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Sermon (2) and Liturgy For The First Sunday of Advent - Year B
Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19 and Mark 13:24-37
"When The Lord Comes"

READING:  Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Mark 13:24-37
SERMON :  "When The Lord Comes"

by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ad01su 859000

   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. 

   Sources:  As noted in the text.
   "A Candle Is Burning" is by Sandra Dean (1986) and is found in 
   Voices United, the hymn book of the United Church of Canada. The
   tune is "Away in A Manger".  The words are reproduced here by 
   permission of the Author.  If you use this song in worship, 
   please acknowledge her authorship amd date.  Sandra Dean lives 
   in Ottawa, Canada and is Director of Music at Southminster 
   United Church.  She is delighted to share the song with you.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                       (* = please stand)

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  Let us Sing our Advent Introit - "Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord"
   from Voices United #10.   (As Introit is sung the candle lighters
   and readers comes forward)  

              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!

   VOICE  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his
          roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord
          will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of
          understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the
          Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

   VOICE  He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide
          by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he
          will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions
          for the poor of the earth. 

   VOICE  Our Hope is in the Lord our God - and in the One whom he
          has sent to be judge of the living and of the dead - the
          one who has come forth from Jesse and whose return in glory
          we even now await.

   VOICE  Our hope may falter - but God never fails.  He sends forth
          light to encourage us and to light our way as we await the
          fulfilment of the promises made to Israel and to all the
   Light the First Candle

   VOICE  Let us Pray  - Loving God, we thank you for the light that
          you have sent and are sending into the world, the light
          that even now lights our path.   Come among us and make
          your name known to all people.  We are the clay, you are
          the Potter.  Form us as you will, so  that songs of praise
          may ascend to you - both now and forevermore.  Amen

* ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING SONG: "A Candle is Burning" (VU 6, verse 1)    
       A Candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,
       a candle of hope in December's dark night.
       While angels sing blessing from heaven's starry sky,
       our hearts we prepare now for Jesus in nigh.

CHILDREN'S TIME: "T'was The Beginning of Advent"
Theme:    The Meaning of Advent
Source:   Poem by Todd Jenkins - with permission.
Object:   None

Good morning, boys and girls.  Does anyone know what season this is?

Today I want to read to you a poem that is based on a rather famous
poem about Christmas called Twas The Beginning of Advent. It is
by a friend of mine - Todd Jenkins - and it is called "T'was The
Beginning of Advent".  It will tell you a little bit about this season
we celebrate.

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church 
Our hope was all dying-- we'd given up on the search. 
It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited, 
But after 2,000 plus years we were no longer excited. 
Oh, we knew what was coming-- no doubt about that. 
And that was the trouble-- it was all "old hat." 
November brought the first of an unending series of pains 
With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns. 
There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys. 
Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys. 
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt 
From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt. 
The priests and prophets and certainly the kings 
Were all so consumed with the desire for "things!" 
It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason 
For the origin of this whole holy-day season. 
A baby, it seems, once had been born 
In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn. 
But what does that mean for folks like us, 
Who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss? 
Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting, 
Of hoping and praying, and anticipating? 
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff? 
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough? 
Can we open our eyes and open our ears? 
Can we find him again after all of these years? 
Will this year be different from all the rest? 
Will we be able to offer him all of our best? 
So many questions, unanswered thus far, 
As wise men seeking the home of the star. 
Where do we begin-- how do we start 
To make for the child a place in our heart? 
Perhaps we begin by letting go 
Of our limits on hope, and of the stuff that we know. 
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss, 
Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us. 
We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes, 
To see the king coming in our own neighbours' cries. 
We look without seeking what we think we've earned, 
But rather we're looking for relationships spurned. 
With him he brings wholeness and newness of life 
For brother and sister, for husband and wife. 
The Christ-child comes not by our skill, 
But rather he comes by his own Father's will. 
We can't make him come with parties and bright trees, 
But only by getting down on our knees. 
He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction, 
Coming in spite of, not by our restriction. 
His coming will happen-- of this there's no doubt. 
The question is whether we'll be in or out. 
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock." 
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock? 
A basket on your porch, a child in your reach. 
A baby to love, to feed and to teach. 
He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son. 
How far will we follow this radical one? 

