ADVENT 1 – Hope Candle
We come together in the midst of a busy season to take a breath. To breathe in together the life that God gives us, to listen to the beat of God’s heart and the blessings and lessons this season brings to us. Each week of Advent we light the candles in this Advent Wreath. With its light comes our prayers.
The candle of the first week is a candle of Hope. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the hope that came to the world when Jesus was born and His presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring fullness and hope into every life. We thank you for the hope you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of hope for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting your powerful name. Amen.
A story is told of a very wise turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. So this very wise turtle convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--"
It's so tempting to take credit for the good things we do. I mean... I learned early on in my marriage... that if I was going to do the dishes, to do it when Lisa could see me doing it. You see... doing the dishes may indeed be a very good thing, but it helps to be seen doing it!
I know there are exceptions, but generally speaking... it goes against our nature to do things without getting the credit. Sure we'll help someone out, sure we'll lend that hand... but normally we want people to know that we did it. We want that glory... we want that warm feeling of someone REALLY appreciating us... we want people to KNOW just how good we are.
Maybe even worse yet, we may begin to keep track in our head. OK... I did this for so and so... now they are going to owe me something, and someday I will collect! Or if nothing else, someone will see my good deed and decide to reward me for my kindness. We begin to feel entitled... to have our good deeds noticed and rewarded.
Everybody wants to impress others, want to be seen as successful, or better than others. They want the newest car, biggest house, nicest clothes, or the most land. They want to be the head honcho. This desire to be first or be the best or be admired has another name: pride. God tells us what He thinks about people who want to be first. The "first will be last and the last will be first."
Just like many people today, the Pharisees wanted others to see them as special and treat them as though they are closer to God than anyone else. They wanted others to be impressed with their piety and holiness. They were chest thumpers who said, "Hey, look at me! Look at how important I am! See how broad my phylacteries are and how long my fringes are?"
Now, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing portions of God's Word and they were worn by Jews who interpreted literally the instructions to fasten God's Word on their hands and forehead. And Moses, in Numbers 15, had instructed the children of Israel to put fringes on their garments to remember, not only the law in general, but also the smaller parts of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it.
So the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad, that is, they put more writing on them or made the letters larger and thus more visible, to appear more holy. And they made their fringes longer to show how much more they followed the finer points of the law, therefore making them "holier than thou".
I'm sure they didn't like it one bit when Jesus pointed out how these men dressed to draw attention to themselves to put themselves on a higher level than others. They wanted to appear religious without actually being religious. "...for they do not practice what they teach." Their philosophy was, "Do as I say, not as I do."
These men thought they were important to God, they thought they were important to men, but they were just a bunch of hypocrites.
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "1 hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" " Ummm..."
The man's hypocrisy was uncovered. Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice as they teach."
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he/she isn't. I'm sure we all know people like that. I heard a story told of a man who, when asked by a minster why he didn't come to church with his family, replied, "Because the church is filled with hypocrites." To which the minister responded, "That's okay. There's always room for one more."
And I think if we take a minute, in all honesty with ourselves... we would find ourselves standing right next to the people Jesus is condemning more often than not. And maybe it's so that each one of us stands there, side by side with the Pharisees, with table-sized phylacteries strapped to our foreheads, receiving these chiding words from Jesus.
And, just for a bit of context: Just before Jesus begins speaking to the crowds here in the passage we read today, he had been asked by a lawyer in the crowd: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" And Jesus answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus ends by saying, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In essence, Jesus is saying, "Here it is; here is the root. When it comes to following God, this is what's most important. Sure there are plenty of laws and regulations, but when it all boils down, this is what matters." After answering the lawyer's question, Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks the words we heard a few moments ago.
And basically, Jesus is telling his followers that the Pharisees are good in their devotion to God, and that what they teach is right, and good, and pure, but that when it comes to actual practice they're not so good; they're not focused on the root.They're caught up in the mundane. They're saying one thing and doing another, they're talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
They're not practicing what they preach: In short, the Pharisees have neglected the most important things, which Jesus describes as "love of God and neighbor."
Now, it is easy for us to read Jesus' words, to nod our heads in agreement, and to think to ourselves, "those awful Pharisees." But Jesus isn't trying to throw the Pharisees "under the bus," so to speak, if he was, he wouldn't have complemented their teaching at the beginning of the passage.
And so, we too must be careful about our rush to judgment. As with all of Jesus' teachings, we need to ask the question, "What is Jesus saying to me?" That's the question we always need to ask, and today we need to consider the possibility that, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we may be more like those Pharisees than we realize.
So friends... what should we do about it? How do we move from being the bad kind of Christian that Jesus condemns... to the good of Christian that Jesus calls us to be?
