Dec 27: A Weary World Rejoices

Our worship service today makes use of parts of a video service provided by Canadian Baptist Ministries. Our own Children’s time video is posted here, and the text of our prayers. The video preacher today is Dr. Jonathan Wilson. The full video from CBM is here, below.

PRAYERS (Pastor Jeff White): God become visible: Emmanuel, God with us: Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending: in a year of troubles we have gathered hope! Your presence still has power! Our prayers, our actions, our fellowship has been blessed! Thanks and praise to You, our Saviour, Teacher, Master and Friend. 

Be Thou our vision: as we look back over the year, we see our own fearful responses, our own troubles, our own hurts and failures. Once again, we rely upon Your amazing grace, Your forgiving sacrifice, Your loving welcome to us, the weary wanderers. Lift us up, that we may rejoice!

God in the flesh, we pray for one another, because the flesh is weak, our injuries and illnesses wear us down, and life here ends. Together our prayer blesses these dear people in our midst, and beyond:

God, Holy Spirit, we have sought to have our spirits lifted in this Christmas time, inspired by You. We have worked to bring joy and goodness to others. Bless us to do the same in the year that is ahead. May it be 2021 A. D., anno domini, the year of the Lord: of You, Jesus. 

And so, we pray as we have been taught, saying: Our Father, who art in heaven…  AMEN.

Christmas Eve 2020 – 6 PM

We celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ with our simple worship service. Check out the Bulletin on the website for the full order of service. Video of the sermon will be posted here before 8 pm on Christmas eve.

What Child Is This? (Luke 2:1-14; John 1:14-18) – J G White – UBC Digby

A Child is born. Many of our best songs of this time, each year, are in the present tense. Not “a child was born” – but “a child is born.” Not “all was calm, all was bright ‘round yon virgin mother and child” – it’s “all is calm, all is bright.” Not “What child was that?” – rather “What child is this?”

What child is this? We find answers when we sing. Another thing about the traditional carols – many are rather old! Our next one, by William C. Dix, was composed in 1865, and put to the much older tune, ‘Greensleeves,’ in 1871. Dix was an insurance salesman in England with a flair for poetry. His twin occupations were marine insurance and writing hymns. 

So, naturally, an old lyric uses some old words in old ways. Maybe that is part of the charm of many Christmas carols – the words have that old feel, with mysterious meanings.

We are going to sing this line about Jesus:

Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary. 

Haste to bring Him laud. To make haste means what? To hurry up, be quick about it. ‘Get on over here and bring Jesus some laud!’ What’s laud? No, not ‘Laud, have mercy!’ Not, ‘Cook with shortening or laud?’ Laud means praise. Praise Jesus.

We are doing this right now: gathering for worship, singing to Christ, speaking words of praise, paying close attention to God the Saviour. 

Mr. Dix’s original words are ‘Haste, haste to bring Him praise.’ 

 Then we will sing

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?

Jesus is in a ‘mean estate.’ We guess from the context what the phrase is about. Jesus is not mean and nasty; God arrives in a poor and needy situation. His ‘estate’ is His condition, His social standing, His class. Yes, and what he possesses as a home; He starts off as a traveller, resting in an animal feed trough.

It is the genius of God’s plan that we humans get to meet the Divine One as one of us. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John’s Gospel tells us. And this is still a present tense experience.

In the third stanza we’ll sing, through our masks,

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, Come, peasant, king, to own Him.

Come peasant, come king, to own Jesus. Dix’s original words were 

Come, tribes and peoples, own Him.

Do you own Him? Do you claim Jesus as yours? You and He belong to one another? You pledge allegiance to Christ? You take ownership of Him as Your Master? This carol invites us to claim and to submit to Jesus. Whether you count yourself a peasant, or a bit of a King or a Queen, own Him

With all the carols being heard on the radio and in the places we shop, our communities all seem to claim Christ, for one annual moment. So when you are somewhere and find yourself humming along, think again of these things.

How do our lives laud or praise God?

How amazing that the Holy One comes among us, in our mean estate!

And how beautiful it is that you and I get welcomed into the story, and can own the One who ‘owns’ us. 

What Child is this?

PRAYERS Let us pray. Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! From the vantage point of another Christmas Eve we see You again, Saviour. Again, You are a message to us and our world, living in our midst. We see You; We see the glory of God. 

Spirit of grace and truth, we pray for a world needing grace, a world lacking truth. We pray again, because of that beautiful hope we have that there is more good that can happen than we alone can create. We pray because we need truth instead of confusion in our lives. In the name of Jesus, who is full of grace and truth, we ask for blessings among those in need, those who are isolated and alone, those who face violence or fear, those who mourn or are depressed, and those who are ill or injured today.