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are. 
He'll lead us to follow a single bright star. 
But that will come later if we're still around. 
The question for now: Is the child to be found? 
Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?  
Can we find solitude in our holy halls? 
Can we keep alert, keep hope, stay awake? 
Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake? 
From on high with the carolling host as he sees us, 
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus! 
As Advent begins all these questions make plea. 
The only true answer: We will see, we will see. 

   Dear Lord Jesus - help us to see you - to be prepared for when
   you come again - and help us now - to celebrate this season -
   with hope and peace - and with joy and love.  Amen
And together let us pray the prayer that Jesus taught us -

   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

* HYMN: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"                              - VU 1

- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

   (NIV)  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the
   mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs
   ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known
   to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!  For
   when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down,
   and the mountains trembled before you.
   Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye
   has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait
   for him.  You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who
   remember your ways.  But when we continued to sin against them,
   you were angry.  How then can we be saved? 

   All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our
   righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a
   leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  No one calls on
   your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your
   face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. 

   Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the
   potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Do not be angry beyond
   measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever.  Oh, look upon
   us, we pray, for we are all your people.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 80:1-7,17-19 (VU 794 part 1) & the Gloria
Patri (sung)
   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 without end.  Amen

   (NIV) Jesus said: "But in those days, following that distress,
   'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
   the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be

   "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with
   great power and glory.  And he will send his angels and gather his
   elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends
   of the heavens. 

   "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get
   tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 
   Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is
   near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth, this generation
   will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 
   Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass

   "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in
   heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!
   You do not know when that time will come.  It's like a man going
   away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each
   with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep

   "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of
   the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight,
   or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do
   not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to
   everyone: 'Watch!'"

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

* HYMN:  "Hail To God's Own Anointed"                          - VU 30

SERMON:  "When The Lord Comes"

   Let us Pray - Lord God, Creator and Maker of us all, speak in
   the calming of our minds and in the longings of our hearts, by
   the words of my lips and in the thoughts that we form. Speak, O
   Lord and help us to respond in faith both now and always. 

Today's texts deal with the coming of the end of time as we know it 
- the time when God arrives to judge the world
- the time when the Son of Man gathers the elect from the four corners
of the world.

The Rev. William Peake in Iowa once wondered HOW THE MEDIA WOULD
HANDLE THE END OF THE WORLD and he put together a few possible
headlines.  Here is a sample of what he wrote:

USA Today:

Wall Street Journal:
Dow Jones Plummets as World Ends.

National Enquirer:
O.J. and Nicole, Together Again.

Inc. Magazine:
10 Ways You Can Profit From the Apocalypse.

Rolling Stone:
The Grateful Dead Reunion Tour.

Sports Illustrated:
Game Over.

Girls of the Apocalypse.

Ladies' Home Journal:
Lose 10 Pounds by Judgment Day with Our New "Armageddon" Diet!

TV Guide:
Death and Damnation: Nielsen Ratings Soar!

Discover Magazine:
How will the extinction of all life as we know it affect the way we
view the cosmos?

Microsoft's Web Site:
If you don't experience the rapture, DOWNLOAD Software patch

America Online:
System temporarily down.  Try calling back in 15 minutes.

You know my friends - as much as most people try to deny it - the end
is coming.  Science tells us this, experience tells us this, and the
scriptures tell us this.  And it will not be some temporary system
failure.  Rather it will be a complete crash - a crash that will bring
in its wake a new heaven and new earth - and not merely some patch,
some fix it quick continue as usual remedy that allows us to go on as
if nothing had happened.

And that ought to catch our attention.
It ought to make us think.

The end is coming.  That is the plain truth of the bible.

