Nov 28 2021 – Sunday Worship Posted
- On November 28, 2021
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Merry Christmas! I think that I can say that now that we have entered into the season of Advent – the time of preparation for Christmas. While this time of year often becomes a busy one … my hope for you this year is that you find the time and the space to experience the peace that comes through the birth of the Messiah for whom we wait!
The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Hope. This week’s reflection is entitled the Signs of Hope
If you would like to have a pastoral visit – in person, by phone or over Zoom – during Advent please reach out and we will set a time to be meet.
Women’s Candlelight Service: The service will take place on this Wednesday, December 1st, beginning at 7:00pm. This year ladies are invited to The Christmas Café where you will always be welcomed with gratitude and experience the hospitality of a friend who cares. This service is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to center ourselves on the meaning of Christmas. Consider making time for this wonderful service … and inviting a friend.
Christmas Poinsettias: Thank-you to everyone who contributed to decorating the Sanctuary for the Advent and Christmas season. The flowers add a special touch that adds a wonderful ambiance to our worship services. Next Sunday, December 5th we will be delivering poinsettias to those in our congregation who are shut-in to bring joy to all those who we hold in prayer.
Student Christmas Care Packages: Again this year we will be sending “care” packages to the university and college students (children and grandchildren) of the members of our congregation. We know that the exam period is a stressful one, so we want to provide encouragement! If you have a student who you would like to receive a package please let Brenda know. At this point we will be sending 10 boxes of encouragement!!
Members of the congregation are invited to provide a treat or token of encouragement that can be placed in the boxes. Below is a list of possible items that could be put in the box. The items will need to be collected during the first two weeks of Advent (Nov 28, Dec 4) so that the packages can be mailed on the 5th.
- Tim Horton’s/ Starbucks Gift Card
- Soup (microwavable)
- Popcorn (microwavable)
- Joke item / stickers
- Lip balm
- Goldfish / bags of chips
- Chocolate bars
Christmas Giving Tree: As has been our custom here at Knox PC Sixteen during Advent we will focus attention on a number of the agencies that we support though our outreach and missions. Each Sunday during the Advent season we will focus on a different agency. This week we will focus on Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) the international development and emergency relief agency of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Please checkout the PWS&D website https://presbyterian.ca/pwsd/ and consider making a contribution – either by placing an envelope on the tree or through your regular offering designated as missions.
PWS&D Mission: Presbyterian, ecumenical and inclusive in our practice of faith, we gladly serve women and men, young and old, according to their need and regardless of their faith. In a world with too much poverty, injustice and oppression concentrated in nations of the South, we recognize the interrelation between our affluence and the suffering of others. We are committed to service with churches and organizations seeking sustainable transformation of their communities, upholding compassion, justice, and partnership.
We undertake development, emergency and refugee activities that restore human dignity, ease the pain of want, promote self-help and encourage community cooperation that benefits all. We are sensitive to gender issues, empowerment of the marginalized and the protection of human rights.
We promote awareness of global issues, connecting Canadians to the needs of others throughout the world.
Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen
Service of Worship
November 28, 2021
1st Sunday of Advent
- People in Darkness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5im4x-VHtE
- Oh come, oh come Emmanuel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc
- People look east https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwel-dlLSAY
Jeremiah 33:14-16 NRSV
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Luke 21:25-36 NRSV
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
And this is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen
Reflection: Signs of Hope
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Such an ominous passage full of foreboding and portents of doom: not what you expect on the first Sunday of Advent when we turn our hearts and our minds – with expectation and hope – to the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Messiah. There are no city sidewalks dressed in holiday smiles to be found in this passage; nor is there anything shallow or frivolous either, in the predictions that the writer of Luke’s Gospel places upon Jesus’s lips: this appears to be heavy, weighty stuff, that points to the end times. And then with apocalyptical force, snaps us awake as surely as if we were doused with a bucket of cold water!
OK Luke, you’ve got our attention – what is it that you want us to receive? What was the message that was contained with-in the signs of the time for the first century Christians? And what are the signs hope that you want us to see… those who are gathered here today on this first Sunday of Advent … the Sunday of Hope? (pause)
When we read this passage literally, it is easy for us to be drawn into what appears to be a description of the end of the world. Like this guy, we can see the signs of the times. Rain, hail and floods. Heat, fire and drought. Wind, tornedoes and hurricanes. And we do not have to be too imaginative to appreciate that all of these signs can be seen in the world around us: fires occurred all summer in BC then smoke covered most of the prairie provinces, and now the heavens have opened up and rains have poured causing devastating floods from coast to coast. I am sure that the question, “Could this be the end?” hangs upon the lips of at least a few fundamentalist Christians who see these natural occurrences, coupled with the global pandemic, the deaths resulting from the opioid crisis and the mounting international conflicts that threaten war … as signs that the end is near.
Was this the way that the early Christians would have heard this passage? Would they have seen in this passage the signs that indicated that the end is near? The answer, I believe, is no.
