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Sermon and Liturgy for The Second Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:-13; and Matthew 3:1-12
"Being Prepared: Keeping The Vision Alive"


READING:  Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:-13; Matthew 3:1-12 
SERMON :  "Being Prepared: Seeking The Peace of God"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ad02sm.y-a 640000
 
     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.

      
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

               
* GREETING & CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 72:2-8,17)
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  One is coming who will judge God's people in righteousness,
   his afflicted ones with justice.
P  The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
   the hills the fruit of righteousness.
L  He will endure as long as the sun.
   He will be like rain falling on a mown field
   like showers watering the earth.
P  He will rule from sea to sea
   and from the River to the ends of the earth.
L  All nations will be blessed through him
   and they will call him blessed.

           
* 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 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 to
       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.

         
ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING SONG (VU 6, verse 1)
  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.
                 

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 11:1-10
L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Preparing For The Peace of Christ"
Theme:    Our Gifts to Each Other, God's Gift To Us
Object:   Puzzle Pieces - Lion and Lamb etc
Source:   Whole People of God 1995 Year A

Good morning...  Christmas is coming in how many days now (14-15
days)???  

At Christmas time we give gifts to one another as we remember how
the three wise men gave gifts to the baby Jesus.  Have you
thought about what you are going to give your Mom or Dad???  Your
brothers or sisters???  Without giving away any secrets, what
kinds of gifts are people giving each other this year???

There are a lot of different kinds of gifts that people give to
each other - but at Christmas we celebrate not what we can give
to each other - but we celebrate what God has given us in Jesus -
and what God is still planning on giving us through him - because
God's giving is not over yet.

Can anyone tell me the kinds of gifts that God has given us in
Jesus???   (Forgiveness, love, hope, peace, joy, intimacy with
him)

A long time ago there lived a man called Isaiah who had a lot of
things to say about what God  was planning to give us through
Jesus as a very special gift.    It is a very special kind of
world.  I brought some puzzle pictures today to help us figure
out what kind of world it is that God is going to give us. 
(Spread them out).  

I have a wolf here -- what piece fits with it (the lamb).   Now
that's strange - Are wolves and lambs normally friends???   But
Isaiah says that "The wolf and the lamb will live together in
peace."

Here's a lion -- lets find the one that fits with it (calf) . 
What's odd about this picture???   But Isaiah says that "Calves
and lion cubs will feed together."

Here's our last picture  - baby.  There's only one left to match
it -- it is a???  (Snake).   That seems really odd too doesn't
it????  What might happen if a poisonous snake and a baby are
together????   But Isaiah says that "The baby shall play near a
poisonous snake and not be harmed."

These are very odd pictures aren't they.  The wolf shall live
with the lamb, the lion shall eat straw with the calf, and the
baby shall play near the snake and not be harmed.     This is the
picture that Isaiah was given by God of the world that God plans
on giving to us through Jesus Christ one day -- it is the last
and greatest gift that he plans on giving us.   That is why he
has saved it till the end - just like your mother and father
normally save the biggest and best gift that they are giving you
till the end.  That world is called the world of peace -- of
Shalom - and that is what is going to come to us one day - the
day that Jesus returns to us from heaven..

Let us Pray together:
   "God of mercy and everlasting peace - we thank you for the
   gift - you have promised us - the gift of a new world. 
   Help us wait - with obedience, hope, patience, and love.
   Amen"
   

* HYMN:  "We Are Waiting"                      - Tune: Kum Ba Yah
Verse one -   We are waiting Lord, come by here,
              We are waiting Lord, come by here,
              We are waiting Lord, come by here,
              O Lord, come by here.
              
Verse two -   We're preparing Lord, come by here...

Verse three - We will praise you Lord, come by here...

Verse four -  We are waiting Lord, come by here...

Verse five -  Kum ba yah my Lord, kum ba yah... (3 times)
              O Lord, kum ba yah.