God of word and story, we see Jesus, born away from home. We make room in our lives for Him tonight. Let the light of Christ shine from within us, and transcend the barriers of our pandemic precautions. Be the great Author of our life stories, now, and the bright Star that guides our way. 

Glory to God in the highest! Hosanna! AMEN.

Joyful Celebration! December 20, 2020 – 11 AM

WELCOME to this post for Digby Baptist’s annual pre-Christmas worship concert. This year, we had the event on Sunday morning. Here, you will find three videos of the music and so forth from the service. There is no sermon this Sunday. Tune in for our Christmas Eve Service, 6PM on December 24th, which will be posted here later that evening.

(Sorry, Part 2 got deleted to make room for more video storage!)

PRAYER: God of heaven and earth,  Giver of peace and reconciliation, Father of our Master and Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah: You we have met in the music this morning. Your love transcends the hurt and hatred of life. Your salvation shines brightly in December. Your welcome greets us all with open arms. Glory, thanks and praise to You! 

Jesus, lover of our souls, to you we cling. For a week our prayers have been with scallop fishers and their families. In the storm of this tragedy, where are You? We find You… and we stay close. May those hit by this loss be blessed with the closeness, the comfort, the strength and grace of Your presence, Lord.

Spirit of power, our prayers are for ourselves and others. Our hearts call out to You for healing and help in the lives of…

Our hearts call out for justice and mercy in the lives of those who are poor and needy, those oppressed or addicted, and those who are robbed of material things or of their reputation. 

Our hearts call out for love and joy to be given to those who are lonely or afraid, isolated or fearful, and those weary or forgetful. Now, it is easy for us all to remember the birth of Jesus; when faith falters, inspire and carry us all along.

In the holy name of Jesus, the Lord. AMEN.

Dec 13 – Garment of Praise

WELCOME to this post for the Third Sunday of Advent at Digby Baptist Church. Sorry, but the video of the children’s time is out of focus, but the one from the sermon is better. We know, we know, the sound quality is never great.

Garment of Praise (Isaiah 61:1-11; Luke 4:16-21) – J G White – 11 am, 3rd Sun of Advent, Dec 13, 2020 – UBC Digby

 Sharon was getting her hair cut, last week, and sent me a photo. I spontaneously decorated my own head, and sent her a couple pics. Sharon dared me to post the photos online, so I did. 

Sort of as Isaiah proclaimed, long ago, I got a garland instead of ashes, a garment of praise to replace a spirit of heaviness. 

There is quite a spirit of heaviness in the air. People are seeking ‘the Christmas spirit’ to brighten things, going all out with lights and greenery and all this year. Folks ‘decked the halls’ earlier than ever in hopes of finding some joy.

Our choirs here have sung a song in the past called ‘Garment of Praise.’ The lyric comes right out of Isaiah 61 and other Bible texts. 

Put on the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness,
Lift up your voice to God;
Praise with the Spirit and with understanding,
O magnify the Lord!
All you that mourn in Zion, I have authority
To appoint unto you in Zion
Oil of joy that will set you free.

(David Inglis, 1978)

The message of Isaiah chapter 61 was given, it appears, in a dark time for the people of God. It speaks to them in the sixth century, BCE, when some had returned from exile to their Promised Land. 

But all was not well. Drought, crop failure, hunger and inflation describe those years, and their big project to rebuild the Temple at Zion was failing. The prophet Haggai describes the same time period. Rival groups in Judah were bitterly opposed to each other, and their leaders were corrupt. Community morale was low; all the hopes and dreams of getting back to the glory days of old seemed dashed. 

Into this, the words we read in Isaiah 61 rang out:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Many of us, and so many around us, could use a dose of the same things. We could use a new wardrobe! A jacket of joy instead of a parka of problems, essential oil of enthusiasm instead of perfume de depression, a happiness hat instead of a toque of troubles.

These Isaiah promises are worth hearing now, for it is Jesus the Saviour who still supplies this clothing. He it is who read from this part of the scroll. 

And even Jesus’ reading of Isaiah, in Synagogue that day, was more joyful, more peaceful, than the original text. Ever notice that, when He reads from the scroll, He skipped this line: the day of vengeance of our God? It is right there in Isaiah 61:2, but He chose to stop just before that phrase.

So, let’s go with this imagery. How shall we put on brighter and better clothing? Turn that frown upside down? Overcome fear with faith and hope?

We need to hear the word of Christ. We need to wait upon God. We need to put the faith we have into practice. 

