Worship At Home, Jan 2, 2022 – Get to Know Me

WELCOME to this post to share at home and worship there, while we are not meeting together in person. For a time, we will not be gathering. During this period our paper bulletin will be shorter and simpler. Here on this website post you can find music, prayer, scripture, sermon, and so forth. This Sunday, first of a month and first of the year, we will share communion separately, from home. Use a pre-filled cup from the Church, or your own bread and juice.

Any group of believers, gathered to worship God, is not an audience sitting back as spectators in the pews. Thus, this plan for service at home is not simply one video for you to sit back and watch. Use as many elements that are here – of text, audio and video – to worship the Holy One.

Psalm 66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

PRAYER : Offer your own prayer to praise God, to give thanks, and to confess.

PRAYERS: (lyric by Gary Sadler & Lynn Deshazo )
We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages, God before time
We are a vapor, You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high

For the year that is now past we praise and thank You. Amid the hardships have been lessons of love. In troubled times have come beautiful moments. With uncertainty has come Your guiding Spirit to show the way. Be near in 2022.
We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, Mighty to save
You are the love song we’ll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name

For healing and help we pray today, O God. Your goodness and blessing be upon ___ and ___ and ___. Especially we pray for Mike, who has been recovering in the Kentville Hospital, and for Doug who has been in and out of Digby and Yarmouth Hospitals…
And our prayers are for the whole world. We pray for people in the Kayah, Myanmar, where thirty-five people were killed in a military attack. We pray for people in West Kordofan, Sudan, where thirty-eight were killed when a defunct gold mine collapsed. We pray for people in Kabul, Afghanistan, where women gathered this week calling for “justice, justice” in protest of Taliban authorities.
Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name

SCRIPTURE John 1:35-51 – read by Angela Outhouse:

SERMON: Get to Know Me. Today is the second Sunday of Christmas, and the second day of a whole new year. For a third time, we have stopped meeting in person – this time not because we had to, but because so many people are reluctant to gather. 

We begin a new year with a new Gospel to read as we tell the story of Jesus once again in worship; the Gospel of John. How different from the other three it is! How full of Jesus’ words, and glorious signs of His divinity. How different in style and how rich in detail. 

I have not quite thought this through yet, but I wonder if our opening theme for the year will be getting to know Jesus. We may be guided to explore how we have done this in our lives, and what the next steps are. We may uncover what new methods we have for sharing Good News with the generations around us now. How can other people get to know what we know about Christ? 

So, we have now celebrated the arrival of Him in the world, two millenia ago. Today, in John’s Gospel, we see young adult Jesus beginning His work. He starts the journey by recruiting disciples. Some of His recruits had been followers of John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin. This was what John’s work was for: to prepare for the actual Messiah, and to hand his apprentices over to the Christ. 

Any story is a journey through time and space. We compared the story of these others with our own life stories. We find common events and experiences. Similar intervention by God. Our lives get interpreted by the Bible.

Today I also began a retelling of the classic Christian story ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Written hundreds of years ago by Baptist preacher John Bunyan, I’m using a new children’s version of this allegory. Perhaps Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey can help us adults follow the original book more easily. And here again we may have our own life stories interpreted. Pray that the Spirit of the Living God will open our minds and inspire our faithful actions. 

Anyway, let us get back to John chapter one, and Nathanael, who caught my attention this past week. We learn very little about this follower of Jesus: all we have is a few scenes in these paragraphs. Before he meets Jesus Nathanael is skeptical about this new prophet, from a nearby small town. “Could anything good come from Nazareth?” he says. But when Jesus meets him, Christ declares Nathanael to be a man of faith ‘without guile’ or ‘without deceit,’ however we want to translate it.

As much as this Gospel story is about Nathanael, and Philip, and the others, getting to know this Jesus, I wondered this, the same thing Nathanael wondered: how did Jesus know what Nathanael was like? “Where did you get to know me?” he asks. And they have a short conversation about this. 

Maybe you can remember times you got introduced to someone new, but your reputation preceded you. The stranger knew something about you already. Maybe you had friends in common. Or they just picked up quickly on who you are, what you’re like. 

