Sunday December 5, 2021
The Sneetches – Advent week 2 – Peace
Welcome and Introduction
So welcome everyone. For any of you who were not here last week, throughout Advent we will be sharing a different Dr. Suess story and looking at how the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are reflected in it. This week we are looking at the story of The Sneetches, first published in 1961 as part of a collection of four separate stories with themes of tolerance, diversity, and compromise. So, let’s begin with our introit and our call to worship.
Introit (Tune MV#178)
Christmas is coming, but it’s not here yet.
Advent, it calls us, to prepare.
We don’t prepare with gift or our greeting.
But when we welcome Christ right here.
Call to Worship:
Sometimes in the rush of the Pre-Christmas haste
Our lives become flustered, and so out of place
With the message of Peace Advent call us to share
We can’t help but wonder is God really there?
Have we lost touch with the real, true reason
That we celebrate this whole Holy Season?
If so, then today as in worship we gather
Let us remember what truly does matter.
Advent Candle Lighting
Advent 2 – Again we ignite the Hope Candle’s flame
Remembering that Hope will always remain.
(relight Hope candle)
But now we look forward from hope into Peace
To times when all anger and hatred will cease.
But hatred is strong and peace never will be
Till I know that all people are equal to me.
Peace only comes when we accept one another
And share all we have with our sister or brother.
So as this Peace candle is starting to shine
Let’s promise to always be pleasant and kind
To all of God’s creatures, both far and near
So peace can begin, among us, to appear.
(light second blue candle)
Advent Prayer – O Great Prince of Peace, whose birth we await
Help us to be peaceful before it’s too late.
Teach us to treat others with deepest respect
Knowing we all are equal in every aspect.
We know to have peace we must share peace with all
So help us to do this, both big folks and small.
And help us remember the birth of the one
Who offers us peace from back then, to now on. Amen.
Gift of Music God of All Places VU #4
Theme Story The Sneetches
Scripture Readings Isaiah 11:1-9 Romans 12:12-18
Our first scripture reading today is taken from the Prophet Isaiah. It is one of the passages that is often read during Advent. It is commonly referred to as The Peaceful Kingdom and the image of a lion and a lamb lying together is often pictured on Christmas Cards.
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. 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.
Our second reading is taken from the Letter to the Romans. It ties together ideas of hope, joy, patience, justice, humility and peace.
Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.
Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.
Peace Inside and Out
One of the things that I love about this particular book I have been reading from, which is called Your Favorite Seuss, is that each story is accompanied by short comments or thoughts form someone whose life has been impacted by the work of Theodor Seuss Geisel. I want to share with you what was written by Peter Glassman, founder of Books of Wonder, New York City’s oldest independent children’s bookstore. This is what he had to say.
“The Sneetches first appeared in 1961, about a year after I first appeared. I do not remember how old I was when I first heard the story – probably four or five – but I do remember that it made a very strong impression on my young mind. “How silly,” I thought. “How silly that anyone would think they were better because they had a star on their belly!”
I did not consciously relate this hilarious, endearing tale to the struggle for civil rights, which I was beginning to hear about on the nightly news, but when I look back now, I realize that it was this deceptively simple story that helped shape my views on intolerance and racism. So brilliantly had Dr. Suess written this story that, as a child and teenager, I couldn’t even understand how someone could be a bigot. How could anyone dislike someone else simply because of the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes or the country they came from? It seemed to me they would have to be as foolish and stupid as a Sneetch to think that way.
The truth is that Dr. Seuss taught millions of children not only to read, but to think. And he taught us – not through fear and warning, but through joy and laughter – that what makes us different on the outside is not important. It’s what we share on the inside that makes us all special. For in one way or another, we’re all Sneetches.”
Until I read what Peter Glassman had to say, I don’t think I ever really thought much about what was happening in the world when Seuss wrote The Sneetches. In 1961 the borders between East and West Germany were closed and construction began on the Berlin Wall. In 1961 the Cuban Missile Crisis and the invasion of The Bay of Pigs we top news headlines. And in 1961 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was is the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So much hatred and violence based on skin colour, nationality and where a person happened to be born!
Much has changed in the last 60 years, but much has not. Throughout 2020 and 2021 the Black Lives Matter movement brought issues of racial discrimination against black people in the US and Canada to the forefront once again. Discrimination against indigenous Canadians as well as Muslim Canadians also made the news, and with the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world, anti-Asian discrimination has skyrocketed. The words of Peter Glassman come back to mind. “For in one way or another, we’re all Sneetches.”
But Dr. Seuss’s story of The Sneetches does not leave us in a world where the plain belly Sneetches continue to struggle for equality. It does not leave us in a world where star-bellies Sneetches continue to dominate and abuse.
But it is not easy. Even after the plain-bellied Sneetches manage to find a way to get stars of their own, the original star-bellied Sneetches are not willing to give up their position of superiority. It doesn’t matter to them that the other Sneetches now look the same as they do, they are still determined to prove that they are somehow superior. Once a position of prestige is achieved it is not easy to give up.
