ORDER OF SERVICE FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2020

FIRST SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS

Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

 “My father used to say, don’t raise your voice; improve your argument.”    – Desmond Tutu

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

The rest of the world might have already moved on, but in the church this is only the beginning of the Christmas season. There really are twelve days of Christmas. One of the gifts of spreading out the season is the joy of reflecting more fully on the gift of the Christ child. This also creates the opportunity in the church to draw attention to gifts that cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree. Now that the anxiety and excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day has passed there is space to consider more deeply the gift of Jesus, who becomes one of us, to be with us and bring healing to our world.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Praise the Living God!  Praise God from the heavens:

Sun and moon and shining stars, praise the Living God!

Praise God’s Holy Name,

whose word speaks all things into being, who is present in the expanse of the universe, and in the voices of children.

Praise the Living God, our rescuer and deliverer,

whose wonder is found in the heavens and in all creation, who comes in innocence, and with mercy.

O God, our light, our beauty, our rest:  With the appearance of your Son you have brought us

into your new creation.

Form us into your people, and root our lives in you; through Christ, the Living Light.

CHILDREN’S SONG   Voices United #69  Away In A Manger

CENTERING PRAYER

Almighty God, you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and yet more wonderfully restored it. In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

A NEW CREED

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:  who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:  to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.

CHILDREN’S TIME

     Now what do you do?!  You have opened all your presents; ate what you could eat, played with your new toys and gadgets, worn your new clothes, read your new books, and now, now you are BORED!  “Christmas is over” you say.  Is it?  “Ok”, you say, “there are 12 days of Christmas, and then, it is over.  I’m BORED!”  I quote to you Mrs. C’s motto for her grade 5 class:  “Boredom is a self-inflicted wound.”

     Ok, I get it.  I was a child once.  Actually, I don’t believe all of you are bored.  You all have to much energy and too many ideas to be bored!  However, there are those children out there who truly are bored, now that the excitement of Christmas is over.  Again, I ask, what do you do?  Here’s a suggestion…

     Christmas is the season of giving.  Not just presents, but kindnesses.  What do I mean by kindnesses?  Shoveling your neighbours’ driveway, helping your parents clean the house, cook supper, spend time playing with your brothers and sisters, make “thinking of you” cards to mail or give to people who live alone and who may be lonely.  Christmas is a time to think about other people. 

     The baby Jesus brought joy and hope to many people.  You are Jesus’ helpers.  You, too, can bring joy and hope to people.  God is always doing a new thing.  Christmas isn’t just a season.  It is an attitude, an experience, a way of living that keeps Jesus shining in our hearts and lives all year long! 

     So, put on your thinking caps, bring out the paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and whatever else you need to create something that will share Jesus with others.  May the Holy Spirit fill you with ideas to spread the love, joy, hope and peace of Christmas with those around you.

 

MISSION & SERVICE

Our gifts for Mission & Service offer people of the United Church the chance to visit global partners.

     Our gifts for Mission & Service offer people of The United Church of Canada an opportunity to visit our global partners through the People in Partnership program. An opportunity to “come and see” our Mission & Service global partners can deepen our understanding of what it means to be in partnership. 

     The People in Partnership program goes deeper, combining the experience of what we are called to be as a United Church and how we are to live out the greatest commandment of loving one another and loving our neighbours through a program of conversation and integration. Those who have gone on one of the “come and see” experiences have come back changed. The experiences offer a way to see the world with new eyes and a transformed heart.

     The result is a life-changing view of the world and Mission & Service as the heart and soul of The United Church of Canada. Opportunities for short-term and longer-term experiences are available. To learn more, visit People in Partnership on The United Church of Canada website, www.united-church.ca.

      If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

  Holy God, your Son Jesus Christ grew in wisdom as a child.  Send your Spirit to this place that, in the reading of this scripture, we may, too, grow in wisdom by the proclamation of your Word.  Amen.

 

 

 

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Isaiah 61:10–62:3

To the people who returned to Jerusalem after the exile, the prophet proclaims that the Lord’s salvation will fully come to pass. Jerusalem will become a shining light to the nations and righteousness and praise will spring up as surely as the earth puts forth vegetation.