I think of a friend of mine who has a certain insight, an intuition of sorts, even almost what seems like a 6th sense. He used to tell me he gets a strong first impression from people. When he meets someone and shakes their hand, he knows. I think he meant he knows if he can trust them, he knows if he is going to like them, he picks up right away on the person’s personality. 

I don’t have that gift. But sometimes I know when I meet someone who has this insight. 

So there is something important, even impressive, when someone notices us and has some insight about us. When I realize someone truly sees me, understands me, is paying attention to me, it is touching and kind. So the Jesus and Nathanael scene got me wondering about how these two men got to know one another very quickly. And has that ever happened for me and Christ?

Yes, we get to know Jesus. It comes from our time with Him. John’s story of Christ has these scenes of Him gaining disciples: Andew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanel. They change their schedules – for three years! – and are apprenticed to the Master. They see what Jesus does, they have it explained to them, they start to help Jesus, they try going out on their own, they do it. They become trained in Kingdom living; it’s very practical work. 

So many of you to whom I preach have had many years of your own apprenticeship to the Master. You have your own definite sense of who the Master is, what He is like, how He gets things done, and the qualities of His character. As He said, He is a Shepherd who knows the sheep, and the sheep know His voice. I don’t know about you, but I still find there is more and more to know about Christ. I keep wanting to go back, for instance, to Willard’s book about hearing the voice of God, and be reminded what to look for when I want to hear from God. As in human relationships, there can always be more knowing and growing with Jesus.

We also get to be known by Jesus, and this actually matters. “Where did you get to know me?” asked Nathanael. We can ask the same thing. ‘Where did You get to know me, Christ?’ And then, scenes from our life may come to mind – the things we did, the places we went, the moments that mattered – when the all-seeing God enjoyed our company, and cooperated with us. 

I like that phrase in Psalm 149 (4) ‘For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.’ Remember, and know that your God enjoys you.

In that amazing chapter, Romans 8, we can read (26) ‘… the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ And (34) ‘It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.’ I keep saying, I have this sense that the Trinity: Father Son and Holy Spirit, are busy talking about us among Themselves. You and I are on Their minds. We matter. Everyone matters. So, as Paul says in Romans 8(31) ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’! 

Our faith celebrates this Deity who we experience so personally. To be known by God is a gift of grace. 

And we get to know ourselves better, through Jesus’ eyes, so to speak. Many of us learned from Christianity that God is all-seeing, and catches us in every mistake and bad deed. Psalm 19:12 prays: ‘But who can detect their errors?     Clear me from hidden faults.’ But what if we remember that our Creator also knows every beautiful thing about us, moment by moment? We are told we are wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and in the New Testament that we were created for good works, all prepared for us to do in this life (Eph 2:10). We have this good news to tell: God sees the beauty and worth of you

A song came to my mind, a Gaither song I learned as a kid in the Church. 

I am a promise, I am a possibility,
I am a promise, with a capital P,
I am a great big bundle of potentiality!
And I am learning to hear God’s voice,
And I am trying to make the right choices
I’m a promise to be anything God wants me to be.

Whenever someone who knows and respects us tells us what they see in us, it has an impact. I shared some of these words with you a few weeks ago, from a social media post by a friend of ours.  It was just a couple years ago that Jennifer wrote to all of us, who knew her, to tell us she had cancer. In the midst of it she said: 

We live in a society where people think that individuality is a right and spend soooo many dollars on clothes, hobbies, tattoos, homes, anything and everything that can set them apart. But if we are all doing the same thing albeit in different ways, isn’t that more the same than different? If we could all only see how beautiful God has made each of us we could spend more time making a difference in the world with all he has given us. Friends! If you only could see you as I see each of you! You are beautiful. I digress.

Jenn had that vision of others that Jesus sees. When you can believe something wonderful about yourself that someone else believes, how encouraging! All the more when we get in touch with how God esteems us. As a father is filled with compassion for his children, so God loves us. As a hen would try to gather her chicks under her wings, so Jesus wanted to embrace His people who were straying. As the Spirit lets our own spirits know we belong and are children of God, so our lives expand and strengthen.

