World Children’s Day Sunday
The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.
Thank you to all those who took part in our Baby Picture competition. Immediately following our worship service this morning identities will be revealed and winners will be announced. So stick around after the service to find out who is who.
Our Advent newsletters have been sent out by email. There are a few printed copies in the entrance. If you know someone who would like one but is not on our Beacon list, please take on for them. If you would like a printed copy for yourself, please speak to Shelley Melanson.
We are in the process of putting together our helper’s lists for 2021. If you are interested in becoming a reader, a greeter, or a recorder of names, please speak to Rev. Sharon. If you are willing to open, close, count offering, or serve as a Green Angel please speak to Stephen. If you are currently serving in one of these positions and cannot continue, please let us know. We are also looking for someone who would be interested in phoning those on the list to remind them and someone who would be willing to take over Vera’s list for our phone tree.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, our Christmas Eve Service this year will be very different from our normal practice. 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. We are asking that everyone call the office and let us know which service you would like to attend. Seating is limited, so please make sure to call. Although we will not be able to sing this year, music will continue to be an important part of our celebration and although we will not be lighting candles, we are reminded that the light of Christ doesn’t have to be seen to be known. For those who are not comfortable gather together in a large group, the services will be live on Zoom and will be posted on the website after the 7 pm service.
Over the next week, we will be decorating our sanctuary for the Advent / Christmas season. If you would like to help please speak to Rev. Sharon.
November 20th each year is celebrated as World Children’s Day. It was first established in 1954 to promote international awareness of worldwide children’s welfare. On November 20th, 1959 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In 1989 also on November 20th, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year is extra special, marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A time to celebrate and a time to demand action for child rights.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And so today, as we light our Christ Candle, let us remember that Christ’s light is everywhere. But in some places, it seems to shine brighter than others. So as we light our candle, let us remember that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but to take that light with us, even into the darkest part of our lives and our world.
Acknowledgment of 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 across this great land.
Call to Worship / Opening
When the children’s suffering cries have finally managed to pierce our Netflix cocoon, when the borderlands of milk and honey lie littered with the rotted fruit of injustice, we must boldly confess our inaction and find the grace in God to repent.
When Settlers arrived on this continent they tore apart Indigenous families. In the centuries that followed, enslaved families have torn apart. Now, in this ongoing evil age, families continue to be torn apart. Nursing babies are ripped from mothers’ breasts in the borderlands of Arizona. Frightened youth are torn from their fathers’ arms in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. This suffering must stop with our generation. We must choose our legacy, a legacy of complicity, or a legacy of compassion.
In our sacred texts, we receive the call to care for the children. Through our sacred stories, we discover that our own life’s meaning is wrapped inside the answer that we give to our neighbour in need. And our answer is this: We will not relent until children in custody stop dying. We will not relent until the children are returned to their families. We will not relent until all who come seeking refuge are treated with the dignity they deserve as the children of God.
Today we gather to worship the Holy One who calls us by our witness, to ensure that those in custody know that they are not alone … who calls us by our action, to ensure that those who are suffering know that they are not abandoned … who calls us by our presence, to ensure that those who oppress others know that their time is up, for evil cannot stand against the forces of the Divine embodied here, today, in this sacred gathering.
Loving Parent God, through Christ you warned us that there would be no worst fate for us than to have caused one child to stumble. Help us to see all children as blessings from you and help us to care for them where ever they are. Amen.
Our First Scripture Reading this morning is taken from the Gospel According to Matthew. It is a passage in which Jesus answers the question posed by the disciples about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“How are the children?”
The Maasai people, of Kenya, retain much of their traditional ways and cultural heritage. For as long as anyone can remember, their warriors used to greet each other with the words, “Kasserian Ingera.” Today, that phrase, which translates as “How are the children?” is the most widely used greeting by the whole community. The traditional response is always “the children are well.”
Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” The Maasai are not simply asking about the health of the children, they are also asking about the state of their community. If the children are well, the world is well. But if the children are unwell, the whole world is sick.
The question for people of faith today as we recognize World Children’s Day is this: How are the children? While the children in our own homes might be thriving, our faith requires us to look beyond our own small realities and remove whatever stops us from engaging and consider more honestly the state of children in the world around us. When we do this, the only answer we can truthfully give is that the children are not well.
Jesus said we sin if we fail to love and care for our neighbour. A lawyer once tried to define the limits of those who qualified as his neighbour. Aren’t neighbours the people you run into each day? Surely we aren’t responsible for the children on the other side of the earth. But when Jesus heard this, he told the lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.
Over the centuries, Christians have often puzzled over the motives that drove the priest and Levites in this story to abandon the dying man on the roadside. Perhaps they were running late, scared that it was a trap, too tired from helping so many others that day, or too ritually pure to touch blood.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “in each of these instances the men were asking, ‘What will happen to me if I help this man?’
The Samaritan doesn’t ask this. Instead, he asks, ‘What will happen to this man if I do not help him?’”
What will happen to the children today if we do not speak up? What will happen if we give a modern-day equivalent to a Levite or priestly answer to the plight of a suffering child? The situations are complicated, there is no question about that. It’s all happening so far away. It’s not our place to interfere with decisions made by other governments, other countries. What will be the consequences if we do speak up? Or as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “What will happen to me if I help this man?” or this child?
In Canada, we are living through a painful time of healing from the trauma caused to our children in residential schools. We know trauma’s long-term effects on children and the intergenerational effects on their families. Children born today are still suffering from the abuses that were inflicted on their grandparents when the grandparents were still children.
