• Prelude – A Light, The Brilliance
  • Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – Come, Oh Redeemer, Com, Fernando Ortega
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Advent Reading – Hope – Rev. Ohle
  • Scripture Reading – Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
  • Message – Finding Hope – Rev. Ohle
  • Service of Holy Communion – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Anthem – Help from Heaven, Matt Redman & Natasha Bedingfield
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – In the Bleak Midwinter, Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Isata Kanneh-Mason


Good morning and welcome to online worship with Union Grove UMC. My name is Rev. Val Ohle and I’m so glad you’re here.

The calendar year is winding down. The days are growing shorter and, with all that’s going on in our earthly world, the darkness of the increasingly long nights seems to encroach into all we do or plan to do. Thanksgiving was different and we don’t yet know what this year of all years has left to throw at us, do we?

And yet … while the calendar year is about to end, the Christian year is just beginning. Today is the first Sunday of a new liturgical year and the first Sunday of Advent.  As Ann Voskamp writes, “Advent is the last, darkest hour of the year, and this is the season to not to merely get ready for Christmas, but to get ready for the coming of Christ.”

Mary and Joseph are preparing to begin their journey to Bethlehem. Mary’s heavy with child, Joseph’s worrying over how to get them safely to their destination, and both are anticipating the birth of the child.

Like Mary and Joseph, we too are waiting, worrying, and anticipating … searching for the Light at the end of this year of the dark tunnel we’ve been traveling.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be doing just that … searching for hope, for love, for joy, peace, for comfort, for the Light, for renewal, and for the Messiah. I hope you’ll make the decision today to search with us beginning with our weekly worship service and going on throughout the coming days with devotionals, special services, and so much more.

You can keep up with all that we’ll be doing and get access to all the resources we’ll be using by signing up for our email newsletter. Just visit our website or Facebook page and look for the “Connection Card.” If you’re one of the next 50 to sign up and fill the card out completely, we’ll send you a free facemask.

Now our searching begins. Let us begin this season with prayer:

God of the darkened night, God of the morning light, come to us again.

Come to us in the preparation of our homes and our hearts.

Come to us in the harmony of song and the sound of silence.

Come in our faithful waiting and hopeful watching.

Come to us in the cry for peace and the smile of forgiveness.

God of the darkened night, God of the morning light, come to us; be with us.

In Christ’s name, Amen.


This is the time we lift up our joys and concerns, our praises and our petitions. To protect the privacy of those we pray for, we do not say any names. Please know that I am lifting up any prayer requests you’ve sent me, and your unspoken prayers as well. There will be one or more moments of pause during the prayer for you to lift any prayers of your own. There may be points in the prayer where you will be prompted to respond out loud.  Just watch the screen for the words to appear in front of me and say them with me.

Let’s pray:

God, in this Advent of expectation, draw us together in unity and let our praise and worship echo from within our homes out into the world and be evident in our lives.

In this Advent of expectation draw us together in mission, that the hope within might be the song we sing and the melody of our lives.

In this Advent of expectation draw us together in service, that the path we follow might lead us from a lowly long-ago stable to a glimpse of eternity.

In this wondrous Advent story of hope and mystery, as we wait expectantly in anticipation and preparation for a kingdom of this world and the next, and a king appearing when we least expect …

As we look forward to celebrating when heaven touched the earth when the footsteps of the divine walked dusty roads as once they did in Eden, and when a people, searching for a Savior and walked past that long-ago stable …

Open our eyes and hearts, Lord, that this might be an Advent of hope to the world.  Open our eyes and hearts that we may see heaven still touches earth, the divine walks with us now just as before.  Open our eyes and hearts to see the face of the divine in the faces of our neighbors and the strangers we meet.

Open our eyes and hearts to see the lowly stables of our time, and give us the courage and strength to enter in and the heart and hands to share the love of the divine wherever he leads us.

We ask these things today in the name of your Son, our Lord, and with the confidence of your children we pray the words he taught us to pray:

“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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. ”



If ever there was a year we needed Advent, this is the year. We hardly know how to describe the year we have lived through. We hesitate to reflect on all the mess around us in 2020. All we know is that nothing seems right, nothing seems like it used to be, nothing. We need Advent.