As a new year begins, follow Jesus. 

Notice how His own attention follows you. 

And discover anew the delight and purpose Jesus sees in you!

PRAYER after the Sermon:  God, You are more than words can tell or names can describe. Jesus, You are bigger than history and more down-to-earth than stained glass and hymns. Spirit, You are holier than we can touch, yet also close and graciously available to our souls. In our quest to know You, to believe in You, to follow Your way for us: remind us again how You also seek us with great love and attention. Even with Your arms open wide upon the Cross You seek us. You are lifted up that all men and women may be drawn close to You. 

Draw close to us again, we pray. Amen.

COMMUNION The table of bread is now to be made ready.
It is the table of company with Jesus,
and all who love him.
It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world,
with whom Jesus identified himself.
It is the table of communion with the earth,
in which Christ became incarnate.
So come to this table, you who have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time;
you who have tried to follow Jesus
and you who have failed; come.
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.

Jesus said, “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread – living Bread! – who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.” John 6:47-51 (Msg)

Now, we remember that…
The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 (Msg)

Let us give thanks for the bread… [Maggie Beveridge:]

[Eat the bread]

After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.

Let us give thanks for the cup… [Peter Dickie:]

What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns.

[Drink from the Cup]

Prayer after Communion
The bread has been broken, the cup has been poured, the meal has been shared. Gracious God, we give thanks for bread for the journey, for your wisdom guiding us along the way. May there be friends to share the road as we dare to dream of creation renewed, and hope in the promise of justice for all. Amen.

BENEDICTION: May the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom; and grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and always. AMEN.

Worship, Sept 12 – Creativity

WELCOME to this post for the worship of God among the people of Digby Baptist Church. After the service, video is included from the service. More details are available here on our website under the Bulletins page.

Creativity (Gen 1:1-24a; John 1:1-5) – J G White. 11 am, Sunday, Sept 12, 2021, UBC Digby

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

That is the first sentence of the 1830 novel called Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. “It was a dark and stormy night” has been a cliche for so long; few people know its source.

As I said last Sunday, the ways we tell our stories matter. Including the ways we begin them. “Once upon a time,” is pretty common. In scripture today we found that Genesis 1 and John1 both start with “In the beginning.”

Dick Parry read the start of the whole thing today, but he also knows an amplified version of  Gen 1:1-3, so I’ll have him give that you to now:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3  And God said, Let there be light: (and Moses being the duty electrician, flipped the switch) and there was light (and you could see for miles and miles).

That’s a bit of creative writing! As I wondered, this past week, what kind of sermon to ‘create,’ I saw a few options. I could simply expound upon the Christian doctrine of creation. I could take on the environmental crisis and speak of creation care in our day and age. I could get very Bible nerdy and get into the weeds of all the details about Genesis 1 with an in-depth Bible study.

Rather than these, I have felt inspired at the end of the week to speak about creativity, and this is rooted in these two texts about the Creator creating. In the image of the Creator we are made, and we get to create things too; we are co-creators with our Master. “Once Upon a Time” is really a place-holder for a sermon title. I now simply call this “Creativity.”

We have, today, this incredible, very old, very famous, very influential story, Genesis One (and it runs over into Genesis Two): the seven day creation story. Before we think about the difference this makes in our lives, let me take note of one detail. This first Biblical creation story is about form and function, more than it is about how physical stuff got made in the first place. This chapter, like others that follow, was written not only in the old Hebrew language of the people of long ago, it was, naturally, given to them so they could understand it. It is told in their view of the world, their understanding, their culture. As Bible scholar, John Walton, puts it, this is from their ‘cultural river.’ To understand it well, we need to wade into the cultural river of the ancient Hebrews of the Middle East. 

And it appears that the ancient peoples of the whole area, then, did not tell their creation stories to explain where all the stuff came from in the world. They told the stories to explain how things work, what they do, and how they have purpose. The land, the skies, the sea, the creatures, the people, the sun and the moon – they all are created with place and purpose. What they are made of, and where those atoms and photons came from, was not of interest to them, long ago. And I think God did not need to explain much to them about where the world came from. It was simply all from God.  