10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

62:1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

2The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.

3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Psalm 148

R:  The splendor of the Lord is over earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)

1Hallelujah! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise God in the heights.

2Praise the Lord, all you angels; sing praise, all you hosts of heaven.

3Praise the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise, all you shining stars.

4Praise the Lord, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens. 

5Let them praise the name of the Lord, who commanded, and they were created,

    6who made them stand fast forever and ever, giving them a law that shall not pass away. R
7Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps;

8fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind, doing God’s will;

9mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;

10wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds;

11sovereigns of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world;

12young men and maidens, old and young together. R 

13Let them praise the name of the Lord, whose name only is exalted, whose splendor is over earth and heaven.
14The Lord has raised up strength for the people and praise for all faithful servants, the                                          children of Israel, a people who are near the Lord. Hallelujah! R

Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

Paul seeks to show the Galatians that the purpose of Christ’s birth was to liberate us from the law’s condemnation so that we would be fully adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters.

4When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

Luke’s narrative continues with stories that emphasize Jesus’ connection to Judaism. His family is devout in its observance of the law, and Jesus himself is recognized as one who will bring glory to Israel.

22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, [Joseph and Mary] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
  25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;

30for my eyes have seen your salvation,

  31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

  33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

  36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

  39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

SONG  Voices United #73  The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy

SERMON 

It’s over.  The gifts are unwrapped, perhaps already put away, the turkey and fixings consumed, the excitement is dwindling.  Now is the time to focus on the Christ child.  Now that the outer wrappings have been discarded, now is the time to really look at the meaning of all this.

We focus on a child, an infant.  Babies are just so cute; so innocent; so loveable.  It’s who they become that makes such a difference.  Jesus’ situation is no different. 

Here we have devout Jewish parents bringing their son to the temple to be circumcised, as the law of Moses requires.  Their focus is on their 8-day old infant, yet the words of Simeon and Anna force them to look beyond this helpless babe to the annunciation by the angel.  They are forced to see their son as an adult before they are ready to face the reality of who he truly is.  And so it is with us.

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is such a beautiful, lovely, almost idyllic story.  Yet underlying the whole picture is the cross, the purpose for Jesus’ birth.  But who wants to look at that when one can gaze at a baby – a cute, adorable baby?!

The incarnation does not speak of small things or sweet things only.  It points forward to something which is noble because of the reality in it.  The child who was born in Bethlehem would grow up into the one whose spiritual mission was not to send peace but a sword.  To Israel, and to all people, Jesus would bring a judgement according to which people would fall or rise.

Anyone who happened along the streets of Bethlehem at that time might have smiled at the baby lying in Mary’s arms, but by no means would everyone have smiled at the adult Jesus who afterward went out from Nazareth.  Jesus came, as he himself said, to set people at odds with one another.  Some people loved him with the utmost of their devotion and followed him to their death; but others hated him.  They were persuaded that there was nothing which their world needed so much as to have him die.  To some of the people in the Jewish nation who were ordinarily accounted the best the nation had–eminent citizens, government officials, leaders of the temple–the man Jesus came to seem intolerable.  He offended their prejudices; he challenged their conventions; he set up standards of right and wrong which blasted their respectability.  He outraged them because they felt that he was always ignoring the best people and highlighting the common crowd.  No doubt there were not many people in Palestine who, like Herod, would have killed the child.   But the adult Jesus was another matter.  They had no scruples about killing him.  He antagonized the interests which they were determined to defend.  He set up principles for life which every stubborn instinct in them rejected. 

In all succeeding times, if people honestly mean to be Christians–not just in name only–they cannot stop with the sentiment of Christmas.  The question which must be answered is whether in actual fact we are glad or sorry that there came once into our world, and that there comes today into the midst of our conscience, the influence which was and is the full-grown Jesus.  He comes not only with the infant’s appeal, but with everlasting human authority; to force us to make decisions which are very difficult, to compel us to review and reshape the values of our living, to renounce some of the things that pride or greed or lust of power clings to, and to accept instead servanthood to Jesus, the Christ.  It is never easy to face the real implications of Christ.