The prophet Isaiah cried out for us, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down … To make your name known … so that nations might tremble at your presence.” So tear through this mess, O Lord, and come down to us again. We long to be your people, a people of hope.

We light this first candle as a sign of our hope … Hope that you can meet us, even in the mess of our world … Hope that you still see us, though we feel we are lost in the rubble …. Let this light be the guide that brings us to Emmanuel once more.


O God, most holy and praised: As Your Son gathered disciples to himself to teach them your ways, so your Spirit has gathered us in this time and place. Make us alert and attentive as we read and reflect on Jesus’ words; help us take them to heart and live into them so that your will is truly done on earth as in heaven. We pray in the name of our true Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Isaiah 64:1-9 (MSG)

Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend, make the mountains shudder at your presence — As when a forest catches fire, as when fire makes a pot to boil —To shock your enemies into facing you, make the nations shake in their boots!

You did terrible things we never expected, descended, and made the mountains shudder at your presence.

Since before time began no one has ever imagined, no ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for him.

You meet those who happily do what is right, who keep a good memory of the way you work. But how angry you’ve been with us! We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!

Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved? We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags. We dry up like autumn leaves — sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.

No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you because you’ve turned away from us, left us to stew in our sins.

Still, God, you are our Father.  We’re the clay and you’re our potter: All of us are what you made us.

Don’t be too angry with us, O God. Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.  Keep in mind, please, we are your people – all of us.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (MSG)

May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.

Every time I think of you — and I think of you often! — I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you — it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think — you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – Finding Hope …

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

If one of the things you expressed gratitude for this past Thursday was that 2020 is almost over, you probably aren’t alone.  This has been the longest, most trying year I can remember in all my 63 years of life.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been, at least for me, some bright spots in this year, too.  When it was in danger of being closed, God stepped in and saved Union Grove. That was a pretty huge bright spot. More folks are worshipping than before through online videos and live-streamed worship services. That’s a really huge bright spot.

But still, this has been a hard year with more losses than bright spots. Businesses have closed. People have lost jobs. This nation has lost nearly 266,000 people just to COVID-19. And … somewhere over the past several years … it nearly lost its soul. As a nation, we’re still heavily divided. There is much work yet to do to bring us back together again.  Far too often if we’re being honest, we find ourselves lashing out instead of reaching out, delivering judgment devoid of justice, and laying blame instead of foundations.

And then there’s the chaos and discord around the rest of the world. One wonders how things could get much worse than they are … and then prays they don’t because worse would be catastrophic.

The darkness, it seems, is around us, is still ahead of us, and especially is within us, and we pray the new year will bring a season of good while simultaneously worrying that it may just be more of the same … or worse.

So, much like Isaiah’s passage, we cry out to God, we ask Him why we’re suffering the way we are, we ask Him if He’s even listening, and we wait … and we pray … and we wait some more … and we prepare … and we search for hope in the darkness of now.

This waiting and praying and preparing and searching in the dark is not only where we find ourselves right now, but also where the people of Israel were during Isaiah’s time and again when Mary and Joseph were making that journey to Bethlehem.

Ann Voskamp wrote, “Advent doesn’t deny the dark within us, Advent isn’t afraid of the dark around us, Advent doesn’t rush through the dark ahead of us, Advent sits in the dark and yearns for the light of the only One who went to the Tree of Calvary and shattered the dark for all of us.”

Advent waits, advent hopes, advent yearns for the light just like we do. The one true Light of the World. For help that can only come from Heaven.

Let’s go now to God’s table as we wait. Please prepare to join me in the service of Holy Communion.


Because the Service of Holy Communion can only be carried out by clergy in the United Methodist Church, I will not be posting the transcript of this portion of worship. I encourage you to watch the video at the beginning of this post.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, carry a heart of hope for the Light that’s coming, and go in peace. God be with you.


Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.

Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering.  When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.

If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:

Smoky Mountain District
Holston Conference
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905

Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!