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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The First Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
"Hope - True Light In A Time of Darkness"


READING:  Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44 
SERMON :  "Hope - True Light In A Time of Darkness"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ad01smsn 639809
                    
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources: The Children's Story is based on a story of this Sunday as
   found in "Children's Sermon Service Plus "(Dec 95, Jan-Feb 96).
   Sermon sources include some phrases and thoughts from from King
   Duncan "Colossians 1:3-20: Christ The King" as found in "Dynamic 
   Preaching" November, 1995.  The benediction is based on one by 
   Moira Laidlaw as found in John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies
   For Advent 1A" as sent to the PRCL List, Dec 2001.  The song "A
   Candle Is Burning" is sung to the tune of "Away in A Manger" and may
   be used with acknowledgement to Sandra Dean, Ottawa, Ontario, 1986.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* GREETING AND CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you
L  Let all people and all nations turn to the source of their salvation.  
   Let them bow together in praise and seek the blessing of God.
P  Here we will seek the light God offers us; 
   here we will prepare to walk in God's path.
L  Christ is the light of the world, his way the path for our feet.
P  We await his coming in glory and in power.
L  We wait with a holy hope for the time when he will redeem the world 
   and vindicate all of those who have lived by faith in him.


* INTROIT                                                  - VU 1 (Verse 1)
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING
VOICE - Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Hope.

VOICE - Our hope is in God, and in his son Jesus Christ.  He is the one
    appointed by God to be judge of all things.  He is the one through whom
    God has promised to save and redeem his people.

VOICE - We light this candle today to remind us that he is our hope and the
    hope of the world.  We thank God for the promises he has made to us and for
    the light he has brought into the world.

Light the First Candle

VOICE - Let us pray: 
    O God of Hope, Emmanuel, God with Us -- we pray you to send
    your light into our hearts.  Help us to be ready for the day and the hour
    of Christ's  appearing.  Live in us and help us to live in you.  By the
    power of the Holy Spirit, touch us.  Transform us so that our worship, our
    celebration, our time of preparation, may be pleasing unto you - both now
    and forevermore.  Amen.


CANDLE LIGHTING SONG: "A Candle Is Burning"                          - VU 6
       A Candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,
       a candle of hope in December's dark night.
       While angels sing blessing from heaven's starry sky,
       our hearts we prepare now for Jesus in nigh.   

                 
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CHILDREN'S STORY TIME
Theme     Preparing For Christ's Coming
Object    Alarm Clock 
Source    Based on a story of this Sunday as found in "Children's Sermon
          Service Plus "(Dec 95, Jan-Feb 96)

Good morning...  Who can tell me what is special about this day???  We have
begun the countdown for Christmas - anyone know how many days are left till
Christmas Day???  Are there any special things that you are doing to get
ready for Christmas???

There are a lot of things that people do to get ready for Christmas Day --
special things that will help us all celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ -
the first time he came into the world.  The Bible tells us that he is going
to come again to our world - and that there are some special things we
should do to get ready for his second coming -- can any of you think of
some of the special things we might do???

Those are all very good things to do.  But first of all - Paul tells us in
his letter to the Romans that we should wake up and remember that he is
coming.  When he comes he will judge all the countries and all the people
in the world - to see if they in fact love him and each other.  If we love
him and are really trying to love each other - he will reward us beyond
anything anyone ever dreamed about - and if we are asleep - if we don't
show our love for him and others - that we will miss out on all the good
things that he will do.  That is why I brought an alarm clock today -- to
remind me - and you - that if we fall asleep - if we forget that Jesus is
coming again - and forget to do the things he commanded us to do - the
things that make us shine - that we will miss all the joy he has made ready
for us.

I know that none of you will sleep through Christmas Day - that you will be
very busy from now until then getting ready for it.  I hope that all of you
will awake for his second coming as well.  Let us pray...


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord Jesus - help us to prepare  - for the day of your coming.
   -  Help us to be ready - so that we do  not  miss - all the good
   things you will do. - Amen"

   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, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN:  "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"                                  - VU 1


A READING FROM ISAIAH 2:1-5 
   (NRSV)  The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and
   Jerusalem. {2} In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall
   be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised
   above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. {3} Many peoples
   shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to
   the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that
   we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. {4} He shall judge between the
   nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their
   swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation
   shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
   any more. {5} O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the
   Lord!