Genesis 1 is creatively told, in its ancient way. Our own eyes and experience also tell us how wonderfully put together all things are. And we come up with our own ways of delighting in the creation of which we are part. We find our ways of being co-creators too, partnering with God to run the world, and grow it, and point it in the right direction. We take the raw materials, and make something beautiful for God. 

It is this chapter that speaks of humans being made in the image of God: Adam, which means Humankind, created in the image of God. There are a lot of claims about what this means, to be made ‘in the image of God.’ I think it includes being creators: made in the image of Creator.

So, we all create. We all are creative. I know, I know, some of you say, in general, you are not creative. And I know what you mean. Ya don’t sing or play an instrument, you don’t write poetry, you can’t draw or paint, you’re just not a right-brained person! But we all are creators; we have our creative talents that come out, especially when we find our way, some opportunities, and the Spirit inspires us. 

Just yesterday, after a woman sang a hymn, while playing her guitar, she sang a gospel song she had written herself, and showed me the words for another she had written. Nine days ago I saw the creative cooking of fudges and pies and squares and all manner of baked goods here. Over the past couple weeks, Sharon White has been repainting and reappointing things at our cottage, in her clean, functional, creative way. A couple weeks ago, I asked one of you/our local artists to create a cartoon for our bulletin cover, and you/she did it very nicely. 🙂

We might think of such talents as the real gifts from God. But is there not a much longer list? What about the problem solvers, who can sort out how to plan an event well, or rewrite a bureaucratic document, or create a plan for a trip away. What about a person who is great at retail, or has a real knack for marketing? Or creative parenting that mothers and fathers and grandparents must use with children these days? What about a gardener, who can grow flowers so naturally, and puts them together in the ground in such beautiful combinations. 

Or the farmers who need to find creative ways to deal with challenges every week! Sharon and I got out to the cottage a week ago, too late to see the pigs that had got loose from the local organic farm, and were eating their way through the neighbourhood. Our neighbours said the farmers came along with branches in each hand, and shooed them all back where they belonged. 

What more can I say? About creative money management, nature research and activism, political know-how, the gift of the gab – or of letter writing. (I think immediately of our dear, departed Maureen Potter when I think of letter writing.) The normal, everyday things we do call forth the creative powers of us all. It’s just that you do some things well I can’t, and vice versa. 

Along with acknowledging the little creative skills we each have been given, is the need, the calling even, to encourage people to find their creative power and use it. 

One of the spiritual teachers I listen to is Jan Phillips. She is not really even a Christian – I’d call her post-Christian – but her experience and wisdom, and creativity, are helpful to me. She tells of teaching a course , years ago, at a summer conference in New York state for the International Women’s Writing Guild. Jan said, ‘I went into the room and I was with all these women among four hundred attendees and my thought was that I’m in the midst of all these marvelous women who are writing down their life. But as they raised their hands to my query of what they were writing, they began giving me all different reasons for why they were not writing.

One said, “I don’t have time to write”; the next one, “I don’t have a space to write …my husband doesn’t support me, my kids are in my hair, I don’t think I have a story worth telling.” They gave me a whole litany of reasons why they were not writing.

 So I thought it would be a good idea for us to explore what each of our obstacles were to commitment and …see if we could spin it around and turn our obstacle into an opportunity.

The responses of the women at the conference eventually became an Artists Creed, and then a book that Jan Phillips was inspired to write. It is all encouragement for a person to do their artistic work, their creative thing. Jan tends to speak of God as the Muse who inspires, and also tends to use female imagery – just to prepare you…

