Sunday December 11, 2022 – Advent 3
Taste and See that God is Good
Hark, the glad sound! The Saviour comes, the Saviour promised long:
Let every heart prepare a throne and every voice a song.
© Public Domain
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Call to Worship
O taste and see that God is good.
We gather to worship a God of abundant blessings.
We gather to worship a God who came among us as Emmanuel.
We gather in joy and celebration as we prepare to welcome Christ into our world and into our lives.
We gather to worship God.
Lighting the Advent Candle Advent 3 – Joy
Gingerbread men, eggnog, candy canes, fruitcake, turkey and cranberries.
Everywhere we go lately there seem to be Christmas goodies to sample.
Our mouths water at the very thought of the Christmas feast that to come.
Joy fills our hearts at the promise of such wonders.
And so, we light our joy candle as we prepare for the birth of Emmanuel
Candle Lighting Response
Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn,
Telling the world that the Saviour is born.
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.
©Hope Publishing company, used with permission Onelicense#723756
Wondrous, compassionate, life-giving God, as we grow closer and closer to the time we will once again celebrate Christ’s birth, our hearts fill with joy. But it is not a joy based on seeing all the fancy decoration, on hearing the Christmas Carols or on tasting to wonderful Christmas treats. It is a joy that, through the one born long ago we can come to know your love, your compassion and your ever-present Spirit with us, not just at this time of year, but all year long. Amen.
Gift of Music See Amid the Winter’s Snow #76
Our reading from Isaiah this morning tells of the wonderful joy that will accompany the one born to be “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:1-7 Good News Translation
The land of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali was once disgraced, but the future will bring honor to this region, from the Mediterranean eastward to the land on the other side of the Jordan, and even to Galilee itself, where the foreigners live.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. You have defeated the nation that oppressed and exploited your people, just as you defeated the army of Midian long ago. The boots of the invading army and all their bloodstained clothing will be destroyed by fire.
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time. The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.
Psalm 34 contains the wonderful words, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant, so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried and was heard by the Lord and was saved from every trouble. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
This morning we are going to once again read the story of the angle who visited a group of shepherds outside of the town of Bethlehem bringing them, “good news … which will bring great joy to all the people.”
There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Taste and See That God is Good
As we continue our exploration of Christmas through our 5 senses, we turn today to our sense of taste. So, what are the tastes that make you think about Christmas?
When you taste that special Christmas treat that you have only at that time of year, how does it make you feel?
When we enjoy that extra helping of (gingerbread, eggnog, chocolate) especially if we are enjoying it while surrounded by friends or family, it gives us a sense of contentment and satisfaction. It reminds us of all the wonderful memories we have of Christmases past and of all the things that we enjoy most about Christmas right now.
But when the psalmist tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” he is of course, not referring to the physical feeling of satisfaction we experience when we taste something delicious that reminds us of good times and experiences. Instead, the psalmist is talking about a feeling that we may not even be able to explain and that we know only when we experience it. It is that feeling of, not only contentment and satisfaction, but of overwhelming joy.
This joy is not like the happiness or excitement that we might feel as we anticipate the taste of something special or the enjoyment of a special celebration with family and friends. This joy does not come from what is happening around us, but rather, from what is happening within.
When Isaiah talks about the people who have walked in darkness seeing a great light, he was talking about spiritual darkness. He was talking about people who had struggled with their faith, people who had felt that God has abandoned them. The light that they saw was the realization that God had not abandoned them but that God continued to not only care for them but to walk with them. It was the assurance that God’s love was with them always, even when they could not see it because of the darkness.
For us as Christians, we see this light as being revealed to us in Christ, so when we celebrate his birth, we talk about Chris as being the light. And it is the promise that, even today, Christ is with us, not physically but spiritually, that offers us the deep joy of knowing in ways that shine out even in the darkness, that we are completely and absolutely loved and cared for by the God we worship.
This is not something that can be wrapped up and delivered to us as a Christmas gift. And it is something that does not necessarily happen all at once. Like the dawn sneaking up on us and slowly bringing light into the darkness, there are times we may only get a tiny taste of this overwhelming joy.
But when we begin to trust in that light, when we begin to truly believe that we are completely known and loved by God, that joy becomes something that wells up within us to the point that it overflows to others. When we know we are loved and we feel certain and confident of that love, we cannot help but pass that love on.
The analogy used in our Bible Study this week was John’s story of the vine and the branches. If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then it is God’s love that flows from God to us, through Jesus. It is like the sap that wells up in the trunk, spreading out through the vine to the branches, and through the branches to the leaves and the fruit. If there is a disconnect, a break between the vine and the branch, the sap cannot get through and branch will wither and die.
But in order to be healthy, the branch must also pass that sap on to the leaves and to the fruit. If the branch, fearing that there might not be enough sap to sustain it, were to refuse to allow the sap to flow through it to the leaves, then the branch would eventually become swollen to the point that it would no longer be possible for the vine to continue to feed it.