Well, it's right there in today's message: The heart of today's message from Jesus is about service! Not simply doing good things... but doing good works for the right reason!
We are all called to be disciples and to do good deeds but we are NOT to do them because we feel guilty... we are NOT to do them because we seek glory... we are NOT to do them because we are seeking reward. We need to be diligent to make sure our heart is in the right place. To make sure we are in a spot where everything we do is done to worship and glorify God. We need to be prepared to give greatly, and to do it in a way that puts all of the focus on WHY we are doing it; instead of putting the focus on WHO is doing it! We need to act in such a way that when we do great works... people see Christ... and not us.
A pompous-looking preacher was trying to impress upon a Sunday School the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one child said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
A local church asked it's members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the money was easily raised. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won.
Of course these donors didn't want others to know that they never gave a penny till they found out there would be a plaque noting their "wonderful generosity". You see, hypocrites don't like being found out. They don't like others knowing the truth about them. They're more concerned with their appearance before people than God.
Pride and our egos cause us to become hypocrites. And that hurts us. And it hurts our relationships with others. We pretend to be somebody we're not because of pride. We try to hide who we really are. ("I don't have any problems! My life is perfect! I don't make mistakes! ) Our pride and egos won't allow us to be real. We're too ashamed to admit we're not better than everybody else.
Sure we may, like the Pharisees, be able to fool other men and be looked up to. But to what gain? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. I'm more concerned, and I hope you are too, with being honest with God and pleasing Him more than other people.
We can't fool God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "..the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but te Lord looks on the heart." God sees through our pretending and posturing like a squeaky clean window. Our broad phylacteries and long fringes do not impress God. We need to be less concerned with titles, clothes, and who we can impress, and concentrate more on coming before God in humility, knowing that, without His grace, we are nothing. "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
PROCESSIONAL: Presentation of Colours:
0 Canada/The Queen:
Depositing of Colours:
Act of Remembrance: Let us remember before God and commend to
His sure keeping those who have died for their country in war, those
whom we knew, and whose memory we reassure, and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind. During the minute of silence
remember not just the soldiers who died in the ft and 2nd World Wars,
but all soldiers. It's a time to close your eyes and think about the people
who are fighting in wars and conflicts right now, all over the world. Let us a pause in a minute of silence.
Minute of Silence:
Lament: They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn; at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
In Flanders Fields:
CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of remembrance
ALL: We remember fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made for us.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of thanksgiving.
ALL: We thank God for brave men and women who have given their lives so that we may worship without fear.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment to reflect, for
a moment is the least we can do for those who gave their eternity
ONE: In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
ALL: In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
ONE: in the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
ALL: In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
ONE: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
ALL: In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
ONE: When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
ALL: So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember
PRAYER: We are here to worship Almighty God, whose purposes are good and whose power sustains the world. As we give thanks for His great works, we remember those who have lived and died in His service and in the service of others. We pray for all who suffer through war and are in need. We ask for His help and blessing that we may do His will and that the whole world may acknowledge Him as Lord and King.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say:
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 debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: God of every nation, as we remember those who gave their life for our sake, let us be stirred to action in their memory. We confess that we have not done all that is possible to promote peace and justice in our world. We have not loved our neighbours, let alone our enemies. Forgive us for failing to live up to Your commandments. Empower us to work for Your Kingdom in this world, and welcome us by Your grace into that Kingdom.
God of peace, forgive us when we have participated in that which turns people against each other. Forgive us for fueling anger and harbouring vengeance, for not heeding Your call to love one another. Inspire us to never give up on the hope that Your life offers us, and the courage to see past war and destruction. Inspire us to live for the day when there will be peace worldwide. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We sing "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" but sometimes we forget where our blessings come from. Remind us, Lord. Remind us each and every day that You are providing our blessings. Accept these gifts from Your grateful children, acknowledging Your many blessings. Amen
The definition of war: "a state of usually open and declared armed conflict between states or nations." War is never good. It's terrifying and leaves such horrific scars — scars that never fade.
I recently read a book to our two and half year old grand-daughter entitled "Tusk, Tusk" by David McKee. To my grand-daughter, it was just a cute little story with lots of colourful pictures, but it actually explores the themes of racism, prejudice and tolerance.
This is the story: "Once, all the elephants in the world were black or white. They loved all creatures, but they hated each other, and each kept to his own side of the jungle. One day the black elephants decided to kill all the white elephants, and the white elephants decided to kill all the black elephants. However, there were some peace-loving elephants from each side who went to live deep in the darkest part of the jungle. They were never seen again.
A great battle began between the black and white elephants. It went on
and on and on, until all the elephants were asleep. For years, no elephants were seen in the world. Then, one day, the grand children of the peace-loving elephants came out of the jungle. They were grey. Since then, the elephants have lived in peace."
