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Homily and Liturgy for The Third Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11
"Sharing - An Incarnate Love"


READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11 
SERMON :  "Sharing - An Incarnate Love"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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     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.
     Please note that this is a White Gift / Sunday School Pageant
     Service and so is missing some of the elements you normally look
     for each week.

   
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

                            
* GREETING & 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  Come once more, with eager longing, 
   to receive the promises of God.  
P  Out of the desert places of our lives 
   we gather with joy and gladness.
L  Happy are those who help is the God of Jacob, 
   whose hope is in the Lord their God.
P  Our God has promised that lonely places and deserts will 
   be glad and blossom as the rose.
L  The Lord has promised that the blind will be able to see,
   the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and dance, 
   and those who cannot speak will shout for joy.
P  Our God, who made heaven and earth and all that is in them,
   keeps faith forever.  He sets the prisoners free and brings
   healing to all who seek him.
L  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down and watches over
   strangers.  He upholds the orphan and the widow.
P  Our God executes justice for the oppressed 
   and gives food to the hungry.
L  Come once more, with eager longing, 
   and bless the holy name of our God.

           
ADVENT 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 AND PRAYER OF INVOCATION
VOICE  - Today is the third Sunday of Advent - the Sunday of Joy.

VOICE  - Our joy is in God and in his son Jesus Christ.  Like
       hope and peace, joy is a gift from God.  It overtakes us
       and fills us when we remember what God has done and what
       he has promised to do.

VOICE  - We light this candle today to remind us that Christ
       came, and  is coming, so that all people might have a rich
       and abundant life.  We thank God for the hope he gives us,
       for the peace he bestows, and for the joy he pours into
       our hearts.

Light the First, Second, and Third Candle

VOICE  - Let us pray -- O God of Joy, Emmanuel, send your light
       into our hearts.  Help us to be ready for day and hour of
       Christ's appearing.  Fix our hearts and our minds upon
       those things you have done and those you have promised to
       do that we may have the joy you have promised.  As we
       worship you, strengthen us so that we may always do your
       will and so bless you and the world you have made.  Amen.


ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING SONG  (VU-6, verse 3)
       A candle is burning, a candle of joy.
       A candle to welcome brave Mary's new boy.
       Our hearts fill with wonder, and eyes light and glow
       as joy brightens winter like sunshine on snow.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS

                     
INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated):
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!   (VU 371 v2 & refrain)

               
A READING FROM ISAIAH 35:1-10
   (NRSV)  The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the
   desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus {2} it
   shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. 
   The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of
   Carmel and Sharon.  They shall see the glory of the LORD, the
   majesty of our God. {3} Strengthen the weak hands, and make
   firm the feeble knees. {4} Say to those who are of a fearful
   heart, "Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God. He will
   come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.  He will come
   and save you." {5} Then the eyes of the blind shall be
   opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; {6} then the lame
   shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing
   for joy.  For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and
   streams in the desert; {7} the burning sand shall become a
   pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of
   jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds
   and rushes. {8} A highway shall be there, and it shall be
   called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but
   it shall be for God's people; no traveller, not even fools,
   shall go astray. {9} No lion shall be there, nor shall any
   ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there,
   but the redeemed shall walk there. {10} And the ransomed of
   the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing;
   everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain
   joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

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


YOUTH CHOIR PRESENTATION
  Skate Board Song
  Clouds
  Take These Wings
  First Noel

            
A READING FROM MATTHEW 11:2-11
   (NRSV)  When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing,
   he sent word by his disciples {3} and said to him, "Are you
   the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" {4}
   Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:
   {5} the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers
   are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the
   poor have good news brought to them. {6} And blessed is
   anyone who takes no offense at me." {7} As they went away,
   Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you
   go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the
   wind? {8} What then did you go out to see?  Someone dressed
   in soft robes?  Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal
   palaces. {9} What then did you go out to see? A prophet? 
   Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. {10} This is the
   one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger
   ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' {11}
   Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen
   greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom
   of heaven is greater than he.

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

CHOIR ANTHEM: "When Will The Little King Come"


HOMILY:  "Sharing - An Incarnate Love"

Every year - for more years than most of here can count, there
has been a White Gift Service in this church, in the United
Church of Canada as a whole.  The focus of that service has been
upon the giving of gifts - the gifts that God has given us - and
the gifts that we are called by God, as his people, to give to
others.

It is a Sunday in which we remember how God's love became
incarnate 
- how it took on flesh - in  Jesus of Nazareth 
   - the Jesus who was the one promised long ago by God 
   - the Jesus - the Christ - whose coming John the Baptist was
   told he could recognize in the acts that he performed - by
   the fact that through him: the blind receive their sight, the
   lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead
   are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  

It is a Sunday in which we remember how God love is meant to
become incarnate in us - how it is meant to take on flesh in
those who call upon his name.

