Sunday November 27, 2022 – Advent 1
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
Advent begins with hope. It is a tenacious hope that will not let go.
Like a single solitary star shinning in the darkest of nights, it promises us new light.
We gather here today searching for that light, searching for that hope.
We find that hope and that light in Christ.
And so, we gather here today to worship as we prepare to welcome the Hope of the World, the light of Christ.
Lighting the Advent Candle Advent 1 – Hope
Today we begin to look forward to Christmas.
Today we begin our journey to Bethlehem.
Today we begin to search the skies for a star to lead us.
Today we look forward with hope.
And so we light our hope candle as we prepare for the birth of Emmanuel.
Candle Lighting Response
Hope is a star that shines in the night,
leading us on till the morning is bright.
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
Divine Hope, today as we begin our Advent journey, we long to encounter the tiny Christ child. Instead, we encounter your Divine presence. We try to fit our plans and preparation into a neat little box. Instead, you turn our boxes upside down. We define our expectations for this season of Advent. Instead, you unravel those expectations and definitions. We long for clear-cut explanations of what this season is really all about. Instead, you give us hope. Upside down Divinity, help us to let go of our expectations of you, so that we might be ready to welcome, not a helpless child but a mighty Christ. Amen.
Gift of Music All Earth Is Waiting #5
Our first scripture reading this morning is taken from the words of the prophet Isaiah. He reminds us of the power, the wonder and the grace of the God who created and cares for everything form the lowest creature on earth to the multitude of stars in the heavens.
Isaiah 40:22-31 Good News Translation
God is the one who rules the whole earth, and we that live here are merely insects.
He spread out the heavens like a curtain or an open tent. God brings down rulers and turns them into nothing. They are like flowers freshly sprung up and starting to grow. But when God blows on them, they wilt and are carried off like straw in a storm. The holy God asks, “Who compares with me? Is anyone my equal?” Look at the evening sky! Who created the stars? Who gave them each a name? Who leads them like an army? The Lord is so powerful that none of the stars are ever missing. You people of Israel say, God pays no attention to us! He doesn’t care if we are treated unjustly.” But how can you say that? Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; his wisdom cannot be measured. The Lord gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.
Our second reading is taken from the book of Psalms. Like Isaiah, the psalmist focuses on the wonder and power of God and asks the question, “Why would such a God care for mere human beings?”
Psalm 8 Good News Translation
Our Lord and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth! You let your glory be seen in the heavens above. With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless. I often think of the heavens your hands have made,
and of the moon and stars you put in place. Then I ask, “Why do you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for us weaklings?” You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor. You let us rule everything your hands have made. And you put all of it under our power—
the sheep and the cattle, and every wild animal, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and all ocean creatures. Our Lord and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth!
Our final reading this morning is part of the story that we normally read on Epiphany Sunday. It is Matthew’s story of the visit of the Magi.
Matthew 2:1-12 Good News Translation
When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote, ‘Bethlehem in the land of Judea, you are very important among the towns of Judea.
From your town will come a leader, who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.’ ”
Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star. He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I also want to go and worship him.”
The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were thrilled and excited to see the star.
Throughout Advent this year, we will be exploring our preparation to welcome Christ through our 5 senses. Today we focus on sight. So, what are some of the things that you see that remind you of Christmas? What decorations in particular make you think of Christmas? (trees, garlands, lights, stockings hung by the fireplace)
One of the most lasting symbols of Christmas for most people is the star. How many of you have a star on the top of your Christmas tree? When we see the Christmas Star, we generally picture a stable with a star shinning brightly above it streaming in and lighting up a manger when a tiny baby boy lies contentedly looking upwards with a serine and holy glow about him.
But this picture is not the story that Matthew tells. In Matthew’s story there is no stable or manger. There is no newborn baby asleep in the hay. What Matthew tells us about is a star and three astronomers who, seeing the star, set out to find the meaning of that star and the king that they believe the star represents. This journey does not happen overnight. We are never told how far these wise men traveled, exactly where they came from or how long it took them to get to Bethlehem, but it could have been as long as two to three years. This gives the story a whole new dimension. It was more than simply seeing a star and recognizing it as something special. It meant leaving everything else behind and focusing on the search for the meaning of that star.
What must it have been like for those travellers? They were obviously wealthy because, not only did they bring expensive gifts with them, but they were in a position where they could afford to outfit such an expedition and they did not have to worry about how long they might be gone.
But I can’t help but wonder what they might have expected when they first set out. Anyone who has ever looked up at the stars will know that there is no way you can possibly tell by looking at them how far away they might be. And you might think they are moving in a certain direction that you could follow, but no matter how hard you try, the star never seems to get any closer. Imagine how frustrating that must be.
But, believing that the appearance of a new star heralded the birth of a new king and judging form the direction the star appeared to be leading, these three men eventually came to Jerusalem in search of a newborn monarch. After all, where else would you expect to find a king except in a palace?
We are told that it is Herod himself who points these strangers, not to a royal palace but to a simple country town in search of, not a king but a messiah. And as they leave Jerusalem, they see the star ahead of them and they rejoice.
