Words of Welcome & The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.
Christmas Eve is rapidly approaching. Because of the limited numbers that we are able to accommodate in the sanctuary, we will be offering two services, one at 4 pm and one at 7 pm. Please contact the office to let us know which service you would like to attend and how many people will be sitting with you. It is important that we have numbers in order to ensure everyone’s safety. If you have not called, please do so as soon as possible. Seating is limited, and we will be assigning seats according to who has called.
We are also looking for people to take part in the Christmas Eve Service. If you are interested in being a greeter, an usher, a contact recorder, a PowerPoint person, a scripture reader, or perhaps even a soloist, or if you are willing to come into the sanctuary between the 2 services to help sanitize, please speak to Rev. Sharon.
Our annual Light and Life Campaign continues. Would you like to honour someone by purchasing a light for our tree? Individual lights are $10.00 each or a string of lights is $200.00. Forms are now available and can go into the offering plate, be dropped off at the church office, or phoned in to the office at 902-742-4320.
On Monday, December 21st at 7 pm we will be holding our annual Longest Night service. This service is a chance to escape from the commercialism and hype of Christmas and focus instead on the one whose birth we celebrate. If for any reason you are finding Christmas difficult this year, this service is for you. Due to Covid restrictions, our service will be held in the sanctuary instead of the parlour.
Acknowledging the Territory
Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this. We also respectfully honour the traditions and spirituality of all our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout this great land.
Call to Worship:
Advent summons us with the exuberant joy of a child.
Advent holds us spellbound with child-like anticipation.
But Advent also challenges us to look beyond the excitement and anticipation.
Advent challenges us to see the deeper joy offered us through the birth of Christ.
As we gather to worship this morning, we seek God’s deeper joy.
As we worship God, we open ourselves to be touched anew by the grace of Christ.
Come let us worship God, who promises us everlasting joy.
Advent 3 – Joy
Reader One: This season of preparation is half done, and today we light the third candle of our wreath. It is pink to remind us that, within our preparations, there is a great joy.
Reader Two: But the joy we seek is not the Seasonal merriment and celebrations. We are a people seeking the true joy of Christmas. Even as the night continues to lengthen, we sense the coming of light that will bring light into darkness, and joy into the world.
Reader One: We rejoice that the Anointed One who came long ago, comes again. With joy-filled hearts, we join our lives to the life of the one whose birth we anticipate. With Christ, we, too, will bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Reader Two: To us, God offers a joy that goes beyond momentary happiness or holiday celebration. To us, God offers the joy that can overcome sorrow, offer comfort and warmth, and can fill our hearts with the knowledge of God’s presence. This is the joy that we celebrate, as we light this third Advent candle and call it Joy.
(light 3rd candle)
Reader One: Let us join together in our prayer of joy.
Advent Prayer (in unison)
Hymn: Joy Is Now in Every Place #45
This week we continue with Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. We trace this genealogy today down to Obed, who was the father of Jesse.
Depending on the translation you use, the word joy appears in the bible anywhere from 200 to 400 times. One of the most beautiful descriptions of joy is found in the first letter of Peter, where he talks about being filled with, “an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
The story you are about to hear is the story of another of Jesus’ female ancestors. It is the story of Ruth. We generally remember Ruth for her loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi, but today we hear the story of Ruth and Boaz and how they became part of the genealogy of Jesus.
Ruth was a Moabite, one of the descendants of Lot. When Abraham first left his own country to follow God’s call, he took with him his nephew, Lot. But eventually, Abraham and Lot separated and Lot settled in the city of Sodom. Because of it’s evil and depravity, the city of Sodom was destroyed, but Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were spared. They were taken out of the city by angels but were warned not to look back. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
The lot and his daughters escaped into the hills, but believing that the entire world had been destroyed and that they and their father were the sole survivors, the two daughters got their father drunk and then had sex with him believing that it was their only hope of having sons, the sole purpose of life for a woman of the time. The eldest gave birth to a son whom she named Moab, from whom the Moabite people descended. The younger gave birth to Ammon, the ancestor of the Amorites.
It was this history of deception and incest that gave rise to the Moabite people and cause the Israelites to shun them and to question their moral character.
Not only this but the Moabites, although not pagan in the sense of worshipping many gods, worshiped Chemosh, an angry god whose wrath they tried to appease by sacrificing their children, a practice that, despite Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice Isaac, was never part of the Israelite tradition.
As well as these ideological differences, there were also political disagreements. The Moabites refused to allow the Israelites to cross their land during the time that Moses, forcing them to spend even more time wandered around in the wilderness. As well, the Moabite women were apparently famous for their beauty, and many Israelite men were lured away to join the Moabites. It became such a problem that orders were given that if any Israelite man was found to be sleeping with a Moabite woman, both would immediately be put to death.
Now given all this history, you can understand why there was some tension between the two nations. But this is not the only issue in the story of Ruth and Boaz. When Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, they arrived as penniless widows with no male relatives to look after them. Ruth was forced to go out and glean in the fields following the harvesters. By the laws of the Israelite people, widows and orphans were allowed to follow the harvesters and pick whatever grain the harvesters had missed for their own use. It was hard work, and depending on the field she was in, Ruth could end up with very little to show for all her hard work at the end of the day. Gleaning in the fields would generally prevent starvation but little more.
Ruth, however, ended up in the fields of Boaz, and it did not take long for Boaz to take notice of Ruth. Not only was she young and beautiful, but the story of how she had sacrificed everything for Naomi, must have become well known. Her reputation of being kind and devoted as well as willing to sacrifice her own comfort for that of Naomi impressed him. So Boaz encouraged his workers to leave extra grain behind so that Ruth would have plenty. He even invited her to share the bread that was provided for his workers at mid-day.
