READING: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:-13; and Matthew 3:1-12
SERMON : "Preparing The Way- Making The Path Straight"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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 from Bass Mitchell
(email@example.com) as shared with 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 (based on Psalm 72:2-8,17)
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 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 One is coming who will judge God's people in righteousness,
his afflicted ones with justice.
P The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
L He will endure as long as the sun.
He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
P He will rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
L All nations will be blessed through him
and they will call him blessed.
* 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 Second Sunday of Advent - the Sunday of Peace.
VOICE - Our peace is found in God and in his son, Jesus Christ. John the
Baptist, and all the prophets remind us, that to receive peace we
must be prepared for it.
VOICE - We light this candle today to remind us that Christ is the Prince
of Peace, the one promised from the beginning of the world. We
thank God for the hope he gives us and for the peace he bestows.
Light the First and Second Candles
VOICE - Let us pray - O God of Peace, Emmanuel, we pray you, send your
light into our hearts. Help us to be ready for the day and the
hour of Christ's appearing. Work in our hearts at this time and
help us prepare ourselves for the peace that he brings - the inner
peace that tells us that we are united with you and the outer peace
which will come when he returns to judge the world. Bless our
worship that it may be pleasing unto you, and bless us that we may
prove to be your faithful servants. Amen.
SONG: "A Candle Is Burning" - VU 6 (verse 2)
A Candle is burning, a candle of peace,
a candle to signal that conflict must cease:
for Jesus is coming to show us the way;
a message of peace humbly laid in the hay.
THIS WEEK AT ST. ANDREW'S
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Matters
- Joys and Concerns for Prayer
CHILDREN'S STORY TIME
Theme: Preparing For The Peace of Christ
Object: Rocks, Sticks, Leaves, Paper Debris, etc
Source: Bass Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org) as shared
with the PRCL List, Dec 2001. With permission. Please visit his
web site at www.homiliesbyemail.com/
(Just before the children's message, have someone to help you or the
ushers to place rocks, sticks, leaves, etc up and down one of the
aisles in the church).
Today I want you - and everyone here - to pretend that Queen Elizabeth, or
the Prime Minister (President, etc) of country is going to come to our
church in just a few minutes. What would you think about that? (Let them
In fact, she may be here any minute any minute now. And she'll be
coming down this very aisle (point to the one that has all the trash, etc
on it.) What do you think we should do? (Let them respond)
I think you're right. We should pick up all that stuff. We don't want
such an important person to see all that stuff, do we? Besides, she might
trip over some of it. So, what should we do? (Right! Let's pick it up.)
(Spend the next minute having them all clean up the aisle, placing
everything in a box or sack.)
Good work. (Then have an usher or two walk back by and drop a few more
things. Let the children react)
Yep. We can't just clean it up once, can we? We've got to keep it clean,
to keep that path clear.
And did you know that's the message of John the Baptist we will hear this
morning. John is told to "Prepare the way" for someone very important was
coming. Who was that? (Let them answer) Right. It was Jesus.
You see, in those days when a king or important person was coming to town,
the people would go out and clean up the road on which the person would
come into their town. They would do the kinds of things that we did this
Now John's not telling us to pick up things on the road or in the aisle.
He's telling us to look at our lives. Are there things there, things we
are doing, saying that might not please Jesus when he comes or that might
make it a little harder for Jesus to come into our hearts? Then we are to
pick them up, get them out of the way, toss them aside. We do that by
asking Jesus to forgive us and by changing the things we do and say.
Maybe it's something like a bad attitude. Mom or Dad asks us to do
something, but we complain and don't want to do it or don't do our best.
We need to get rid of that attitude.
Maybe it's something we have done to someone else or said that hurt them.
We need to say we are sorry and ask for forgiveness.
If you see something you are doing that you know will not really please
God, get rid of it like you did with those rocks and sticks, so that
nothing is in the way of Jesus coming into your heart this Christmas. And
there might be other things, like those other rocks and sticks that fell,
that come up between now and Christmas that we need to get rid of, too.
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Loving God - forgive us - for those things - which get in your way.
- Help us to prepare - for the coming of Jesus - in our hearts and
in our homes - both this Christmas and forevermore. - 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: "We Are Waiting" - Tune: Kum Ba Yah
Verse one - We are waiting Lord, come by here,
We are waiting Lord, come by here,
We are waiting Lord, come by here,
O Lord, come by here.
Verse two - We're preparing Lord, come by here...
Verse three - We will praise you Lord, come by here...
Verse four - We are waiting Lord, come by here...
Verse five - Kum ba yah my Lord, kum ba yah... (3 times)
O Lord, kum ba yah.