It is our circumstances that drag us down, so often, isn’t it. What can be done about our situation? Sometimes we take just one step at a time, in the right direction. And whenever we get blessed, we share our blessing.

I see people every day who are blessed with a beautifully patterned, colourful mask. Mike Beveridge has one with lobsters and seafood, for instance. I have one that looks tie-dyed. So we bless the world with our mask, covering mouth and nose, and showing the beauty for all to see. Even though they can be difficult to wear, they can become a garment of praise. Praising God for life, and simple ways of protection.

This past Wednesday evening I saw some basic black clothing I thought of as garments of praise. I praised God when I saw these outfits. Hafiza, Abdulrazzak, Ali and Rabea arrived by plane at Stanfield International Airport, dressed in winter coats. Winter coats! First time for them, perhaps. At last, these Syrians, got to make their pilgrimage to a new home in Digby, NS. 

How about this example of literal garments of praise; from Tidings magazine: ‘Out Into Mission at Hillcrest Church.’  Pastor Andrew Morse writes:

Across the Atlantic bubble, churches are poking their heads out of their foxholes to see if it’s safe to come out now. 

…something… has become glaringly apparent. The mission is still moving forward. The mission has not been cancelled. The mission is as important as ever! We’ve just had to make some adjustments and get innovative. 

“How do you love your community and do missions when there are so many obstacles in the way?”

…I would suggest to not be afraid to use the space in your church building differently! It became abundantly clear that people are the church and the building is simply a facility for making ministry easier. The root word of facility is the French word, facile, which means easy. With this in mind, our church has taken its used clothing program, which has been in several tightly packed Sunday school rooms up until recently, and set up our gym to make the clothing more accessible to those still needing clothes for the school year or the winter months. No one else was going to use the gym, so why not? Do you have any spaces that are not being used? Time to get creative! (Tidings, Dec 2020, p. 11)

That’s from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Saint John, NB.

More local, now: I was speaking with Wendi Bradley the other day, who was dropping off a couple of nice new blankets for Grace and Ramona Vincent, living at Annapolis Royal Nursing Home. So, she has to drop them off, and they are not given to the ladies for five days. Wendi then seeks to schedule her next visit with Ramona and Grace for when she can have the blankets given to them. That’s a lot of care and attention for just a couple blankets. But it is a gift of love. It is worth the effort.

The touch of Jesus the Messiah reaches our world, so often, through us, the disciples. A bit of praise shines through, a bit of hope, a bit of care and compassion – and people get lifted up! I see you people doing this all the time. The little batch of cookies delivered with love to someone. The text you send someone’s phone to check on them and lift their spirit. The food you give to a foodbank. 

Take note of all the points in Isaiah chapter 61. Here’s my summary. It is Christ’s work to give such things. And we are invited to join His team and help.

good news to the oppressed
healing the brokenhearted
freedom to prisoners
comfort to mourners
joy for those who are sad
rebuilding what was ruined
becoming ministers of the Lord
justice being done
descendants shall be godly
right things and praise will grow

This is the ministry of Jesus Messiah, and it is the work of God in 2020.

We too can give a joyful reading of God’s mis- sion. We too can offer joyful clothing to our neigh- bours. We too can speak of a year of the God’s favour. 

2020 – it is a number, a year, that may go down in infamy! It has become a joke to ask “What next will happen in 2020?” And we are only half laughing. 

The turn of a year – from 2020 to 2021 – is actually artificial, a human invention. But it still feels to us like a new start. We hope for one, at least. Our celebration of the nativity is also our own invention, but a good one. No matter what day Jesus actually was born, and what year, when people around the globe celebrate the incarnation, incredible things can happen. Many people tune in to Jesus again. 

Jesus is the bringer of new life, as this year ends. He can provide the whole armour of God for us to wear: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God. (Eph 6:14-17) He can help clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love. (Col 3:12-14) It is when we ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ that we gain great access to the whole wardrobe. (Rom 13:14)

How does one ‘put on’ Christ? Be confident in Jesus and what He offers. Be paying close attention to Him. Be together with His disciples here and now. Be realistic about how much you need Him. Be ready to take off the other things your soul is wearing now.

Amen.

Dec 6: Good Gifts

Welcome to this little ‘worship blog’ of Digby Baptist Church. Here you can find text of the sermon, and by Sunday afternoon, video of the Children’s Time and the Sermon, or other elements of worship. More information for December 6th is available in the Bulletin, also found here on our website. Click on the Bulletin tab.

