Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Words of Welcome
“We begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. This territory is covered by the peace and friendship treaties which Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples first signed with the British crown in 1725. These treaties did not deal with surrender of lands or resources, but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq title and established rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.” May we honour the friendship, support and spirit of peace which was offered to our settler ancestors.
Hymn Make a Joyful Noise VU 820
Call to Worship One: O come, O come Emmanuel…
All: God, come be with us in a way that we can understand.
One: …and ransom captive Israel…
All: O God come and free your people being who are being controlled without reason.
One: …that mourns in lowly exile here…
All: Until your people see hope of freedom, they will remain alone.
One:…until the Son of God appear.
All: until we see your presence in future generations.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel VU 1 v1
Opening Prayer Today, O God we pray that our words might offer Hope to people who need it most. We pray that this time of worship will fill us with Hope and encourage us to pass Hope on to others who feel hopeless. May it be so.
Hymn Still, Still, Still VU 47
Advent Wreath A Story of Hope Paul Dunlop
Response A Candle is Burning VU 6 v1
Theme Conversation The Star Q & A
Readings Daniel 3:1-30
Musical Response Your Word is A Lamp unto my Feet VU 840
Sermon Christmas Idols
The Book of Daniel is one we don’t hear from very often, but since Jesus refers to the Book of Daniel in Matthew 24, we know Daniel was important to Jesus. We also know that this book is set during the captivity of the Hebrew in Babylon, a faith shaping event for many Hebrew people leading up to and teaching Jesus. So Here’s what you need to know about the book of Daniel.
Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, were considered among the Hebrew elite: they were of the priestly bloodline, young, wise, diligent and pleasing to the eye. As such, they were capture and taken to be trained in the courts of the Babylon King to become advisors or servants of the royal family and friends. Many were taken against their will to be trained, but it was better than being killed. The trainees were given daily rations from the Royal stores and plenty of time to study or learn the ways of the people they were to serve. Daniel and company surprised their guards and overseers by refusing to eat and drink from the royal stores. Daniel’s guard warned him that if they appeared to be lesser than some of the others, that things would go poorly for him. But Daniel and his friends wished to keep their religious laws around food. So they asked to eat vegetables. The guards and overseers were surprised because Daniel, Shedrack, Meshack and Abednego became stronger and wiser than the captives who ate from the Royal stores.
The King has a dream that no one can interpret for him. In an effort to save himself and his friends, Daniel offers to interpret this dream for the King. As Daniel begins to speak he warns the King that he is only able to do this because of God and for no other reason. He then told the King that his dream of a giant statue made of mixed metals that comes crashing down is really about how the people in power will come crashing down because they are worshipping the wrong God. The King doesn’t fully understand and thinks that he is supposed to worship Daniel. When Daniel tries to redirect his worship, the King promotes Daniel and his friends.
As I said, the King didn’t really understand Daniel’s interpretation, so sometime later he erected a large, gold statue, something that alluded to him, and ordered that all of the people worship that statue. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were now working in other places, and when some of the people realized that they were not worshipping the statue, they told the King. The King questioned the men on this and they informed him they had no intention of worshipping anyone other than God. So the King, fearing that this might cause an uprising, ordered them to be put in the hottest possible furnace to be burned to death. The fire was built, the men were bound and escorted into the furnace. The fire was so fierce, that the guards who placed them in the furnace were killed before they could retreat. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were walking around in the furnace along with a fourth, unnamed person and they were unharmed. Finally, the King understood. He ordered the men out of the furnace and immediately began to worship God.
That’s a summary of today’s scripture reading. Now if you are wondering where the heck are the lions? That comes much later in Daniel’s life. Even after the furnace incident, the King doesn’t fully get it and it takes at least one more strange experience before King Nebuchadnezzar fully comes to understand God. After King Nebuchadnezzar dies, his son takes over and scandalously eats and drinks from the sacrifices at the temple. All of the culminates in another interpretation by Daniel, the King being assassinated, and King Dairus taking over. It is under King Darius that Daniel ends up being thrown into the lion’s den because he wouldn’t offer his prayers to the King.
Daniel goes on to have more dreams himself before the end of the book, but I’m more interested today in talking about his encounters with the Kings.
I read an article in the Chronicle Herald online by a financial planner that gifts and giving at Christmas should only account for 1% of your annual income, and to not feel guilty if it has to be less than that. There are lots of articles on the stress that Canadians and particularly women feel over the holidays, along with some interesting trend studies that show that more and more people are turning to online shopping to help deal with both financial stress and the time factor that causes so many of us huge amounts of stress.
