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Sermon and Liturgy For The Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year B
Psalm 89:1-4,19-26; Luke 1:47-55 and Luke 1:26-38
"Beyond The Manager: The Other Half of The Story"


READING:  Psalm 89:1-4,19-26; Luke 1:47-55 and Luke 1:26-38
SERMON :  "Beyond The Manager: The Other Half of The Story"

by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Isaiah 6:14, 11:1-3)
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  There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
P  The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of
   wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
L  He shall not judge by what his eyes see nor decide by what
   his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the
   poor and with equity he shall decide for the meek of the
   earth.
P  The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as
   the waters cover the sea.
L  The Lord will give you a sign when this is to be
   accomplished.  A virgin shall be with child, and shall
   bear a son.  He will be called Emmanuel.


* ADVENT INTROIT (VU 10)
   Prepare the way of the Lord! 
   Prepare the way of the Lord!
   Make a straight path for him,
   Make a straight path;
   Prepare the way of the Lord.


ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING
   VOICE  - Last Sunday we lit the candle of joy.  We light it
          and the candles of hope and peace again as we remember
          that Christ will come again and bring us everlasting
          peace and joy.

   (a person lights the candles of hope, peace, and joy)

   VOICE  - The fourth candle of Advent is the Candle of Love. 
          It's light is meant to remind us of the love that God
          has for us.

   VOICE  - Jesus shows us God's perfect love.  He is God's love
          in human form.  The bible says that "God so loved the
          world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever
          believes in him should not perish, but have eternal
          life."  

   VOICE  - Love is patient, love is kind and envies no one. 
          Love is never boastful or conceited, rude or selfish. 
          Love is not quick to take offense, it keeps no records
          of wrongs, it does not gloat over other people's
          troubles, but rejoices in the right, the good, and the
          true.  There is nothing that love cannot face, there
          is no limit to its faith, to its hope, to its
          endurance.  Love never ends.

   VOICE  - We light this candle today to remind us of how God's
          perfect love is found in Jesus

      Light the Fourth Candle

   VOICE  - LET US PRAY  Loving God, we thank you for your gift
          of love - show to us perfectly in Jesus Christ our
          Lord.  Help us prepare our hearts to receive Him. 
          Bless our worship. Help us to hear and do your word.  
          We ask it in the name of the one born in Bethlehem. 
          Amen.


CANDLE LIGHTING SONG: "A Candle is Burning" (VU 6, verse 4)
   A candle is burning, a candle of love,
   a candle to point us to heaven above,
   A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth,
   for Jesus is bringing God's love to our earth.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements and Greetings

- Gathering Prayer Joys and Concerns


* HYMN: "Angels From The Realms of Glory"                 - VU 36


CHILDREN'S TIME: "God's Promises"
Object:   None
Theme:    God's Promise Comes True
Source:   Self

Who knows what a promise is????  Have any of you made any
promises to anyone - have you said that you will do something???? 
Has anyone made any promises to you???

How do you feel when someone keeps their promise to you???

Christmas is a time of joy - because it is a time when we
remember that God kept his promises - promises made long time ago
to King David - the promise that he would have a son who would be
king forever, and rule over his people and bring them peace and
joy.

Mary the mother of Jesus was very happy - not just because she
had a baby - but because her baby, Jesus, was the child of this
very special promise.  When you listen to the Christmas Carols -
they talk about the promise - about how angels talked to Joseph
and Mary and the shepherds to tell them that God was sending his
Son to us - about how a star led the wise men to the new born
king - about how Jesus is very special, because he is Lord over
all the earth.

God keeps his promises to us.  This is what we celebrate at
Christmas.  We celebrate because he has kept his promise to come
to us and because we know that this means he will keep his
promise to come to us again in power and might and glory.

   DEAR LORD GOD -- WE THANK YOU FOR CHRISTMAS - WE THANK YOU
   FOR THE BIRTH OF JESUS -- WHO IS YOUR SON AND OUR KING --
   WE THANK YOU FOR KEEPING YOUR PROMISES -- AND WE PRAY THAT
   YOU WILL HELP US -- ALWAYS OBEY AND FOLLOW HIM.  NOW AND
   FOREVER -- AMEN


* HYMN: "Jesus, Our Brother"                              - VU 56


FIRST READING:                                 Psalm 89:1-4,19-26
Long before Jesus was born, his birth was promised in many and
various ways.  One of those promises was made by God through the
prophet Nathan to King David.  Today's  Old Testament reading
from the book of Psalm's refers to that promise.  Reading from
Psalm 89.

