Sunday, December 17, 2006

Order of Service - December 17th 2006



HYMN # 55 In the Bleak Midwinter

One: Behind the corridors of space, before the world began,
beyond all understanding … God.
All: (sung) Gloria, Gloria, Gloria, in excelsis Deo.
One: Fathering time, mothering creation, parenting all people … God.
All: (sung) Gloria, Gloria, Gloria, in excelsis Deo.
One: waiting for the right moment, preparing the right way,
intending the right woman … God.
All: (sung) Gloria, Gloria, Gloria, in excelsis Deo.
One: We believe in one God,
All: Maker and Mover of Heaven and Earth.

One: Joy to the world! Silent Night! Away in a Manger!
All: We love to sing carols at this time of year.
One: We sing in celebration of the gift of God’s child, Jesus.
All: Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
One: We live in joy because we know that God is with us.
All: Today we celebrate God’s gift of joy.

HYMN # 23 (sing twice) Joy Shall Come

One: In hope the universe waits:
All: God’s purpose shall be revealed.
One: Limited by mortality, yet destined for liberation,
In hope the universe waits:
All: God’s purpose shall be revealed.
One: Groaning as if in childbirth, sampling the fruits of God’s harvest,
In hope the universe waits:
All: God’s purpose shall be revealed.
One: Trusting in what is unseen, believing the best is to come,
In hope the universe waits:
All: God’s purpose shall be revealed.
One: In the shadows of a barn where the Maker of All will be born,
In hope the universe waits:
All: God’s purpose shall be revealed.

HYMN: Light One Candle
vs 1 Light one candle for hope, one bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to ev’ry heart.
He comes! He comes!
vs 2 Light one candle for peace, one bright candle for peace.
He brings peace to ev’ry heart.
He comes! He comes!
vs 3 Light one candle for joy, one bright candle for joy.
Ev’ry nation will find salvation in Bethl’em’s baby boy.

SCRIPTURE READING: Zephaniah 3: 14 – 20
Isaiah 12: 1 – 6 (pg. 880 VU)


CHOIR ANTHEM: “Light of the World”

SCRIPTURE READING: Philippians 4: 4 – 7
Luke 3: 7 – 18

CHOIR ANTHEM: “King of Glory, King of Peace”


Paul, writing to the Church at Phillipi urges them to hold to "whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, anything of excellence, any thing worthy of praise.” We are not only hold to them, but set such things as our goal of our faith … This is a good reading for this time of year. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy and good.

Then we jump to the Gospel reading and are confronted by John standing out in the wilderness: on one level, the words of Paul contrast sharply to the proclamation of John the Baptist, who is calling those flocking to him “a Generation or Brood of Vipers, ” and telling them that God will raise from the stones under their feet a more faithful and more acceptable generation of followers than they have ever been …

Paul’s words are inspiring, John’s words are harsh and challenging. Yet, the two go together on this Sunday of Joy … It is NOT the case of needing suffering to know the freedom of wholeness. But rather if we are to journey to the place of promise and fullness that is envisioned by the prophetic voices like Zephaniah, we need to first stand before the likes of John and seriously consider his harsh challenge and address the issues that challenge raises within us. .

John’s words hold a mirror before us … The words Brood of Vipers – “YOU – Brood of Vipers” are not just words on a page, they are words that rise from the printed page with each reading and hold a mirror before us. We have to honestly ask ourselves: “Are WE amongst those who are the Brood of Vipers?” Or are we able to honestly say that we are standing under the praise of Paul’s words?

At family gatherings at my grandparents’ home there was a plethora of cousins. When we got together we would do the things kids do, and running around, playing and teasing each other and calling each other names. I can remember once though, shrieking at one of my cousins – “you’re a loser,” or “you’re a jerk,” or something childish like that. My Grandfather said, “Hey, hold on. Did you know that when you call someone a bad name like that, it is like pointing a finger at them.” We looked at our hand and mutely agreed.

