Knowing, Loving, Serving…
So the World Will Know Christ’s Love

01.03.21 “The Calm to Our Storm”

Mark 6:45.56

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Sunday Worship at Home
Bethel UMC Columbia | Rev. Julie Songer Belman
January 3, 2021

Preparation: Find a spot in your home for yourself/your family to engage in worship. Include your Bible, a candle and a lighter or matches (or battery operated candle or low wattage table lamp), if possible. You might consider a small cross as well.

Welcome: Thank you for joining us! We pray you will be blessed by your time of worship with us today.

Prelude“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
While Bill plays the prelude, we invite you to light or turn on the candle/lamp to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in your worship. Take a deep breath and give thanks for God’s presence. 

Offertory: “Joy to the World!”
Your continued support of God’s ongoing work at Bethel UMC is sincerely appreciated. Contributions to the mission of Bethel {Knowing, Loving, Serving: so the world may experience Christ’s Love!} may be made by mailing a check to 4600 Daniel Drive, Columbia SC 29206 or giving online at:  You may also contact your bank to have them draft a check on your behalf.

Pastoral Prayer: Please join with Pastor Reggie as he prays today. Pray for yourself, your family, your church community, your city, your state, your country, our world. Pray for the global health situation, particularly for those who are sick, those who are lonely, those who are gripped by fear, those who are facing financial hardship, those without safe shelter, those who are hungry, our healthcare workers, our leaders in every realm. Give thanks, once again, for God’s faithfulness and seek God’s guidance for ways to offer love and grace in the world right now.

The Lord’s Prayer:  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Anthem: “Walk in the Light”  
Enjoy this lovely anthem sung by our Bethel Choir with special accompaniment on the flute by Nancy Burkhalter

Scripture: This morning we continue our year long journey through the Gospel of Mark. Today is Week 16, and Pastor Julie is preaching on Mark 6:45-56. We invite you to open your Bibles (or the Bible app on your phone!) at home and read along.

Sermon: The Calm To Our Storm.”  Rev. Julie Songer Belman

Hymn Meditation:  “There’s A Song In the Air
(Thank you, Marian Scullion, for providing this lovely Christmas Hymn meditation!)

There is something captivating about this simple Christmas hymn with its almost childlike wonder. The first stanza is a series of declarative statements that invite the singer to marvel at Christ’s birth as if we were physically present at the event.

There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

Our attention is first drawn to the heavens. We hear this song—the song of the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). We see the star—the one that guided the magi in Matthew 2. Then we refocus our attention to the scene immediately around us. We see the mother in prayer and hear the cry of an infant. The final line of the opening stanza ties the heavenly and earthly scene together, and the paradox of this vision becomes apparent: Heavenly events are pointing to the most humble of settings in a small, out-of-the-way village—the birth of a King!

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) was himself born in a poor, struggling family in Massachusetts. After working in a factory to help the family finances, he went to school, studying at Berkshire Medical College where he graduated in 1844. After attempting to establish a medical practice in western Massachusetts, he gave it up and moved to the south, taking teaching positions first in Richmond, Va., and then in Vicksburg, Miss.

His true calling was fulfilled in 1850 when he returned to Massachusetts to become an editor of the Springfield Republican newspaper, working under the esteemed Samuel Bowles. When Bowles took an extended trip to Europe in 1862, Holland became editor-in-chief. After the Civil War, he reduced his duties at the newspaper and wrote a series of popular novels.

Our Christmas hymn dates from the last decade of Holland’s life in 1872. It appeared first in The Brilliant (1874), a collection of Sunday school songs edited by W.T. Giffe. Returning to the hymn, the three final stanzas continue with graphic phrases that appeal to eye and ear, as Holland more fully unfolds the scene at the birth of Christ. The third stanza exemplifies 19th-century American romantic poetry at its full flower:

There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,
for the virgin’s sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
and that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
in the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song\
that comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
and we greet in his cradle our Savior and King!

It is tempting to compare this Christmas hymn with two others from this era. The first is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Holland’s contemporary, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Living during the same decades in the same region of the country, Wadsworth draws heavily in his hymn from the events of the Civil War in 1864 and despairs at the lack of peace on earth. Holland’s hymn, only eight years later, forgoes even a perfunctory reference to peace in favor of what some might see today as an over-romanticizing of the Christmas narrative.

Unitarian minister Edmund Sears (1810-1876) also was a contemporary of Holland, ministering in Massachusetts. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” was written in 1849 during the gathering storms of the Civil War. While not as disheartening in spirit as Longfellow’s hymn, Sears pleas for peace as well.

These comparisons, perhaps, show us the need for balance between expressions of wonder and awe at the mystery of the Incarnation, and the realization that the imperative of the angels for “peace on earth” is far from a reality, over 2000 years later.

This week’s hymn mediation is from the UMC Discipleship Ministries History of Hymns website (

Benediction: Say these words aloud:  Let us go from this time of worship with courage, trusting in God’s presence and power, and eager to do God’s will. And may the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among us and within us wherever we find ourselves this week. AMEN!

Go in Peace: Check on someone you love today.