   (NRSV)  I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;
   with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all
   generations. {2} I declare that your steadfast love is
   established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the
   heavens. {3} You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen
   one, I have sworn to my servant David: {4} 'I will establish
   your descendants forever, and build your throne for all
   generations.'" //  Then you spoke in a vision to your
   faithful one, and said: "I have set the crown on one who is
   mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people. {20} I
   have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed
   him; {21} my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also
   shall strengthen him. {22} The enemy shall not outwit him,
   the wicked shall not humble him. {23} I will crush his foes
   before him and strike down those who hate him. {24} My
   faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my
   name his horn shall be exalted. {25} I will set his hand on
   the sea and his right hand on the rivers. {26} He shall cry
   to me, 'You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my
   salvation!'

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


UNISON READING: THE SONG OF OF MARY (and The Gloria Patri)
We will hear in a few minutes the words that the angel Gabriel
spoke to Mary when she first discovered that God had chosen her
to give birth to the Messiah.  Our responsive reading today
reveals Mary's understanding, before Jesus is born, of what God
was doing through her - it is the song of Mary - known as the
Magnificat.  Let us hear and repeat her words now...

   My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
       my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
       for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
   From this day forth all generations will call me blessed:
       the Almighty has done great things for me,
       and holy is his Name.
   He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
   He has shown the strength of his arm,
       he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
   He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
       and has lifted up the lowely.
   He has filled the hungry with good things,
       and the rich has sent away empty.
   He had come to the help of his servant Israel
       for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
       the promise he made to our fathers
       to Abraham and his children for ever.
 
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy
   Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
   be. World with end.  Amen


CHOIR ANTHEM: "She Walked In The Summer" (VU 12)


A READING FROM LUKE 1:26-38 
   (NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God
   to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, {27} to a virgin
   engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of
   David. The virgin's name was Mary. {28} And he came to her
   and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
   {29} But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered
   what sort of greeting this might be. {30} The angel said to
   her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with
   God. {31} And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a
   son, and you will name him Jesus. {32} He will be great, and
   will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God
   will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. {33} He
   will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his
   kingdom there will be no end." {34} Mary said to the angel,
   "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" {35} The angel said
   to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of
   the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be
   born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. {36} And
   now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also
   conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was
   said to be barren. {37} For nothing will be impossible with
   God." {38} Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the
   Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the
   angel departed from her.

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


* HYMN:  "All Earth Is Waiting"                            - VU 5

  
SERMON:  "Beyond The Manager: The Other Half of The Story"

       The Source of the story and the subsequent
       parallelism in the sermon proper is lost in the
       mists of time.  I know that some of the wording is not
	   my own.  My apologies to anyone whose words
       have been reproduced herein without acknowledgement.

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the
   words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow
   thou in us and show us your ways and inspire us to live by
   your truth.  Amen
                                 
On Sunday afternoon, June 1st 1975, Darrel Dore was on an oil rig
in the Gulf of Mexico. 

   Suddenly it wobbled, tipped to one side, and crashed into
   the sea.  Darrell was trapped inside a room on the rig. 
   As the rig sank deeper and deeper into the sea the lights
   went out and the room began to fill with water.

   Thrashing about in the darkness, Darrel accidentally found
   a huge air bubble that was forming in the corner of the
   room.  He thrust his head inside it.

   Then a horrifying thought sent a shiver down his spine. 
   "I'm buried alive".  Darrell began to pray - out loud -
   and as he did, something remarkable happened.  He said
   later:

   "I found myself actually talking to Someone.  Jesus was
   there with me.  There was no illumination, nothing
   physical, but I sensed him, a comforting presence.  He was
   real, he was there."

   For the next 22 hours that Presence continued to comfort
   Darrel.  But now the oxygen supply inside the bubble was
   giving out.  Death was inevitable.  It was just a matter
   of time. 

   Then a remarkable thing happened.  Darrel saw a tiny star
   of light shimmering in the pitch-black water.  Was it
   real?  or after 22 hours was he beginning to hallucinate?  
   Darrel squinted his eyes.  The light seemed to grow
   brighter.  He squinted again.

   He wasn't hallucinating.  The light was real.  It was
   coming from a diver's helmet.   Someone had found him. 
   His 22 hour nightmare was over.  Rescue had come.  He was
   saved.

That true story is a remarkable illustration of what Christmas is
all about.

Sin had wobbled our world, tipped it to one side, and sent it
crashing into the waters of spiritual disaster.  Darkness was
everywhere.  The human race was hopelessly trapped.  There was no
hope.  Humankind was doomed to certain spiritual death.

People turned to God.  They prayed in the words of the prophet
Isaiah - "O Lord, you are angry and we are sinful, all of us have
become unclean.  Yet O Lord, you are father.  Save and deliver
us."

They prayed, and they waited for the time promised to them - the
time of the Messiah, the time of the one who would inherit the
throne of David and rule - in peace forever.  

