The Ageless Gift of Love

Fourth Sunday in Advent – 16 December 2012

What an incredible week we have shared together as a congregation here at Ashmore Uniting Church.  Christmas Plays and a musical, Children’s Funday, Op Shop break-up, Blue Christmas Service, a retirement home Christmas Service and today, Hope of the Ages presented by Grace Culture.

The two Christmas plays last week presented by the children in our church were wonderful.  The older children presented their play The Mysterious Christmas Card that gave us an insight from a teenagers perspective into some of the exponential benefits of giving and receiving – as it develops community, love, responsibility and sharing.

The younger children introduced us to a beautiful curious little sheep in the children’s musical, Hey Ewe.  The little sheep had a vantage point from her hillside hom that enabled her to “see the world below” and knew that something “strange was happening THAT night”.  The curious sheep was a witness to God pouring out His love for the world in the town of Bethlehem – “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  The angel shared this news with the shepherds that were looking after our little curious sheep.  As the story unfolded, the little sheep saw visitors from the East make their way to the savior and eventually she herself met Jesus in the manger and was able to give her fleece to keep the baby Jesus warm.

It was wonderful for our children to perform this musical three times this week.  With each performance they were able to gain confidence and their memories will always have this experience as a part of their life journey.  They presented their play in three very different contexts.  Firstly they shared it in last weeks worship service; secondly they presented it again in front of all the children and playgroup parents at our children’s Fun Day on Tuesday, over 100 people.  Finally they delighted about 45 residents at Elston Lodge on Thursday afternoon.  One sprightly lady who is 100yrs of age made a particular point of telling me how much she appreciated seeing the children bring their message to the Lodge.  I must say, thank you to Sharon & Darryl, Kirtstie, Trish, Lu, Alison, Cheryl, and all the children, parents and helpers who put so much effort into making the Christmas Advent Season so special this year.

We have delivered all the food hampers and toys to assist some of the families who are part our community network through the Ashmore State School, the Op Shop, playgroup and our church.  The prison’s ministry chaplains have welcomed our practical gifts and toiletries and Ralph Reilly has had a busy time with his Useful Gifts Shop through TEAR by assisting people to make wise choices about their Christmas spending.  Our commitment as Christians is to live lives of justice love and mercy.  At Christmas time, we have an opportunity to make a bold statement to the world about those values.

Cheryl and I would like to thank God for the wonderful way that His Spirit is moving in the midst of this congregation.  Life is not always as we would want it, but with a strong and growing relationship with God, through Jesus Christ we can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

May you continue to experience a strong and growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who is the Hope of the Ages, during 2013.

May you be a witness to Faith, Hope and Love….this week……Rev. Brad Foote

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Rejoice; and again I say, Rejoice

Third Sunday in Advent                                     16th  December 2012

 Welcome to worship today as the children of our Church present the joyful message of Christmas in the form of two separate plays. The younger children will be putting on a musical presentation called Hey Ewe!  And the older children are inviting us to enter into a play called The Mysterious Christmas Card.  What a joy it is the be part of a church where we have such a diverse worship life because we have so people from a broad spectrum of ages, cultural backgrounds and social contexts.  Such diversity offers a rich flavour in our weekly worship experiences.

This third Sunday in Advent is called Gaudete Sunday because the lectionary reading from Philippians 4:4,5 says in Latin “Gaudete in Domino semper” which means, “Rejoice in the Lord Always”.  Today we will rejoice as the children lead us in worship.  A big thank you to Sharon and Kristie who produced the plays and for the costume people and parents who assisted in making everything “happen” on the day.  Hey Ewe will be presented again at the Children’s Fun Day on Tuesday and again on Wednesday afternoon at 4pm at Elston Lodge.  You are welcome to join us at Elston Lodge if you can.

When it comes to talking about children and Christmas, let me share an interesting story that I came across some time ago.  In the not-so-tolerant past (16-19th Century), music and poetry were often used as the media of expression for ideas that were not in fashion with the contemporary powers that be.  Mother Goose rhymes were disguised political commentaries of their day.  The twelve Days of Christmas was written along these lines.

From 1558 until 1892, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.  So, the Twelve Days of Christmas was written during that era as a catechism song to teach young Catholics, according to Ann Ball’s book, “A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals.”  It has two levels of meaning:  the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning only known to members of the church.  Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality that the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear three was Jesus Crist
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, which are the first five books of the Old Testament: – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  • The six geese are laying, stands for the six (6) days of creation
  • Seven swans are swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit – Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution/giving, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • Eight maids are milking were the beatitudes (Matt 5)
  • Nine Ladies dancing were the 9 Fruit of the Spirit   (Galatians 5:23,23)
  • Ten Lords a-leaping were the ten (10) commandments
  • The Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven (11) faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve (12) points of belief in the Apostles Creed.

It’s interesting and sad that a song written to secretly to remind Christians about the doctrines of their faith was disguised so well that after 400 years, the secular world more identifies with this carol than do Christians who remain mostly unaware of its origins and meanings.

As the children present their plays and songs today, may we be wide awake to the meaning and message of the Gospel on every level.

