To Light a Candle (Advent 1)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am,  27 November 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering  as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Linda Farrah-Basford
Elder: Jane de Caen

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

The Advent Candle of Hope                 

Call to Worship
L: The light shines in the darkness,
P: We come to worship, seeking the light of Christ once again.
L: Shine into our lives and into your world this Advent.
P: Renew us with fresh hope.

Opening praise: Hope is a star (119)

Prayers of approach and confession

Almighty and everlasting One,

You break into our world in ways that are loving and transforming.

In a tired and violent world, you are peace, and you are hope.

In a hectic and busy world, you are calm, and you are rest.

In a harsh and unforgiving world, you are tenderness, and you are mercy.

In a cold and dark world, you are comfort, and you are light.

And so, we are moved to worship you as the one who created us, the one who redeems us, and the one who guides us, one God, this day, and forever.

Lord your children live at times with guilt. We commit acts we wish we did. We say things we wish we hadn’t. And perhaps worse yet, sometimes it’s the things we didn’t do or didn’t say that pain our souls. In your mercy you have called us to prayer and to confession. You have provided a way for us to unburden ourselves. And you have promised forgiveness whenever we fall short.

In your mercy God, forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct us to who we shall be.

Response: I waited, I waited on You, Lord

Assurance of God’s forgiveness: We know that when God thinks of us, God does not remember our sin, but remembers us in the light of God’s own love and mercy for us. We who are washed by the work of the Cross, are forgiven. And when the father looks at us, He sees only a forgiven child. Thank be to God and Amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus, we are gathered (514)

Story: The Christmas Watch

When I was a child in school, one of the things that the teacher taught us was how to tell time. We had a big cardboard clock which would allow the teacher to move the hands so that we could learn to tell time. The small hand on the clock tells you the hour and the big hand tells you the minutes.

Do you know how to tell time using a clock like this? If the big hand is on twelve and the little hand is on four, what time is it? That’s right it is four o’clock. (You might to try several, if time permits.) Most of us don’t use a clock like this anymore, most of us use a digital clock. A digital clock tells you both the hour and the minutes using numbers, such as 11:15. That’s much easier, isn’t it?

No matter what kind of clock we use, most of us look at it many times each day to check to see what time it is. Suppose that your best friend was to pick you up at two o’clock to go to a movie. First, you would make sure you were dressed and ready to go, and then, as the time drew near, you would be waiting and watching for your friend to come.

If you know how to tell time, you would probably check the clock every few minutes to see if it was time for your friend to be there. If you don’t know how to tell time, you would be asking your mom, “Is it two o’clock yet?

This Sunday marks the beginning of a very special season called Advent. Do you know what Advent means? The dictionary says that advent is “the coming of something very important.” What is it? Is it Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus? Yes!

You know every year; Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier. Christmas music starts a few days earlier, the decorations appear at the store a few days earlier. You might even start snooping around your house looking for gifts a few days earlier.

What do you think that thing is that we’re waiting on for the coming of that is so important.

Jesus, maybe? Yes, Sunday school answers are excellent. Those are usually right.

Yes, waiting on the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas every year – though Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier and earlier. Christmas music starts a few days earlier. The decorations appear in the stores a month before they should. You might even start snooping around the house a few days early wondering if you would catch a glimpse of a treat or a present.

Opening the Christmas gift packages is an exciting thing.

Well, when I was a kid, I wanted a watch for Christmas so so badly  because I loved watches, especially pocket watches. I had five of them.

So what did I do? Well, about a week before Christmas I went snooping around the house.

Now my mom was very, very tricky. You see, she kept all of the presents at grandma’s house, which was about 30 min away. Very, very smart of her. But on this particular occasion I opened up a drawer and I noticed there was something in there just for me.

Do you know what it was? It was a pocket watch.

I opened the drawer and I found the watch. It was exactly the one that I had circled in the Sears “Wish list” catalog. (In the long, long ago we had magazines, and we had to pick out things.)

Okay. I found this watch. And I picked it up, and I was so happy.

But then I had to put it back. It wasn’t Christmas yet.

I spent another week just knowing. Oh, I’m going to get that watch. I know what I’m going to get for Christmas. But then it wasn’t so exciting anymore. And, on Christmas Eve, when my brother and my sisters were all up wondering what they got for Christmas, I wasn’t.

Opening the package on Christmas morning was boring. The excitement was gone.

Everybody wants Christmas to come. But very few people are willing wait for it.

For me Advent is important because I think we are all in far too big a rush. It’s important because, as hard as it can be sometimes, it’s the waiting that makes that special thing seem all the more special.

My advice today is, don’t be in too big a rush to open up presents before Christmas morning. Save Christmas for Christmas Day.