Then, when the night seemed darkest, something remarkable
happened. 

A tiny spark of light appeared.

An angel spoke to a young woman and told her that she would
conceive and bear a son, and that son would be the Son of the
Most High God - that he would be the Messiah.

Another angel told the man engaged to her that though she was
pregnant, that he should go ahead and marry her - that her child
was the child of God.

The light was dim at first - but its spark could be seen in the
cousin of the young woman, who, despite her age and the fact that
she had never been able to bear a child before, was suddenly
pregnant.

The light was dim - but it brightened through the next weeks and
months - at least for some who were looking for such a light.  It
appeared to them as a star in the sky - a star which they
followed in the hope that it would lead them to the birthplace of
a great king.

But for all the rest the light was still unseen,
and even to those who had seen it 
it still could be mistaken for nothing but a dream,
the hallucination of a drowning man, 
a hope based on an illusion.

Finally, 
on the night that the baby was born and laid in a manger, 
the light appeared to certain poor shepherds who lay a-keeping
their flocks,
and an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them as the angel spoke,
and said

   "Behold - I proclaim to you good news of a great joy, for
   today in David's city a Saviour has been born for you, He
   is the Messiah, the Lord you have waited for."

And so the nightmare of the human race came to an end.  Rescue
had come.  Jesus , the son of God, had come down from heaven to
save the human race, just as the diver had come down to save
Darrel Dore.

That is what Christmas is about.

Its about salvation,,
   its about seeing the light come into the world to deliver us
   from sin and darkness,
its about God coming to us, and dwelling with us, and rescuing us
certain death.

Listen to the prophets speak:

Hear O house of David, the Lord himself will give you a sign,
behold, a virgin is with child, and shall bear a son, and shall
call him Emmanuel.

You, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for God one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.
He will make glorious the way of the sea, 
the land beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Those who lived in a land of deep darkness,
on them light has shined.
For a child has been born to us.
A son given to us.
Authority rests upon his shoulders,
and he is named - Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting
Father, Prince of Peace.

This is the other half of the Christmas story,
the half we often neglect as we wrap gifts and cook and prepare
our homes for Christmas day.
This is the part of the story that goes beyond the manger,
beyond the beauty of a new born child,
beyond the peace of motherhood and the love of kindly strangers.

Six days from now we celebrate the birth of the one called Jesus
- of the one whose name means "God Saves".

His birth, his ministry, his very personhood, is summed up in the
words of one his disciples and apostles,"The word became flesh,
and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.  For God so loved
the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life."

The other half of the Christmas Story is the Easter Story -
the story of how beyond the manger - lies a cross and the empty
tomb.

Let those who have ears listen,
the King of Glory has entered in.


LET US PRAY
Loving God - as we approach the day of Christ's birth - help us
to throw wide the doors of our hearts in preparation.  Help us to
sense the importance of what happened so long ago when Mary and
Joseph entered Bethlehem, to remember the words of the angels -
and to celebrate all the promises that came true when Jesus was
born..... Lord hear our prayer....

Father - help us make this a season of joy for all those around
us.  Help us learn the lesson of the innkeeper and to more
quickly sense your Spirit in the world, to see your face in the
face of the one forgotten, your presence in the body of the one
for who there is no room.  Help us, O Lord, to see you in places
expected and in places unexpected places, and to proclaim our
love and our care for you in all our words and actions.....  Lord
hear our prayer....

Lord - may this Christmas season be for us and for those around
us a season of healing,
may it be a season of hope and of love and of joy,
may it be a time of true sharing and of rejoicing in all the
earth.... 
we pray O God for those in need around us, 
we pray for those who need a second birth, 
we pray for those who need a tender touch and a gentle word like
that of Mary for her infant child....Lord hear our prayer...

Bless O God the children - and all those of tender faith,
bless the innocent of the earth and all those who trust in thee,
bless O Father the simple and the meek,
bless the humble an all those who confess to thee,
bless and make each one we name a special child of your family...

We ask all these things in the name of your Son and our Saviour,
Jesus Christ our Lord - he who taught us to pray to you saying,
OUR FATHER 


* 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

   O God, by your promise we have received the gifts we now
   share before you.  By your grace we are here to offer them
   for your work in this world.  May all our efforts,
   supported by all your gifts, carry forward the fulfilling
   of your will though Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "T'was In The Moon of Wintertime"      - VU 71

                        
* COMMISSIONING:  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go
   forth into the world to fulfil Your 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 Christ
- and may the Lord keep you endlessly in his love 
- may the Spirit of God fill your lives with light and wisdom, 
- and may the peace, the strength and the righteousness of our
Saviour be yours
both now - and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2005
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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