Sermon for 20 Dec 2020

Sermon Who will build God’s house

Everyone says churches are losing members but right now we are having to turn people away. When was the last time that happened?
This covid pandemic is affecting pretty much everything. We are reassessing the world we live in. But many things were changing anyway. Many churches were struggling before this virus struck. Churches of all denominations started losing members in 1967. Many have closed and that trend continues.
This week on the United Church Facebook someone was remarking about another United Church closing and how sad it was that religion was dying. My reply was that religion may be dying but faith and spirituality is thriving. I am on several Facebook and other groups and it is interesting the number of spiritual posts that surface.
In the first scripture today, David is moving the Ark of the Covenant into a permanent building. The Ark was often portrayed as the lodging of God as it apparently held the Ten Commandments. Up until that time the ark had been in a tent and now it was moving into a “House of Cedar”
In my opinion that basically launched the institutional church. That is an institution which is both good and bad. While it has undergone some negative publicity and while we recognize the power that it wielded throughout our history, we also must recognize that it preserved a lot of history and art. Without the church the scriptures might have been lost.
However into that history there were a lot of traditions and superstitions that became part of the religion
When we celebrate Christmas many traditions are revisited and many are lost. Some are upheld because they bring meaning to the people. Some are challenged.
I smile when people say to me, as if they have just uncovered a secret, did you know that Jesus likely wasn’t born on Dec 25? Yes I did.
There are reasons why that date is chosen. Some like to believe it is a takeover of the winter solstice and that is possible.
More likely is the idea that it is 9 months from March 25 which in the middle ages was presumed to be the day Jesus died. In the Jewish calendar it is called Nisan 14.
There was a common belief that everyone’s life happened in whole years. Therefore Jesus would have been conceived on March 25 and delivered on Dec 25. The actual date was not important – they just needed that symmetry.
There are other traditions. Some have been lost. Like the tradition of the Lord of Misrule, which was popular in medieval courts, a “jester or clown would become mayor of the city for the Christmas season, suggesting all sorts of funny things that everyone would have to do,
This tradition was meant to provide entertainment throughout the entire Christmas season. It was banned in 1541. It is very difficult for me not to say anything at this point!
Another tradition which I hope will come back but not this year is the Mistletoe. It would just be too bizarre this year.
Traditions come and go.
There was a time when the wedding march was new and likely shocking. I can see the mother of the bride being upset because her daughter wanted that new music. Now it is rarely played.
We have traditions that are pretty entrenched as well.
One of them is the Wisemen. Sure the story is in the bible but we have overlaid many ideas about them. I had a request from a guy named Sammy. He is a 3 year old member of the congregation, asking if I could talk about the Wisemen. In a couple of weeks they get a whole Sunday to themselves so I will speak more about them then but just to say that we have given them names and we have added one or two. We have created traditions about them that we would hate to part with.
In the other scripture Luke is talking about a woman getting pregnant by God. She wasn’t married. In those days that could be the death sentence. God chose an incredibly unorthodox way to show his love to the world. By tradition Jesus should have been born as a Rabbi or some other church official. But he wasn’t. God broke the traditions.
Years ago I listened to a televangelist explain how Jesus would return to earth via their office because they now had the technology to let everyone hear and see him.
When David moved the ark from the tent to the house of cedar – he broke the tradition because he was listening to God
When Mary and Joseph carried on with the illegitimate birth, they broke the tradition because they were listening to God.
Right now the tradition of Sunday church service is undergoing a lot of change. Even before Covid we were looking at alternative platforms to get the message out, but often we don’t change until we have to.
Right now this sermon goes out to two or three times the number of people then it did last year.
There are some drawbacks. Christmas eve will be very different. On a regular Sunday everyone enjoys the fellowship that we can’t have but new doors have been opened.
I wouldn’t say that God created this pandemic but I would say that it is a time for us to listen to God’s voice in all this.
Think for a moment about how weird the Christmas story is. All those people like the shepherds and Wisemen and townspeople doing things they had never done
There is a story about a blind man sitting on the steps of a building. He had a sign that read “ I am blind, please help” He was getting a few coins but not much. Another man came along and changed the sign. In a little while the blind man was getting significantly more money. The other man came back after a while and asked how it was going. The blind man said it was much better and wondered what the other man had written on his sign that made such a difference. The other man said “ I changed it to read “Today is a beautiful day but I can’t see it”. It made people think. The message was the same but the parameters were different.
That is what is happening right now in our world. The parameters are different but the message is the same.
The message of Christmas is: that we are not alone.
PRAYER God As this week becomes more complex and confusing; as the parameters a round us change; as people come and go; as the dynamics make us re-evaluate what we do; help us to see that tiny child’s birth. Help us to focus on the meaning behind all the celebrations. Bring us closer to the spiritual side of this season.
We pray now for all tose who are struggling this day and this week. People who are not able to celebrate because life has changed for them. Help them also to find spiritual strength. Thank you for your intervention into this world by the birth of your Son. Amen
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from evil. for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. forever and ever Amen
Etransfer info at bottom of page
Thanks to helpers; Aubrey, Cheryl and Chelsea
Christmas Services – watch for emails
Opening Prayer
Lighting of the Advent Candle 4
Hymn – 36 Angel’s from the Realms of Glory.
Scripture 2 Samuel 7: 1-3 and Luke 1: 26-34
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 48 Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing.
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
Info about contributing
The traditional way is to send a cheque via mail to one of the treasurers.
Make the cheque out to:
Churchill United Church
send to Agnes Cole at 226 Valleyview Dr. Churchill, Ont L0L1K0
or Gilford United Church
send to Doris Coborn at 1468 Gilford Rd, Gilford. L0L1R0
An Alternative (and better) way is Etransfer
(This method is faster, cheaper and cleaner. If you don’t know how to do it, the bank or some young kid has instructions)
Send the Etransfer to
The security question is – What is the name of your church
Answer – Churchill
No security question
Another option is contact us and we will pick it up from your porch. Thanks