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 122 (Voices United 845)


A READING FROM ROMANS 13:11-14
   (NRSV)  Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the
   moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now
   than when we became believers; {12} the night is far gone, the day is
   near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour
   of light; {13} let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling
   and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in
   quarrelling and jealousy. {14} Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
   and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


* HYMN:  "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"                            - VU 2
      

A READING FROM MATTHEW 24:36-44 
   (NRSV)  "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels
   of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. {37} For as the days of
   Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. {38} For as in
   those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and
   giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, {39} and they
   knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will
   be the coming of the Son of Man. {40} Then two will be in the field;
   one will be taken and one will be left. {41} Two women will be grinding
   meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. {42} Keep awake
   therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. {43}
   But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part
   of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would
   not have let his house be broken into. {44} Therefore you also must be
   ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


SERMON: "HOPE - TRUE LIGHT IN A TIME OF DARKNESS"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 
   Amen.

Last Sunday night as Charlene and I were driving towards the home of a
friend  we were struck by the number of homes that already had Christmas
lights strung and brilliantly lit.  There were homes with Santa and homes
with stars, and homes with spot lights on elves and others with coloured
beams focussed on cut-outs of managers and of angels.

It was very beautiful - and during this week it has become even more so. 
It was our feeling that this year there are more lights and more
decorations than in any of the past few years that we have been here.

And we wondered why.

Especially we wondered why when so many people do not believe in the one
whose birth we will celebrate in just a little over three weeks from now -
when so many people are so ignorant of the treasure that is contained
within our faith.

Why are their so many lights this year?  Especially why are there so many
on the homes of those who do not claim Jesus as their living Lord?

   I believe  that the lights that we see everywhere we go are expressions of
   defiance in the face of hard times; 
   that they are tangible assertions that when all is fragile, that  when all
   is increasingly dark - that there is hope;  
   that they are an attempt on the part of believers and unbelievers alike to
   affirm that there is goodness and joy to be had.

And that is a wonderful thing - one that no Scrooge should take from us
with comments about how  we shouldn't rush Christmas - or how it is all a
waste of money, of electrical power, and of time.

We all need beauty, we all should defy the darkness, we all need hope.
The lights of Christmas provide or represent all three.

Sadly, however, they do it differently for different people.

For many people the lights that they string up represent a sad and futile
hope:
   - the hope for a Christmas like those they had as a child and did not
   know the sorrow of this world - a Christmas of warm fires and cold snow
   and sweet and never ending smells. 
   - the hope for a family gathering - and a family life - like that
   before they knew the pain of divorce, the agony of untimely death, and
   the grief that separation brings.
   - the hope for a world of magic, a world in which Santa Claus and his
   elves really make and deliver all the toys that our children could
   possibly desire;
   - a world in which the problems and pressures of daily living can be
   erased if only the carols are played from roof-top speakers loudly
   enough;
   - a world in which joy can be increased in direct proportion to the
   number of lights we string and the number of spot lights we erect and
   shine upon pieces of plastic and wood.

But - for those who do not have the real hope that Christmas represents
this is all in vain.

The lights of Christmas cannot and will not 
   make Christmas like it was when we were children.
The lights of Christmas cannot and will not 
   hold back the darkness of sin and sorrow,
The lights of Christmas cannot and will not 
   change the world and bring us the salvation we desire.

Only the Christ who was born on Christmas Day can do that.

Only the hope that we have in him who was crucified for our sins and who
rose from the dead and  who has promised to return can change our lives and
make them worth the living.

Only the risen and living Lord can make the celebration of his birth
something that is more than a brief, frantic, and senseless time of
feasting till we are sick of sweets, drinking till we are sick of drink,
and of spending money we don't have on gifts that our children don't need -
till the rest of the world is sick of our wasteful and self-indulgent ways.

For too many people the lights of Christmas are a reminder of a joy that
existed in the past, rather than the promise of a joy that is to come - the
joy that is to come when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be
established as the highest of the mountains - 

For too many the decorations and the preparations are an attempt to capture
for a brief moment the  peace of forgetting the pain of the world rather
than a triumphant proclamation that the Lord of Light, the Living God, will
soon come  and judge between the nations - and that on that day they shall
beat their swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks - and
that the pain of the world will be ended - and that peace come to us as
nations neither lift up sword against each other or learn war anymore.

There are many kinds of hope my friends -
some are false hopes -
and some are true.

It is a wonderful thing to prepare for Christmas by hanging lights
and decorating trees - and preparing gifts for those you love.

It is a wonderful thing to defy the course of the world and to proclaim
that there is a special day - a day in which family and friends may gather
and dine together in peace and with joy.

But it is even more wonderful - when in doing so - you have reason to
believe that a day is coming when the whole world will be at peace - reason
to believe that when your life is done you will enter into a joy that is
eternal - when you have reason to believe the light which only briefly
defies the darkness during our Christmas celebrations will be established
forever.

