace Candle’s lights will remind us to give.
(relight Peace candle)
With joy we have come to this place to give praise
May this Joy Candle’s flame light up all of our days.
(relight Joy candle)
And so we now turn to the Candle of Love
To remind us that Love comes to us from above
It’s around, it’s within, and all over the place
And at Christmas it shines out in one tiny face.
The Christ Child we welcome with hearts open wide
And we ask that his love will now in us abide.
(light last blue candle)
Advent Prayer – The Love that surrounds us is wondrous and we
Acknowledge its blessing most humbly.
As Christmas draws closer excitement abounds
And each of us seeks in the sights and the sounds
Just one little glimpse of the one that we call
The Love of our lives, Emmanuel. Amen.
Gift of Music People Look East #9
Theme Story Horton Hears A Who
Scripture Readings Leviticus 19:1-3, 11-18 John 15:11-17
Our first scripture reading today is taken from the book of Leviticus. Leviticus is one of the books of Law that gave instruction to the people about how they should life. The passage we hear today reflect much of what is said in Exodus in the Ten Commandments and these instructions are just as relevant for us as they were at the time they were first written.
The Lord told Moses to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect your mother and your father, and must keep the Sabbath, as I have commanded. I am the Lord your God.”
“Do not steal or cheat or lie. Do not make a promise in my name if you do not intend to keep it; that brings disgrace on my name. I am the Lord your God. Do not rob or take advantage of anyone. Do not hold back the wages of someone you have hired, not even for one night. Do not curse the deaf or put something in front of the blind so as to make them stumble over it. Obey me; I am the Lord your God. Be honest and just when you make decisions in legal cases; do not show favoritism to the poor or fear the rich. Do not spread lies about anyone, and when someone is on trial for his life, speak out if your testimony can help him. I am the Lord. Do not bear a grudge against others, but settle your differences with them, so that you will not commit a sin because of them. Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord.”
According to The Gospel According to John, shortly before his death, Jesus addresses his disciples with the following words.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
The Advent Study that we have been using this year is written by James Moore. In it, Moore talks about Tom Bodett, a well-known commercial voice in the US. Bodett announced that he was starting a club which he called the GNT – Group that Notices Things. He talked about being in the checkout line in a grocery story behind a woman who had a full cart. He had a package of gum. She noticed and invited him to go through the checkout before her. That, says Bodett, made her eligible for the GNT.
He also talked about a man he saw once on a busy Alaska highway who pulled over and got out of his truck in order to warn people to slow because of a treacherous spot of ice on the highway. He was not a highway official or a police officer. He was simply someone who notice a problem and did something about it.
And then there was the group of teenage boys who helped rescue a frightened cat who was stuck in a tree, and the group of church volunteers who showed up at the home of a woman in her nineties to help with some much-needed home repairs. All of these people, says Bodett were people who not only noticed, but did something and therefore were official members of the Group that Notices Things.
I think Horton would definitely be eligible for the GNT. Not only did he hear the voice of a Who calling for help, but he responded. He found the speck of dust on which the Whos lived, and carefully placed on a clover to keep it safe. When he realized they might not be safe there, Horton picked the clover and carried it with him determine to protect it against all odds.
Like the Sneetches we read a couple of weeks ago, and like so many other of the stories of Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who carries a strong message that bigotry and discrimination are not only wrong, but they are downright foolish! Judging others because of their size, their ethnicity, the colour or their skin, their religious practices, where they come from or whether or not they have stars on their bellies, makes absolutely no sense.
But the story of Horton Hears a Who goes beyond this. Not only does Horton accepts the Whos for who they are, he is willing to stand up for them when others don’t treat them the way he believes everyone deserves to be treated. And Horton not only speaks out and he actively puts his belief into action when he is willing to place himself in danger in order to protect the Whos.
The command to love others is one of the most fundamental in all of scripture. It appears in one way or another is almost every world religion. But during the season of Advent we, as Christians, focus on the One who became, for us, a living example of how that love was intended to be expressed, not just in words but also in actions.
In the Gospel According to John, we hear the familiar words, The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. These are powerful words and we do not always fully appreciate what they meant to those who first heard them in Jesus’ time. Many of those who heard these words would end up giving their lives for their faith.
Today, when we hear these words, we generally think of the image of Christ dying on the cross. It is an image of a love so great that it is willing to give up its own life rather than deny those who are most in need of that love. I think that this same image of sacrificial love is also demonstrated for us in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.
Although Horton may not technically face death (after all this is a children’s story) he does face rejection, humiliation, and even imprisonment, and he risks all of these things for people, or Whos, that he has never even met. Horton does this because, in his words, he believes that a person’s a person, no matter how small.
For Horton, it is about accepting, caring for and, yes, loving others simply because they exist and it is the right thing to do. To do anything less would be to abandon his own principles and accept the social norms of those around him. Horton is not willing to compromise what he knows in his heart is right, no matter what it costs him.
We all like to think that if we found ourselves in a similar situation, we would behave in much the same way that Horton did. But the truth is that standing up and speaking out is not always easy, and it can be even more difficult when standing up means that we must actively do something that could put us in a very uncomfortable position, even when it doesn’t put us in a position where we might be in danger.