The painful truth is that we have been here before. But by the grace of God, we have always found a way through by following the teachings and the example of Christ. Faithful Christians, who took seriously the call to love their neighbour, have taken active roles in putting an end to child labour practices, in abolishing slavery, and in closing residential schools. It takes courageous people to change the world. The pressure of countries, like Canada, helped end apartheid in South Africa. And we can be part of ending the unjust detention of children. But it will require that we stop asking, “What will happen to me if I help?” and start asking “what will happen to these children if we don’t.”
Each month between 150 and 445 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The most common charge is throwing stones. Children are often restrained and blindfolded for hours on end, interrogated, deprived of sleep, food, and washroom facilities, all of which contravene UN regulations regarding the treatment of children in custody. And in the US, a record-setting 76,020 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at or near the U.S.-Mexico border during 2019, an increase of 52 percent over 2018. Due to Covic-19 the number of detentions dropped during the first half of 2020 but began to increase again in September.
“Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them, and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven … And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.”
If we say that, as Christians, we follow the example of Christ then helping our neighbour, whether that neighbor is sitting across the aisle from you here today or is sitting in a child detention center in the US or in the occupied Palestinian territories, helping is not optional. We cannot close our eyes and walk by on the other side of the road. And when we do reach out to help, we just might find the one we help is the very one who calls us to care for our neighbour and welcome the children. Amen
Prayer of Blessing (Gifts and Prayer Jar)
At this point in our service, we traditionally take time to remember and give thanks for all that we have, and to share what we have through our offerings. Because of the regulations put in place to protect our community during the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot pass offering plates, so you are invited to place your offerings in the offing plate as you enter or leave. You can also arrange to have your offering taken directly out of your bank through PAR or you can make a donation online through the Beacon United Church website. But at this time we are reminded that it is not just money that we offer to God. We offer our time and our talents as well as our treasures. So let us take a moment now to ask God’s blessing on whatever it is that we offer today.
Let us pray; God, we are aware of how greatly we are blessed. We ask you to bless the gifts we offer you today, whatever those gifts may be. Amen.
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.
God is with us. We are not alone.
Christ is here. The Spirit is among us.
And so we give thanks to God, for it is right to offer thanks and praise.
Spirit of God, blow through this room today bringing memories of all the gifts you have given us: the childhood delights, the middle-age joys, the later-year smiles, and the moments of encouragement and comfort along the way. In a world that thrives on telling us, we can do it all ourselves if we just get the right education or buy the right product, help us to remember our childlike nature—that our lives are a series of gifts from you, from our first breath to our relationships to our last walk with you. Open our eyes to see how we and our fellow creatures are miracles of your creation. Breathe your life into us and make us servants of your peace.
Holy Teacher, as we move into a week that includes home, work, and worldly happenings, may we be blessed to serve others and to lift up the children. As we look out at the world of broken hearts, help us to find Christ’s courage to serve those who have been hurt by violence, abuse, sexual assault, racism, poverty, war, and famine. Remind us that we are not alone. We are not required to solve every problem, but we are not exempt from doing our part. Breathe your life into us and make us servants of your justice.
God of community, blow through this room today bringing healing and comfort to all who need you. May each one of us feel, in the stillness of our praying, your embrace around us.
Today, as we remember the suffering of children, we remember another who suffered. We remember how he was betrayed by one of those closest to him. We remember how all those he trusted and those who knew him best, ran away and deserted him. Yet we also remember that he never gave up on them and that he never stopped loving them. He demonstrated that love for them on the night he was betrayed when he took bread and after blessing it, broke it and handed it to them saying, like this bread my body will be broken for you. Every time you eat this bread remember me. He also took a cup of wine and after blessing it, he gave it to them saying, drink from this, all of you. Like this wine, my blood will be poured out for you. Each time you drink from this cup, remember me.
Knowing that your Spirit is always with us, gracious Creator God, we ask your blessing upon this bread and this cup that, through the sharing of this sacrament, we may be drawn closer to you, to each other, and to all who share in your amazing gift of creation.
The bread of life – In the brokenness of this bread we remember the brokenness within our world and the brokenness within ourselves.
The cup of blessing – In the pouring out of this cup we remember God’s love, poured out for us and for all of creation.
All are welcomed to share this bread and this cup regardless of your membership or affiliation with this or any church. If you long for a closer connection with Christ and with one another, this bread and this cup are for you. In order to ensure that all may be included, our bread is gluten-free and our juice is preservative-free. Today you will be asked to come forward row by row wearing your masks and maintaining social distance. You will be handed a cup rather than taking one yourself and the bread will be placed into your outstretched hand. You are then asked to carry the elements back to your seat and when everyone has been served, we will share the elements together. If you are sitting with someone who cannot come forward, please pick up the elements for them as well and take them back to your seats. (Would those serving please come forward.)
Sharing of the Elements
Broken bread for a broken world. Christ’s gift to you.
Love emptied out that we might be filled. Christ’s gift to you.
Prayer after Communion
Let us pray,
This bread we have eaten comes from the earth. The grape we have tasted
comes from the soil. The blessing we have received in the sharing of this bread and cup comes from God. Nurtured by all that we have received, bread, cup, life, and love, we go out from here to share our blessings with others in the name of the Risen Christ. Amen.
And now, as we leave this gathering, drenched in the Spirit’s blessing poured out through the prophetic testimony of those who bear witness to the suffering in our world, we have been made ready for the work of tomorrow, knowing deep in our marrow, that we are the ones who have been called by God.
And so we go knowing that God is with us, that Christ’s example leads us and that the Spirit walks with us, each step of the way. Go with God