Jesus, everywhere and always, would place spiritual values above material values.  He would maintain, always and everywhere, the sacred worth of the person.  Therefore, any policy in business, economics, social relationships, religion, or anything else which becomes too obsessed with ideas and prejudices, which becomes indifferent to the consequences of such policies and laws on human lives, is an abomination of the spirit of Christ.  Jesus came to bring redemption through love, and he lived and died in that faith which the love of God gives.  The Christian must try to hold that faith whatever happens, and the worst charge against the church is that the world often does not believe that it does. 

There are those in the church, clergy and laity alike, who profess one thing and live another.  Such is the reason for the reputation of hypocrisy that the church holds.  I would like to get a T-shirt with a slogan printed on the front that reads:  “If we can’t behave like Christians may we at least behave like adults?”  Perhaps, if we could at least behave like adults, we might, as the Church, redeem some validity in people’s lives.

In the midst of a pandemic, Christ still calls upon the Church to love one another and look after our neighbour.  Ironically, or maybe not so, the pandemic has been the impetus for a cessation, as least in parts of this globe, of fighting and bloodshed.  A statement from the United Nations reads as follows:

     On March 23rd, [2020], Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent appeal for a global ceasefire in all corners of the world to focus together on the true fight – defeating COVID-19. He repeated the call at the start of the 75th UN General Assembly session in September. He called for the global ceasefire to become a reality by the end of the year.

     Silencing the guns can not only support the fight against COVID-19, but also create opportunities for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to people suffering in conflict zones who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Since March, 180 countries, the Security Council, regional organizations, civil society groups, peace advocates and millions of global citizens have endorsed the Secretary-General’s ceasefire call.1

Jesus never shied away from controversy, duty or an opportunity to teach others through compassion and the power of God.  Pandemic though it may be, followers of Christ boldly go forth where they can to help others who are vulnerable, not only to disease, but to oppressive governments and policies.  Their actions speak loudly to the need for love and peace in this broken, despairing world.

Indeed, Christmas holds much more than an infant in a manger.  The manger holds salvation itself and a call to live differently from the world.  We live wisely those of us who strive to remember that.  Amen.

1 www.un.org/en/globalceasefire

 

SONG  Voices United #43  Go Tell It On The Mountain

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

As you have drawn us to your cradle of wondrous love, O God, draw us together in this place, that we might pray for your people and your world.

Today, we give you thanks for the gift of your child, Jesus Christ, who in birth, life, death, and resurrection revealed your unending love for all people and opened to us the purpose and promise of life together.  Hear us, O God,

Your mercy is great.

We give thanks also for the gifts of this season:  hope for the vision of justice you promise, even in the midst of despair; for peace within and among your people, even in the midst of conflict; joy found in reunion and celebration, even amid the challenges of this life; and love, with the power to transform and heal all things, even in the midst of brokenness.  Hear us, O God,

Your mercy is great.

We pray for those who still long for these, your gifts, God of Love:

for those who will spend this season alone or anxious…

for those who grieve an empty place at the table this year…

for those who are ill, in body or in spirit:  for Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Tracy Skoglund, Carolyn & Douglas; Debbie & Dwayne; Nicole; Sandy Lange, Matthew Grossman, Gordon Fulford, the family of Dave Martens, the family of Gordon Dreger and for all those infected with the corona virus, or whose loved ones have died because of it. …

for those in hospital and in care…

for those who endure the terror of conflict and oppression…

for those who will go hungry this day, and who long for the simplest of creation’s gifts…

for your people and your world, we pray, hear us, O God,

Your mercy is great.

Let us listen to the angels’ song again, your song of love for this world.

Move us to return that song in what we say and do,

that we may be instruments of your hope and peace and joy and love.

We pray these things in the name of Jesus, who became the Christ.  Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION

Almighty God, who sent the Holy Spirit to Mary, proclaimed joy through the angels, sent the shepherds with good news, and led the magi by a star, bless you this day ☩ through the Word made flesh.  Amen.

SENDING SONG  Voices United #36  Angels From The Realms Of Glory

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