Dunsford United Church Bulletin – November 28, 2021 Advent 1
Pulpit Supply: Lisa Norman
GATHERING MUSIC: VU #6 “A Candle is Burning”
WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS
Happy New Year and welcome all to worship Dunsford United Church this morning. Why did I say Happy New Year? Because this Sunday is the first Sunday in the Season of Advent which marks the beginning of the Liturgical calendar. So shake off that old year my friends. A New Year has come. A new beginning. A new hope.
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES
Hope admits that we’re not quite there yet.
Hope means that something good is within reach.
Hope calls out to us, so that we come to see the good that awaits.
God is our hope.
Let us taste, see, hear, feel, smell, and anticipate this hope.
May hope be found in a manger and throughout the world.
O come and be the hope in all our lives. Though chaos and confusion still survive. We know the path of hate all too well. We need our God with us, Emmanuel! Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to us and all things shall be well!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS
We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where I am, and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect and reconciliation with all our relations.
HYMN: MV #18 “Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary” (Words: John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1ojWnlVL_o
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You. (X3)
CALL TO WORSHIP:
Today we enter the liminal season of Advent.
A season of waiting in the shadows of our helplessness and despair.
But a holy light burns through those shadows.
And we glow with the light within us. The light of Hope. Amen.
MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “My Heart Will be Your Bethlehem”
Sylvia Van Belle accompanied on the piano by Llew Sheppard.
OPENING PRAYER (unison)
Father and Mother of humankind,
We come before you seeking hope
For our lives and our world.
Hear our prayer as we confess that we let our lives be filled
With things that override your
Gentle presence among us.
Speak to us, and call us again to be your
People of hope.
(adapted from a prayer by Betty Radford Turcott, used with permission)
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Fear not, God hears our prayers.
God leads the humble in what is right
And teaches the humble his way.
While we can’t take up the offering the usual way, we do appreciate the generosity you show us. Whether by PAR or other methods the support is real and meaningful. Envelopes may be left in the offering plate on the table as you leave the Sanctuary.
OFFERTORY PRAYER (unison)
God of all colours, all hearts, and one blood.
We humbly offer our gifts to be used for good throughout your world.
FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART (Children are to remain in their seats)
Body Prayer- Hope
This Sunday marks the formal start of our waiting. We are waiting for the birth of Jesus, who was sent by God to teach us how to live in a faithful covenant. Now growing up, part of my Advent waiting occurred on the country roads up to Bury’s Green, not far from here. Every 24th of December, we would start what to me was an incredibly long drive from our home in Oshawa to my grandparents farm on Walker’s Line. I would pass the time singing familiar songs and carols with my family. For his part, I am sure my dad spent most of the drive praying that the car would be able to make its way up the long unplowed lane. At the end of our first reading today, I ask you to join me in a sung summary of the first ten verses of Psalm 25. You will see that I was thinking of those advent drives when I picked the tune.
Today’s psalm is a psalm of David, praying for guidance and deliverance. There has been a resurgence in studying the psalms although I must admit that I often find them difficult to get into. The language is what I call very “old testament”. But in the psalms we find words from God, we find words about God, and we find words to God. And these words free us to bring our whole selves before God, not the perfect version of ourselves, but our entire being, our whole heart and soul.
Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
SUNG SUMMARY- (tune of Country Roads) (unison)
Teach me Lord, all of your ways
Teach me your paths
In truth and love,
Remember me, Lord
I trust in you, Lord
For you I wait,
Oh teach me Lord.
25-26 “It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.
27-28 “And then—then!—they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”
29-33 He told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here. Don’t brush this off: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.
34-36 “But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”
HYMN: VU#7 Hope is a Star (Words: Brian Wren)
1. Hope is a star that shines in the night, leading us on till the morning is bright.
Refrain: When God is a child there’s joy in our song.
The last shall be first and the weak shall be strong, and none shall be afraid.
2. Peace is a ribbon that circles the earth, giving a promise of safety and worth. R
3. Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn, telling the world that the Saviour is born.
4. Love is a flame that burns in our heart. Jesus has come and will never depart. R
MESSAGE: What is the point? Lisa Norman
The other day an elderly friend and I were talking about Christmas plans and preparation. “What is the point?” she bemoaned. I am not decorating or baking. I don’t even know if I will be with anyone other than him. (points to her husband). Our numbers are going up again. Maybe it will be just like last year and we won’t be doing very much.
What I heard in her voice was sadness, helplessness and a fear to hope. And so she was asking, “What is the point?”
And today I ask each of us, “What is the point of Advent to you this year?”
On the screen I have a few images of Advent to get us thinking.
Let’s look at the image of the nativity. Perhaps for you, Advent really takes place Christmas Eve as you await the birth of Jesus. It is a Silent Night / Joy to the World, kind of event. Put up the tree. Put the presents under the tree. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Place the presents under the tree. Jesus is born! Eat the Christmas feast. Unwrap the presents. Clean everything up.
Now the Lindt calendar. Maybe that symbolizes your Advent. Perhaps for you, Advent is about counting down each day until Christmas, perhaps with the help of chocolates hidden behind little doors. It consists of a lot of planning and organizing.
Only two more weeks to finish the shopping.
Christmas cards, where are those Christmas cards. I have to get them mailed today.
If we have Christmas with so and so on December 23, then we can host so and so for Christmas dinner on the 25th.
This kind of Advent can be exhausting and all you are ready to do by Christmas is sleep. I know this from personal experience.
