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Sermon and Liturgy (3) for The Second Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 3:1-12
"Preparing For and Receiving Peace"


READING:  Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 3:1-12 
SERMON :  "Preparing For and Receiving Peace"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ad02su 957000
 
    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 Charles Kirkpatrick 
   (www.sermons4kids.com, 2004 and is used with permission.  The 
   Prayer of Dedication and portions of the Pastoral Prayer and 
   some sermon thoughts are based on materials found in John 
   Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies For Advent 1A" as sent to the 
   PRCL List, Dec 1998.  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 Luke 1:67-79)
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  Long ago God promised that he would save us from our enemies,
P  That he would deliver us from everyone who hates us.
L  God said that he would be kind to his people,
P  And that he would keep his sacred promise.
L  God told Abraham that he would bless his descendants
P  And that we would be able to serve him without fear,
   in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life.
L  God's love and kindness will shine upon us.
P  His light will guide us to everlasting peace.


* 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. 

       (RETURN TO YOUR SEATS AS SONG IS SUNG)


THIS WEEK AT ST. ANDREW'S
- Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries  
- Special Matters  
- Joys and Concerns for Prayer


SPECIAL MUSIC:  "Awakening"                                 - By Pam Filfil


CHILDREN'S STORY TIME 
Title:   Star Light, Star Bright 
Theme:   Jesus is our only hope for peace.
Object:  A Christmas Star
Source:  Charles Kirkpatrick, www.sermons4kids.com, used with permission.

    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 Spirit.  Romans 15:12-13 (NIV)

When I was a little boy, there was a rhyme we would say in the evening
when it would begin to get dark.  As soon as it was dark enough for us
to see the very first star in the sky, we would say, 

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.

After we said that, we would make a wish for something that we would
like to have.  Have any of you ever heard or said that rhyme before? 
Did you really expect to receive your wish?  I know that when I said
that rhyme, I never really expected my wish to come true.  I looked up
the word wish in the dictionary and this is what it said, "to have a
desire for something impossible, such as, 'he wished he could live his
life over'."  When we wish upon a star, we have no reason to expect
our wishes to come true.

Today, I want  you to think about another star -- Jesus.  One of the
names that is given to Jesus is the "Bright Morning Star." (Revelation
22:16) Jesus is not a wishing star, but a star of hope.  What is the
difference?  Well, I looked up the word hope in the dictionary too. 
Here is what it said, "to desire something with the expectation that
you will receive it."  There is a big difference in wishing and
hoping, isn't there?  In wishing, you have no reason to expect it to
come true, and in hoping, you have every reason to expect it to come
true.

In our Scripture reading today, the apostle Paul quotes the prophet
Isaiah who said, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise
to rule over the nations;  the Gentiles will hope in him."   Jesus is
the one that the prophet was talking about.  When we put our hope and
trust in the "Bright Morning Star" we are filled with the peace that
only he can give.  Jesus, the bright and morning star -- our only hope
for peace on earth.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
    Dear Jesus, as we see the many stars - in the decorations of this
    season - may we be reminded - that you are the "Bright Morning 
    Star" - and that when we put our hope in you, - we will be filled 
    with  peace. -  Amen.

    And as Jesus taught us let us 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 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:   "Herald, Sound The Note Of Gladness"                      - VU 28


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
   be glorious.


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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 72 (Voices United 790)

   
* HYMN: "Come And Find The Quiet Centre"                           - VU 374


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
   Jordan River.  

   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 For and Receiving Peace"

   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.

This is the Sunday of the Candle of Peace 
and the Sunday of John The Baptist crying out in the wilderness:
- "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
- "Repent, for every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire."
- "Repent, for after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose
sandals I am not fit to carry."
- "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."

Today is the Sunday of Peace - and The Sunday of John the Baptist.

John sure presents an awesome image doesn't he?  What with his strange
garb, his strange diet, and his  long, long hair and long, long beard.

But what connection is there between this John - out there preparing the
way of the Lord in the wilderness by preaching repentance and the nearness
of God's kingdom - and peace?

Is it just one of those coincidences of the seasonal calendar and the
Lectionary readings?  

Or is it deliberate coming together of themes and ideas so that you, the
people of God, learn the truth and are equipped by the Truth - and by the
Spirit from whom all truth comes - to live that truth and share that truth
with those around you?

How much I wish certain people were here today,
- people from my family who are hurting 
- and people from our community who are unhappy and are always seeking
something 
- and people from those corporations and governments that afflict their
citizens and indeed our world.

Peace and repentance,
   Peace and being in a right relationship with God,
       Peace and looking to God and walking in his light 
are so intimately linked 
that you cannot have one without the other.

