November 25, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

November 25, 2020

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 7 PM  We will come together to offer the Lord our thanks. If you can’t make to the church, we are trying to provide the service LIVE on Haven’s Facebook page. Tune in at 7 p.m. to see if we were successful.
(If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can still view the service by going to Haven’s website at havenlc.org. In the upper right-hand corner and you will see the Facebook “f” icon. Click on the “f” and it will take you to Haven’s Facebook site. Wish us luck and check it out!)

WHAT GIFTS WILL YOU FIND
AS YOU WAIT WITH THE LORD?

Advent Week 1 – Deck the Halls with Less

Advent Week 2 – Deck the Halls with Wonder

Advent Week 3 – Deck the Halls with Hope

Advent Week 4 – Deck the Halls with Love

 

ADVENT DEVOTIONALS AVAILABLE

You can pick up a copy on Sunday
OR you can email or call the church for a copy.

 

SPEND AN ADVENT MOMENT WITH THE LORD

 

 

Washington County Interfaith Coalition

Interfaith Prayers for Today’s Times
November 24, 2020

Muslim, Jewish, Christian and indigenous sources.

Holy spirit of life, God of many names, blessed hope of our hearts…

Put light in our hearts… and on our tongues… and in our ears… and in our eyes…
May earth’s bounty be shared through the hope and joy of all neighbors and families having enough to eat at this time of Thanksgiving…
May we share light with our loved ones and with strangers, thankful for magnificent diversity of human life and belief…

May we gratefully offer each other sustaining love and acceptance as we celebrate this American Holiday as brothers and sisters of faith…
We pray this as children of diverse beliefs and understandings, religious hopes, and beliefs.

Namaste*…

Reverend Valerie Wills, Coordinator

Washington County Interfaith Coalition

 

*Namaste is a Sanskrit phrase combining two phrases to mean “I bow to you” or “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” It is a common Hindu/Indian greeting of respect and honor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO E-MESSAGE AND DEVOTION THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 The office is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. See you again on Monday with a slightly different Advent format.

BECAUSE SOMETIMES WE NEED TO LAUGH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD
Read:  Luke 1: 5- 25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.

Reflection      Reflection and Prayer by Pastor David Kaplan

Luke begins his Christmas story not with Mary or Joseph, or shepherds abiding in the field, not even with the words from Chapter 2 with which we have become so familiar: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus… Rather Luke begins long before those events with words that are less familiar in order to open our hearts and minds to recognize more fully the elaborate preparations our Lord made for his coming into this world.  Indeed God’s preparations invite us to make preparations of our own, letting go of clutter and busyness so that we can focus on that which is truly vital.  That’s what this season of Advent is about as we begin where Luke began.

Luke begins where the history of Israel began two millennia before, an old couple, righteous and devout before God, but without children, a New Testament counterpart to Abraham and Sarah.  By recalling that old story, Luke invites us already to understand how his story will be a fulfillment of the old, and at the same time the beginning of something new.  Zechariah, a priest, not to be confused with the Old Testament prophet of the same name, and Elizabeth, a direct descendant of Aaron, lived in the hill country of Judea.  But they had no children.  And with that brief, apparently inconsequential statement, we are drawn into a magnificent story of God’s saving work for the whole world.

Zechariah belonged to a group of priests (the order of Abijah, 1 Chronicles 24:10) who served in the temple in rotation with other groups.  His group was currently “in service” receiving and offering sacrifices from God’s people, and instructing them about readings from Scripture.  While he was offering incense one day at the altar in the sanctuary, an angel appeared to Zechariah.  Terrified at first, he was assured by the standard angelic greeting in Luke: Don’t be afraid.  Then came what seemed like an incredible promise: Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  John would be a special child, set apart for God’s service, never to drink wine or other strong drink.  That restriction has sometimes been mistakenly interpreted by fundamental and temperance groups as a general prohibition on alcoholic beverages.  Rather it’s part of a Nazarite code (also includes not shaving or cutting hair) in the Old Testament for a person set apart temporarily or for a lifetime to complete a particular vow or perform some special ministry.  The point of reference here, I believe, is to Samson (Judges 13:2-7), who was also promised by an angel to a childless couple.

