Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
The South Shore UMC Family will gather for Christmas Eve Worship on December 24 - 5pm Contemporary Service and 7pm Traditional Service. Persons gathering safely for in-person worship are required to wear masks.
We will also broadcast our worship services to South Shore UMC's YouTube Channel.
The South Shore UMC Family will gather for two worship services on Sunday, December 27 - 8:30am Traditional Service and 11am Contemporary Service.
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 2:21-40.
Devotional Scripture ~ John 16:20.
This Sunday South Shore UMC is joined in worship leadership by Rev. Dave Owsley, a retired clergyman from the Missouri Annual Conference. His message this week will invite us to consider whether we will leave Jesus in the Christmas story or follow him into his ministry. I am grateful to Pastor Dave – for his leadership in worship and his partnership in ministry.
In John 16 Jesus discusses the work of the Holy Spirit, that our sorrow will turn into joy, and that when Jesus is no longer with us in person that his lasting – enduring – eternal presence with us will be and is his peace. Learning that Jesus will not always be ‘face to face’ with the disciples has caused them great sorrow. Ridicule has been heaped on top of sorrow as some in the world look upon Christ’s disciples and think, “Wow…they have been fooled!” Jesus also appears to be speaking in ‘half’ rather than full thoughts or sharing only ‘partial’ rather than completed plans, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (Jn 16:12).
Having just come into the Christmas season after a long Advent – and an even longer year! – we know what it is like to wait. And generally…we do not like the waiting. And now Jesus is saying there will be even more waiting. He is anticipating his resurrection and ascension. He is anticipating the space and pace of grace and hopes the disciples will use that time – in concert and cooperation with the Holy Spirit – to draw the Kingdom nearer on this side of eternity. Jesus admits that ‘the world’ – those outside the faith community – will look down upon those laboring for Jesus in the interim. They will be mocked. They will be scorned. And from these happenings they will experience sorrow. Possibly even shame.
But these experiences – sorrow and shame – much like fear, sin, and death – they do not have the last word. Jesus has the last word. And that word is life, which gifts new breath, which is enjoyed in eternity.
Jesus’ words in our devotional scripture for this week have a ‘double landing,’ if you will. Jesus says we will have pain in the present, but our pain will turn into joy. Jesus’ hope is that transformation will happen presently. That it will happen – that it will land – on this side of eternity. But if it does not, then that transformation will happen– that transformation will land – on the other side of eternity.
We can count on it.
We may feel, at times, that the world is conquering us. Our hearts are weary. Our souls are tired. Our hope feels fleeting. Jesus says, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
Equipping ourselves with Christ’s courage as we venture towards the new year…what a blessed thought. And what a powerful witness of his transformative work – from sorrow to joy – for all the world to see.
Reflection: Jesus promises that our sorrow will be turned into joy. Think about a time where you experienced this transformation – from sorrow to joy. Write a prayer of gratitude to God. Then, think about a circumstance of sorrow in need of transformation into joy. Write a prayer to God for God’s presence in that circumstance and God’s guidance through that circumstance.
Prayer: “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms. Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”* Amen.
*“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” The United Methodist Hymnal 133.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal