Sunday December 4, 2022 – Advent 2
Hark, the glad sound! The Saviour comes, the Saviour promised long:
Let every heart prepare a throne and every voice a song.
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
As we gather here today, we dream God’s dream, of a world at peace.
We dream of a time when enemies are reconciled, and children are safe.
We dream of a time when the poor and powerless find justice.
We remember God’s promise of one who would rule in Peace.
And so we come to worship the one born to be the Prince of Peace.
Lighting the Advent Candle Advent 2 – Peace
Listen. Do you hear the angels singing?
We remember the shepherds who heard the angel’s voices.
The angels sang about Peace on Earth.
Today we listen for that same promise of peace.
And so we light our peace candle as we prepare for the birth of Emmanuel.
Candle Lighting Response
Peace is a ribbon that circles the earth,
Giving a promise of safety and worth.
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
God of justice and peace, dream your dream through us. Teach us how to be part of your vision of peace and justice in all that we say and all that we do. Remind us again of Christ’s call to us to be peace-makers, not just at Christmas but all year long. Amen
Gift of Music Hail to God’s Own Anointed #30
Our first reading this morning is a passage from the prophet Isaiah that is often referred to as the “Peaceable Kingdom”. But it begins with a reference to the descendant of King David, who would rule with justice, with integrity and with a deep knowledge and understanding of God.
Isaiah 11:1-9 Good News Translation
The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David’s descendants. The spirit of the Lord will give him wisdom and the knowledge and skill to rule his people. He will know the Lord’s will and honor him, and find pleasure in obeying him. He will not judge by appearance or hearsay; he will judge the poor fairly and defend the rights of the helpless. At his command the people will be punished, and evil persons will die. He will rule his people with justice and integrity. Wolves and sheep will live together in peace, and leopards will lie down with young goats. Calves and lion cubs will feed together, and little children will take care of them. Cows and bears will eat together, and their calves and cubs will lie down in peace. Lions will eat straw as cattle do. Even a baby will not be harmed if it plays near a poisonous snake. On Zion, God’s sacred hill, there will be nothing harmful or evil. The land will be as full of knowledge of the Lord as the seas are full of water.
Like Isaiah the psalmist also reminds us of God’s promise of peace.
I am listening to what the Lord God is saying; he promises peace to us, his own people, if we do not go back to our foolish ways. Surely he is ready to save those who honor him, and his saving presence will remain in our land. Love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will embrace. Human loyalty will reach up from the earth, and God’s righteousness will look down from heaven. The Lord will make us prosperous, and our land will produce rich harvests. Righteousness will go before the Lord and prepare the path for him.
Our last reading is Luke’s story of an angel that appears to a group of shepherds with a promise of “peace on earth” for those who please God.
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.”
Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”
When we think of the sounds of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is Christmas Carols. So, tell me what your favorite Christmas Carol is and why.
(I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day because of the relevance today “there is no peace on earth I said” and Joy to the World because I love to sing it)
Do you know the difference between Christmas Carols and Christmas Songs? All Christmas Carols have some reference to Jesus or to God. Christmas songs mostly talk about Santa, snow, reindeer and Christmas trees.
But songs and Carols are not the only sounds that remind us of Christmas. Can you think of some other sounds that make you feel like Christmas?
(bells, people wishing others Merry Christmas, the sound of toy trains, the sound of a crackling fire, Christmas stories like The Night Before Christmas)
When we think about that first Christmas and the beautiful story that we love from the gospel according to Luke, we often think of hearing the songs, or more often the words of the angles. We think of the angel, who announced to Mary that she would have a baby. We think of Matthew’s story and the angel who spoke to Joseph and told him that the child Mary carried was of the Holy Spirit. And of course, we think of the angle that spoke to the shepherds and told them that a saviour had been born and that they were to go to Bethlehem to find him.
But perhaps the most lasting image of angels at Christmas is the heavenly chorus of angles that sang out “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom [God] is pleased!”
When we sing these words or even quote them, as we tend to say, “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” or to be more politically correct, Good Will to All.
But as we light our Peace candle this morning, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, with continuing and escalating tension in the Middle East, with ongoing struggles in many parts of Africa and increasing tensions worldwide, we can’t help but ask what “Peace on Earth” really means today.
In one of my favorite translations of the Luke passage is from the Contemporary English Version of the bible. According to this version, the angels said, “Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”
We had a wonderful discussion about this in our Bible Study group this week and we asked the question, “What does it mean to please God?”
Although we agreed that we may never fully understand what pleases God, we agreed that things like forgiving others, being kind and caring, being honest, being accepting and non-judgemental and prayer and meditation were all things that we felt were pleasing to God. When asked how doing those things made us feel, the answer was generally the same. They gave us a sense of peace.