But what particular ministry would fall on the shoulders of this child promised to Zechariah?  The other three Gospels answer that question with a reference to Isaiah 40:3 as John began baptizing and preaching by the Jordan River: John was God’s chosen voice in the wilderness crying out, Prepare the way of the Lord.  Through his baptism of repentance he was to make ready the hearts of God’s people for the Lord’s own coming.  Here in Luke’s story that task was already announced by the angel even before the child was conceived!   And the angel added details not found in the other Gospels: John would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born, a promise fulfilled at the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (vss. 39-44).  In the Spirit and power of the prophet Elijah, part of John’s preparation ministry would be a reconciliation ministry, turning the hearts of God’s people back to each other.  If that sounds rather strange and confusing, it’s almost a direct quotation of the last few verses of the last prophet in the Old Testament, Malachi 4:5-6.  Jewish tradition held that the after Malachi the voice of prophecy would be silenced until the coming of Messiah.  The message here is clear: John will pick up that prophetic voice right where it left off because Messiah is on his way, and John will proclaim his coming!

So how did Zechariah respond to this wondrous revelation?  Completely overwhelmed!  Most of their married life together he and Elizabeth had prayed and prayed for a child, but in their older years they’d become resigned, even comfortable, in not having one.  And now suddenly this word, almost literally out of the blue – it was all too much, all too quick – how could he even be sure it was true?  How will I know this is so?  For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.  Zechariah clearly needed some kind of sign to confirm this promise, and time to digest it all.  In an instant he received both.  The angel, who identified __self as Gabriel (yes, the same one who would appear to Mary in the next episode!) declared, Because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.  Thankfully when he emerged from the sanctuary, not speaking a word, but waving his hands, the worshipers didn’t react with hostility, but understood that he had some kind of holy encounter.  And yes, when he went home, Elizabeth conceived just as Gabriel had spoken.  Appropriately it was Elizabeth who spoke the needed response that Zechariah was reluctant, and now unable, to provide: This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.

How frustrating it must have been for Zechariah not to be able to speak!  He who was accustomed to proclaiming God’s word to hundreds of people now couldn’t even ask his wife for a cup of water.  As one who also shares the word publicly, I can only imagine how many dark Sabbaths he experienced, and trips to the Temple when he was no longer able to enter the Sanctuary.  He must have been counting the days for nine months when this burden would be lifted from him.  On the other hand, maybe there was a blessing in the burden.  Unable to perform his usual professional responsibilities or to have frequent conversation with colleagues and friends, he now had the opportunity to digest and reflect on the promise Gabriel had shared.  He could begin to see passages from the Scriptures with which he was so familiar in a new light – this, this promise – that’s what it was really about all along, this good news I’ve been blessed to hear is where it’s pointing, and this child of my old age will be the one who points the way to get everyone ready for the coming of Messiah himself!  Now I’m thankful for this special time to get myself ready – God’s gift to me even when at first I was sure it was just a punishment for my lack of faith.  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!

So this marvelous story of fulfillment and promise and new beginnings comes to us during the first week of Advent in this year when our celebrations and professional responsibilities and holiday routines are at least somewhat muted.  What a burden to bear as we count the days till the vaccine arrives and we can truly get back to normal – if anybody even remembers what that was like.  But there just may be a blessing in our burden as well – less may be more!  This muted time may give us the opportunity to listen again to this story and in silence discover with renewed wonder and understanding how God prepared the way for his people of old, and how he continues to prepare the way for us to receive his coming.  A quieter Advent with less on our plates (all we really need is a little wafer and wine) may be God’s gift of preparation for his people in 2020.  This is what the Lord has done for us when he looked favorably on us and comes to us in the midst of our fear and struggle.

Prayer:  Lord, thanks for your wonderful preparations even before Christmas for coming into our world and into our lives.  Help us to use our less crowded schedules this Advent to receive these preparations in our hearts, give thanks for them and in this dark time share the enduring joy they bring us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Music:
Pastor Kaplan’s Suggestions

Lost in the Night (ELW 243) (St. Olaf Choir) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2_7XUdAabM

Blessed Be the God of Israel (ELW 250)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6yFz6dHfoQ

Comfort, Comfort Now My People (ELW 256) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFltgYCHDKA

Other Suggestions
Dawning Light of Our Salvation (Luke 1:68-79) (feat. Wendell Kimbrough)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MJZv-iuSdw

Benedictus (organ and choir)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq7MPJ-wVII

“The Promise” (Michael Card)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_b_U123Gho