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Sermon and Liturgy For The Second Sunday of Advent - Year B
Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8
"Get An Attitude"


READING:  Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8
SERMON :  "Get An Attitude"

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


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 85)
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  I will listen to what God, our Lord, is saying.
P  He promises peace to us, his own people, 
   if we do not go back to our foolish ways. 
L  God is ready to save those who fear him, 
   his saving presence will dwell in our land.
P  Love and faithfulness will meet together; 
   righteousness and peace will embrace.


* 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 first candle in our Advent
          Wreath, the candle of hope.  We light it again as we
          remember that Christ will come again to fulfil all of
          God's promises to us. 

      (a person lights the candle of hope)

   VOICE  - The second candle of Advent is the Candle of Peace. 
          It is sometimes called the Bethlehem Candle to remind
          us of the place in which preparations were made to
          receive and cradle the Christ child.

   VOICE  - Peace is a gift that we must be prepared for.  God
          gives us the gift of peace when we turn to him in
          faith. 

   VOICE  - The prophet Isaiah calls Christ "the Prince of
          Peace."  Through John the Baptist and all the other
          prophets, God asks us to prepare our hearts so that he
          may come in.

   VOICE  - Our hope is in God, and in his son Jesus Christ. 
          Our peace is found in him.  We light this candle today
          to remind us that he brings peace to all who trust in
          him. 

      Light the Second Candle

   VOICE  - LET US PRAY - Loving God, thank you for the peace
          you give us through Jesus.  Help us prepare our hearts
          to receive Him.  Bless our worship.  Guide us in all
          that we say and do.  We ask it in the name of the one
          born in Bethlehem.  Amen.


CANDLE LIGHTING SONG: "A Candle is Burning" (VU 6, 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.

 
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements and Greetings

- Gathering Prayer Joys and Concerns



CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Ready For The Coming"
Theme     Cleaning Up For the Coming of Jesus
Source:   King Duncan, Dynamic Preaching - Children's Stories
Object:  

Good morning.........   How did you get to church today???  

I bet your mom or dad or aunt or a friend drove you down the road
from your house to the church, right?  

We're very blessed to have good roads here.  Back in Jesus' day,
there were quite a few good roads around too.  But most places had no
roads to them.  Instead, you had to travel over rough, rocky ground
to get where you wanted to go.  And even where they had really good
roads, which were mainly in the cities, people sometimes threw their
garbage out into the road, because they didn't have any place else to
put it back then.  All that garbage in the road still made it hard to
travel around.  But whenever a king or other really important person
came through an area, the people would work hard to clear everything
out of the roads, so the king would have a smooth ride. They would
clear away the rocks and the garbage, and make sure the roads were
smooth.  That way, the king would not have a rough ride when he came
to their town. 

In our Bible readings today, we hear the prophet of God telling
everyone that Jesus is coming, and that Jesus is the Son of God, the
king of the world.  Both the Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist say,
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord.  Make His paths straight."  What do
you think that means???

How do we get ready for the coming of God in our lives - for Jesus to
enter our hearts???

They  weren't talking about cleaning up the roads so Jesus could come
into town easily.  They were talking about cleaning up our hearts so
Jesus could come into our hearts easily.  The bad things in our lives
are like the rocks and the garbage in the streets.  But we can clear
all that out of our lives by praying and learning about Jesus.  So
let's remember to clear all the rocks and the garbage, all the bad
stuff, out of our lives so we can be ready for Jesus.  

   LET US PRAY ---- Dear Lord Jesus - help us to prepare for your
   coming  - to clean up the  road  into our hearts - and to make
   the rough places smooth.  - Teach us more about you - and help
   us to be faithful each day - so that we may enjoy the peace
   you give - Amen


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


A READING FROM ISAIAH 40:1-11
   (NRSV)  Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. {2}
   Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has
   served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has
   received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. {3} A
   voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the
   LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. {4}
   Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill
   be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the
   rough places a plain. {5} Then the glory of the LORD shall be
   revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth
   of the LORD has spoken." {6} A voice says, "Cry out!" And I
   said, "What shall I cry?" All people are grass, their
   constancy is like the flower of the field. {7} The grass
   withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows
   upon it; surely the people are grass. {8} The grass withers,
   the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
   {9} Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good
   tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem,
   herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the
   cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" {10} See, the Lord GOD
   comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is
   with him, and his recompense before him. {11} He will feed
   his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his
   arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother
   sheep.