And so, we’re going to hold off celebrating Christmas until Christmas.

For 4 weeks we’re going to celebrate the waiting for Christmas, because it is really important to actually let Christmas be Christmas, and to wait for it to come. Does that make sense to you?

That is what the next 4 weeks are about: the anticipation of waiting for something really important – for celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Prayer: Let’s say a prayer, and remember don’t snoop around the house. It’s not worth it.

Hello, God! We thank You for our beautiful families and our wonderful lives. You bless us with so much. We pray that, this Advent season, we would be a people of Advent, that we would wait and anticipate eagerly for what is to come and not celebrate far too early. Help us to save Your day for just You and to celebrate You in that day. And now we pray the prayer that your Son taught us to pray.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: Come, Thou long-expected Jesus (110)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:36-44 (NRSV)

Response: Prepare the way (112)

Message: “To light a candle”

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Peace? Isaiah, the prophet of God, lived in a terrible time. Its political climate was in shambles. Isaiah’s King Ahaz, even went to the King of Assyria, Shal-men-ezer, for help when he felt as if his prayers fell on deaf ears. He gave up. Instead of God, instead of trusting in the Lord’s promises, he even went to Egypt of all places, looking for help.

Instead of the King of Kings, he hoped that one Politian would save him from another. And that is where his hope wrongly rested. The Kingdom was weakened. It was divided into two regions (Israel in the North and Judah, with its capital Jerusalem and its Holy Temple in the South). They were literally a divided people. The people of God were functioning as two entirely different nations. Infighting had made them extremely weak. But they were also warned. And it was all about to fall apart.

Isaiah writes, This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:  In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Now I don’t know if you know much about Mount Zion but it’s not quite as spectacular as some might believe it to be on a world scale. It’s really more like a big hill at the edge of the old city walls. Mount Zion’s height (which due to history and redevelopment, can refer to three slightly different boarder locations) is actually almost exactly half as tall as Cyprus Hills (a small set of foothills) in Saskatchewan.

In fact, the tallest mountains in Isaiah’s area aren’t even in Judah (that’s in the south where the temple is) but they’re in Israel (in the north). Mount Meron is the highest peak (and it’s over 1500 ft. taller than Zion). Tabor is also 1,000ft. higher. Hermon (just across the border) is three times taller than Zion and even in the south of Judah Mount Ramon is 500ft. taller. Isaiah is almost certainly using the phrase “mount Zion” in reference to the First Temple mountain but all of these other mountains are visibly taller with the naked eye than any of the 3 sites commonly referred to as Zion.

As you might have guessed, Isaiah doesn’t really care about elevation. Like people from New York and Toronto do today, the Hebrews simply considered their hometown the center of the universe. For the Hebrews however, they literally did believe that.

No matter where one traveled from, the people spoke of “going up, to the holy city” (even if you were walking down to it). Besides, here, Isaiah isn’t really talking about what hill is the biggest anyway. His idea is that the mountain WILL be raised up to be the highest. In other words, he is saying that, in his vision of the future, God (who resides in the temple) will be the most prominent thing in people’s lives, and all other things (as Isaiah later writes), will be “brought low” to their proper place.

What Isaiah envisions is a time when God will constantly be at the forefront of people’s minds. Isaiah continues. He says, Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ [AND THEN] The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Now interestingly enough, a few years ago I spoke to a woman who was complaining about her new Bible (an NRSV) which used the word “peoples” (with a “s”). For some reason, she was really bothered by this and went on a long rant about how the word people is already plural. She said it was just bad grammar. She also by the way hated it when people used the word “Fishes” as well).

So just in case there is some confusion out there I’ll explain. In the Bible at least “people” refers to individuals who are together, whereas “peoples” with an “s” refers to “people groups.”

So, people from Lebanon are a people BUT people from Moab and Lebanon are peoples – with an “s”). It’s sort of like saying “nations” and some bibles even translate it that way. And so here, when Isaiah says that “many peoples will say ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’” what he is saying is that all kinds of people from all kinds of cultures will say “come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord”.

And while that seems innocent enough, that’s actually a really bold statement for Isaiah to make – that someday more than just the people of Judah will go up the mount BUT also their brothers and sisters in Israel (remember it’s a divided nation) will come to the temple mount as well… and even more than that (while the Nations conspire in chaos and world leaders and superpowers were changing hands) – that all nations (all kinds of peoples) will come together to learn and worship together.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. He gets even wilder with his prophecy.

He writes, He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

What a brazen statement. Judah the southern Kingdom, where Jerusalem and the Temple were, was constantly in a state of tension and battle. They were surrounded by enemies and as one commentator has put it, “The people of Judah knew only two times in life – wartime and preparing for wartime”. As such, this business of looking forward to times of peace is understandable but it also must have seemed pretty naïve to Isaiah’s listeners. Their world was a frightening place.