The Artist’s Creed

  1. I believe I am worth the time it takes to create whatever I feel called to create.
  2. I believe that my work is worthy of its own space, which is worthy of the name Sacred.
  3. I believe that, when I enter this space, I have the right to work in silence, uninterrupted, for as long as I choose.
  4. I believe that the moment I open myself to the gifts of the Muse, I open myself to the Source of All Creation and become One with the Mother of Life Itself.
  5. I believe that my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing, flowing through me like a river with no beginning and no end.
  6. I believe that what it is I am called to do will make itself known when I have made myself ready.
  7. I believe that the time I spend creating my art is as precious as the time I spend giving to others.
  8. I believe that what truly matters in the making of art is not what the final piece looks like or sounds like, not what it is worth or not worth, but what newness gets added to the universe in the process of the piece itself becoming.
  9. I believe that I am not alone in my attempts to create, and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness, the words will take shape, the form find life, and the spirit take flight.
  10.  I believe that as the Muse gives to me, so does she deserve from me: faith, mindfulness, and enduring commitment.”  

(Jan Phillips, Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity, 1997) 

Perhaps you hear the voice of your Master in a few of these ideas. And the Spirit of God will encourage you to do those little things you can do so beautifully, or take on that bigger project that might not even get much attention. 

To do some good work with Jesus in this world, that’s what it’s all about. (Notice, in the incredible start of John’s gospel, it is Jesus who is the Word, who is there at creation, and nothing gets made without Jesus.) Perhaps nothing good really gets done around here today, without Jesus!

So, Church, as creative people, what do we have to offer the world that they cannot get elsewhere? 

When it comes to being creative, in the image of God, we have training in connecting with the Creator, the Muse who inspires our lives. 

We offer encouragement that any person’s creative spark is within the will and purpose of God for that person. 

We can give some opportunities for folks to express themselves and contribute to the work of the Spirit. 

The seven steps of creation and rest in Genesis 1 draw us into the life of our Creator, and God’s work in this world – past, present and future – beginning, middle and end. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are here to be a maker. Remember that those you meet are also in the image of the Creative God, broken and bad as we all sometimes are. Remember that the good news of Jesus includes His creative power, that lives on in us, as we call ourselves Christians.

PRAYER after the Sermon
O Saviour, create a sense of wisdom in us, so we know how to live well.
Create new hope and joy in our hearts, for this year has drained us of emotional energy.
Create for us opportunities for our faith to flourish.
Create in us a strong will to obey and be free in You.
Create space for us to be the artists You want us to be.
Create new ways for us to function as Church, Your body in the world today.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. AMEN.

Now, let the breathing Spirit of God
overflow in your life, empowering you.
Let the beautiful Saviour God set your spirit free
to share good news wherever you go.
Let the bountiful Creator God
open the eyes of your heart
to see all that is being done,
for the good of the world. AMEN.

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.

Who Are You?

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-10, 18-28) J G White
3rd Sunday of Advent, Dec 17, 2017, UBC Digby

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside; He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

These are the very last words of Albert Schweitzer’s classic 1906 book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, translated into English in 1910.  

Jesus comes to us as one unknown.  Well, that is how He starts out.  We might see this as a theme of John’s Gospel, compared against the other three Gospels in the New Testament.  John 1:10 says of Jesus: ‘He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.’  When we get to verses 26 & 27, John the Baptizer is talking. “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me.”

As this Gospel tells the story of Christ, we find people such as Nicodemus (chapter 3) and the Samaritan woman (chapter 4) who understand Jesus’ words but not their meaning.  From the High Priest and Pilate, to the twelve disciples, Jesus is regularly misunderstood.  

Who are you?

Ever meet up with someone and you end up with your own identity crisis? Either you get mixed up about who you met, or someone you met doesn’t know who you are?  

Just this week I met a local women who is getting to be a friend of mine, from the garden tours and nature field trips we’ve had.  In the grocery store we met, and she said, “Oh, I have been thinking for days I must call Rick Andrews!”  She proceeded to tell me a quick story about a bear that visited her camp in the woods this fall, and ate some apples and onions on her doorstep.  But she finished by saying, “And… you’re not Rick, you’re Jeff!”  