Grandpa then said – “and when you point one finger at someone else, you are pointing three more back at yourself …” He didn’t break a smile in that moment, he just stared at us, his eyes sparkling, as we cousins grappled with his words … That simple comment has stuck with me. I’ve tried to share it with my kids – they still call each other names – and I’ve watched them got through the same gymnastic maneuvers I used to do in trying to point a finger (literally) at another while keeping the other three fingers pointed away from themselves …

But the point of Grandpa’s comment remains … and it is similar to exhortation to the people coming out into the wilderness to see him. John, rough and tumble John is standing alongside the river Jordan offering a baptism of repentance. BUT – repentance demands looking into the mirror he is holding before the people …

If we spun out John’s speech a tad, we would find a preacher who is saying – “you think you are righteous and faithful – but are you really?? Don’t you think God could raise up more faithful people from the rocks under your feet? Are you really as perfect and wonderful as you think??”

His brood of vipers comment is cutting … it is harsh … it that
moment where three fingers are pointing back at us …

So how do we move from the unrelenting gaze of John who cuts into the core of our being and lays bare the shortcomings that lie there, to the words of Praise that are offered by Paul and even Zephaniah?

Isaiah offers us a clue – from the place of judgment, we move to a place of joy – a place of salvation. That’s the movement of our faith. We feel alone and abandoned and unworthy and through God’s grace we move to a place of acceptance, a place of welcome, and a place of love. God’s grace offers us ALL a place where we belong and are loved and accepted unconditionally.

The problem is that a sense of complacency settles in … we’ve found our place – we’ve been accepted – we’re saved – we’re okay – we’re acceptable to God … and our journey stops. We no longer need to do better.

Then the voice of one calling from the wilderness breaks through – “You Brood of Vipers …” John calls. We can’t wrap him up in the softness of the Christmas story. This is not a figure who fits in the gentle images of the stable. You can’t put a grown John beside the babe in the manger. Yet we can’t have the manger WITHOUT John.

Where the Baby welcomes us and invites us in and inspires us with “ohs” and “ahs” – John stands like a winnowing fan to separate the wheat and the chaff …

“Are you living the faith?” Is the ultimate question John is asking, “or are you just enjoying the ride?” There is no room for complacency in John’s gaze … when we honestly confront the accusation of being amongst the brood of vipers, we would point to others and say – “I’m faithful … I’m not like those people over there who …Oh wait … I’m pointing my finger … and there are three pointing back at me … and … oh drat …”

“No wait … I’m faithful … I come to church every week and I treat people nicely and ... I’m not like them when they …Oh wait … the finger thing again …”

All the while, John stands with his steely gaze challenging us to take seriously those three fingers that point back at ourselves. Because in those three fingers rests the reality of our faith … If we were in a place, individually AND collectively, where we were living Paul’s words and focused solely on "whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable ..." John’s words wouldn’t irritate us at all.

But few of us stand in such a place … we struggle, and in the best place, we simply become complacent about our faith … but sometimes we slide into a harsh, unhelpful self-righteousness … The challenge is to heed not only John’s words – but to live the words of the prophets and the words of Paul and to move to a place of transformation where we live out our faith with every breath that passes in and out of our body.

As I read John’s words this past week, my mind wandered to the moment in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by his deceased partner Marley. Marley, who had died seven Christmas eve’s prior appears to warn Scrooge that he needs to change his ways. Marley shows him the vast, heavy chains that bind him – chains that weigh him down in his endless journey because he failed to see the suffering that was around him in life … and tells Scrooge that his chain is EVEN longer. Scrooge beseeches Marley:

“But you were a always a good man of business, Jacob.”

“Business!!” cried the ghost, winging his hands again, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.” He rattled the chain then said – “At this time of the rolling year, I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the wise men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me !!”

Dickens took the call of John the Baptist very seriously. He looked about him at the working conditions of the poor and in volume after volume wrote stories of their struggles and death. AND, he challenged his society – you and I – to do better. To experience the kind of transformation that Scrooge under went that night with the visitation of the three ghosts …
The fictional Marley rattling his chains stands along the rough dressed John by the river Jordan challenging us – ALL of us – to move from our complacency and to embody the Spirit of our faith ALL YEAR LONG.

In the rush and glitter of the season it is too easy to lose sight of that simple reality – Mankind is our business. The common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence are OUR business. Then we jump to Paul’s call to the church to hold to – “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, anything of excellence, any thing worthy of praise.”