If I may be so bold as to put this into present day context.

The word of the Lord came to Brad Childs, son of Roy concerning the Western World and the Christian faith. In the last days, the Church will be raised up and exalted and people from all countries will stream to her. And many will say, “let us go and learn the ways of Jesus. And the Christian God will be our judge and will settle our countries fights. And China, the U.S.A. and Russia, Syria and Afghanistan and all other nations will all melt down their tanks and planes to make children’s playground equipment. And they will dismantle their armed forces.” So come let us all walk in the light of the Lord.

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord

It sounds pretty outrageous, doesn’t it?

Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Too good to be true???

Well, it all sounded too good to be true to Isaiah’s first readers as well. Not long after Isaiah first spoke these words, then did the Babylonian army kill the king of Judah and officially inherit rule over the land when it demolished the Assyrians (the top world superpower their King had run to for help). For two years Pro-Egypt and Pro-Babylonian Judeans raged political debates in Judah (most often siding with their now dead king who had also run to Egypt for help).

But this was all settled when the Babylonians simply came to town with the largest army in the world, tore down the city wall, toppled the temple (the one Isaiah said would be lifted up from its place on the hill), and took all its people away into exile, except for seniors, the infirmed, and infants (though many of them were stomped to death).

And so, one must ask… exactly how is it that Isaiah can be considered a prophet when his prophecy seems so far removed from reality?

The answer is two-fold. (1) It is what theologians refer to as “already and not yet” – fulfilled in Christ and yet not completed. And (2) It depends on us a bit. We have to work to make it come true.

(1) “It is already and not yet” – fulfilled in Christ and yet not completed.

Isaiah sees this prophecy as being “in the last days” something that the New Testament attributes to beginning with the birth of Christ. See as many have noted, John the Baptist said, “repent the end is near” and “the day of the Lord is near” (as we shall hear throughout the advent season), but Jesus said, “repent for the day of the Lord has come”. And so, Christians simply cannot help but see part of this coming true in the coming of Christ.

For us, Sure, the physical temple is destroyed but the Church “the new Temple” and “the body of Christ” as Paul calls it, is high and lifted up… and is filled with peoples from different people groups of all kinds and “people from all nations”. Is everyone in this room of Judaic descent? Is everyone here today from Judah??? IS ANYONE???

The “peoples” have come streaming to the temple mount to learn from the God of Jacob, to name Him judge and follow “his path” just as predicted.

But what of all that peace talk? That’s not come true has it!?! Well, some would point to our peace with God won by the forgiveness of sins on the cross… but… I think Isaiah is more practical than that. I think… he means to say that God will someday bring about a time when we will make tools out of weapons. But also, that – that day won’t just happen on its own.

And that brings us to #2.

(2) This prophecy is still true BUT we need to work to make it come true. In part, it depends on our obedience.

Years ago in a small Midwestern town, one man’s job was to watch the railroad crossing. When a train would approach it at night, he was to wave a lantern to warn those driving on the narrow road that a train was approaching and to stop until it had passed by.

One night the train was coming down the tracks as usual and the man took his place to warn any oncoming cars that might be coming around the bend. He could see a car in the distance approaching the railroad tracks, so he began to wave his lantern. The car continued to come so the man waved his lantern even more briskly. The train was only seconds away from the crossing. The car was not even slowing down. The man could not believe it, so he waved the lantern even harder. Still the car came. The car was almost to the track and the train was about to pass. The man could not stand in the middle of the road any longer. Finally, the man jumped out of the way as the car sped by and was hit by the train on the tracks. Everyone in the car was killed.

At the investigation, the grief-stricken man explained to the police how he tried to warn the oncoming vehicle, but it just wouldn’t stop. The officer not sure if he should speak or not, spoke softly to the man at the crossing, “Sir, you waved your lantern, but you forgot to light it.”

In the same way, we Christians often go about waving our hands and preaching peace thinking that that’s enough. In reality, we haven’t lit the light that shows the way.

At the end of this section of Isaiah (verses 2-4; which is actually a poem) there is a subscript (sort of like the charge at the end of a worship service). We call it verse five. And it says, “Come… let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

And that’s just it. If this is the kind of peace we dream of (where the medal from tanks gets turned into slides and monkey bars )… then the onus is laid upon the dreamer who sees the vision.

This type of peace comes with a responsibility to foster peace.

If you want peace from others, then you must first live at peace with others. You must first walk… in the light of the Lord.

I’m reminded of a story.

During WWII, with fighter planes flanking its side, an Allied bomber crossed the English Channel, maneuvered its way past German gun turrets, and dropped its bomb load on a factory outside Berlin. But, as the convoy of warplanes started its return flight to England, a group of German fighters appeared on the horizon.