Sharon, remember the time you were in a grocery store, and met our local Member of Parliament, but talked to him about a situation our Member of the Legislature knew about?  Oops.  You knew it was one of our politicians. 😉

So, it’s about thirty years after Jesus and his cousin John were born.  John is preaching and baptizing – not in the temple – out of town by the river.  Some of the professional religious came out from the city to quiz John.  “Just who are you?”  The Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ?  No.  Elijah, who will come before the Messiah, according to the final verses of the Old Testament?  No. That prophet foretold who will be greater than Moses?  No.

I am, (here’s a quotation from Isaiah) I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.”  

They find out who John the Baptizer is by process of elimination.  Who he is not.  And John goes on, talking about this One who is about to appear on the scene.  In fact, among you stands One whom you do not know.

Jesus is, well, not standing among us, but lying in many mangers among us right now. As I have preached before, He is for many people today X, an unknown quantity.  So “Xmas” is really quite appropriate.  X is really the Greek letter Chi, and stands for Christ, but not even Xians (Christians) know this. 😉

It is by experience, purely by personal experience, that one gets to know Jesus the Christ.  Of course, it can take a lot of time and experience to know God this way.  I think I have been blessed to have had, well, 47 years of good opportunities to get to know this Unknown One, born in a barn. Many have fewer chances.

So, sometimes, you and I will be ambassadors for Christ, as the New Testament puts it.  Or, like John the Baptizer, we bear witness to the Light we have seen shining.  Like testimony in a courtroom, we can tell what we have seen and known.  We recognize God in the room, and celebrate.

Who are you?  A pointer towards Christ. Occasionally, people see us, and just think it is us, only us, here.  Maybe it is, sometimes.  But we know at many other times that the Unknown One is among us; God with us, Emmanuel.

I’ll call her ‘Rhonda.’  She moved to Windsor from my home village.  I’d known her all through my Schooling.  We all knew she was different.  In the early 80s people would rudely refer to her as ‘retarded.’ She was loud and excitable and energetic.  In elementary school I remember her tackling me in the playground and kissing me!

So, in adulthood she moved to Windsor, and came to us at the Baptist Church.  It was a hard transition for her. And it was hard for some to welcome her and help her find her place.  In her little country church at home she had been very involved in the ladies auxiliary, but in this new town, the women didn’t know her, probably underestimated her, didn’t know how to have Rhonda join them in their work.

Rhonda had her membership transferred from the little Baptist Church back home to the new big one where I was pastor.  And when she did, she wanted to give a testimony – to stand up on Sunday morning and tell some of her life story, her faith journey.  

All the Church waited to see what would happen.

She told a beautiful story.  She told it beautifully and so honestly.  People were deeply touched, in that moment.  They were impressed with her.  We were impressed with the light that we suddenly noticed, shining!  We learned something that day about who Rhonda was, and who Jesus was.  And who we were.

‘Who are you, Jesus?’, people may ask. The answers we know we give.  We can’t make up anything else.  We might not believe all the facts we think we are supposed to believe.  What we do experience of Light and Truth, of Pain and Grace, we can share. ‘Who are you, Jeff?’ is also asked.  By grace we may answer well, and shed some light.

Writer and activist Jan Phillips, leads, among other things, storytelling workshops.  Story-spinning classes.  

Jan says: Our stories define us. They affect our well-being, our relationships, our present and our future. They are vehicles of energy. We can harness great power from the experiences of our lives. Our bodies are waiting to be tapped for their wisdom, gained from every ordeal we have suffered or encountered. Every catastrophe has stripped us of something and given us something. The nakedness, we know. The gifts are yet to be unearthed.

Like John, at times, we are witnesses of the Light that comes into the world.  At other times, we need to see that Light in others.  

Witness Steve Garnaas-Holmes — Dec 14, 2017

        John came as a witness to testify to the light.
        He himself was not the light,
        but he came to testify to the light
               —John 1.7-8

The brook is not the light
but it reflects the coming dawn.
The geese are not the winter,
but it falls from their wings.

The wave is not the sea;
the note is not the song;
I am not the light
but I am made of nothing else.

Bear witness.
If not to the light within,
bear witness to the dawn.
To the song.

The candle isn’t the sun,
but sings its song.
I don’t have to believe this,
just sing the song.