Think of how elusive peace is - how far away the Kingdom of Heaven seems at
times.

There is no peace in the Mid East - or Indonesia 
- there has been no war to end all wars 
- just times in which there is more suffering and killing and times in
which there is less.

And think of your own households - and families - or those of your closest
friends.  

Think of the addictions - the ignorance - the greed - and the rebellion you
see. 

Think of those people who live in fear - and of those who do all kinds of
self destructive things - and yes - think of those bedrooms or living rooms
or playrooms where there is violence or neglect.

My friends there is no peace in the hearts of literally millions of people.

But there can be - for we can and do see peace around us as well.

We see nations without civil wars or violent oppression within; 
   - nations reasonably well run - whose people eat and drink and have a
   place to sleep
       - nations that run according to the rule of law - a law that
       respects individuals and tries to ensure people of certain
       fundamental rights.

And we see families - and individuals within families - with peace,
   indeed we see them - even when afflicted by disease or accident - or
   poverty not only with peace, but with a kind of joy, and hope, and love
   that radiates from them.

So how do we get there?  

Well - on the world scene - peace doesn't seem to come by making treaties
   or alliances, nor does it seem to come by fighting for peace, by
   bombing cities or by assassinating foreign leaders
though for a short time these things may seem to work.

And in our lives peace doesn't seem to come by buying the right kind of
   deodorant, nor by investing in the right kind of securities or mutual
   funds,
Nor even by obtaining a better paying job
   or by trading in our husband or our wife on a new and better model,
though for a short time these things may seem to work.

Peace obtained in all these ways seems to last for only for a moment -
and then our hunger, our desire, our anxiety arises once again,
our inner and our outer conflicts return.

Where is peace to be found?
That is the question isn't it. 
The question so many have.

Well there is an answer to that question.
   An answer that our readings speak of today,
       An answer that I want to share with you for the remainder of our
time together.

Peace come with repentance.

Peace comes with turning towards God and living within Christ

Or to use the highway image that the Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist
use so often, by preparing the way for the coming of the promised one.
   
It is that simple.

In Isaiah, chapter thirty-two, verse 17, it says this:

   "The fruit of righteousness will be peace.  The effect of
   righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." 

That is in here  (heart).  But more, in verse 18   for out there, it says:

   "My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes,
   in undisturbed places of rest."

The fruit of righteousness,
   that is the fruit, my friends, of walking in the way of Christ
       of being grafted into the vine,
          Of turning towards him and doing those things he asks us to do -
is fruit indeed!

It grows out of us - not because of something special about us 
but because of something special about the God we open ourselves up to
the God we resolve to truly love - truly trust - truly obey.

The fruit of righteousness is peace.

Each Year within the church the second Sunday of Advent is called the
Sunday of Peace.

And each year on this Sunday we read - either from Luke, or from Mark, or
from Matthew the story of John the Baptist  and of how he went out into the
wilderness and there preached a baptism of repentance and the good news of
the coming of the promised one of God.

It is deliberate - and it is repetitious - because it is the truth we need
to hear.
 
Where is peace.

It is not in claiming that we are the descendants of Abraham 
   or that our grandmother and our grandfather were saints of the church,
if indeed they were,
It is not in claiming that we are part the true vine,
   or that our membership in the church is all paid up 
       that we have worked hard at this job or that job 
          and that we attend as often as we can,
No, it is bearing fruit in keeping with repentance,
fruit that arises out of our conscious and deliberate acts of love
out of our conscious and deliberate acts of forgiveness,
out of our conscious and deliberate acts of prayer,
out of our conscious and deliberate devotion
out of our daily turning and opening to God.

John is harsh in how speaks towards those who come out to him in the
wilderness not because he wants to scare those folk away, but because he
wants them to really understand what is at stake, to really understand what
is going on..

It is not simply that there is a wrath to come that we should fear.
   But that there is a wrath that is already here.
       The axe is already laid to the root of the trees, and every tree
that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Do you doubt this?

When you look into your life - at those things that didn't work out so well 
and when you look at what is happening in the lives of so many around you 
- can you really doubt the presence of the axe? 

And doesn't it make you want to pray for extra special mercy.

I feel that way whenever I consider my alcoholic brother-in-law 
   or see the greed and the fear and the meaninglessness of a dear one who
   is always looking for more than he has.
I felt that way when my mother got beat up by my father when I was a child
   and when I see nations picking on nations like bully boys in the school
playground.

I see a need for good fruit my friends - that can only come from good seed.
We reap what we sow.