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


CHOIR ANTHEM:  


A READING FROM MARK 1:1-8   
   (NRSV)  The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the
   Son of God. {2} As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See,
   I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your
   way; {3} the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" {4}
   John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a
   baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. {5} And
   people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people
   of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him
   in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. {6} Now John was
   clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his
   waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. {7} He proclaimed,
   "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am
   not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.
   {8} I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you
   with the Holy Spirit."

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


* HYMN:  "Herald!  Sound The Note of Gladness"            - VU 28

  
SERMON:  "GET AN ATTITUDE"

   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
                                 
Hagar the Horrible is one of my favourite cartoon strips.

One of my favourite Hagar strips is the one in which Hagar is
addressed by a Monk.

In the first frame, the monk, bible tucked under his arm, an
expression of peace on his face, says to Hagar, "Remember, it is
better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

In the next frame, we see the monk disappearing over the horizon,
and we see Hagar, looking out at us - saying - "But I enjoy
cursing the darkness"

How many of us enjoy cursing the darkness?

How many of us would rather complain about what is wrong than to
add to what is right?
   - To feel sad or upset, or angry, about what is going on
   around rather than to change it,
   - To cast stones  and criticize what is happening, rather
   than to gather up the stones and build from them a new and
   better thing?

You think it is a silly question maybe?
That no sane person would want to feel upset or angry?

Well, all I can say is perhaps we are not as sane as we might be

Advent and Christmas is a strange times of year for many of us.
   A time in which, as we prepare for the coming of the son of
   God, we often feel down, disappointed, and anxious;
          A time in which instead of feeling joy, we feel despair,
          A time in which instead of rejoicing, we fret and
worry and drive others insane.

You know, as I anticipate the coming of the Lord,
   as I look forward to Christmas Eve, to the candles, to the
   hymns,  to receiving in my hands the bread and the wine,
I am amazed by the number of grinches that exist around me,
   the number of people who grump and complain about how
   Christmas is corrupt, how our songs have been stolen, our
   gifts cheapened, our hopes made trivial, and our dreams
   destroyed.

I am amazed by how I hear around me the voices of doom,
   by how people tell me that nothing is as it was,
       and that Christmas has become nothing but a merchant 's
       delight,
          and that what is supposed to be a time of faith and
          hope has become nothing but a time of a greed and
          despair.

Where is our faith?
Where is  our conviction?
Where is our sense that indeed God has come to us in Jesus 
and that he had overcome the  power of darkness?

Do we enjoy cursing the darkness?
Do we enjoy it more than we enjoy lighting a candle?

This is the season of good news, the season of preparing
ourselves for the coming of the Lord,
   the season of celebration, of rejoicing, of praising God for
   what he has done, and what he is doing, and what he will yet
   do.

But can you tell?  Can people look at us and say "Yes, something
special is happening!   Something good is going on?"...

Every year at Christmas  I want to cry with John the Baptist and 
with Isaiah the prophet.  I want to cry with them:

      Get with it.  Get an attitude!  See what is really
   happening!  Prepare ye the way for God!  Look for his
   coming in power!   Make his paths straight!   Know that 
   the time of vindication and of peace is at hand!  Rejoice
   and be glad - for while there is darkness in the world -
   there is also light, and the light is stronger than the
   darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it."

I want to cry - Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
   - Comfort,, O comfort my people,
   - The Lord comes with might, his arm rules for him, his
   reward is with him, and his recompense before him.   He will
   feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in
   his arms and carry them in his bosom..."

There is so much good around us.
There is so much power and righteousness at hand.

What does the Monk say to Hagar???  It is better to light a
candle than to curse the darkness...

My friends,. a candle has been provided to us.
A light has been granted unto the world,
and it 's power is unquenchable.

So what are we doing???
Are we letting the enemy win???
Are we cursing the darkness rather than  lighting a candle???
Are we dithering, rather than preparing the way of the Lord??

Think of the good news!
get an attitude!
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Celebrate the good news instead of cursing the bad news....