There is a very poignant story I read recently of how one particular young man learned this lesson. Throughout school, he had always considered himself to be a friend to a boy in his class who was constantly bullied. But during the last two years of high school, the boy disappeared and no one seemed to know where he went. A few months before graduation, the young man was walking down the halls of the school, when he saw that same boy walking towards him. Genuinely glad to see his friend he greeted him and asked how he was.
The response he got shocked him. The boy gave him a very nasty look and asked “why do you care?”
Confused, the young man replied, “I don’t understand. Why are you mad at me? I never bullied you.”
The boy replied, “Yeah you never bullied me, but you didn’t do anything to stop it either.” With that he walked away and the young man never saw him again.
“The lesson I learned from him” the young man said, “is that bullying isn’t just about the actions taken against a victim. It’s also the inaction of those that could intervene and don’t.”
We all like to think of ourselves as being loving people, but how much are we actually willing to risk in order to put our love into action?
Horton was willing to risk everything. He risked public humiliation. He risked his own time and energy to follow the eagle and find the Whos when the clover was snatched away from him. He even risked his own freedom when he was tied up and caged. But regardless of what it cost him, Horton continued to put his love for the Whos into action, not because they were close friends or family member. Not because he had anything to gain from his actions. He did it simply because he knew it was the right thing to do because, after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.
There is someone else that we know who suffered public humiliation, confinement, beatings and eventually death because he would not give up on the people he loved, or betray the principles he lived by even when it cost him everything.
Shortly before his death Jesus told those closest to him, “The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.” That is what he was prepared to do and that is what he did. And he left his friends with one final message, a message that he also leaves with us, love one another, just as I love you.
Now most of us will never be asked to give up our lives for the sake of someone else, but that doesn’t mean that the kind of love that we are called to demonstrate through our faith, is not risky.
Sometimes doing what we know is right may mean doing something that goes against social norms. Sometimes speaking up, may mean criticizing behaviours that other people see as perfectly acceptable. Sometimes we may have to put ourselves in a situation where we are not comfortable or where we may risk being criticized and even ostracized. Actively loving others is a risky business.
Jesus knew this. So did Horton. But the rewards of loving others, far outweigh the risks. We may never save the lives of an entire village. We may not even save a single life. But when we truly love others as Jesus loved, we just might open the eyes or perhaps the ears of someone else allowing them to experience for themselves the love that we celebrate during Advent.
And as we prepare to celebrate Christmas this coming weekend let’s remember that what we are truly celebrating is the birth of the one who was born to became for us, a living example of this this kind of love, a love willing to give up everything for the sake of others.
Gift of Music O Ancient Love #17
We Offer Our Gifts
Invitation – Who should we love and just how should we show them
That God’s love is for all even if we don’t know them?
We show them by sharing the blessings we’ve got
And trusting that sometimes it means a whole lot
To give what we can to the folks who have less
For by giving, we find out that we’re the ones blessed.
So sharing our love sometimes also means sharing our resources. Those who wish to contribute financially to this church in order to help us continue to reach out in love, can place their gifts in the offering plates in the entryway or through online donations. But, as always, what we give is far more than just money. The gifts of our time, our talents and our commitment to follow the example of Christ are just as important. And 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 who loves us, we love you too
So we ask you to bless this thing that we do
In giving our gift so that others will know
Your love and you blessing where ever they go. Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, as we once again draw closer and closer to Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and for prayer, so that we can reflect on the wonder of your love and allow the story of Christ’s birth to penetrate our hearts and minds. May our joy be deeper, our worship more real, and our lives a little bit more worthy of all that you have done for us through the gift of Christ.
As we gather in prayer today, we pray for your church: for those in our own Church family who will celebrate this coming week … for those across our own country who will share our celebrations either in person or form a distance … for all those around the world who will be celebrating this Holy Season often in ways that may be different from our own celebrations … for those in countries where they dare not celebrate openly because they are persecuted because of their faith. May all those who celebrate find within their celebration a renewal of their relationship with you and may they truly be free to rejoice at the coming of Christ.
We pray for all those who will not be celebrating with us … those whose traditions and faith practices do not include Christmas. Help them to find their own path to a renewed relationship with you through their own traditions … we pray for those who will not celebrate this year because of financial challenges that do not allow for any of the Christmas “extras” that we take for granted … we pray for the homeless and for refugees who have no place to call their own and no place in which to celebrate … we pray for those who are caught in the midst of war and violence who live in constant fear and see no reason to celebrate … we pray for those who would simply be grateful for enough food to survive and could never imagine celebrating as we do.
We pray for people who are lonely, those who are lonely because they are unable to be with family and friends this year, those who are lonely because have lost a partner, those who are lonely because no-one seems to care, those who are lonely because of handicap or illness. May they feel the comfort, the warmth and the joy of your presence with them through us and through others who take the time to share your Christmas joy with them.
God of Love, accept these prayers in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Child born in Bethlehem, Emmanuel. Amen
Closing Hymn All Poor Ones and Humble #68
Love’s all around as we’ve gathered here
Bringing us each Christmas warmth and good cheer.
But now it is time that we leave this place
So go with God’s blessing and go with God’s grace
And go out today in the love of this season
And always remember that Christ is the reason.
Choral Blessing (Tune MV#209)
Go now in love, Advent offers love.
Go take Christ’s love into the world.
Go now in love, take this Advent love.
Go take Christ’s love into the world.