Take for example, the historical struggle within the upper class, the wealthiest among the population. Historically wealth could only be achieved through inheritance. You were either born rich or you were not. But with the industrial revolution, a new class of wealthy appeared in what became known as the nouveau riche. Despite being able to afford everything that could outwardly make them appear identical to other wealthy individuals, the nouveau riche, were looked down upon as not having the proper breeding. Despite the fact that their outward appearance was identical, the old money rich were not willing to give up their exclusive status.
And the same is true whether the differences between us are visible of not. Differences in colour, race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or physical abilities continue to be the source of discrimination. And sometimes we don’t even realize it.
Most of us have grown up with privileges we aren’t even aware of, because of where, when and into what families we were born. We are the star-bellied children who have never played with the plain-bellied sort, not because we have intentionally avoided them or have refuse to allow them to join us, but simple because, on the part of the beach where we live, we have not always been exposed to or even been aware of, those who are different.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sylvester McMonkey McBean believed that the Sneetches would never change. “You can’t teach a Sneetch!” He was like those who claim that humanity has always fought amongst themselves and that people will always hate those who are different. He is like those who say, this is just the way it is, so you might as well take advantage of the situation and get whatever you can for yourself. But Dr. Seuss disagrees and so do I.
But McBean was quite wrong, I’m quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,
The day the decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
I really don’t know how many trips through the star-off / star-on machine it will take for our world to finally start treating all people with the kindness and respect that they deserve. I don’t know what it will take or when it will happen. And I don’t know how many cynical McBeans we are going to have to prove wrong. But I do believe that the promise of Advent Peace is about more than simply our own personal well-being and happiness.
But I also believe that that Peace has to start with us. It’s not just about learning to be truly satisfied with what we have and not worrying that someone else has more. We also need to recognize that in order for all people to truly be equal we might have to give up some of the privileges we have taken for granted.
If Glassman was right and “in one way or another, we’re all Sneetches” then maybe we need to learn the lesson they learned, that no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. If we can honestly learn that lesson, then maybe, just perhaps we might be truly ready take the first steps towards equality and peace. Amen
Gift of Music Put Peace Into Each Other’s Hands MV#173
We Offer Our Gifts
Invitation – If justice and peace are so closely related
Perhaps there’s a way we can help to create it.
By giving and sharing whatever we can
Perhaps we can give peace a chance once again
And so let us offer the things that we treasure
To help to bring justice and peace beyond measure.
One of the ways in which we respond to God’s love for us is to share what we have with others. In this church we do not pass the offering plates, but instead we invite people who would like to contribute financially to this church to place their gifts in the offering plates in the entryway. You can also arrange for donations to be made directly through Pre-Authorize Remittance. But we stress that the financial contributions that people to make are only one way in which we can give. The gifts of your time or talent are just as important to this church and a valued every bit as much. So whatever it is that we are able to offer this day, let us take a moment to ask God to bless it. Let us Pray.
Offertory Prayer – Dear God, we know we have been blessed
And so, we offer you the best
Of what we have and of who we are
Like those who long ago followed a star. Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Lord, we have put up our Advent wreath, our Christmas tree, and our poinsettias. We have started shopping, baking and wrapping. We have addressed and sent cards and letters to those who only think about once a year. We dusted off the hymns, unsung for a year and we have reread the words of your prophets. Yet, in your eyes, these efforts are not the Christmas preparations that you call us to. You call us to prepare our hearts and our minds to be open to the message of your Prince of Peace. In our hearts, we do long to be your people, to carry out your mission, to be lights in the darkness, proof that no darkness can overcome your love. Yet in all the busyness and in all the excitement of this season, we forget what we are actually preparing for. Remind us once again that without the regular, persistent, deep pursuit of justice for all people, our efforts are hollow. Without consistent work toward peace, reconciliation, and participation in your mission for creation our preparations mean nothing. Stir us to action. Awaken us to courage. Challenge us to prepare a way in the wilderness for your coming, clearing the brush of oppression, racism, injustice, and hopelessness— so that all may see your light and perceive your coming. Peacemaking God, as the world around us trumpets violence and destruction and nations continue to take up arms against nations, your invitation to carry an olive branch often seems ludicrous. And yet you challenge us to see beyond all this to the possibilities of justice, equality and peace. And so, we turn to you in prayer seeking your guidance and help as we once again commit ourselves to be messengers of your peace in the name of the One we call the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ. Amen
Closing Hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel VU #1
And now we go out to the places we live
Taking with us the peace we know Jesus can give.
We go out in peace to be peacemakers too
Because that is what Christ has called us to do.
So go out today with the peace of this season
And always remember that Christ is the reason.
Choral Blessing (Tune MV#209)
Go now in peace, Advent offers peace.
Go take Christ’s peace into the world.
Go now in peace, take this Advent peace.
Go take Christ’s peace into the world.