Here’s the thing I didn’t fully recognize until an honest conversation with Bob in October. As some of you may or may not know, we are finishing up the first stage of the adoption process, meaning this could be our last Christmas without two-legged children. Or we could have nine more. Either way it came up that I was a little bit worried about Christmas. Now I’ve been doing this ministry thing for 12 Christmases. I think I’ve had about three where I didn’t spend the majority of Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a comatose state. About five of them required heavy antibiotics in the week leading up to or the week after Christmas. So of course I’m worried about pulling off the perfect Christmas – the epitome of my own spiritual life and a huge family experience on the Sangster side of things for a child who most likely hasn’t had anything near the experience I had. Ask Bob about his first New Harbour Christmas. It’s a story in and of itself. Bob reminded me that he is perfectly capable of pulling off an excellent Christmas experience. After all, he’s responsible for the majority of the decorating and the Christmas tree, and last Christmas in my Tylenol induced stupor, Bob managed to pull off a complete turkey dinner. Don’t get me wrong – Bob is good, but he’s no Martha Stewart.
So why is it that I feel the need to have a picture-perfect Christmas? It’s not like all of my growing-up Christmases were perfect. There were plenty of rain-filled Christmases with power outages. Occasionally, not receiving the thing I wanted most under the tree or the preferred part in the Christmas pageant. There were sometimes silly fights with my sisters, sickness, or having to drive all the way to Canso, an hour away, for the Christmas Eve Service only to come back to peel 10lbs of potatoes. I’ll never forget the Christmases before Grammie got a dish washer, handwashing all of the dishes that 30 people require to have Christmas dinner. There’s no great answer as to my need for the perfect Christmas, but I do know that it can sometimes feel like my need to have it all go perfectly is more important than the actual reason I even celebrate Christmas.
A few years ago I happened across a free download of a Christmas Album. One of the treasures on it was Jessie Farrell’s “Christmas at My House”. The song is a list of things she’s not going to followed by a reminder of why she celebrates the season, the song then talks about some of the things she’s planning on doing, so these other things probably won’t happen. All through the song is an invitation to join her, if you can handle the things that will happen and won’t mind missing out on the things that don’t. The lyrics that stick with me are “Stop trying to make it perfect, cause perfect ain’t worth it. This Christmas make it all about love”.
Have you ever noticed yourself slipping and getting so caught up in craziness that you forget the whole point of the season? I wonder if it was the same way with the Kings in Daniel’s time – If they got so caught up in the power and fame of being kings that they forgot the reason they were there.
Suddenly fame and fortune mean so much more than the good of the whole. Suddenly a large golden statue in your likeness or a few million retweets and maintaining that image and the power that comes with it is more important than ensuring everyone is able to maintain the same basic standard of living. Suddenly fake tans are worth more than hard earned blisters and scars are seen as imperfections rather than a symbol of victory. A magazine worthy Christmas is worth more than what’s realistic and leaves everyone just as happy.
Last Sunday, I promised to take the time to enjoy my advent rather than plod through it. This Sunday I’m uping the ante. This Sunday I’m letting go of the perfect Christmas. This year, I’m going to attempt to balance work and play so that you all are spiritually fulfilled and that I get to spend time with my family. I’m going to attempt to not be sick this December, even if it means constant hand sanitizer, and staying home from some events because I have a tickle in my throat.
It doesn’t matter if I try to make things perfect. I don’t think God’s presence will be felt any more in my stress. In fact, I think it’s the opposite, that’s God’s presence is felt less in my stress. God’s presence wasn’t felt in the building of the statue, nor was it felt in being told how to pray. Bigger isn’t always better. It isn’t always what brings a person into a fuller spiritual life.
What are you going to do to bring yourself a little closer to God this advent season? What idols are you willing to get rid of? How are you going to offer the Christmas Spirit in a way that brings everyone closer to God?
Hymn Spirit of the Living God VU 376
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation Thank you for your generosity. Because of your generosity, last week we were able to give over $600 and a large quantity of food to the St. Margaret’s Bay Area food bank in addition to our regular contributions. This is especially important as December and January are often the hardest months for families that have difficulty making ends meet. With your continued support, we can do even more.
Offertory Little Drummer Boy/What Can I Do? MV 191
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Prayer Music Lord Listen to Your Children Praying VU 400
Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing Deep in Our Hearts MV 154 v1