We have such reasons - we have such hope.
And because of that - I - and you - can rejoice at Christmas time,
- even when the money is tighter than we have ever known, 
- even when our jobs are not secure  and when our health is failing 
- even when our children have moved far away or our parents have died 
- even when our villages and our towns are threatened by crime, pollution,
and all the ills of human greed - of human sinfulness,

Because of the one who came at the first Christmas, 
   - because of his life - his death - his resurrection and his promise to
   come again - and because even now he is present in the hearts of all
   those who believe in him -
you and I can face the world as it is
and make a difference to it
and be at peace in it.

The light of the world has come.
May his light shine from your homes this Advent Season,
and in  all the seasons of your days.  Amen.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We thank you, O God, that you have given us an enduring hope - one which
cannot disappoint us or mislead us.  We thank you, that through our faith
in you and in your Son Jesus Christ, you enter into every believing heart
and make new lives that have been torn asunder by the darkness of this
world... Lord hear our prayer.....

We pray today O God that those believers who are asleep may awake and know
that salvation is nearer now than when they first believed.  Help them, and
us, to lay aside the works of darkness  and to put on the armour of light
that you bestow upon those who actively seek you day by day.  Grant that
their faith and ours may be fully alive....   Lord Hear Our Prayer....

We ask today, O God, for those who have lost hope and for those who have
never had it.  Grant to us and to those we lift before you in our hearts a
new and abiding vision of what have you have done, and what you are doing,
and what you will do, to save and redeem your people and indeed the
creation itself.  Grant, O God, that all might see and believe and discover
their purpose and the purpose of all that is and all that is yet to be....
Lord Hear Our Prayer....

We lift before you, O God, those persons and those places named in our
sharing time (BIDDING PRAYER)...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We ask all this of you, O God, knowing that you are our hope and our
salvation, a very present help in times of trouble, and the One whose
purpose is to grant and new and abundant life to us and our world.  Praise
be to your name.  AMEN.


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Accept O God these tithes - the portion you have asked us to give as
   a sign of our trust in you and our hope in your promises - and
   receive these offerings - our free gift of gratitude for all that
   you have done.  Bless them in your work - a work in which life
   triumphs over death - and light over darkness.  We ask it in Jesus'
   name.  Amen


* SHARING THE PEACE:  We greet those around us with a sign of peace
   (handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with
   you".  This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace
   that God gives to those who hear and do his word.
 

* COMMUNION HYMN: "All Who Hunger"                                  -VU 460


COMMUNION LITANY:
L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.


EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
L  Loving God, in many and various ways you have visited and redeemed your
   people - finally sending to us your Son, Jesus.  We thank you Lord God
   for sending him to us: As one of us he came, at first a tender infant,
   then a child, a youth, and an adult.  He rejoiced with those who
   rejoiced, he wept with those who wept.  To the despairing he spoke a
   word of hope, to the sick he gave healing, to the rejected he was a
   friend.  And yet he was betrayed and nailed to a cross.  But you lifted
   him from the grave and restored him to life that he might be with us
   and we with him - alive - for evermore.  Therefore with all the saints
   and with the angels in heaven we praise you, saying

P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
   God of power and might,
   Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
   Hosanna in the highest.
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
   Hosanna in the highest.

L  Eternal God, King of heaven and earth: the life and death of thy Son
   our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we proclaim; his resurrection from
   the dead and his ascension we confess; his coming in triumph we await.

P  Come Lord Jesus, come.


WORDS OF INSTITUTION
L  So it is, O Lord,  as we gather in praise and thanksgiving at this
   time, we remember how on the night before his passion he took bread and
   gave you thanks, saying: "Take and eat: this is my body which will be
   broken for you."  We recall as well how, in the same way, when the meal
   was over, he took the cup, and gave it to his disciples, saying: "This
   is my blood, which will be shed for you.  When you do this, you do it
   in memory of me."


THE MYSTERY OF FAITH AND CONSECRATION
L  Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith:

P  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

L  Loving God, we pray thee to send thy Holy Spirit upon us and what we do
   here that we, and these gifts, touched by your Spirit, may be for us
   the body and blood of Christ Jesus and signs of hope to us and to all
   the world.  Give us the mind of Christ that we may follow him
   faithfully in this world as we await his return in glory.  We ask it in
   his name.  Amen.


THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS: The congregation is invited to come
   forward up the centre aisle, then return to their seats by the side
   aisles


AFTER COMMUNION PRAYER
L  Let us pray  (silence, then when the Leader starts, say)
P  We give you thanks, O God, for the strength and the hope that you have
   poured out on us through Jesus.  By your grace we are better prepared
   to meet darkness with light, anger with love, and strife with peace. 
   We pray you now, send us forth with a joyful purpose in our hearts that
   we may do your will in all things until the day our Saviour comes in
   power and might to transform the entire world. Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"              - VU 333


* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Jesus
- and may you be filled with the peace of God,
- nourished by the life of Jesus Christ
- and upheld by the power of the Holy Spirit
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964
  

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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