Rejoice in the Lord always….and again I say REJOICE!……Rev. Brad Foote

Prophets of Peace

Second Sunday in Advent                                     2nd December 2012

Grace and Peace to you today.  We are now moving through one of the shortest seasons in the church calendar, the season of Advent.  Advent is a Latin word which means “coming”.  It blends the anticipation of God’s reign coming in fullness with the anticipation of the coming Messiah.

Advent is an intriguing season because it suggests the complete antithesis of what we actually “DO” in our daily lives at this time of the year in our Australian culture:- Advent is meant to be a time of “waiting and wondering’!!  You’ve got to be joking!!  Actually, no I’m not joking.  In the midst of a world where we expect things instantly, and where technology has made it so that waiting can feel obsolete, in comes this time where the church says to us “Stop what you are doing.  Lay down your burdens and those things weighing upon you, and spend some time thinking about the coming of the Christ.”  And so each year that is precisely what we try to do. So here we are in the Second Sunday in Advent.

Last week we focused on the theme of “Choosing Hope”.  This week we are highlighting the theme of Peace, actually being Prophets of Peace.  Christianity should be a countercultural movement that highlights the shortcomings of any practice that rejects the reign and presence of God.  Other ‘market forces’ have hijacked Christmas and the church seems to be an obsolete voice in the ‘midst of the Christmas rush’ – even that statement is a paradox.

This week as we focus on Peace, we are reflecting on the idea that peace helps us to remember that the choices we make in terms of relating to this earth and to one another not only fashion the present, but they set the tone for the future.  An example of these choices that impact the present and the future is the triumphant news made by the Queensland Premier this week as he has returned from India with the joyful news of massive increases in Uranium mining in Queensland in the years and decades ahead.  This will significantly impact our earth and our human relationships now and in the future.

As Prophets of Peace, we (the church) have a significant role to play in the world.  The moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland has already issued a statement of concern regarding this issue.  Here’s a quote from our latest UC Information bulletin issued on 29th November 2012.

Uranium Mining in Queensland

Rev Kaye Ronalds, Moderator, has written to the Premier, Campbell Newman, speaking out about the proposed reintroduction of uranium mining in Queensland. The Uniting Church is very clear about our position on this issue – complete opposition to the mining and sale of uranium. The letter outlined our concern that the decision to mine and export Queensland uranium might be based more on short-term economic interest, rather than consideration of the possible long-term consequences for our world.

On behalf of the Uniting Church in Queensland, Kaye called for a review of the decision to mine and sell uranium. She also encouraged the government to focus on developing clean renewable energy sources for our future.

Sue Hutchinson, Research Officer, Uniting Communications

I am pleased to see that The Uniting Church is taking a stand in this regard and I’d encourage any member of the congregation to contact your local State member with your own voice in this matter and any other matter that encourages you to be Prophets of Peace. 

Calling all Prophets to practice Peace daily ……this week…..Rev Brad Foote

Choosing Hope

Welcome to Worship today on this the first Sunday in Advent.  At Ashmore Uniting Church we seek to express our Christian faith through the vision of being a loving church, focused on the Gospel of Christ:  

  • Reaching out
  • Meeting needs
  • Equipping people for service

 Our motto is:  “reaching out, changing lives”

 As I look at the vision of our church and the motto that we have… I see a very “active” set of words that has the capacity to engage us in a busy cycle of “deeds” and “actions”.  Advent, however, is meant to be a season that is traditionally a time of preparation and waiting  – a time to pause and get ready for Christmas.  Our experience though at this time of the year seems to be the opposite of the Advent focus and already people of all ages are finding their attention being pulled in many directions.  I’m wondering, how might our worship and community life contribute to slowing down the pace for us as Advent pilgrims?

The focus of today’s theme is “choosing hope”.  Hope is a choice we can make in our approach to life, faith, and relationships.  Living in hope helps us trust that God’s possibilities are present even in the face of limiting circumstances and challenging experiences.  Seeing hope in the midst of the current economic and political climate can be difficult, especially if you are affected by loss of employment or income, or in situations where there is conflict, disaster, and political unrest.  There are many instances around the world and locally where we are seeing such unrest.  Sometimes despair is masked by a clam appearance.  At times, hope can seem like an empty promise.

I meet many people for whom hope seems to have disappeared!  Its very sad and sometimes quite debilitating, especially when someone is in the midst of such pain and I know that I need to BE with them, rather than try to “solve their problem”.  On the other hand, I meet many people for whom hope has been given to them through the experience of God in their lives, particularly through a time of despair, disaster or tragedy.  There is not a formula that is used to make difficulties disappear.  There is not a magic potion that you can take to make the pain go away.  Many people do try potions like drugs and alcohol to dull the pain, but the consequences of that action is fraught with its own pain and sometimes-dire consequences.  There is however, a living God who has made the first move towards us and now we are being reminded of God’s love through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

So today on this first Sunday in Advent, lets make a commitment to enter into this time of waiting and wondering by being available to the Spirit of God in a way that brings us to Christmas with a sure expectation of God being  “born again” in our lives and with love for the world.

In what ways might you make this Advent a time of pilgrimage for yourself and your family, a holy walk born of hope?  What might you have to set aside for this to happen?

May you make this season a time for Choosing Hope …. beginning today…..Rev Brad Foote