As we begin Advent this year with the theme of Hope, there are several things we can learn from this story. First, the magi were looking up. They were searching, and although they may not have known exactly what to expect, when they saw something out of the ordinary, they paid attention.
All to often, we seem to become so busy with our own lives, our own concerns and our own expectation that we do not even notice when something out of the ordinary happens. We miss seeing the stars that are shinning right in front of us.
But the magi not only noticed, they did much more. Once they had seen the star, once they had realized that this was something special, they left everything behind and when in search of it. The journey that these three astronomers set out on was a journey of faith. They believed that the star would lead them where they needed to go, and they were willing to put that faith into action by following it. But it did not lead them where they expected. It did not lead to a royal palace. Instead, it led them to Christ.
That is the journey that we undertake as we begin the four weeks of Advent. We set out on this journey in faith, believing that we will be led to Christ. But just as the journey of the magi took them to places they did not expect, our Advent journey may well take us to places we do not expect.
When we talk about Advent and preparing for Christmas, we generally think about preparing to celebrate the beautiful story of the birth of the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. We think of placing ourselves with the shepherds kneeling beside the manger. We think about experiencing the wonder and awe of Mary and Joseph as they watched over their newborn son. We think about angels and stars and sheep. But how often do we really tank the time to think about who this helpless baby will grow up to be.
Is it possible that, during this season of Advent, we just might run into the adult, the risen Christ instead of the helpless baby in the manger?
When the Magi reached what they thought would be the end of their journey, they learned that they still had further to go. They learned that their final destination was not where they thought it would be.
Now I don’t know if any of you have ever felt this way, but I know there are times when I have arrived at Christmas and felt disappointed. I did not feel the way I had hoped I would. I did not feel like I had truly encountered the Christ of Christmas.
Perhaps this is how the Magi felt when they arrived at the palace and were informed that there was no newborn king. Perhaps they wondered if they had missed a sign. Perhaps they wondered if they had been distracted and missed a turn they should have taken. Perhaps they even wondered if the star really was leading them at all, or if it had all been an illusion.
But the Magi didn’t give up. They re-evaluated their destination, they continued to seek answers and they continued to trust that the star had been right all along and that it would continue to lead them. And as a result of this they found, not the king they expected, but a messiah, a king they never even imagined.
If we discover that we have not encountered Christ during our Advent or Christmas, is it possible that we are looking for the wrong thing?
Is it possible that we are searching for a helpless baby lying in a manger, when God is really leading us to the Risen Christ? Is it possible we have not experienced what we expected because we have not been open to experience the unexpected?
Seeing stars in not enough. Enjoying the lights on the Christmas tree or the beautiful nativity scenes is not enough. We must be willing to go beyond what we expect, to see the unexpected and encounter, not the helpless baby in a manger, but the Risen Christ whose example and teaching we strive to follow.
The real Hope of Advent lies, not in the helpless baby but in the Great Divine Mystery that calls us, leads us, and challenges us every single day of our lives. The Hope of Advent lies in the promise that, just as those first magi were led to the one who points the way to the Divine by following a star, we will be led to the Divine when we are willing to risk following Christ even when we are led where we do not expect.
So as we begin this Advent journey this year, let us begin with the Hope that we will encounter Christ along the way and with a commitment that we will continue to search and continue to be open to the unexpected presence of Christ in our lives. Amen.
Gift of Music People, Look East #9
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
Our Minute for Mission today is not in support of our Mission and Service Fund but rather in support of a Guaranteed Liveable Income.
Prayers of the People ~ Adapted from a prayer written by Carol Penner
God of Advent Hope, thank you for this season of waiting in hopeful anticipation.
Thank you for the beauty of the earth as it settles into its winter sleep, waiting for the new life that will come with the spring. Thank you for the joy of children waiting with excitement for the gift they will find under the tree. Thank you for the gift of familiar carols, whose joyful music touches our hopeful hearts. Thank you for family and friends who wait with us for the gift of the Christ of Christmas.
This morning, we pray for all who are waiting in hope;
People who wait in hope for an end to violence because they have known too much war…
People who wait in hope for healing because they live with sickness and pain…
People who wait in hope for good news because they are weighed down with sorrow…
People who wait in hope for acceptance and safety because they are outcasts or strangers, refugees or homeless…
People who wait in hope for justice because they have been abused, ignored, marginalize or wrongly condemned…
People who wait in hope of forgiveness because they cannot forgive themselves…
All people who wait for hope because their dreams lie in ruins, their relationships have soured, they question their own self-worth or simply because they see no hope before them…
We pray for our earth as it too patiently waits. We pray for creatures who are waiting for protection because their habitats have been destroyed…
We pray for waterways that are waiting for renewal because they have been contaminated…
We pray for lands that are waiting to be redeemed from pollution because we have not cared for the earth as God has called us to do…
Throughout the world, in and on and under it, waiting happens, hope happens, hope grows and gathers, and the earth waits with a pregnant hope. We too wait in eager expectation for the revelation of the One who brings hope, the Christ of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.
Gift of Music Come Thou Long Expected Jesus #2
And so now we go out from here in hope. But it is not the hope the world offers us. It is the hope we carry within us because we know that we are not alone. God goes with us, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirit is with us 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