A READING FROM ROMANS 15:4-13
L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: The Song of Zechariah: (Luke 1:68-75)
L  Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel, 
P  He has come to his people and has set them free.
L  He has raised up for us a mighty saviour,  
   born of the house of his servant David.
P  Through his holy prophets he promised of old 
   that he would save us from our enemies, 
   from the hands of those who hate us.
L  He promised to show mercy to our fathers 
   and to remember his holy covenant.
P  This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 
   To set us free from the hands of our enemies, 
   free to worship him without fear, 
   holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
L  You my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, 
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, 
   to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness
   of their sins.
P  In the tender compassion of our God 
   the dawn from on high shall break upon us, 
   to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, 
   and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

                
Choir Anthem: "Will We Know Him"

            
A READING FROM MATTHEW 3:1-12
L  This is the gospel of our risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

           
* HYMN:   "On Jordan's Bank"                              - VU 20

      
SERMON:  "Being Prepared: Seeking The Peace of God"

       Citations from Ross Bartlett, "Gifts That Go All
       Over", A Sermon on Matthew 3:1-12 posted on TELOS
       for December 10/17 1995 and from King Duncan,
       DYNAMIC PREACHING, "A Perfect World", A Sermon on
       Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 3:1-12, in October,
       November, December 1995 Edition

   Most gracious God, fill us with the knowledge of your
   will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that
   we might lead lives worthy of the Lord - fully pleasing to
   him, and that we might bear fruit in every good work. 
   Show us, O God, what you would have us know and do.  Bless
   we pray the words of my lips and the meditations of our
   hearts at this time, O thou our rock and our redeemer. 
   Amen

Sometime back, I came across a description of what it would be
like to live in a perfect world.  
Here are a few of the thoughts. 

In a Perfect World a person should feel as good at 50 as he did
   at 17, and he would actually be as smart at 50 as he thought
   he was at 17. 
In a Perfect World you could give away a baby bed without getting
   pregnant. 
In a Perfect World pro baseball players would complain about
   teachers being paid contracts worth millions of dollars. 
In a Perfect World the mail would always be early, the check
   would always be in the mail, and it would be written for more
   than you expected. 
In a Perfect World potato chips might have calories, but if you
   ate them with dip, the calories would be neutralized. 
In a Perfect World every once in a while at least, a kid who
   always closed the door softly would be told, "Go back and
   slam the door."
     
I believe we all long for a perfect world - or for a world that
is at least a bit better than this one.

The good news of our faith is that there is a better world coming
-  a perfect world - a world located right here - a world made up
of things that we can see and touch.

Isaiah the prophet announced the coming of that world as part of
his Messianic vision: 

   "A shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse," he
   writes, "from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The
   Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom
   and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the
   spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord."  

Isaiah goes on to describe how this child of David - this child
of God - will judge or rule the world - that is found in verses 3
through 5 of our reading from Isaiah - Then he adds, as we heard
earlier: 

   "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie
   down with the kid, the calf and the lion and fatling
   together, and a little child shall lead them..." 

There is more - but all in all what Isaiah describes is a perfect
world, a world of peace.  A world of justice.  A world of
harmony.

It Is the testimony of both the Old Testament and the New that
one day that perfect world will come to pass. 

But meanwhile - both Testaments are clear that the time of
universal peace - the time when God rules over all that exists
here - is not yet.  That the gift that some seek to build for
themselves with science  and technology - with commerce and
finance - is yet to come - that it is the final gift that God
will bestow - a gift that God will bestow when we are ready to
receive it.

So how do we get ready for this world?  How do we prepare to
receive God's gift?  How do we hurry up the process of receiving
what God wants to give us? 

The biblical answer is clear 
   - we bring closer the kingdom of God, 
   - in fact we begin to sense it, to partake of it, to
   participate in it and to spread it around to others before it
   arrives in it's fullness, 
when we accept another gift of God - the gift of repentance 
   - the gift of turning about and to acknowledging our need for
   God's help, of confessing our sinfulness and then being able
   to start afresh - walking in the path that God shows us.

In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes,  Calvin says to Hobbes, "I
feel bad that I called Susie names and hurt her feelings.  I'm
sorry I did it".  

       "Maybe you should apologize to her," Hobbes suggests.  

       Calvin ponders this  for a moment and then replies,
       "I keep hoping there's a less obvious solution."  

One of the interesting realities of life is that God has given us
an obvious solution to one of our greatest problems - our lack of
peace - that peace which should be within us  - and that peace
that  should exist outside us.  