A READING FROM ISAIAH 11:1-10
(NIV) A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots
a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him -
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and
of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD - and
he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what
he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the
needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the
earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the
breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be
his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will
live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the
calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will
lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie
down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant
will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his
hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on
all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of
the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the
peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 72 (Voices United 790)
A READING FROM ROMANS 15:4-13
(NIV) For everything that was written in the past was written to
teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the
Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and
encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you
follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one
another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise
to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews
on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the
patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it
is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will
sing hymns to your name." Again, it says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles,
with his people." And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and sing praises to him, all you peoples." And again, Isaiah says,
"The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over
the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in
him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
* HYMN: "On Jordan's Bank" - VU 20
A READING FROM MATTHEW 3:1-12
(NIV) In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert
of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of
one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make
straight paths for him.'"
John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt
around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went
out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the
Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where
he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned
you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with
repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have
Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can
raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the
trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut
down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come
one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to
carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His
winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing
floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff
with unquenchable fire."
L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
SERMON: "Preparing The Way- Making The Path Straight"
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.
The good news - the gospel - began before Jesus arrived on the scene
It began with John The Baptist, and John's message was received with the
same great joy that the message of Jesus was received with.
John was the one spoken of by Isaiah
He was the voice crying in the wilderness
"prepare the way of the Lord! Make his paths straight!"
And people heard John this way
- they saw him as the promised one,
the one who was to come before the Messiah,
and they went out to him in the wilderness
out to him from Jerusalem, and Judea
and from all the region around the Jordan
and they listened to his message -
and they responded to his call
- and in the thousands they were baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
"I tell you", said Jesus later on, "I tell you that among those born of
women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist..."
And why is this?
Why this praise?
Looking back I think we often see John as strange character.
With his camel hair clothing and leather belt, and his long hair and his
diet of locusts and wild honey, John often ends up reminding us of the
cartoons we have seen, the cartoons of a strange looking character who
stands on the street corner waving a sign that says - "repent , the end is
John seems scary - frightening almost:
- telling people that they are a brood of vipers, and that the axe of
judgement is even now being laid to the roots of their lives,
- Yet thousands heard his message that the kingdom of God was near
- and thousands responded to his call to repent of their sins
- Thousands were baptized and made ready to welcome Christ into their
What are we missing in our picture of John? In our picture of what he did
and said as he spoke of repentance and the one to come after him?
I don't want to belabour any points today. I think what we are missing is
the marvel of what John called the people of Israel to receive as they came
out to him at the Jordan.
John called people to be ready for the coming of Christ,
by letting go of their burdens and receiving the forgiveness of God.
John said to all who came near to him that they could get a fresh start in
life; that they could begin again as newly washed individuals - pure and
holy in God' eyes; and that God would visit them and redeem them as
promised by all the prophets of old.
John proclaimed the love of God
the forgiveness God,
and the day of God's coming,
and he made this personal and particular, by giving that love and
forgiveness to all those who came to him and entered the river with him.
What John proclaimed and gave was hope,
the hope that peace in our lives is possible,
that the past can be forgotten,
that it can be washed away,
and that when the new comes, when God comes, we can meet him
and stand before him without fear.
The call of John for us to repent is not a word of criticism
nor a word that claims that somehow he is better than we.
No, on his lips the call to repentance is a word of opportunity
- it is a way into the future with God,
- it is a renewal our relationship with the Lord.
- it is a new beginning in our relationships with each other.
It is a foreshadowing of the message of the one to whom he pointed,
the one who preached peace to those who were far off,
and to those who were near.
Peace in forgiveness,
Peace in the Spirit,
Peace in a new life,
Peace in a new heaven and a new earth.
Despite how John railed against the sins of those who thought they had
none, his message was that of the one who followed him:
There is none so lost, that they cannot be found,
none so bad, that God still will not seek them out to save them,
none so hopeless, that their life cannot be changed.
Last week I spoke of how important it is to have a vision of God, to hold
onto his promises.
Today I tell you - it is important that we open our hearts to God,
to admit to him what is wrong in our lives
to ask for his forgiveness
and to vow each day to live as he has shown us.
It is important, not only to have a vision of what God has done, is doing,
and will do; it is important that we be willing to confess our need for him
and to accept from his hands the forgiveness he offers, the new life he
gives - the life which leads us to his son.
It is what, in the end, we all need,
and it is what God offers to us,
it is what John pointed to as he spoke in the wilderness
of the one who was to come after him..
