Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Forward to January 5, 2013 -- Epiphany Sunday

This being the first Sunday of January (and of the New Year) we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Reading for this week is Matthew 2:1-23

The Sermon title is Gifts & Blessings, Fear & Murder

Early Thoughts:  It is a story we all know.  Sort of.  Matthew's version of the Nativity story has the visitors from afar bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And so we have the "three kings" showing up in many Sunday school pageants (and of course in the carol of that name).

But the thing is we often don't read the whole story.  As the lectionary is built the 2nd half of the story is set to be read the Sunday after Christmas (which is often the Sunday before we read the 1st, more familiar, half) which is often a "low" Sunday in terms of attendance.  So this week we will read the WHOLE story.  Both the adoration and the tragedy.

How do we react when the world is being changed?  Do we celebrate or strike out?  

Matthew, in chapter 2, reminds us that both happen.  Matthew reminds us that sometimes discretion is the better part of valour (go to Egypt until the danger has passed).  Matthew reminds us that God breaking into the world, God transforming the world, is a threat to some people.

As God continues to break into the world, as God continues to cause transformation to happen in the world, are we aligning ourselves on the side  of gifts and blessings?  Or are we reacting in fear, in murder?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Looking Forward to December 24, Christmas Eve -- the 8:00 service

This service will have Prayers, Carols, Handbells, Candles, Drama, Choirs, Organ!  Oh and the story of course.

The Scripture Readings for this service are:
  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Luke 2:1-20
 There will also be a three person drama where residents of Bethlehem are discussing the strange events.  One is the Innkeeper.  One is the midwife.  One is a wealthy townsperson.

Then there will be a meditation called The Center

Early Thoughts:  This evening we light the candle at the center of our wreath.  It is the center of our circle and signifies the One who is at the center of our hope, the center of the season, the center of our faith.

What is the center of the season? Is it light?  Is it life? Is it love?  I would argue it is all these things wrapped up in a baffling baby.

At the center of the season is the Birth of the one who taught about love, who is sometimes referred to as Love Incarnate.  It is the Birth of the one who came to bring Life, and that in Abundance.  It is the birth of the one who is called the Light of the World.

The center of the season is announced by angel song to frightened shepherds.  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord".  The center of our faith now lies in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths.

On this night we move towards the center.  We gather with the shepherds to see this thing which has been told to us.  Having been to the center we now move out from it.  How will we do that?

Looking Forward to December 24, Christmas Eve -- the 6:30 service

This service is our less formal service. 

We will say some prayers, and sing some carols.  We will tell the Christmas story (though I am tempted to see if I can find a YouTube of Linus telling it....)

We will also tell/read the story "Room for a Little One".  AS children arrive they will be asked if they want to be a Dog, Cat or Mouse and then they can take part in the story as it is told.

It is expected that the service will be between 30 and 45 minutes long.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Looking Forward to December 22, 2013 -- 4th of Advent

This Sunday we will celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

This year our Advent Candle liturgies will call us to consider the various parts of the Advent wreath. This week we are called to consider the candlelight.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Genesis 1:1-5, 14-19
  • Isaiah 9:2-3, 6 
  • John 1:1-9
The Sermon title is Let There be Light!

Early Thoughts:  Light.  Dark. Is there a more basic dichotomy?

The faith story begins with "let there be light".  Isaiah says "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.".  John begins his story of the Incarnation by taking us back to the beginning, to the Word who was with God from the beginning, the creative Word in whom all things came into being, then says "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.".  Later in John's Gospel Jesus is quoted as saying "I am the light of the world".  It is undeniable that light is a central issue in the life of faith, and one time that is most noticeable is Christmas.

 There are times it is blatantly obvious that many of our Christmas traditions and language were developed in the Northern hemisphere.  Christmas is set at the time of the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of the year.  And so we are primed to be looking for light, all the more so in those years before electric lights--because let us be honest, we can completely avoid being in the dark now if we so choose. 

Where is the Light needed in our world today?  Where is it breaking through?  Who are the people who live in a land of deep darkness?  Who needs to be reminded that the Light is one that the darkness has not, will not, and can not overcome?

One further thought...
In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew's Jesus reminds us that we are light to the world.  How are we shining?

For more that I have written about light this year check out this devotional.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

DHT Christmas Special..

Where do you need hope this year?

That is what Christmas is all about. We celebrate the coming of hope into our lives. The true power of Christmas is the coming of hope, of promise, of a renewed vision for the world.

Hope can come in the way hearts are opened and people come to understand what it means to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. Just look at the classic characters Scrooge and the Grinch. If even they can change then there is hope.

Hope can come in the form of new life. How many people, looking at the face of their newborn child, can resist that sense of hope and excitement? We may know that the child in our arms will not always have an easy life but we still see the potential for amazing things lying there wrapped in a blanket.

Wherever you need hope this year may it be a part of your Christmas. The story we tell about a baby born in a manger is the story of a God who never gives up. Christmas reminds us that God is with us, that God works with us to bring a better future. May God walk with you at Christmas and throughout the New Year!

Merry Christmas from all of us at St. Paul's United Church!

Hot Chocolate at the Santa Parade

Monday, December 2, 2013

Looking Forward to December 8, 2013 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent

This Sunday we will celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

This year our Advent Candle liturgies will call us to consider the various parts of the Advent wreath. This week we are called to consider the evergreen.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Luke 1:5-17, 24-25
The Sermon title is Green and Lively

Early Thoughts:  Why do we hang greenery in the middle of winter? Why kill a tree to haul it inside for a few week before tossing it out in a snow drift?

Because it is a sign of life.  Because it reminds us of the life that is bubbling under the surface.  Because in the depths of Winter we need to be reminded of life and hope (particularly as I look forward to shoveling for a few hours this afternoon).

The story of Christian faith is the story of life in surprising places, of life that shouldn't be there, of life that pops up where one expects only death and barren-ness.  From Abram and Sarai, getting a son when it was well past the ordinary time, to Isaiah talking about flowers blooming in the desert, to Zechariah and Elizabeth also having a child where everyone assumed they were infertile, to the empty tomb the story is about life where no life was/is expected.

Evergreen boughs remind us of the life that is bursting forth all the time.  They remind us that even in our times of quietness and rest we are growing.  They remind us to look for the life.  Always look for the life.  Because where there is life, even (or perhaps especially) unexpected life, there is hope.