THE CANDLE OF PEACE
We are a people accustomed to waiting.
Waiting in line. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for that call.
But are we waiting for the right things this December?
Are we waiting for the Lord?
Advent is a season of waiting, but this year let it also be a season of giving.
Long ago, God saw His children had a great need for a Saviour, but even now there’s need for Christ to come into our lives.
But as we wait for Christ to be revealed to us again, let us not wait to do the good Christ has called us to do.
This day we light the Candle of Peace for our Lord, the Prince of Peace.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: SEE, THE SEASON HAS TURNED, THE TIME HAS NOW COME.
ALL: HE SIGNS ARE EVERYWHERE, SIGNALING GOD’S ARRIVAL.
ONE: LIKE CLAY SMOOTHED BY THE POTTER, WE WILL BE
ALL: WE WILL DREAM, WE WILL CONCEIVE OF IDEAS GREAT AND SMALL,
ONE: PREPARE US FOR THE JOURNEY OF ADVENT,
ALL: PREPARE FOR THE ADVENTURE OF FINDING YOU BORN ANEW IN OUR LIVES.
As of the end of this year Debbie has decided to retire from teaching Sunday School. We thank Debbie with all our hearts, for all of her dedicated loving work educating our children about God and his eternal love. THANKS!
Norm & Rob - Star of Bethlehem
SERMON: WHAT CAN I GIVE HIM??
GIFTS OF LOVE.
Isn’t it strange! We Christians start our Christmas journey with the season of Advent right through to Epiphany, while the secular world starts their Christmas journey with a spending spree from Black Friday through Cyber Monday and then on to Boxing Day.
It appears that consumerism has taken over and secular Holidays are calling the shots. Do you wonder why Black was picked for their festive color, Why not a bright Yellow, Green or Red a colour that would fit in with our Christian heritage.
Retail stores companies prefer the colour Black for they know many shoppers unwittingly end up in the RED, why remind us! And the Credit Card companies prefer sound of Black, they re happy the colour black doesn’t remind us we are going deeper into the Red.
We could say “It’s called Black Friday because only in America people tramples others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for all that they already have!!!”
As we approach Christmas the sound in the malls seems to get louder and louder reminding me of a comic strip I saw several Christmases ago.
The first eight panels showed a women wandering in various malls and other locations, surrounded by Christmas festivities and the last panel she’s sitting in an empty church and telling the minister, “I just need a place to get away from Christmas for a while.”
What do we hear at Christmas time? “Do you hear what I hear,”
oft in the distance, above the din of Christmas carols we hear the ringing of the Salvation Army bells and the clinking of the coins falling into the Christmas Kettle. It’s a reminder we still have the poor and homeless who must rely on our loonies and toonies.
Maybe it’s a good time for us to retreat to the church and rediscover the true meaning of Christmas---Questions like, “Why did God send Jesus?—What was his mission?—What is expected of me?”
To find answers, we turn to the prophet Isaiah who tells us the Good News is not for the privileged, but is directed to those most ignored in their time and sadly in our time as well.
Listen to Isaiah.(Isaiah 61:1-2)
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring Good News to the oppressed,
To bind up the broken hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And release to the prisoners and
To comfort all who mourn.”
Isaiah’s words where not only for his time 400BC but also for 2016.
The Isaiah scroll is long and bulky and this passage is located towards the end, there Jesus found these words to preach to his hometown in Nazareth.
Jesus had put his hometown, and the world, ON NOTICE. His mission is to preach the GOOD NEWS to those on the margin of society, these are the ones God favours.
The folks in Nazareth were not too happy People never like to be reminded about the poor, the prisoners, the handicapped in the community.
The prophets of old and Jesus reminds us that God’s heart is not always given to us church folks. He loves us, yes, BUT IT’S THAT LOST SHEEP, THE MISSING COIN, THE PRODIGAL SON who Jesus wants to help.
This rubs some church people the wrong way!
You know the story- Jesus came back to his hometown-- where the folks knew him and he had the nerve to tell them the truth, to quote the prophet Isaiah and Jesus suggested God is focused on the poor. They were ready to kill him.