The Allied fighter planes tried to keep the Germans from attacking the bomber, but they were unable to stop every enemy plane. One German fighter made its way through the aerial barrage and began to pound the allies with bullets.

The crew of the bomber stared in horror as five shells, one after another penetrated the fuselage where the gas tanks were located. Seeing the damage, he had inflicted, the German fighter turned and headed for home assuming victory.

The crew waited for an explosion or a fire to break out, but nothing happened.  Not one spark or puff of smoke appeared. In fact, the damage was odd. The bullet casings seem to have smashed rather than penetrating the fuselage.

A few hours later the bomber managed to land safely at its English airfield.  The crew climbed down from the aircraft and carefully removed the outer shell of the fuselage.  Inside were five nearly perfect incendiary shells.  They hadn’t exploded; they had merely crumpled. The crew took the shells back to their barracks for inspection.

When they opened the shells, they discovered there was only a dusting of gunpowder inside. Four were completely empty. Inside the fifth shell, they found something extraordinary. Rolled into a tiny wad there was a note that read:

“We are Polish POWS—forced to make shells in factory. When guards not look, we not fill with powder. Is not much but is best we can do. Please tell families alive.”

For some, this may just be one little isolated story. But for me, this is proof that weapons can be made into a message of peace.

For me it’s interesting to note that in Isaiah’s vision of peace and hope for the future there will still be distinct people groups. We don’t just all blend into one. Boarders don’t simply cease to be. We retain our individual cultures and distinctives. It’s not just some boring homogeneous mass. That’s not exactly what he sees, instead we get to be “us” and still have peace.

He writes, about “the many nations” in the plural. Even in his view of peace, we still exist as thinking, and reasoning beings that struggle and have differences.

It’s not that our individual characteristics will end, or we will all become a single people.

It’s just that all people will look to God as the true judge. And God will then “settle disputes” between us instead of weapons. Because of this, Isaiah writes, “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

But… God’s words through Isaiah have a catch. There is a charge! In verse 5 it says “Come… let us walk in the light of the Lord”.

For me this is sort of like the Apostle Paul saying, “for as much as it depends on you, live at peace.” Isaiah says that peace comes, as we learn to walk in the light of the Lord.

Peace is already and not yet, and it’s our job to bring it to fruition.

May you strive for peace; hope for the future, and for as much as it depends on you walk in the light of the Lord. After all, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Amen

Song: Jesus bids us shine (773)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

Please be seated. I want to take a moment to give thanks for the offerings that are brought forward, and for all of the prayer, support, and love that we bring one another in the prayers of the people.

Prayer for others and ourselves

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

In our weakness you are strength.  In our darkness you are light.

In our sorrows you comfort and bring peace.  Help us to pray, O God, with our hearts as well as our lips and to serve you with our strength as we can.  Into each situation we name and picture, visit with your steadfast love.

We give you thanks for moments of joy and celebration in our lives, for times of excitement and expectation; for love given and received, for friendships that furnish our life with meaning and happiness, and for family who show us some picture of unconditional love.  In all relationships and interactions keep us mindful of your call to see you in one another.

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for our country and the countries of this world and for all those who frame laws and shape society, who keep the peace and administer justice.  In governments and countries where the innocent are punished and the weak serve the extremely wealthy and where injustice rules – move in the hearts and minds of rulers, so that, more and more, your people throughout the world will experience freedom.

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We remember with sadness the divisions in the world, and that our world is not at peace; we remember the places of war, we see them on the nightly news and yet those are just a small percentage of what is truly happening. We remember that too often this is a world where violence is too easily chosen as a way to life.  And we recall before you the places where people are misused and often scorned. Please Lord, watch over them and plunge your hand into their lives.

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who suffer and are ill and for those people who mourn and fear for the future and what it may bring.  Surround them with your love, support them with strength and open our hearts and our eyes to see how we might be comfort in situations of hurt and pain.  Bless our homes and families that love and joy may dwell there and keep those who are absent from us or unable to come, still within your care and on our minds and hearts and in our visits.

Lord in your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Eternal God, you hold all souls in life. The dead as well as the living are in your care.  We thank you for your people of every age and place and for those dear to our own hearts who have entered into your heavenly presence.  Keep us in communion with them and bring us with them at the last day, to dwell in your light.

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Song: People in darkness (124)

Sending out with God’s blessing: May you carry the light of hope with you this week. And may that light burn with the power of the Holy Spirit against all the darkness you encounter–a stubborn light to mark this season of waiting, this season of hope. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Response: Amen, we praise Your name, O Lord!

Music postlude

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Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring licensing with One Licence (3095377 and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.