GOOD GIFTS (Joel 2:12-13, 28-29; Luke 11:9-13) – J G White – 11 am, 2nd Sun of Advent, Dec 6, 2020 – UBC Digby – Saint Nicholas Day 

We are in the month of gift-giving now. I have been puttering away at my Christmas shopping. How about you? As disciples of Jesus, we look back to the gifts given to Jesus when He was small: the praise of angels; the attention of local shepherds; gold frank- incense and myrrh. We look to all Jesus’ compassion and generosity and miracles, for people who truly needed a gift in their lives: food, or healing, or comfort, or forgiveness, or love and acceptance.

We read today that scene in Luke 11 where Jesus famously says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you…” And He goes on to speak of bad gifts and good gifts. God is the giver of good gifts, better gifts that we give to one another.

Who is the gift-giver who gets the greatest attention? Today is his day, after all. Saint Nicholas, of course. Apparently he died on December 6th, 343.

Nicholas of Myra was so called because he was the Bishop of Myra, on the coast of Asia Minor, which we now know as the country Turkey. Amid the little towns the Apostle Paul had visited, and those John has seven letters to in Revelation, was the town, Myra. Some cultures have had December 6th as the day for gift-giving. It is a fitting day to remember the legends of Bishop Nicholas that still inspire Xians. 

So it is story time: the story of Nicholas and the Purses of Gold, as told by Mary Cousins, 20th century writer about ‘the saints.’

Whenever he could, Nicholas liked doing good– but secretly, and in his city of Myra there were many poor people who owed their life and their happiness to Nicholas–but who had been asked never to talk about it.

Now, one day, Nicholas was told that there was a poor father nearly gone mad because he could not provide for his daughters in a suitable fashion. The daughters were longing to marry, but there was not a penny-a-piece for their dowries, and this meant they must remain for ever single. No girl of the East could hope to marry without a dowry–the sum of money which the father settled on the bride before the wedding day. 

As soon as the news of the poor, unhappy father came to Nicholas, he made up his mind to help him. And he decided to do it secretly and without fuss, which is always the best way of doing good. 

What do you think Nicholas did? Well, he waited until it was a very black kind of night; then, under cover of darkness, he made his way to the little house where the father and his three daughters lived. 

Nicholas carried something heavy under his long cloak–something precious too–a bag of gold. First, he thought he would leave it on the doorstep, then he saw the open window, and being wise as well as good, he reached up and dropped the bag through the window. Then he crept away.

If you’ve ever been given a present right out of the blue–something you never dreamt you would ever get–you’ll know just a bit of how the poor father felt when he saw that bag of gold in the morning. 

He cried tears of joy–and so did his daughter, his eldest daughter–for this meant that she could marry after all.

But what of the other two? Did Nicholas forget about the sisters? Of course not, for the very next week the father found a second bag of gold on the kitchen floor. 

More tears; more sighs of sheer happiness as the second daughter began thinking of her wedding dress and her own little house and all the ten children she would have!

…Her father… was looking thoughtful… You see, he was thinking. ‘What a pity I can’t say “thank you” to the giver of these bags of gold. I shall never rest content until I know who it is.’

That night, without telling his daughters, the father sat by the window, waiting. But nothing happened. The street remained dark and silent. Then the moon disappeared altogether and it grew so cold that at last he went to bed. 

So the next night he waited by the window, and the next and the next. And then on the fourth night, when he was just on the point of giving up, he heard steps. 

Scarcely daring to breathe, he waited and then–a hand came through the window, and the father grabbed it and held on tight. Down clattered the bag of gold, but still he held on. 

‘Stay where you are!’ he whispered, ‘if you want to make an old man happy.’

And Nicholas answered gently: ‘Open your door, and I will talk with you for a moment, but rest content…I want no thanks.’ (Mary Cousins, More about the Saints, 1959, pp. 32-35)

Consider, for a moment, all the gift-giving to children today, in the name of Nicholas, that helps people get ‘no thanks,’ from the children who receive. Saint Nick gets the thanks.

The stories of Christmas gift-giving are endless. As we come to this season again, let us take note of what it is to give good gifts

Perhaps you have had moments when you got a gift that, well, was not quite what you wanted nor needed. And most of us have given a gift that was not quite right. I remember…

What makes the best gift? Is it not a needed gift? This is the season of heightened charity: generosity to those most in need, often through many organizations, not to mention Churches. The hungry get fed, those with little are provided with gifts, those mostly alone are remembered and visited. 

My main text today is from the prophet Joel. Four pages in your Bible, spoken by Joel for God, in the face of a plague. Here, I see some good gifts, in the midst of Joel’s world, which was in serious trouble, back, oh, five hundred years before Jesus, give or take a couple centuries.

