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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our December 4 Services

December 5, 2016


Embedded immediately below are the 5 videos we showed on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service on December 4 to help prepare us for worship.


We began our 10 a.m. Service with the following video for Advent 2.

The following passage was our Gospel Reading at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services.


[Embedded below is an adapted version of the sermon I preached at our Services.]

categories-select-category-bulletin-events-from-the-pastor-s-desk-am2yui-clipartIt’s already the Second Sunday of Advent! Today, we look at preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. We ask the Question: How can we prepare for the Lord’s coming in our lives?

We’ll begin with how NOT to prepare, as we watch this video of Black Friday shopping!

We call Advent 2 the Sunday of Peace. Well, there’s not much peace in this video!

carl-laney-1And it’s a lot like the wider world.  J. Carl Laney, in his book Marching Orders, writes: “The Society of International Law, in London, states that during the last 4,000 years there have been only 268 years of peace in spite of in excess of 8,000 peace treaties. In the last 3 centuries there have been 286 wars on the continent of Europe alone.”  

On all our hearts is the continuing violence in Syria and Iraq, which has caused the largest refugee crisis since World War II.


Our weary world is longing for peace. Where is peace to be found?

Today’s passages from Holy Scripture show us that the answers to these 2 questions (“How can we prepare for the Lord’s coming in our lives?” and “Where is peace to be found?”) are one and the same.

Our Gospel begins:
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” … ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

collapsed_kinzua_bridgeTo repent means to do a 180 degree turn. Think of us being like a train going down track towards bridge that is out, receiving a warning from one who is overhead and sees this that we need to turn around. John has this kind of message.

alta_hwy2First of all repentance means a break with the past, a change in direction.  It’s active not passive.  If we’re driving South out of Calgary on Highway 2 and we want to get to Edmonton, we have to repent of our direction – we have to change, or we won’t get to our destination. 

Thinking about going the wrong way, discussing it, creating a committee to study it, feeling sorry about it won’t change anything. 

Feeling sorry or regretful sitting in church is only a very preliminary first step.  It’s the step of looking  of looking in the right direction – of knowing what way to turn – but it needs more. It needs another step: action.

But our focus isn’t on ourselves. It’s on openness to God’s action.


Think of repentance as stopping our vigilant guard over the doorway of our hearts – of saying about the action of God in them: “None of that is needed here, thank you!” Think of it as stopping saying to the Lord: “You’re not needed here!” And instead, allowing the Lord to enter in.


gussmetallschmelze2“Prepare the way”means to remove this obstacle in the Lord’s way. “Repent” means to turn to the Lord. My back has been to him. Now I face him, looking into his eyes of love. I allow myself to be in the fire, purifying me, burning away all dross. I let him cleanse and wash me, to immerse me in his Spirit and drown my old life. 

I prepare myself for the Lord’s coming by not running away – like the person who remains on the operating table for surgery. I don’t operate on myself! The surgeon will do it. Jesus does the soul surgery in me – giving me a new heart.

I want this – I want to be set ablaze and cleansed this Advent! I’m tired of the blocks in my life that prevent the relationship with the Lord for which my heart is yearning!

buechner_190x190Frederick Buechner in his book titled Wishful Thinking defines repentance this way. “To repent is to come to your senses. … True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ than to the future and saying ‘Wow!'”

It seems to me that John the Baptist is looking at the future, expecting the “more powerful One,” and saying “WOW.”

We get a sense of the joy and freedom of the new life offered us from the interpretation of this scene in the 1973 movie “Godspell.”

I like to think that it was something like this!

This is where peace comes from: Peace comes with repentance. Peace comes from allowing the Lord to prepare me for his coming.

3e04c3aea961d49200f8a7a7cd9b27e3As Paul writes in Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peace without comes from peace within. Peace enters into us and, through us, enters our world, when the way is prepared for Our Lord to come into our lives.

It’s like a band. When the instruments are tuned, they can make beautiful music together.

Note how today’s passage from Isaiah, with its wonderful vision of world peace, says:
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.


Knowledge of God and peace and love go hand-in-hand. As 1 John says, in some of the most sublime words ever written:
186183213Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

Transformation of the world comes from transformed people in the world. It begins with us.

imageThe story is told how The Times once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” G. K. Chesterton responded simply, “Dear Sir, I am.”

There’s a joke in which a woman is walking along the beach when she stumbles upon a Genie’s lamp. She picks it up and rubs it, and lo-and-behold a Genie appears. The amazed woman asks if she’s going to receive the usual three wishes. The Genie says, “Nope … due to inflation and constant downsizing, I can only grant you one wish. So … what’ll it be?” 

14223040838_a2a69d07d6_bThe woman doesn’t hesitate. She says, “I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other.” The Genie looks at the map and exclaims, “Gadzooks, lady! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I’m good, but not THAT good! I don’t think it can be done. Make another wish.”

The woman thinks for a minute and says, “Well, I’ve never been able to find the right man. You know: one that’s considerate and fun, likes to help with household tasks, gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time, has good manners, and shares his feelings with me … That’s what I wish for: a good man like this.”

The Genie lets out a long sigh and says, “Let me see that map again!”

employees-underperforming-5-reasons-why-you-should-look-in-the-mirrorA Transformed world comes from transformed people. If we want a solution to world peace, we need to look in the mirror. It begins with us. What is wrong with the world? I am, when – for example – I let myself act like things are more important than people.

But what’s right with the world? That can also be me. I can start to make a difference right where I am, when – for example – I act with consideration to my wife in our own home.

The problems in our world can seem so insoluble, so overwhelming. But their solution starts with us – one transformed person at a time. Lives transformed by Our Lord of love’s Presence within make a difference. More than we might ever imagine.

animated_candle-1In our Canticle today, we said:
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Even a small ray of light pierces great darkness. But, of course, we’re not alone. Our Lord’s light is shining in countless others, too! Driving to Calgary from Red Deer at 11 p.m. on Friday, I was struck by the amount of light in the sky – all the light caused by all the little lights in Calgary. A small ray of light can pierce great darkness. And many, many small rays … well, what a difference they can make! The light of the dawn from on high is beginning to shine upon and through us throughout the world. We can be a part of it here and now, where we are!


I’d like to end this sermon with a story of one person whose light shining is making a difference in the darkness of warfare in the Middle East – a 10 year old Iraqi girl named Myriam.

Here’s an earlier interview, in which Myriam is asked to sing her favourite song. 

May we have the same song on our lips, the same Lord of love in hearts prepared to receive him, and the same shining example of peace for the world in his Name. Amen.


After the 10 a.m. Service, the following music sent us forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.

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