When Ruth told Naomi all that had happened, Naomi was overjoyed. It turned out that Boaz was, in fact, a relative and as such could claim responsibility under the laws of the Israelite people, for both Ruth and Naomi. For those of you who were here two weeks ago when we talked about Tamar, when Tamar’s husband died it became the responsibility of her husband’s family to provide her a with new husband. Naomi realized that because Boaz was now the closest male relative to her dead husband, it would technically be his responsibility to find a new husband for Ruth.
The problem was that as a woman, Naomi had no legal standing and therefore had no right to point this fact out to Boaz. She did not even have the right to speak to him or any man unless they first spoke to her. Any arrangements concerning the responsibility of a family to provide for a widow could only be made by the closest male member of that family, and unless he freely and openly acknowledged the responsibility, there was nothing a woman could do to enforce the law.
But to Naomi, it had become clear that Boaz was interested in Ruth. If she could somehow get him to claim his position as her relative, then he would have no choice but to provide a new husband for Ruth and thus ensure a future for both herself and her daughter-in-law. She could not make the claim on her own, nor could she speak directly to Boaz about it, so Naomi came up with another plan.
She instructed Ruth to wait until Boaz was asleep, then to go and lay down at his feet and cover herself with his cloak. This was a very risky move. It was an intimate act of seduction, and if Boaz had chosen to do so, he could have simply taken advantage of Ruth and then discard her. If that had happened there was nothing Ruth could have done about it. And if Boaz made known what Ruth had done, she would be condemned as a harlot and in all probability would be banned from the fields and forced into a life of prostitution.
But the act of laying at Boaz’s feet and the act of covering herself with his cloak carried another message. Although she was making herself vulnerable to him, she was also placing herself under his protection. If Boaz simply took advantage of the situation, there was nothing she could do, but if he were to ask her why she was doing this, she could freely explain that, through Naomi, she was in fact his relative and she could call upon him to accept his responsibility for her. And that is exactly what happened. Ruth was able to speak to Boaz about his relationship to Naomi and to claim her right to protection under the laws of the Israelite people. Despite the fact that there was actually a closer relative, Boaz eventually did legally claim his position as Ruth’s kinsman and he marries her, thus fulfilling the law. From that union Obed, the father of Jesse was born and for those of you waiting for that connection, Jesse was the father of King David.
Ruth was fortunate. Boaz freely accepted the claim of kinship and willingly married her himself. Unlike Tamar who was forced into deceit and trickery in order to get her father-in-law to acknowledge his responsibility, Ruth was able to have this responsibility acknowledged without having to resort to prostitution. She was able, for the most part, to avoid the most serious of scandals.
But when her great-grandson David was anointed as king, there were those who believed that, because he descended from a Moabite woman he was unworthy to wear the crown. There were those who felt that because he did not carry the pure blood of the Israelite people, he should not be allowed to rule.
Many generations later a descendant of David, born not in a palace but in a stable, would welcome Jew and gentile, male and female, prostitute, tax-collector and fisherman equally and would say to his followers, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister.”
And so, on this Sunday when we light the candle of Joy, we celebrate with great joy that, not only was a foreigner like Ruth welcomed into the family of Christ, but that we too can be assured that we are also welcomed as part of the family of Christ. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from. It doesn’t matter our history or the history of our family. Through Christ, we are all loved, accepted, and made part of the family of God. Surely that reasons enough for joy. Amen.
The Gift of Music Dream a Dream
We Offer Our Gifts
Paul once wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver”. We are reminded on this third Sunday of Advent how much we have to be thankful for and we are reminded of the deep joy that is offered us through our faith. And so, we take time to express our gratitude and joy through the gifts we give. We give not only our financial gifts, through our offerings that are placed on the offering plate at the back of the church or through Par and other donations, but we also offer the gift of our time, our talents, and our loving commitment. And so, as we remember all that we have to be thankful for, let us take a moment now to ask God’s blessing on whatever it is that we offer this day.
Let us pray; God, we are so grateful for all the rich blessings we have received. As an expression of our gratitude, we offer what we have today, asking that you will bless it and use it for the good of all. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayer of the People
God of our Great Joy, we come to you this day as your people, gathered to worship you and you alone. As we continue this Advent journey, help us to focus on you and the coming of Jesus, the Christ of Christmas. Amidst the commercialism and distractions of the season help us to remember the true meaning of Christmas:
that you love us so much that you would come to us as Emmanuel, God with us.
Even as we share the joy we find in you and with one another, we are mindful of those for whom joy is hard to find, who don’t have warm and protective clothing, those who don’t have enough food, those who don’t have safe and affordable shelter, those who don’t have safety, security and justice. We know that there really is “enough” for everyone if so much was not hoarded by the few at the expense of the many. Help us to be mindful of the needs of those around us during this season of giving.
We pray also this day for those whose needs are not physical but spiritual. We ask that your Spirit would invigorate and inspire us that we might better share your love, your hope, and your joy with others. Encourage us to do the work to which you have called us with joy and thanksgiving, whatever that work may be.
May we bring hope to the hopeless, peace to the restless, and joy to those struggling to find joy. May we live each day in the certainty that the hope, peace, joy, and love with which you have blessed us will grow and multiply and become a blessing to others when we share it. God of Advent Joy, we ask this in the name of the one born to bring your message of the good news of great joy to all people, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Closing Hymn: Never-Ending Joy MV#40
Go out from here in joy, but not the kind of joy that depends on tinsel and Christmas trees. Go out from here in the deeper, never-ending joy that comes from knowing that you are not and never will be truly alone. Go knowing God is with you, Christ’s example leads you and the Spirit is with and within you now and always. Go with God.