In the end, people will know that we are Christians:
   - not by the number of bibles we own 
   - not by the number of church services we go to
   - not by the fact that we pray and say grace at each meal
   - nor even by the fact that we tell others that we believe in
   Jesus Christ -
though all of these things are of greater or lesser importance in
letting others know we are Christians.

No - in the end, people will know that we are Christians by our
love - by how we allow God's love for us - God's love in us - to
take on flesh - and get acted out.

"If we love one another", The Apostle John says, "God lives in
us, and his love is perfected in us."

If we love one another 
- God lives in us - God's love is perfected in us.
If we love one another 
- God's joy will come upon us - and as we share it with others,
it will come upon them.

Today - as hear the Christmas Story and the Story of the Littlest
Angel - as we see people play the parts of Mary and Joseph, the
Innkeeper and the Angels  and the Shepherds - I call you to ask
yourselves - how does God's love take on flesh - how does it
become concrete and specific - in us?

How do we love one another?
Especially how do we love those ordinary people who exist all
around us - but for the most part are not seen by the rest of the
world, or if seen are ignored by almost everyone but the closest
members of their families:  
   - the blind, the lame, the leprous and the diseased, the
   deaf, the spiritually dead, and perhaps most of all - the
   poor - the ones to whom Jesus  brought good news - the ones
   whom he fed on the mountain side?

Will they know we are Christians?

Will they see that God has once again taken on human form - that
his love is incarnate now - as it was so long ago  when Jesus
told John the Baptist's messengers  how to recognize the servant
of God - the Messiah?

The gifts that we give today - for the poor and the unfortunate -
the offering we make today to God  - is a beginning in helping
others to know  - an important beginning.  May God bless you with
the wisdom and with the will to take the next step - and the ones
after that.

Blessed are the ones who take no offense at Christ Jesus our
Lord, and Blessed are the ones who, by showing the love he showed
- reveal him again to the world, till the day of his second
coming.  Amen


* HYMN:   "It Only Takes A Spark"                        - VU 289


WHITE GIFT PAGEANT PRESENTATION                   - Sunday School
   

* HYMN: "Once in Royal David's City"                      - VU 62


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God - we wait with joy and thanksgiving for your coming
among us this Advent season, as people have for thousands of
years.  This year, O God, we also wait in sorrow because so many
people live in poverty in this wealthy land.  Compassionate God -
we name before you all who suffer hardship and the breakdown of
community among us - we pray for the older people who pension
cheques cannot stretch far enough...  For the single parents who
are forced to choose between paying rent and buying food...  For
men and women who find themselves without work...  For employers
who barely make the payroll from month to month...  For employees
whose brave smiles hide their fear of getting a pink slip...  For
families forced to abandon their homes for a new community where
no one knows their names...  For all others who circumstances we
do not know - but who need a special blessing at this time.... 
Lord hear our prayer....

Father - for those individuals that we named before you in our
sharing time - we call upon you for your healing and restoring
touch.  Grant peace and joy and health and wholeness as they are
needed by.....  (Bidding Prayer) 
 
Lord hear our prayer.

Life Giving God, we ask you to unleash your abundant life among
all your people.  Overcome the mean spirit that grips so many
communities.  Restore to all of us a Spirit of generosity and
commitment toward one another.  May your Spirit give us the faith
and the courage to live as visible signs of the new life you
offer.  We pray in the name of the One who showed us your way. 
Amen.
 

ANTHEM:  "Away in A Manager"                       - Carol Sumner


MINUTE FOR MISSION:                                 - Sharon Weir

                 
* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: A Litany For Our Offering
L  Many children do not have bread.
P  We want to share our bread
L  Many children do not have clean water to drink.
P  We want to help them find clean water.
L  Many children are cold.
P  We want to share our warm clothing.
L  Many children do not have homes.
P  We want to help them build homes.
L  Many people do not have seeds to grow their own food.
P  We want to share our seeds.
L  Let us share now the gifts of God that we have brought this
   day.

   Please bring forward your tithes and offerings to place on
   the plates on the Communion Table - your white gifts all
   around it and return to your seats and remain standing. 
   When the last person has returned to their seat we will
   sing the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
   - VU 541) and continue with the Prayer of Dedication and
   the Our Father

L  We give these gifts, O God - in thankfulness for your love.
P  We offer these offerings, O God, for the work of your
   kingdom.
L  We ask you to bless them on their way.
P  We ask you to use them and us in your service.
L  Through Christ our Lord we ask it - praying as he taught us.
P  Our Father...
          

* DEPARTING HYMN: "I Am The Light Of The World"           - VU 87


* 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 - 
and may God bless you with a holy Joy
- may he gift you with open hands so you are able to give and to
receive his blessings,
- may he impart unto you an open heart so that you are able to
welcome him in whatever form he takes
- and may he grant you an open mind, so that you are able to
recognize his presence even when it appears dark all around us;
this both now and forevermore.
       

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964
  

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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