At the last few bible studies we have had on Tuesday evenings we have
started having lengthy periods of silent prayer - time in which I ask each
person present to close their eyes and to get relaxed, to focus at first on
their breathing, and to allow thoughts and images of God to come into and
then to pass out of their minds, time to listen to the thoughts that they
have, and time to let them pass - and sometimes as they do this I provide
some words for this time of deep prayer. It has proved to us to be a
powerful experience - one in which we have felt God and heard God speak to
I would invite you all now to close your eyes,
and to think of John the Baptist,
standing by the River,
calling to you to be ready,
ready for the one whose sandals he is not worthy to carry,
calling you to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins,
and to start new today, walking in God's way.
knowing that Christ will appear to you, very soon.
Close your eyes...,
and see John and listen to John
and pray to God as the Spirit leads you...
Oh Lord, we think of the gift that John offers us in your name...
the gift of forgiveness,
the gift of washing away our sin,
the gift of making our hearts ready for Christ to enter in.
and we thank you....
Oh Lord, we think of John
and we confess to you that the path in our life is not smooth,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
we have put up road blocks....
we are sorry Lord,
take them away Lord,
make the path straight once more
O Lord, we listen now to John
We listen now to Jesus
We listen now to you
as the water of forgiveness pours down upon us
We listen as you proclaim the word of peace
the word of your coming.
And now we thank you again O God,
We give you thanks for your servant John
who prepared the way in your people for your son.
We thank you for levelling the mountains and filling in the valleys
and making straight his path
We thank you for the message of forgiveness and hope he proclaimed,
We thank you for the new life you give to us through him.
We praise you and we adore you,
God of God,
Light of lights,
WE praise you God,
Lord of Lords,
King of Kings.
You who enter every trembling heart.
Glory and honour be to your name,
now and for ever and ever, Amen.
* HYMN: "Hark The Glad Sound" - VU 29
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of prophets: in the wilderness of Jordan you sent a messenger to
prepare our hearts for the coming of Your Son - the one who brings true
peace into our world and into our lives. Help us to hear the good news,
to repent, and so be ready to welcome our Saviour and to enter into the
kingdom he brings.... Lord, hear our prayer.
Help us dear God to accept and to unwrap the gifts you give us;
especially O God we ask you to help us accept the gift of peace.
Help us to acknowledge our deep and abiding need for you
and to confess that only you can help us find what we are looking for.
That only you can help us repair our broken relationships
That only you can lead us to the peace you want us to have,
Help us walk toward the light.
Lord, hear our prayer....
Loving God as we have prayed for ourselves, so we pray for others. Many
are in despair through physical hardship, seeking relief from their
burdens, and hope in the midst of their cares. Others have minds and souls
filled with hatred, lives shackled by prejudices and the terrible
obsessions that lead to war and to that which is worse. Come to them with
the help that they desperately need. Come to them with the gift of healing
and the gift of seeking, come to them with the gift of loving and the gift
of having found. Lord Hear Our Prayer..
Your church in all the world, also needs saving from everything that
threatens its mission. O Lord, where it is persecuted, keep it faithful.
Where it persecutes, rebuke it. Where it is seduced by affluence, shake
it. Where it is self-satisfied, unsettle it. Where it is weak, poor, and
meek, bless it with your joy, peace and strength. Lord, Hear our
Father, we give you thanks for your peace, for gift to us and for how you
have promised it to the whole world. This day we know some of that peace
within our own experience: we know what it is to be made whole, what it is
to walk through the wilderness and then to enter the promised land, we know
what it is to depend on you - and to find that you do not fail. We hold
before you now those who were lifted up in our sharing time - some who need
the peace we have prayed for today, some who need a healing touch, some who
need comforting, and some who celebrate your goodness toward them hear
our prayers, O God for: BIDDING PRAYER
Thank you Lord for your many gifts. Keep alive in us the spirit of seeking
- that we may also have the spirit of having found. We ask it in the name
of the one who taught us to pray for your kingdom to come and for your will
to be done, Christ Jesus your Son and our Saviour. Amen..
MINUTE FOR MISSION:
* 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
Loving God, help us to offer to you more than a portion of our lives
- more than the leftovers from the other goals and pleasures that we
pursue. Bless, we pray, the tithes and offerings on these plates
and all of ourselves in your service and to your glory. May we be
the people, the church, which you have called us to be in Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
* DEPARTING HYMN: "Make Me A Channel of Your Peace" - VU 684
* 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
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name.
And may the Prince of Peace dwell within your hearts
and bless you with the mercy that he died to give you.
May his love and resurrection power fill you
and make your lives new and whole
And May his everlasting peace shine forth from you
and bring blessings to all who are around you,
- this both now and forevermore. 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.