This time of the year we have too many other things on our minds and we don’t like being reminded Jesus’ priority was the poor, especially during the Christmas season.
Just as the woman in the cartoon retreated into the church, “We just need a place to get away from the hub-hub of Christmas, find some time to think.”
If all this buying and wrapping and partying is all there is too Christmas. The question remains,
“How are we Christians to respond to Christmas? What is expected of us?
A generation ago, John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang a beautiful song that asks the question:
AND SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS,
AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
ANOTHER YEAR OLDER,
A NEW ONE JUST BEGUN.
How might we answer that question? “So this is Christmas and What have we done?
What are we planning to do, once Christmas day is past?
It seems only natural as we think about Christmas our minds go to the subject of gifts and gift-giving.
Some of us have already started shopping, maybe some are wrapping, some getting gifts ready to send by parcel post. Some thinking “I’ve overdone it again.” or Maybe you haven’t started your shopping and panic is starting to sets in.
All that wonderful preparation for Christmas, the buying and wrapping, the cooking and baking, the decorating, the partying—it’s fantastic! But where are they taking us?
If it’s just a day of celebration, it seems a bit hollow!!
We all know there is a point to Christmas that goes far beyond a day or even a season.
If we are open to God’s love, as we listen story of Christ birth, the Christmas Carols and hear Handel’s beautiful MESSIAH. Christmas can completely transform our lives.
Now I don’t want to put additional pressure on gift giving, but there’s one more present that we need to think about.
WHAT GIFT WILL WE GIVE TO GOD AFTER CHRISTMAS?
God gave us her love as a free gift, no strings attached, how might we show our gratitude?
It’s only reasonable to give God something in return, don’t you think?
Of course it would be a lot easier during these holidays,
-- if the poor didn’t need help,
--if our first nations didn’t need better accommodations and clean drinking water.
-- The senior didn’t need better health care and
--the homeless weren’t so visible on the streets, and the drug addicts weren’t overdosing.
All these needs demand extra work, extra caring and lots of cash.
It seems God is calling us to break away from this seasonal trap “Christmas for a day” we seem to be caught in.
**I heard of one homeless shelter held a Christmas Campaign in the month of January. They were bombarded with questions and many people were curious about the timing.
“Why now? Don’t you know Christmas is passed? Did you miss the boat? Aren’t you starting the end of the year a little early?”
To which the church replied “We are inviting you to respond to Christmas. We are providing you with the opportunity to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.”
Sadly the response was quite dismissal—it seems that people had already “finished” celebrating the birth of Christ it was over.
We seem to be on a high after our celebration of God’s gift of grace until about the end of January and Blue Monday kicks in.
Imagine “Blue Monday” the last Monday in January, the day people traditionally hit their deepest depression due to the dark and cold winter weather and it comes barely a month after we Christians have so boldly claimed the arrival of the light of the world.
Something is wrong with this picture.
Have you noticed, as we light the Advent Candle and hear the Christmas message something unique happens, this is the only time of the year when, even if we do not consider ourselves singers, we sing hymns in public, we dare to raise our voices in all sorts of places.
Well I think it’s wonderful having our choral group out into our community and I urge each of us to search out friends and family who are alone this Christmas and share our God given gift of LOVE with them and wipe Blue Monday off the calendar.
Why not take our gift to God a bit further? Let’s knock down the doors of the church taking our Advent candles into the world.
Using Emails-Face-book entries let’s parade the light from the candles down to Town Hall meetings—to the Canadian House of Parliament—the UN security committee—the Trade talks and Peace Negotiations.
This will give our ADVENT CANDLES a chance to shine as a beacon, not only to us in church, but to those in power, a reminder that their decisions must help bring about God’s promise to bring PEACE, JOY, HOPE AND LOVE to all people.
Let us be brave and bold why not spread God’s gift of love every day of the year. I don’t think God could ask for a better gift.
A century before John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang “So this is Christmas,” another Poet Christina Rossetti offered these words;
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb.
If I was a wise one, I would do my part.
Yet what can I give him: I give my heart.
May we do the same this Christmas and beyond.