This story, to older children, and even to us, as adults, is inspiring because it challenges us to live a life that makes a difference. There have probably been people in your past who have made a significant contribution in your life. Obviously our parents contributed, but others often make a difference too — a good friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a relative or a minister.
But as Christians, God has made the biggest difference in our lives. Do we repay God for all He has done for us? We should, and we can. However, this world is not the way we would like it to be. It's not the world God intended. We know this because of the day we celebrate today — Remembrance Day. This isthe day Canadians and others around the world remember and think about the men and women in the military who have died fighting to protect the country's citizens. We also think about the people who are currently in the Armed Forces, those who have died and are veterans. This is the day we honour all the men
and women who have served in the military and who have fought to defend our freedom.
Our calling, as Christians, is to be a person of peace. We must choose what is right in the eyes of God and follow His Word, and that, my friends, takes courage. It's those Christian men and women we celebrate today, Remembrance Day. They gave their lives for the benefit of all of us. They fought for the greater good and fought against the greater evil.
We enjoy a lot of freedom because of their sacrifices. We're free to come
to church and worship. We're free to choose what career we want. We're free to choose where we want to work and where we want to live. We're free to choose almost everything that affects our daily lives, including our religion.
You will hear the words "Lest we forget" or Never forget" said many times at Remembrance Day. We say these words so that we will always remember the sacrifice of the men and women who served and those who died to protect their country and families. But it's also so that we never forget the horrors of war. It's so we will ever strive to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen were also free to choose, and they chose
to fight for freedom — to keep their land, to keep their dignity and to keep their religious beliefs. At this point I would like to take a look back and read you some extracts from letters written between 1914-1918. These are some accounts and impressions from those who lived through the 'Great War.'
"We spent our second Christmas of the war Senlis. Strict orders had been
issued against any form of truce on the trench line. The Germans caught one of our men on patrol and we shelled them when they started singing carols. But it is a commentary on modern war that commanders should fear lest the soldiers on each side become friendly. Our soldiers have no quarrel with 'Fritz', save during the heat of battle, or in retaliation for some blow below the belt. If whole armies fraternized, politicians on both sides would be sore set to solve their problems. Yet it is possible that if there had been a truce for a fortnight on the whole trench line at any time after the Battle of the Somme, the war might have ended." (Colonel W.N. Nicholson, Suffolk Regiment, Highland Division)
"Last night a strange thought came to me. I was with a working party in the trenches. We had come up the communication trench, zig-zagged our way thither for a mile and half or more. Now this time of year the communication trench is a thing a beauty. On either side the piled earth has covered itself with vegetation, fresh thick grass, heavy growths of bunched white daisies interspersed with blood-red poppies. The daisies are, in fact, chamomile, so I am assured by one who is by way of being a botanical expert. Through chamomile and poppies we make our way back to reat and peace for a brief spell. Through chamomile and poppies are borne the wounded, their bandages of white splashed with scarlet, like the flowers themselves, and through chamomile and poppies passes the last sad procession when, over the line, death has suddenly shaken his dread spear." (2nd Lieutenant Ewart Richardson, 4th Battalion,
Prince of Wales Own Regiment)
"On the ninth all Batteries were relieved by the 42nd Divisional Artillery and orders were issued to march to Quievy to rejoin the Division. We moved on November 11th, Armistice Day, and we heard the announcement of the Armistice when we were still in the Foret de Mormal on a cheerless, dismal, cold misty day. There was no cheering or demonstration. We were all tired in body and mind, fresh from the tragic field of battle, and this momentous announcement was too vast in its consequences to be appreciated or accepted with wild excitement. We trekked out of the wood on this dreary day in silence. We read in the papers of the tremendous celebrations in London and Paris, but we could not bring ourselves to raise even a cheer. The only feeling we had was one of great relief. (Gunner B.O. Stokes, 13th Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery)
On Remembrance Day we hear the phrases "Lest We Forget" and "We Will Remember Them". These words should not be taken lightly. We must always remember — never forgetting the consequences of war, the injustice in the world, the hatred, the prejudice, the terror and the evil. We must always remember and continue to pray for peace in the world, forever upholding our faith in God.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
BENEDICTION: God, grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the
Queen, the Commonwealth, and all mankind, peace and concord; and to us and
all His servants, life everlasting. The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always. Amen
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
Author: Sgt Joshua Helterbran
CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive reading in bold)
Randy: God calls us to a feast!
The table is set, and we will come from east and west,
from north and south to sit at Christ’s table.
Randy: Compassion, love, and grace are poured out like fine wine.
We come to share our stories and Your story,
to share our hope and our pain,
to share our wisdom and our laughter.
Randy: The table is set, so come let us worship God together!