Dunsford United Church Bulletin – December 5, 2021 Advent 2 Peace/Blue Christmas

Rev. Anne Hepburn

GATHERING MUSIC

WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS

ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING – Video

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!

O come and bring your peace upon the earth. That even now still longs for its rebirth. We seek to live and move in your ways. Guide us to peace and justice all our days. 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:  VU #18 “There’s a Voice in the Wilderness” (Words: James Lewis Milligan)

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:

prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!

The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;

make straight all the crooked places where God, our God, may go!

O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up to the heights and sing!

Proclaim to a desolate people the coming of their King.

Like the flowers of the field they perish, like grass our works decay;

the power and pomp of nations shall pass, like a dream, away.

But the word of our God endureth, whose arm is ever strong;

God stands in the midst of nations, and soon will right the wrong.

God shall feed the flock like a shepherd, the lambs so gently hold;

to pastures of peace will lead them, and bring them safe to fold.

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:

prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!

The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;

make straight all the crooked places where God, our God, may go!

CALL TO WORSHIP

It is Advent.

Jesus is coming. Be alert.

We are ready.

In the midst of difficulty and danger

            we are ready.

In times of uncertainty and fear

            we are ready.

In times of apathy and despair

            we are ready.

With anticipation and with hope

we look for God’s long promised One.

We will not be disappointed

We will not be disheartened

Jesus is coming and we are ready.

(Written by David Sparks Gatherings 2021 P. 30, used with permission)

HYMN: VU #7 “Hope is a Star” (Words: Brian Wren)

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.

Peace is a ribbon that circles the earth, giving a promise of safety and worth. R

Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn, telling the world that the Saviour is born.

Love is a flame that burns in our heart. Jesus has come and will never depart. R

OPENING PRAYER

Caring God

As we rush to prepare our homes and our trees

Slow us down and prepare our hearts.

When we shut you out with worry and fear,

renew our trust and prepare our hearts.

If we are distracted by the clamour of the world,

soothe our minds and prepare our hearts.

In this time of worship let the warmth of your kindness prepare our hearts to receive your word.

Let the comfort of your healing prepare our hearts to feel your peace.

Let the joy of your love prepare our hearts to worship your holy name. Amen

(Written by Gill LeFevre Gatherings 2021 p.32, used with permission.)

OFFERING

While we can’t take up the offering as we used to we very much appreciate your generosity.

Let us pray.

OFFERTORY PRAYER  

Gracious God

On this second Sunday in Advent we are thinking of Hope and the reality of “Blue” Christmases. Help our gifts to alleviate the sadness that many experience over the Christmas holidays when they are feeling hopeless. Amen  

OFFERTORY HYMN: VU #6 “A candle is Burning” 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.

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART: What makes Christmas blue or hopeful?  

SCRIPTURE READINGS

Old Testament Malachi 3:1-4 The Coming Messenger

3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Someday at Christmas” Brian Gowan

New Testament Luke 3:1-6 The Proclamation of John the Baptist

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler[a] of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[b] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler[c] of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

HYMN: VU #333 “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” (Words: Charles Wesley)

Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down,

fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown.

Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art;

visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver; let us all thy grace receive;

suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above,

pray, and praise thee, without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be;

let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee,

changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,

till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

MESSAGE: “Hope in a Blue Christmas” Rev. Anne Hepburn

Last Christmas was kind of a bust wasn’t it?

I am used to large gatherings with my family and dinners with friends before and after.

None of that happened…I missed them all but it was what needed to happen.

And it made me realize that I had gotten kind of entrenched over the years. Not rigid but neither was I given to breaking traditions- unless they weren’t working any more. But we couldn’t do almost anything that was usual for us. 

Even my two kids who live alone did not think it was a good idea to join us. Of course it was pre-vaccination so really no one was safe.

I knew my partnered kids wouldn’t be alone but I was worried about the singles. So I offered to have them come and they decided they shouldn’t. Their call for sure and of course I respected it but I was sad and worried about them.

I never ever had a Christmas on my own and I couldn’t imagine what they would be feeling.

So I did what I do-I fed my kids!– I ordered a turkey for pick up 3 days before and on the 24th I roasted ½ of  it and packed it up with croissants for Christmas morning and a ton of side dishes and some extra food for Boxing Day.

My husband and I did deliveries to the local kids and had sidewalk visits, handed them their gifts, flowers, stockings, etc.

We had been to Ottawa a couple weeks before and had a visit with the expecting couple who were about to celebrate Christmas in their new home!  So they were set and that helped.

My local daughter told me after that it didn’t really hit her until we left. She carried all her food and presents and goodies into her apartment, and then realized that she was truly on her own.  Fortunately she got through it, as so many others did.

It wasn’t enough but we made it work.

On Christmas Day we facetimed with all the kids and raised a toast.