Do you really want good news?
Then look for what is good,
look for God - and you will see that not only is he is coming,
you will see that he is here.

Who can account for the mothers who feed their children before
they feed themselves?
   Who can explain the men who spend their spare time in lodges
   and societies dedicated to helping others?
       Who can account for the little ones who hug and play with
       their neighbours?

What keeps the food banks going?
What explains the tenderness of a young married couple?
What makes sense of the feelings that come to us when we see a
baby take her first steps?...

Advent is about preparing for the coming of the Lord - but you
know - that getting ready is not, for us, a getting ready for a
future coming,
   it is an opening to the God who is already with us, 
   an opening to the Prince of Peace 
- who came to us as a babe in Bethlehem,
and who, after his resurrection, is Lord in heaven above.

Are we prepared?
Are we open?

Fred Craddock,  a well known preacher and scholar, tells the
story about a young pastor who visited an old lady who was very
sick in a hospital.

   He entered the room and saw person lying on the bed,
   gasping for breath.  H decided to have a short visit, not
   to tire her.   He asked, "Would you like me to pray for
   you?"

   She nodded yes.

   "What would you like me to pray?"  asked the young
   preacher?
   
   "I want you to pray that I will be made well, that God
   will give me health.", the old lady  said.

   The young preacher gulped.  But he prayed, praying
   something like, "God, if it be thy will, restore this
   sister to health.  However, let us accept thy will, so
   that whether she receives her health or not, she will know
   that you are still close to her."

   When the prayer ended, the old lady's eyes flashed open.  
   She sat up.  She startled the preacher by throwing her
   legs over the side of the bed.  She stood up.  She
   stretched out her arms.    She turned around to the
   astonished young preacher and said, "I feel better.  I
   feel a great deal better.  In fact, I feel like I have
   been healed.!"

   With that she walked out of the room, headed down the hall
   toward the nurse's station, shouting, "I am healed!"

   The young preacher staggered out, went down the stairs,
   out the door of the hospital and into the parking lot.  As
   he stood at his car, before opening the door, the young
   preacher looked up.   "Don't you ever do that to me
   again!" he said.

There are a lot of people who believe in God, and who yet miss
the good news.

For them God is always coming, but never here.
God is always promising, but never delivering.
God is always near, but never quite in touch....

But it ain't so!

God lives.  God is here.  And God is coming here.

You can see it in the face of a new born baby,
You can see it in the gaze of young lovers,
You can see it in the look of old married couples,
You can see it within your own hearts,
when you take time to look.

God will accomplish his purpose.
The kingdom will come.
The question for us is - will we get an attitude?
Will we be a part of the fulfilment of God's purpose?
Will we light a candle?
Or will we curse the darkness?


LET US PRAY
Gracious God help us to meet you as you come to us.
Help us to prepare your way in our lives - and to announce your
coming in love to others
Take, O God, what we give and transform it, to your glory.
Take, O God, what we do and transform it to your acting.
Take, O God, what we say and transform it to your singing.
Take, O God, what we live and transform it to your creating.
Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord - hear too our prayer for those rough places in our lives 
and in the lives of others that we name before you.
Fill the valleys with your light,
level the uneven paths with your grace,
and grant that your Spirit might so move us and others,
that your saving presence might be visible to all.
Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, on this Sunday of preparation, this Sunday which celebrates
your peace help there to be peace in our lives and peace in our churches,
and peace in our world.
Where we have sinned - move us to repentance - and help us confess to those 
we have grieved and seek their forgiveness; 
and where others have sinned against us - help us to trust in your 
vindication and grant that those who have hurt us might see your light 
and be made new in Christ.  Lord hear our prayer....

..... through Christ we pray  - saying OUR FATHER....


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


* 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

   Loving God - accept what we offer to you at this time.  
   Make it - and make us holy - so that what we give - and
   what we do - and who we are - may help prepare the way for
   your coming into this world and bring your peace to those
   around us.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen 


* DEPARTING HYMN: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"          - VU 2
                        

* 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 power of the Holy Spirit make the rough places in
your life smooth, 
- may the dark valleys of your hearts be filled and the rugged
mountains levelled, 
- and the way of the Lord be made ready in you,
and may He come unto you and bless you and shine forth from you, 
both now - and forevermore.  Amen


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


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



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