If we see ourselves as those branches that are attached to God through Christ, then it is God’s love flowing through Christ that nurtures and sustains us. But it is only when we allow that love to flow through us to others that, spiritually, we can be truly healthy. If we horde the love we receive because we are afraid that it may dry up at any time, then we are left feeling uncomfortable and eventually cut off from the very source of the nurturing we need.
But when we allow God’s love to flow through us an amazing thing happens. We begin to see how that same love can help others to grow and blossom. And no matter how much love we give away, there is always more to nurture, to sustain, to strengthen, and to refill us.
It is here, in John’s telling of this story, that Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
This joy that Jesus is talking about is the deep joy that he experienced in his own relationship with God. It was through caring for others, healing their hurts and sharing God’s love with them, that Jesus found joy. And this is the joy that Christ offers us when we connect with God in a deep and personal relationship. When we live our lives, following Christ’s example to the very best of our ability, that the same joy that Jesus experienced in his own relationship with God, the joy that comes from the Divine, can flow through us.
And that joy does not depend on what is happening around us. I remember early on in the war in Ukraine, hearing an interview with a priest living in the midst of the fighting. He talked about the resilience of the people, the deep sense of community and the willingness to help one another. Despite everything that was happening around him, there was a deep sense of joy as this priest spoke.
I’m sure you can all think of someone in your life, at one point or another, who has seemed to exuded that deep sense of joy. Perhaps you can think of a time in your own life when you have felt filled to the brim with a deep peace and contentment, a time when you have experience that sense of joy that cannot be explained, the sense of joy that can only be experienced.
We are told by the Gospel According to Luke that, when the angel appeared to the shepherd outside of Bethlehem he promised them, “good tidings of great joy which will be for all people.”
That great joy was, and is, the message of Christmas. It is the promise of a living breathing example of God’s love. It is the promise of that love flowing to us and through us in the one whose birth we celebrate.
That is why, as we prepare for his birth, we light a candle of joy. That is why, no matter what the circumstances around us, no matter what this season may hold for us personally, it is and always will be, a season of great joy. This is the joy we celebrate today, the joy offered to each of us through the birth of the one who is Emmanuel, God with us. Amen
Gift of Music Herald Sound the Note of Gladness #28
We Offer Our Gifts
With gratitude and joy for all that we have received, we take a moment to give back. Here at Beacon, we do not pass our offering plates. Instead, you may place your offering on the offering plates in the entryway or you can make a donation online or through PAR. But as we bring these gifts forward, we are reminded that our financial support is only one of the gifts we offer. Our time, our talents and our commitment are just as important. So, whatever we bring today, let us offer it to God as we sing our offertory response.
Offertory Response #31
O Lord, how shall we meet you, how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you, our hope, our heart’s delight!
Our hearts shall bloom forever for you with praises new,
And from your name shall never withhold the honour due.
Divine Gift, as we offer you these gifts today, we ask your blessing upon both gift and giver, that they may both serve you. Amen
We Offer Our Prayers
As we bring our gifts before God, we also bring our prayers. Let us take a moment of silence to offer our own personal prayers for those whose names have been placed in our prayer jar, for those who are on our own thoughts and minds, and for those whose deepest needs are known only to God …………. Amen
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Gracious and caring God of Christmas, we give you thanks for the gift of life, for the gift of love and for the gift of joy during this season. We thank you for gift of comfort when we do not or cannot feel that joy, for gifts of healing and health, for gift of hope as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.
By his birth among us, Christ’s presence changes our world, and so we pray that he may indeed be born in us once again, so that we may continue to help change the world in his name. May your Spirit stir within us, that we may become the hands and feet of Christ in our world today.
Where we see injustice and discrimination, give us the courage to stand up for equality and justice …
Where we see violence, war and ongoing strife, teach us to be peacemakers …
Where there is hunger and need, give us the grace to share what we have …
Where there is sorrow and illness, help us to offer your healing and wholeness …
Where there is loneliness and isolation, help us to be a listening ear and a comforting presence …
Where there is despair, hopelessness and depression, help us to offer, not just words of hope, but the deep and real hope that only you can give …
Where life seem bleak and meaningless, help us to bring your joy …
God of Advent, God of Christmas, God of each new day, hear these and all our prayers in the name of the one who came to show us your love and your promise, the Child of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with Us. Amen.
Gift of Music Joy to the World #59
And now we go out from here in joy as we approach ever closer to the birth of Christ. We go knowing that God goes with us, that Christ’s example leads us and that the Spirit goes with and within us. We go to take this joy to all we meet. We go with God.
Choral Blessing #84
O Light of Nations, fill the earth; our faith and hope and love renew.
Come lead the peoples to your peace, as stars once led the way to you.
Ruth Duck 1991 © 1992 G.I.A. Publications, Inc. Used with permission Onelicense .net #A-723756