A few minutes to put this into context. This passage from Luke, is often referred to as the “little apocalypse.” When we hear the word apocalypse the first thing that many of us think of is a great disaster, a cataclysmic catastrophe where there is wide ranging destruction. And while these elements are contained in an understanding of an apocalypse, when used is a biblical context an apocalypse refers to something deeper and more encompassing than our modern and usual interpretation. Apocalyptic literature is a genre of Jewish and Christian writings that appeared from about 200 BC to AD 150. So, it was a common form of writing at the time of Jesus, as well as when Luke was writing his Gospel. And it was also, a specific form of writing,that had a number of characteristics and was used for a specific purpose.
Dr. Victor Matthews, professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, described “… that apocalyptic literature provided early Christian communities hope and it gave them direction, and it was their way of discussing and explaining how they should remain faithful to the law and how they should remain faithful to the principles that had given the community life for many, many centuries. And so it’s valuable literature and it’s valuable perspectives, and it was valuable to the people of that day. It does mean, however, that here in the modern world we need to understand how that literature was used, what it was used for, how it worked within that historical context, and therefore we must also be careful with what sorts of lessons we learn and apply in our own world.” [i]
Without going into too much detail, the characteristics of apocalyptic writing included an imminent cosmic cataclysm and used symbolic imagery. There was always an apocalyptic eschatology: a particular view of the end, in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom. And there is a heavenly figure who is seen as the hero of the apocalypse: in this case the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.[ii]
The purpose of apocalyptic writing was not to lay out what would happen at the end of the world. Rather the purpose of the writing was to affirm for the people, that in their present time – in the midst of what was happening in the world around them – that God was in control. Apocalyptic stories affirmed their belief that God was ultimately in control of their lives and their fate in this world: that God was in command of it all. So, the purpose of apocalyptic writing, the purpose of stories like the one we heard this morning, was to provide hope. To those who had eyes to see and ears to hear; to those who could read the signs that existed in plain sight … the purpose of this passage was to provide hope. (pause)
A young Cree boy tells a story of the lesson he learned from his grandfather one morning as they watched the sunrise. (next slide)
It was a lesson about reading the signs and understanding that there is more to living and to life when we know how to look deeper into and interpret what is in plain sight before us.
“… we watched the mountain while we ate. The sun hit the top of the mountain like an explosion, sending showers of glitter and sparkle into the air. The sparkling of the icy trees hurt the eyes to look, and it moved down the mountain like a wave as the sun backed the night shadow down and down. And then the mountain popped and gave breathing sighs that sent little puffs of steam into the air. She pinged and murmured as the sun released the trees from their death armor of ice. Grandpa watched, same as me, and listened as the sounds grew with the morning wind that set up a low whistle in the trees. ‘She’s coming alive,’ he said soft and low, without taking his eyes from the mountain. ‘Yes sir,’ I said, ‘she’s coming alive.’ And I knew right then that me and Grandpa had us an understanding that most folks didn’t know.”[iii] (pause)
“Look at the fig tree,” Jesus invites us, “it tells you when summer is coming. Read the times as you read the fig tree.” And Jesus invites us, as the grandfather invited his grandson, to slow down and to notice what most people do not see nor understand. … And then Jesus encourages us to stay awake and to not let our heats be weighted down with the things that would distract us from the truth. The truth that God is present with us in the here and the now.
Jesus taught as grandpa: that there are signs of hope all around us. Jeremiah spoke the same message of hope to the people of Israel. The words from the prophet Jeremiah were for a people suffering from exhaustion. They were a people who were mired down … many of whom had given up hope and succumbed to despair. They were a conquered people who were unable to see a future other than the one that contained more of the same. They kept going over and over the old hurts – mired in a place of pain – unwilling to let go of where they were – unable to see the signs of hope – because it seemed impossible from where they were. Like the guy with the placard – all the signs led them to believe that the end was near.
Jennifer Ayres, an Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, describes Advent as the time when we meet the God who promises to protect and restore the people, even as they are in the midst of great suffering and at the edge of despair. It is in precisely this context that God speaks the promise, and it is precisely in this context that despair opens the door to a new future through hope. At a time when the promises of God seem to have disappeared – hope invites us, through patience and faith, to look forward to the time of promises fulfilled.[iv] (pause)
So, on this first Sunday of Advent, we are remined that the words of the Jesus, grandpa and Jerimiah are also for us. For those of us who are in a place where we may be overcome by our current situation, hampered by our worries for the future or who are chained to past hurts, the words of Jesus, grandpa, and Jerimiah are words of encouragement to those of us who see what others who despair do not see – that God is present with us now and that God will be present with us in the future as well. These are words intended to encourage us to remain faithful to God’s promises. These are words to help us learn to see the signs of hope. Amen
[iii] John P. Jewell adapted from Forest Carter from The Education of Little Tree