It's both its prayer - as in the reading from Isaiah this morning

   "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that
   the mountains would quake at your presence"

and it's promise 

   "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be
   darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars
   will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will
   be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds'
   with great power and glory

The end, my friends is coming -
   it is coming to each one of us individually - a fact which cannot
   be denied and which ought to be enough to make us think
and it is coming to all of us together
   to our whole world
   to the sun and the moon and all beneath them.

It might be sooner - or it might be later.  But it is coming.

We now have the technology to darken the skies,
and to make the heavens shake
and to cause stars to fall from heaven.

We now have the means to bring about what is described in the Book of
Revelation: the means to cause 1/3 of all the birds of the air to
perish and 1/3 of the fish of the sea to die.

We can assemble with very little problem at all an army of two hundred
million men on the fields of Armaggedon - which do not lie all that
far away from the nation of Iraq, and we have built already the
scorpions that have fire in their tails and the machinery by which the
whole world might see the death of two men, two witnesses to God's
love, in the city of Jerusalem.

And if we have the means to make it happen
- perish the thought we should actually do so
then how much more so God?
- the God who through the prophets spoke of it thousands of years ago,
- the God who through his son - promised it - indeed warned us of it,
not quite 2 millennia ago

From the fig tree learn it's lesson.  As soon as its branch becomes
tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So
also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is
near, at the very gates. 

The season of Advent is about the coming of the Lord
- the coming of the Lord as a babe in a manger in Bethlehem
- and the coming of the Lord as a judge in power and might.

And the question of the season, the challenge of the weeks that lie
ahead of us is this -are we ready?

Are you ready to meet God?
Are you ready to stand before the judgement seat?
Are you ready to welcome the new world?
Are you ready to see the old world come to an end?

The question for you and me and for the world is not are we ready in
the sense that some survivalists are ready for the next big war - but
are we ready for Jesus?  Are we ready for the time when the world is
judged - when we are judged.

The question is not have we saved enough canned food and toilet paper
in our basement shelters - but have we prepared our eternal soul to
dwell in heaven.

The question is not whether we taken our resources and converted them
into physical assets where neither stock market crashes or computer
failures can affect them -  but whether we have taken our resources
and converted them into spiritual assets - the assets that never pass
away even though all other things will cease.

There are some things that we can take with us - and there are other
things that we cannot. 
The question of Advent, is are we ready?
are we awake?  are we prepared?

Our hope is that God will redeem our world.
The question is - are we ready to be redeemed?
Are we allowing the potter to form us - his clay?
Or are we thinking that the day of the Lord will never come?

It is coming my friends.
For us all - ready or not.
May you - may I, be alert and awake.  Amen

Stir up your power, 0 Lord, and come.  Protect us by your strength and
save us from the threatening dangers of our sins....  Lord, hear our
prayer.... (and in your love, answer)

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for Your only Son.  By
His coming give us strength in the midst of the conflicts in us and
about us - and shed light on our path to guide us through the darkness
of this world.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Stir up our minds, O Lord, to be ready for that which you will do -
and are doing - amongst us.  Help us to be prepared, to be awake, to
be alert,  and to do those things you would have us do...  Lord, hear
our prayer...

Move, O Lord, by your Spirit, in those we have named before you this
day.  Bring healing, bring peace, bring hope, each as you determine
them in their need....  We pray for: (Bidding Prayer)

We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen.

* 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 Jesus - we offer these gifts to you.  Bless them and us in
   your service as we wait in hope for your return.  Make, we
   pray, all that we offer fruitful in the work of your most
   glorious kingdom.  Amen

* DEPARTING HYMN: "O Day of God, Draw Nigh"                   - VU 688

* 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.

Go in peace and love and care for one another
- Be blessed in the name of God the Father, the source of all life,
all truth, all hope and all beauty.
- Be blessed in the name of the Christ, whose coming set us free from
sin and death. 
- And be blessed in the name of the Spirit, who gives new life and
supports us day by day.  Amen

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

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2005
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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