Joy is about living the fullness of life … and each year we hear again the story of Scrooge who lacked joy in his life until his eyes lifted from his business, from his money, from his walk through the streets of London, and began to see around him the opportunity to become a good friend, a good master and a good man as the city, and the world has ever seen.

We know the story of Scrooge … we hear the warning of the words of John … our challenge – our calling – our faith – demands of us that we do better and we allow the transformation to move us from judgement to JOY …

Zephaniah spoke of it … Paul spoke of it … our task is to live it …

May it be so – thanks be to God – let us pray …



HYMN # 44 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear


HYMN #59 Joy to the World


SUNG RESPONSE: # 7 Hope is a Star
vs 1: Hope is a star that shines in the night,
leading us on till the morning is bright.
Refrain: 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.
vs 2: Peace is a ribbon that circles the earth,
giving a promise of safety and worth.
vs 3: Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn,
telling the world that the Saviour is born.

The worship has ended….
…the work of God’s people has just begun.
Go in peace.

In memory of past choir members from the Senior Choir
In memory of William & Elsie and David from the Kingdon Family
In memory of Amar & Lois and Philip from the Iverson Family
In memory of family and friends from Esther & Keith Robertson
In memory of family and friends from Jackie & Dennis Peckover
In memory Lydia McGuirk from Lori & Clayton Searle and
Judy & Blake Menzies
In memory of Muriel from Ed Meadows
In memory of Jack & Betty McNabb from their family
In memory of family and friends from Linda & Bob Bertram
In memory of family and friends from Denise & Bud Amy

POINSETTIAS FOR CHRISTMAS: Concern has been expressed about the survival of Poinsettias in a basically unoccupied building between now and Christmas. Therefore, you are encouraged, if you wish, to make a donation to the Rebuilding Fund in memory of your loved one rather than purchasing a Poinsettia for the church.

ST. MARK’S ANGLICAN CHURCH invites all to join them for The Nine Lessons and Carols Service on Sunday, Dec 17th at 7:00 p.m.

LONGEST NIGHT SERVICE sponsored in conjunction with Minnedosa Funeral Services, will be held Thursday, December 21 at 7:30 p.m. here at St. Alphonsus.

Dec 21st - Personal Care Home Service – 2:30
Dec 24th - Christmas Eve - 11:00 - St. Alphonsus
- Christmas Eve - 7:30 - Tanner’s Crossing Pit
Dec 31st - Hymn Sing Service with Elgin Hall - St. Alphonsus
Jan 07th - Worship led by Colleen Wallace, candidate for Lay Ministry


THANK YOU for all the Donations of food and other items for WHITE GIFT. The items collected were donated to The Christmas Cheer Board, where they were gratefully received.

SPECIAL THANKS to our young people for a FABULOUS presentation last week during worship. Your hard work and enthusiasm showed. And, extra thanks to the adults who helped in any way.

FALL APPEAL: In the excitement of the season and the new building plans, it is easy to lose sight of the mundane day-to-day things. This is offered as a gentle reminder that the General Fund of the Church still needs our offerings. To the end of November, the Fall Appeal was at $12,240 donated, with a target of $20,000. It’s not too late to donate!

M & S FUND: The 2006 target for Mission & Service was set at $17,000. To date, givings have fallen short of this target by $4425.

BIBLE STUDY GROUP will meet this Friday at 10:00 am in the church office. All are welcome to participate.

CHOIR PRACTICE is Thursday at 7:30 pm here at St. Alphonsus Church. New members and anyone interested in directing would be most welcome!

THE UPPER ROOM magazines are again available. Copies of the Jan/Feb issue are on hand at the back of the church or from the church office.

“CIRCLE OF FRIENDS” is available at Minnedosa Flower and Gift. $5.00 from each purchase is being donated to the Rebuilding Fund cutesy of Minnedosa Funeral Service.

CHURCH CALENDARS – a few copies of the 2007 Church Calendar are available for purchase at the Church office at a cost of $5.00 each.

CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE at the Church Office, Friday Dec 22nd. Stop by for coffee or hot apple cider and cookies between 1 – 3 p.m.

GIFT CARDS are available at the church office for those who are donating to the Rebuilding Fund in lieu of a Christmas gift to friends or family.

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