I admit I was confused when my minister started posting the image of the black dog/wolf with the words “Advent is coming?’ What could this image mean? Did everyone else in the United Church understand this? Had I missed some vital “church lesson” somewhere along the way? In my experience through literature and folklore, I understand the image of the black dog or ghost of the black dog to be a foreshadowing of death. So I thought about death and Advent. For some people and perhaps for you, Advent is a time of immense sadness because of missing loved ones who have passed. This is why there are “Blue Christmas” services, to acknowledge this pain and sadness. Reverend Anne will provide this type of service next Sunday here at Dunsford United Church.
I also put myself to the left side of the black dog and imagined the dog to be of the Irish Wolfhound lineage. This made me see the dog as a faithful protector and I could make this image work too. Think about some lines of the psalm today. “O my God, in you I trust”. See it works. “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”
It turns out that my minister is a Game of Thrones nerd and chose that image because it is the logo of the house of Winterfell. You know, “Winter is coming.” It is a big line in the show if any of you are familiar with it. But by putting that image before me, he did make me open my eyes to an expanded vision of Advent. I am glad I paid attention to this sign. Hmm. Is this one way God is instructing me this season?
Let’s look at the image of the Advent wreath. Four candles to be lit one each week for hope, joy, love, and peace. Surely we can make room for this during Advent. But perhaps we are already too full. Our minds are crammed with all things Christmas. Our calendars are filling up. And on top of all of this there is COVID and it has been here far too long.
Our current United Church Moderator, Reverend Richard Bott is making his way through the Psalter and paraphrasing each psalm in turn. I was gifted with some of these and now I ask you to read his version of Psalm 25 verses 1-10 with me.
Psalm 25 – A Paraphrase
To you, God, I offer all that I am.
I trust you, God,
Do not let those who oppose me
Do not let me be trampled.
Do not let those who are yours
break those who choose to be treacherous
Help me to know you, God.
Help me to understand your ways.
Lead me in your truth.
because you are the God of all grace,
the God of my salvation
I will stop and be.
I will stop and wait.
I will wait and be for you
all day long.
Remember your mercy, God.
Remember your forever love!
Don’t hold my sins, or my mistakes,
Let your love heal me,
because you are who you are,
God of all creation!
God is good,
so God teaches us all
how to live “good”.
When we are humble,
God can lead us to what is right,
God can lead us in God’s way.
All the Divine paths are forever love,
and forever togetherness,
for those who live In relationship with God,
for those who live God’s way.
So let’s take some time this Advent to just stop. To stop and wait. With practise we can stop, open and clean out our hearts, and wait for God all day long.
The candle for today symbolizes Hope. Research has demonstrated that hope is crucial to our well-being. Both our mental well-being and our physical well-being. But fear, shame and helplessness can often stop us from feeling hope. What if we faced those emotions. Named them. Acknowledged they were there and then asked them to move to the back seat of the car because this season we want Hope to ride shotgun with us.
In the following weeks we could look our sadness in the eye and ask it to move on back because we are tucking a little Joy into the glovebox.
Then have a good conversation with our anger. I know I have a lot. I am angry at COVID for continually messing with my life and the lives of others. I am angry at friends and family whose opinions differ from mine. And I get angry with myself because God forgives and asks me to forgive and trust. But boy oh boy, is that ever hard to do sometimes. So anger can just get in the backseat too because I am putting Love right up on the screen on my dashboard. This Advent let Love be your fuel, your GPS and your heating system. Nothing warms the soul quite like Love.
Now what about Peace. Remember the meaning of Advent is “to wait”. We are waiting for something incredible to happen. The coming of the Messiah, God with us. We need to stop and savour this incredible time. Peace is both our brakes and our cup of coffee. It causes us to both stop and savour.
Now I feel more confident. I am ready to hit those that Advent country roads and I say, “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation’ for you I wait all day long.”
So what is the point? Can you make room for Hope, Joy, Love and Peace to travel with you for the Advent season? Will you slow down and be humble? “He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way.” Pay attention to the signs. God is constantly showing us and giving us moments of hope, joy, love and peace. We ask God to teach us, and lead us. Let’s be ready. Emmanuel is coming. We are heading towards Bethlehem, towards that too full inn. Make room for Jesus.
Blessings on your journey.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
As the old year passes and the new year arrives
You cleanse us, empty us, and fill us
With hope, joy, love, and peace.
Our hearts would be your Bethlehem.
Today we pray for all those in the world
With no hope,
Seeking your steadfast love,
And living in the opposite of peace.
As an affirming congregation
We hold a special place in our prayers for the members of the Pride Community today.
November 20 was Trans Day of Remembrance and we also acknowledge the pain that many members of the Pride Community experience during the upcoming Christmas season.
We now bring the prayers of our hearts before you,
Our God of Hope
Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we pray to you, our Holy Creator, Mother and Father.
THE LORD’S PRAYER (unison)
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.
HYMN: MV #220 “Hope Shines as the Solitary Star” (Words: Catherine Faith MacLean)
Hope shines as the solitary star.
Faith is the inner light.
You and I together mirror the Light of Lights,
And illumine the pathway home.
COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING
As we enter into this cool season of waiting,
may we find the warmth of faith.
As we enter this season of hoping,
may we find holy space.
As we enter this season of spending,
may we find ways to offer our spirits to the life of the world.
Go with the blessing of God,
The bursting of Spirit,
The love of the Child within and yet to be birthed
(Chelsea Masterman (Gathering, 2016-2017), used with permission)