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2021 Watch Night Service: Unity


In the past month, we have been in the season of Advent, preparing for the birth of Jesus, the Christ child.


Maybe you didn't have time tonight to prepare for this worship service. Perhaps you were interrupted by others, delayed by traffic, or dealing with personal problems that have been weighing you down.


If you haven't already, I would like you to prepare at least your mind for worship. Perhaps you can adjust your equipment so you don't have to hold it. Maybe you can find a candle to light; if not for the fragrance, it might be lit in remembrance of someone who was special in your life.


I invite you to enter into a spirit of meditation as we enter our virtual sanctuary. I hope you realize that God accepts and welcomes you, regardless of how you choose to respond to this Service of Worship. You may feel the need to just close your eyes and listen some of the time; at other times, you may choose to read the words and testimonies of other Christians; you may even want to sing along with some of your favorite music. As Michelangelo depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, GodReaching
God's outstretched hand is always there for you; God is desperate for a connection with you, however you choose to connect.


I have gathered the testimonies of many Christians that I hope will inspire and console you. I hope I can be a conduit for the testimonies of some heroes of our faith. The first of these is J. S. Bach, who signed each of his works with the letters S.D.G. : Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone be the glory. This work is "Jesu, Joy Of Our Desiring".


I chose the St. Louis Brass Quintet version of Bach's melody because it is an ensemble. I have added words that compare our PACE class to a musical ensemble, and I hope you will consider how we work together so well.


The New Year is frequently a time when we look forward to a new beginning, and perhaps to change our ways. On this Watch Night Eve, let us stop to consider how we want to change. I hope this can be a time when we renew our covenant with God.


I have asked many of our class members to participate in this service, and you will see and hear the gifts of their talents that God has given them. I thank all of you who shared your gifts with us this evening.


Our service tonight is a Wesleyan Covenant Service, so let us share together the history of a sacred covenant, and what kind of covenant we have now. First we will hear John Estill read the covenant between God and Abraham:


Our understanding of covenant changed with Jeremiah. Adele England will share this new understanding, written on our hearts:


And finally, our understanding of covenant changed again as Jesus shed his blood of the new covenant. Barbara Wheat shares this from the Last Supper:


My theme for this year is Unity. In the past few years we have become more divided than ever, and I want to shed light on ways that we can rejoin and become united again. Many people refer to our local church as "Christ United", and I hope all of us can indeed bear witness to that pledge, that covenant with Christ.


In the communion anthem "One Bread, One Body", we can become united when we realize that we are all children of God, and we have all been saved by the body of that one Jesus Christ who died for us.
I especially want to thank Floy for collecting and organizing the slides, and Mary Dell Green for recording the melody.


Even though we won't hear you, I hope that you will read this Covenant Prayer out loud. It is a challenging prayer. Even if you are not ready for such a commitment, I hope you will read this Wesleyan Covenant Prayer with us. The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer


Another hero of the Christian faith for me is Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta).
In 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, creating homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. These nuns have vows of chastity, poverty, obedience in "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor" by "doing small things with great love". My favorite of her sayings is "Our job is not to be successful. Our job is to be faithful."
When Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" She answered, "Go home and love your family."
And one of Teresa's heroes is St. Francis. Listen now as Jim Alexander shares the Peace Prayer of St. Francis:


We have each been given many gifts by God. We do not deserve those gifts, nor did we earn them. They are given as free gifts by our Creator.


This past Sunday we lost a joyful warrior for Christ, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He used his gifts to share his joy with a sparkle in his eye, and also by his personal example, to challenge us to end divisive predjudice.


The "Little Drummer Boy" video that Floy played 2 weeks ago points out that while the Little Drummer Boy "had no gifts to bring", he offered what he had: the gifts that God had given him to play the drum.


What gifts did you bring to the Christ child this Christmas? What gifts will you share in the New Year with others?


I think of Ned LaRowe, who shared many of his God-given gifts with us. I will list just a few that I remember. You may remember how he shared other gifts with us.


"Blessed are the peacemakers"


Maybe you are a peacemaker. You might be the one who could restore peace where there is only animosity and chaos. That might be one of your gifts you could put to God's use, a gift you could give to the Christ child, to another child of God.


Allen Pote has given us the gift of this anthem about "Many Gifts." As you watch and listen, I hope you will think of the many gifts that you have been given, and also the many gifts that others have been given. We are challenged to consider that in spite of our differences, we are led by one spirit.
I really like how Allen Pote had all 4 parts end on the same note, in unison.


Many of us grew up going to MYF: the Methodist Youth Fellowship. After any MYF gathering, we would always join hands and say the MYF Benediction from Numbers 6:24-26. I think this will be a fitting benediction for our worship tonight. In honor of the Amy-Jill Levine's Advent series that we just finished, here is the Priestly Blessing or Aaronic Benediction which we used as the MYF Benediction, read in Hebrew.


John Rutter has put these words from Numbers 6 to music with this thousand-member choir:


Now I will leave you with my personal wish of Joy for you in the New Year.

3 Dog Night: Joy To The World!