God has given us an obvious solution - but often we're tempted to
avoid that solution and seek something a little more obscure.

John the Baptist comes on the biblical scene as something of a
throwback. He's a figure out of an earlier age.  You probably
wouldn't want him at  one of your Christmas parties.  He's a
disaster zone, with his camel leather clothes and his matted
hair.  But, almost with humour, Matthew tells us that all
Jerusalem and Judea went out to hear him.  

I wonder why?  I wonder if you and I would have gone?  
I think we might have.  

I think we might have because John had a profound gift.  
The same sort of gift that Jesus had.  A gift of cutting through
the advertising jargon and the new age nonsense and the
California psycho babble and telling people the truth.  And
something in us ultimately prefers the truth over comfortable
lies. 

John's message can be reduced to one word, "repent".  
Jesus' message, in large measure can be reduced to three words,
"repent and believe".  

Both of them used the word repent, neither of them explained what
they meant by it.  So I have to conclude that they believed their
audiences knew what they meant.  When Jesus or John said "repent"
their listeners got the picture.  Do we?  I wonder?

When I use words like "confession", "sin" and "repentance" what
comes to mind?  

Most of us have a fairly high degree of resistance to any of
those words.  Either they create bad images of the worst of
church experiences or else we've heard them so often that they
lack any energy; they just fall off our tongues and lie there at
the end of the row of chairs, feebly waving their arms but unable
to engage us.  

Too many people hear those words and think of a formula, 
a religious routine, perhaps on bended knee.  
We tell God we're sorry for what we've done 
and God dispenses forgiveness and then we continue on as we did.  

It that's what repentance means then there is no way that John or
Jesus or the living word of Almighty God will ever get through to
us.  

So forget for a few moments that you've ever heard the words
confession and sin and repentance or ever participated in those
acts.  Listen again, as if for the first time, to one crying in
the wilderness this advent season to make straight the royal
road.

Let me ask you a simple question: "what is Christianity, at it's
most basic, all about?"  

I would answer that it's about relationships - with God and with
my neighbour.  The two are inseparably tied together.  We prove
the reality of one by the quality of the other.  

How we answer that question "what's Christianity about" is really
important because that gives us the clue to the next question
"what is sin"?  

Again, a simple answer.  Sin is the straining of or the breaking
of the relationship.  So, when I confess what I'm doing is
admitting or acknowledging that my relationship with God, my
relationship with my neighbour, is not all it can be.  

That shouldn't strike you as being all that revolutionary a
thought!  It's simply acknowledging what I know to be true.  I
don't always live up to my own standards. Forget any talk about
what I "should do" or what I "ought to do" 

I don't always manage what I know I can do!  I'm not always the
Christian I can be.  Heaven knows, I'm not always the husband,
the father, the son, the brother, the friend, I can be.  I'm not
always the pastor I can be.  That shouldn't be particularly
surprising - about you or about me.

Those relationships are key to understanding who I am.  
When I am less than I can be I strain them and break them.  
The bible calls that sin (singular).  

What we call sins (plural) are all the many different ways that
we strain and break relationships. 

The doctrine of Sin is not simply old-fashioned prudery that
wants to deny us any fun.  It's a very profound insight into our
human condition.  
And, ultimately, it's a hopeful statement -- because God is not
prepared to leave us in our mess.  God wants us to have his peace
and to spread his peace.
   - That is why he sent the prophets to Israel,
   - And that is why he sent John to prepare the way for Jesus
   in our lives,
   - And that is why he pours out the Holy Spirit upon us.
God wants us to have and to live new lives - as citizens of his
kingdom of peace.

So then, what is "repentance"?  

Repentance is a gift of God, a gift that can go into every part
of our life.  It is the announcement is that we don't have to go
on forever repeating the same tired mistakes,  crying the same
bitter tears, falling into the same worn traps.  That's what
repentance means.

First of all repentance means a break with the past, a change in
direction.  It's active not passive.  In other words if we're
driving East out of Golden on the Trans-Canada Highway and we
want to get to Vancouver we have to repent of our direction, we
have to change, or we won't get to our destination.  

Thinking about it, discussing it, creating a committee to study
it,  feeling sorry about it won't change anything.  