So it should be our prayer that we sow, that the Spirit sows, God's word
into our hearts and minds, 
   so that it might grow into the hands of one the blesses others with a
   healing touch,
       so that might grow into the voice and smile of one that speaks
       blessing and forgiveness to those in need,
          so that it might grow into the feet of one who will cross the
street to bring hope and comfort to a stranger.

Our prayer each day should be that the word - the Spirit - might produce
it's fruit in us, and that those around us will taste and see that it is
good and yearn to produce the same fruit in their lives.

That is what repentance is all about.
It is about turning to God 
- and yearning for God 
- and allowing God's Word to work in you,
turning so much 
- that you eyes and your whole body is focussed on the path of
righteousness,
yearning so much 
- that you deliberately engage in random acts of kinds,
allowing so much 
- that you forgive those who do not know what they do,
and even those who do.

What is our commandment - the one that will demonstrate to the whole world
that we are Christ's disciples?   It is that we love one another - that we
love one another in the manner that Jesus loves us.

I wish I had my brother-in-law here today to tell him once again the word
he needs to hear.  But I don't - he is lost to us at this time.

There must be people that you wish could hear this word today 
- people who aren't here, 
and, sad to say, aren't likely to be here anytime soon 
- nor likely to hear and accept if they were.

But I am here.  And you are here.  And the preaching of John, 
   a preaching that drew literally thousands of people to him, 
       that preaching is for us as well, 
it is for us for as long as the world needs peace, 
for as long as we need peace.

Paul prays at the conclusion of today's reading from Romans these words:

       "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you
       trust in him, so you may overflow with hope by the power of
       the Holy Spirit.

We are called, my friends, to be ones who overflow with hope and with peace
and joy: to be ones who bear the fruit of repentance in abundance - so all
the world - and especially those who are closest to us - may know whose we
are and where it is that peace may be found.

This is no great labour that requires years of training and an immaculate
pedigree.

This is the fruit of turning towards God.
   and of loving mercy and doing justice and walking humbly with your
Lord.
This is the fruit of turning towards your brother or sister
   and of loving them in the same way that Jesus loves them - in the same
way he loves you.
This is the fruit of walking in the light and obeying the commandments that
Christ has given us.

"Repent - and bear fruit befitting repentance."
"Repent - and know that one greater than I is coming 
   - the one who will clear the threshing floor and gather his wheat into
   the barn,
   - the one who burn up the chaff - and who will baptize you with the
   Holy Spirit and with fire, and bring you to the fullness of the kingdom
   that he promised, that kingdom where the wolf will live with the lamb,
   and the leopard will lie down with the goat. 

Where is peace?  It is in the Prince of Peace.  
And it is within us as a fruit of His Spirit within us.

Behold the Lord is coming, he is even now at hand.  
May those who have ears - hear this word and turn to God and accept it into
their hearts.   Amen

 
* HYMN:  "O Day of God, Draw Nigh"                                 - VU 688


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.  Open our hearts in welcome. 
Help us to hear the good news and to turn towards him. Remove the things
that hinder us from receiving his word with joy into our hearts.  Help us
to bear fruit in keeping with our repentance....  Lord, hear our prayer...

God of power and mercy, you have promised a time when the snake and the
little child will play together and no harm come to either one.  A time
when the cow will feed with bear and their young will lie down together, a
time when your people will no longer be afflicted.  Lord, help all nations
and all peoples to earnestly desire this time - help them give up their
ways of fear, greed and hate and to stop trusting in the strength of their
own hands and the wisdom of their own minds....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, help your church to always point to the source of peace - help us to
point to the one who is called the Shoot from Root of Jesse, the True Vine,
the one promised from of Old, the Light of The World, the Bread of Life,
the Messiah, the Son of Man and the  Son of God,  the Lion of Judah and the
Lamb upon the Throne - the one who is called the eternal and everlasting
Prince of Peace.   Help us to point to him and to live in him, and to love
as he has loved us.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, today many in our world, and many here, are cast down with spiritual
needs, thirsting for the peace of Your forgiveness and the warmth of Your
healing love.  Come to them with the grace they desperately need....  Lord,
hear our prayer...

Lord, many are in despair through physical hardship, seeking relief from
their burdens and hope in the midst of their cares.  Come to them with the
help they desperately need.... Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, we lift before you now those people and places and situations that
our especially upon our hearts today....  (BIDDING PRAYER)...  
... Lord, hear our prayer...

Come, Advent God, and complete Your work in Jesus Christ, through whom we
offer these prayers.  At evening or midnight, morning or midday:  Come,
Lord Jesus, come.   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
Dedication

   Father, we offer our lives and our gifts to You.  May they be an
   expression of our love for You, and the work of Your Kingdom.  May
   we be the People God, 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
   Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of God.
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


* 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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