We discussed our gifts and shared pics of what we were doing.

I roasted the second ½ of the turkey for Bill and me to eat and reheated the side dishes.

In hindsight I was truly more upset anticipating the Covid Christmas than I was on the day. It ended up being ok-even relaxing.

What made me really happy however was that Boxing Day, which had been my mom’s birthday, we did not have to try to “get through” because she died 4 years ago-at the ripe age of almost 91! My family agree and always say that COVID would have killed her because even if she did not get it, she would have gone crazy without the gatherings and social life. It was a great relief that she did not have to suffer through that!

This year is getting dicey with the South African Variant but because so many of us are double vaxxed and possibly boostered, our chances of getting very sick are significantly lowered.

Way back in 2009 we started doing a BLUE Christmas service here on the second Sunday in Advent.

I had heard about the funeral homes hosting them and thinking it’s hard to lose someone and at Christmas we notice it with that empty chair at the table. But we all know that there are more things can cause us to feel down and in the dumps over the holiday.

Whether we have relationship problems or money problems, work or school worries, addiction issues and temptation leading us the wrong way, there is something  unhappy or difficult that every person can feel and experience.

Our readings today speak of life being hard and also about Hope which is the theme of this Advent Sunday.

From the Gospel reading:

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’

John the Baptizer is the voice of one crying out in the Wilderness.

John, cousin to Jesus. A man living rough in the wilderness-John the Baptist was an ascetic Jewish itinerant prophet known in Christianity as the forerunner of Jesus. John preached about God’s Final Judgment and baptized repentant followers in preparation for it. Jesus was among the recipients of his rite of baptism.

John lived out in the wilderness probably in a tent or cave like shelter and wore very basic clothing.

He was probably like someone we know- a prickly kind of guy one who was unafraid to call people out for their sins or hypocrisy. He was especially harsh towards people who bent the rules of the Torah- John was arrested and beheaded by Herod Antipas around AD 29, while Jesus was still alive and ministering.

But in this passage, he is calling out for his followers to be ready for the way of the Lord-

He was preparing them for Jesus who would come into his own after being baptized in the river by his cousin.

Make his paths straight- so they were not straight and easy to follow at that time-

That is a sign of difficulty

Fill the valleys- they were empty, arid perhaps lonely and scary to walk in alone.

Mountains and hills shall be made low- obviously saying that they were hard to climb and steep. Probably lots of boulders to overcome.

The crooked shall be made straight and the rough made smooth.

Sometimes when I hear people speak of personal difficulties, I think that they have been on a bumpy road. Maybe I have said that to some of you.

It comes from my years of study for ministry- we often reflected at Emmanuel College upon the journey of our ministry as we did our studies, internships, and contextual learning placements. Lots of interviews and anxiety over placements and the future- much of which you know from Kevin’s experiences.

Some of it was smooth and some was not.

Life is like that. And as we gather to prepare for Advent, Christmas, and the Epiphany, some of us will have a happy time but others may be punctuated perhaps by rough moments and disappointment.  That is what John is saying- things can be crooked and rough, steep, and lonely.

And yet there is still HOPE.

Hope is what Jesus brings- new life to a world in desperate need.

A 1st baby to a young couple.

A new way of doing things in a world weary from rigid rules, obstinate rulers, even

cranky prophets!

And for us- HOPE is emerging from lockdowns,

Being able to gather with friends and family.

Trusting that our world leaders will work together to fight climate change.

Praying for peace around the world and safety for refugees seeking safer living places.

Feeding our hungry neighbours.

Hope is what makes us keep on keeping on.

Planning for what we can realistically accomplish.

HOPE is our guiding light- let us follow.

Amen

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Thank you, O God, for your many gifts and blessings in our lives.

As we enter this season of Advent and revisit the beloved stories of Jesus’ birth,

We long to strengthen our faith and grow closer to you.

We long to be the people you call us to be.

We pray that, through the Holy Spirit,

we may strengthen our commitment to following the Way of Christ.

As we face the fears and worries in our lives, help us to remember our steadfast love

And help us to reach out to others who need reminding of your love and grace.

Time of silent prayer

Amen 

LORD’S PRAYER

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

COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING

Go out to the world as Christ would have you to serve others with renewed appreciation for his wisdom and example. And as you go may the love of God be with you always.

CHORAL RESPONSE: “Go Now in Peace” (Words: Don Besig and Nancy Price)

Go now in peace, never be afraid.  God will go with you each hour of every day.

Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true. Know He will guide you in all you do.

Go now in love and show you believe. Reach out to others so all the world can see

God will be there watching from above. Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

Amen, Amen, Amen

POSTLUDE

DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH

Church Office Hours: Wed. 9-5

Tel: 705-793-2511

Email: dunsfordunitedchurch@bellnet.ca

Visit our new website: www.dunsfordunitedchurch.com


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