Feeling sorry or regretful sitting in church is only a very
preliminary first step.  It's the step of looking  of looking in
the right direction - of knowing what way to turn - but it needs
more - it needs another step - which leads us to the second thing
concerning what repentance is.

Repentance is something we live out - each day.  Not by being
sour, dour and mournful - but by seeking to do what God tells us
to do through the scriptures - by trying to do what God urges us
to do in the quiet depths of our heart.

Notice what John tells people to do.  
He doesn't say, get a camel leather wardrobe like mine.  
He doesn't say, switch your diet for mine.  
He doesn't say, grow a beard like mine.  
He says, please God in the work you do each and every day.  

Repentant people are real people, not plaster saints or sticky,
holier than thou caricatures of humanity.  They are real people,
taking responsibility for their lives because they know that God
has promised to help us make the changes we know ought to be
made.  

But we have to make the choice to take the gift.

The Christmas season is a time of giving gifts.  

Imagine that sometime in the next week a friend comes to your
home or office and knocks on the door.  You open the door and
they're standing there with a package in their hands.  

   What's the first thing you say?  "For me"?  No, it's not
   for you, I always wander around your neighbourhood with
   gift-wrapped packages  - of course it's for you!  

   So we take it and put it on a table and try to carry on
   the conversation.  Finally we ask "should I open it?"  Of
   course not dumdum, I always give you presents just so you
   can admire the wrapping paper!  

But that's the key.  For until we open a gift it remains nothing
but potential.  Until we open it, it retains an infinity of
promise, but only promise.

John came to prepare the way for Jesus - the Prince of Peace. 
He came and offered a gift of God - a gift that enables us to
meet God more fully.  The gift of repentance.  

To confess, to repent, is often very difficult.
Admitting our need for help, 
   - and believing that help is available - even for us 
can be a hard thing to do - but it's the key to unlocking the
future: a future of inner and of outer peace
- the peace promised long ago,
- the peace that Jesus brings even now to those who accept God's
gift and which he will bring fully to the whole world on the day
of his return.

Blessed be God - day by day.  Amen.

        
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Help us dear God to accept and to unwrap the gifts you give us;
especially O God we ask you to help us accept the gift of
repentance: 
- to acknowledge our deep and abiding need for you 
- to confess that only you can help us find what we are looking
for: 
That only you can help us repair our broken relationships
That only you can lead us to the peace you want us to have
the peace that both we and our world needs.
Lord, hear our prayer....

Help us God to be ready for the coming of your kingdom, 
help us to live each day according to your word
to seek justice, to love mercy ,and to walk humbly with you;
help us each day to confess our weakness, to reach out to those
around us who are in need,
to forgive others as you forgive us,
to serve others as Christ has served us.
Help us each day to first praise you and thank you for your
goodness,
and to first ask what it is you want us to do,
and help us then to do it.
Lord, hear our prayer....

We thank you God for your promise of a world of peace, for your
promise that Christ will reign and that he will judge favourably
for those who are poor and those who oppressed, that he will
smile upon  those who are in need, and lift up those who are cast
down.  Make us instruments of his grace and his power even now -
before his kingdom comes in its fulness -- make us people who
seek to bring  your blessings of food and clothing - of shelter
and warmth, of care and of compassion, of justice and of mercy to
those who require it.   Lord, hear our prayer....

Thank you Lord for you many gifts - help us accept them - and
help us share them with others - we ask it in the name of Jesus -
who taught us to pray for your kingdom to come and your will to
be done when he taught his disciples to pray, saying... Our
Father...


* HYMN:  "Hark The Glad Sound"                            - VU 29

               
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

   Lord, you have given us all that we have.  We now offer
   the portion you have commanded us to give back to you - we
   offer it and the free will offering that we add to that
   portion - so that your will might be obeyed - so that your
   work might be done in our world - and so that your name
   might be glorified in us and thru us in the world for
   which Jesus gave himself.  We commit ourselves anew to you
   and to your service.  Bless we pray that commitment. 
   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 - 
And may the Prince of Peace dwell within your hearts and bless
   you with the wholeness that he died to give you.  
May his resurrection power fill you and make your lives new
And May his peace shine forth from you and bring blessings 
   to all whom your lives touch 
- this both now and forevermore.  Amen

                
* 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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