The peace that we talk about during Advent is not the secular definition of peace as the absence of violence and war. It is the deep inner peace of knowing in the very depth of our being, that we are completely loved, completely understood and completely accepted by the Divine Mystery that gathers us here today.
But like any form of peace, this peace does not just happen. It takes work. It is not always easy to do the things that we believe please God even when we know what we should do.
Being kind and caring can sometimes push us to our limits, especially when we do not feel we are being treated kindly in return. But being kind to other, sharing what we have and helping out in whatever way we can are things that not only make a difference to others, they also make a difference to us. Statics show that people who do volunteer work and who give of themselves are more content in their lives and more at peace with who they are.
Forgiveness is another of the qualities that our Bible Study group focused on as something that we believe pleases God. But forgiving those who have wronged us, especially when they show no sign of regret or even acknowledgement of the hurt, is never easy and none of us ever dose this perfectly every time. But when we are able to let go of resentment and anger and when we are able to accept the fact that we cannot change anyone else or their behaviour, we can learn to forgive. And when we are able to do that, the pressure of anger and resentment are lifted and we do come to feel a certain amount of peace.
We also talked about prayer and meditation as things that might be pleasing to God. It is through prayer and meditation that we connect more deeply with the Divine. And when our prayers are open and honest, when our meditation allows us to truly listen and explore our relationship with the Divine, we develop a deeper connection and deeper trust that leads to a deeper faith and a deeper peace.
I believe that this is the kind of peace that we are talking about when we light our Peace candle during Advent. But we need to remember that this peace is not limited to the Advent season. Whenever we truly forgive someone who has hurt us, we open ourselves to feel that peace. Whenever we help someone in need with no expectation of getting anything in return, we open ourselves to feel that peace. Whenever we are able to accept someone who is different or whose life and life choices we don’t understand, someone who may even make us feel uncomfortable, whenever we are able to accept them as who they are without judgement, we open ourselves to feel that peace.
And whenever we open ourselves to the Divine through prayer or meditation, we open ourselves to feel that peace. And it doesn’t matter whether we are sitting quietly alone, using meditative exercises, sharing our prayers with others, walking through the trees or along a beach, or any other form of prayer and meditation, when we truly deeply connect with the Divine, no matter where and no matter when, there is a sense of deep peace that is unlike anything else we experience.
This sense of peace can happen anywhere at any time. It can happen when everything is going great and we feel happy and contented, but it can also happen in the most trying and difficult of circumstances.
But for many of us, it is during this season of Advent that, despite all the busyness and hectic planning and activities, that we seem to be most open to experience this deep feeling of peace.
In the singing of the Carols, in the familiar words of the Christmas story, in the voice of the angels, past and present, our hearts are touched, we feel a deeper connection and we experience that wonderful sense of contentment and peace,
Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.
Gift of Music Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands MV#173
We Offer Our Gifts
Here at Beacon, we do not pass our offering plates. Instead, we ask you to place your offering on the offering plates in the entryway. You can also make donations to our church 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
Divine Mystery, as once again we prepare for Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and thought and prayer, so that we can more deeply reflect on and appreciate the immensity of your love. Open us more fully to the story of the Christ’s birth that it may penetrate our hearts and minds challenging us to live more fully in its wonder. May our joy be deeper, our worship more real, and our lives more fully committed to live our faith each day.
And so, as we recommit ourselves to you, we offer you our prayers.
We pray for peace.
We pray for the victims of war, those caught in political upheaval, those displaced by fighting, those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed and those who are living without the bare essentials of life because of violence and war…
We pray for those who live in situation of discrimination and injustice, those who are denied basic needs, those who live in constant fear, those who face racism, religious hatred, homophobia, and all other forms of bigotry that separate and marginalize people…
We pray for the homeless and for refugees who have no place to call their own. We pray for those who live in constant fear of loosing the homes they do have because of financial struggles. We pray for all who live in the constant uncertainty of not knowing where they will sleep or where their next meal with come from…
We pray for those who live with domestic violence whatever the cause, those who live in constant fear of saying or doing the wrong thing…
We pray for those who feel alone and isolate, especially at this time of year. We pray for those who will be unable to be with family or friends…
We pray for those who dread the coming of Christmas because they are unable to afford the gifts or celebrations that so many of us take for granted…
Divine Love, Christ came to us to be the Prince of Peace. Help us to be peacemakers not just in the war-torn areas of our world but within our own communities and our own homes and wherever people need to know your love and your peace. We pray in the name of the Christ of Christmas and of every day. Amen.
Gift of Music It Came upon the Midnight Clear #44
According to the Gospel of John, Jesus once said, “I give you peace, the kind of peace only I can give. It isn’t like the peace this world can give.” And so today we go out from here in peace, the peace that Christ offers us, and we take that peace with us to share with all those we meet. But always remember, we don’t do this alone. God is with, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirit is with and within us, now and always. 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