Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Eve

WE have 2 services this year.  One at 5:30 and one at 7:00.

At the 5:30 service we will tell the Christmas story, we will sing some carols, we will light some candles.  And we will also have a different Christmas story A Special Place for Santa, followed by a special activity based on the story.

At 7:00 we will also sing carols, we will also light candles (at the beginning and at the end of the service), we will also hear and reflect on the story.

The Scripture Readings for this service will be:
  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Luke 2:1-20

The Reflection will be in 3 sections.
After the first Scripture reading we will hear about Mary's fear.
After the second Scripture Reading we will hear about the Shepherd's fear.
Both Mary and the shepherd are visited by an angel.  And in both cases the angel starts out by saying "Don't Be Afraid".  SO we need to ask what they might have been afraid of (other than an angel appearing and talking to you which would be a little off-putting in and of itself).

The 3rd section of the reflection is called Fear and Change Today.
The Christmas story is all about chagne.  The promise of Christmas is that God breaks into the world, God comes to be among us, in order to change the world.  This is encapsulated in my favourite of the magazine ads developed for the United Church of Canada Emerging Spirit campaign:
And yet change it truly terrifying for many of us, particularly when we can not control the change.  SO we need to hear again the words of the angel.  Don't be afraid. 

God IS breaking into the world again this Christmas.  God has hope for the world, hope that things will (some day in the near or distant future) get better.  GOd is among us, coming as a weak and dependent child--with all the potential that childhood suggests, coming to spur us forward, coming so that the world will be changed.  Do not be afraid!  This is good news for all people.  Hope will overcome despair, justice and peace will overcome inequity and violence, love will overcome fear and hate, joy will come even to the wilderness.

For unto US a child is born.  And unto US a child is given. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blue Christmas

This Sunday Clairmont United and St. Paul's United host our Annual Blue Christmas Service at 3:00 in Clairmont.

The Scripture REadings for this service are:
  • Psalm 121
  • Isaiah 40:1-4, 11
Early Thoughts: There is no time of year that is happy for everybody.  It is just that simple.

And so what do you do when you don't feel the way the TV commercials tell you you should feel?

You give yourself permission.  Life is not all joy and merry.  Christmas isn't either.  So we give ourselves permission to name the bittersweet, or just plain bitter, aspects of the season.  And we look for comfort, for hope.

THE promise of faith is that we are not alone.  In our joy and in our sorrow, in our hope and in our despair, when we are surrounded by friends and family and when someone is missing, we are not alone.

Through Isaiah we hear the promise of comfort, for our time of troubel comes to a close.  THe Psalmist asks where to look for help -- and answers with God.  WE are not alone.  Whatever heaviness we carry into and through the Christmas Season we do not carry it alone.

ANd here is the secret, the one no TV special will tell you.  The christmas story, the real one we find in Luke and Matthew, is not all joy and light either.  It has people who are afraid, people who do nto know how they are going to get through.  Life is not always what we want it to be.  And so we give ourselves permission to lament, to name our losses, to mourn for what could have been, to acknowledge the pain.  And we look to GOd for the comfort and the strength and the help to carry on.

Thanks be to GOd.  In our Joy and sorrow, when the way is easy and when it is hard, Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking Forward to December 11, 2011 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Luke 1:47-55 (VU p.898)
  • Luke 1:68-79 (VU p.900)
  • Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

The Sermon title is Be Not Afraid, Justice shall be done.

Early Thoughts: Meek and mild? I don't think so. Mary's song announces a world about to be turned upside down.

Mary's song, the Magnificat, has been set to many tunes over the centuries. We are singing this one this week:

It is a song of defiance. It is a song of change. It is a song of revolution.

In Luke chapter 4 Jesus begins his ministry (as Luke tells the story) by reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  In fact he reads from what we call chapter 61. [side note: the original manuscripts of Scripture (both Hebrew and Greek) do not have chapter or verse number {nor punctuation} these have been added over the centuries, primarily for ease of reference].  Luke's Jesus is born to a woman with revolutionary ideas, and shares those ideas about justice throughout his ministry.

This fall we have heard a lot about Justice.  Between the OCCUPY movements and the Federal Government's omnibus justice bill the news has been full of the word, albeit in very different (though arguably related) meanings. What do we mean when we say that Mary sings of Justice, when we say that Jesus preaches the coming of Justice?

More or less we are talking about economic and social justice.  We are talking about asking the questions like "why do some have so much while others can't have enough to survive?"  We are talking about wondering why some people are treated like they are of less importance, less worth, than others.  To deal with these question means turning the world upside down, both in terms of economic assumptions and in terms of social/class/"in crowd" structures.

Over and over again Scripture talks about taking care of the "least of these".  It is arguable that the main theme of Scripture is about living in a just society, that the Peace of Christ comes not through victory in battle but through justice for all.  At Christmas we celebrate God's breaking in to the world around us.  And so we have to sing with Mary.  We have to proclaim that Justice will be done.  We also have to ask ourselves where we are part of the problem and where we are part of the solution.