You may know that Joel, the Hebrew prophet, preaches in the midst of a great plague of locusts that have devastated the land and the lives of the Jews.

What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten.
What the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
(1:4)

The later verses that I had Sara read speak of what I see as a few gifts. The opportunity to turn around & mend our ways is a gift. The possible mercy and help of God is a gift. A return to God – today we might say ‘making peace with God’ – is a gift. And the Spirit of God poured out on all the people is an incredible gift!

Like I said, a good gift is a needed gift. These things were needed in the ancient days of Joel, who spoke this hope to the Israelites. What things are needed by Canadians this December? Not to mention other millions around the globe?

Some of us need to know that this time will be over, this pandemic that creates so many precautions and limitations to ‘life as we knew it.’ We have fears that our lives will never be quite the same again. Some long and hope and believe we will get back to ‘normal’ next year, or maybe the year after that. 

When the locust plague was raging, in Joel’s day, one thing his Godly message said was: gather for a serious service! He said in it ways the Hebrews understood. Joel was pro-worship. Today, and in our circumstance, gathering for serious prayer and time with God is challenging. There are ways to ‘gather,’ so to speak, without being in the same room. We must use these ways! For the sake of serious lamenting, intense asking, and concerted listening to God.

There is also a need to know how to live in these days, and not just wait out these months so we can live again, some day. Before even one prayer is answered, remember to Whom we pray. The God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. To live when we can’t go everywhere, be still and know that God is God. Be aware that God reaches those you can no longer reach. Look for how God might be at work even for those who can no longer go to work! Before anything gets better, we can get creative with the Creator, and still live

So there is a need to become willing to live differently for the sake of being safer and preserving lives. Even when opinions differ about what should be done to fight this virus, there is a common humility and willingness to bless others that must be shared. 

This can be a good gift to others: go shopping when you need to go shopping, and wear a mask. This way is intended to be life-giving to others. Alongside this, for every trip you don’t take to the grocery store, or the coffee shop, make a phone call to people you would have seen there and talked with. Stay thoughtful. For every thing you must give up these days, find something you can do instead.

And there is a need to have good attitudes, better attitudes, towards one another on this planet. In times of testing people get testy. This year has proved that! Social media proves that. What can God do to transform people from the inside out? Make a heart change? Reform the human conscience? ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,’ Joel proclaimed. Hundreds of years later Peter preached it again, at Pentecost. 

Let me finish by sharing a remarkable list. A list Don Robertson shared with our Men’s Fellowship back in January. (Remember January?) CREATIVE WISHES FOR 2020. Now that this year has turned out the way it has, look at how wise, how appropriate, how prophetic, how inspired Pastor Don’s ideas were. 

MAGNANIMITY – become more altruistic.

RESILIENCE – develop true flexibility.

ENTHUSIASM – grow in positive energy.

INITIATIVE – take creative steps in life.

What gifts, this December, will truly be good gifts that you give out? Gifts that help. Gifts that are needed by the ones who receive. Gifts that are part of making a difference in our corner of the world today.

God’s gift to us to help us is… God! God with us. Jesus, Emmanuel. The Spirit, poured out upon us. Remember this always.

PRAYERS: Let us   pray. Mighty, Gracious One, do Your own good pleasure in the lives we bring. We do bring ourselves – body and soul, together before You now. Gathered ‘round Your table we pray, asking for the sake of the world. 

O Healer, one disease has altered ways of life in every corner of the world. We ask for help in the life of every sick person, and those who care for them. Beyond the coronavirus, all the other diseases still go on; for healing and comfort and help and care we pray. 

In this age of fears we bow before You in awe and wonder. Master, ours is a time of safety precautions. We pray for all who are unable to join us on Sundays or who choose to remain safely away from the fellowship. May none feel unnecessary guilt, may all who stay away know they are still part of the church family, may all those absent be blessed by other ways to stay connected & stay worshipping, on their own.

Spirit of Compassion, our prayerfulness is for the sake of those in need, nearby and far away. Even our charities and benevolent giving are disrupted this year. May the barriers be overcome, so the hungry will have good food, the empty-handed will have helpful gifts, and the poor in spirit will be lifted up with some real joy. Bless the Churches and organizations working to reach out with practical love, once again this December. 

And on this day when a disaster in Halifax is remembered, and a day of violence in Montreal, let there be peace on earth. Our souls sing out, longing for a peace the world cannot give. A peace from the Prince of Peace, Jesus. In His name. AMEN.