UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Yet in These Dark Streets Shineth
  Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  November 29, 2020

 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Happy first Sunday of Advent!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and celebrated it in the best way for you and your family.  Our church is all lit up and looking beautiful. People have told me that they love driving by Unity just  to see the lights even though we can’t get together for services yet. I have placed the instructions for making an Advent Wreath at the end of this sermon. Remember the November and December newsletter is posted on our web page.
Love, Bernadette

churchlit



LIGHTING THE ADVENT WREATH CANDLE OF HOPE – 1st SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Advent is celebrated on the 4 Sundays before Christmas. Instructions for setting up and lighting a traditional Advent Wreath follow the talk.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent isn’t a biblically based Christian tradition. It stems from old church dogma.  It begins the first Sunday after St. Andrews Day and continues for the next four Sundays before Christmas.  St. Andrews Day was chosen because Andrew, the brother of Peter was the first to become a disciple of Jesus.  Each Sunday in Advent represents a quality. The first Sunday represents hope, the second peace, the third love, and the fourth Joy.

Scripture: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1
Advent Opening Prayer: Mother - Father God, I am open and receptive to the coming of the Christ as the birth of the Christ potential in and through me. I open my heart and mind to the activity of the Christ in every thought, word, decision, action and interaction.  In this consciousness, I bless all the gifts of time, talent and treasure that I give during this holy season. I give thanks for the opportunity to bring forth my Christ light to bless the physical world and all life. I encourage everyone I meet who is seeking to discover their own inner light and learning how to let it shine for the glory of God.  I give the gift of hope to everyone who crosses my path.

Light your Advent candle for Hope and speak the words of the Meditation of Faith.

I have all the faith I need to overcome any challenge. Centered in the Christ within, I am strong, confident, and clear. As I calmly make wise choices, greater good unfolds in my life. I look past outer appearances and release any worries or concerns. With God, all things are possible, and God is active within me now and always. I know that I am whole, worthy, and loved. There is nothing lacking or missing from the truth of who I am. Looking ahead to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I eagerly anticipate the new possibilities being born in me. Faith is my constant companion and I am grateful. Amen.


MEDITATION

Let us begin our prayer time on this first Sunday of Advent by giving thanks for the fellowship and love we share in the Christ presence.  Not only at this time of the year, but every moment of every day, the Christ reigns in your heart. Quiet your thoughts and reflect on the meaning of Christamas. Journey back in time, to the night when your way-shower, Jesus Christ was born.  It is a clear and peaceful night.  The sky is filled with stars, but there is one star shining more brightly than the others.  Follow the light of this star to a stable and see the newborn babe safely cradled in his mother's arms. Imagine the security and peace that he must have felt in that safe place. Feel the same sense of security now, knowing you are gently cradled in divine love.  The wise men were wondrously guided by the light of a star to the baby.  You too are divinely guided by a brilliant light, the indwelling Christ light.  This light is your beacon of hope.  You are on a path to wholeness.  In the silence of prayer,  bless all who are a part of your healing experience, your family, friends and health care givers. They too are one with the Christ presence.  The Christ is your inspiration, your help, your source of supply for every need.  As you pray, picture the door to your good opening before you. With your thoughts attuned to the Christ, you are peaceful and secure and you experience the joy of the Christ presence as you confidently walk through the open door. During this advent season, you are peaceful in the knowledge that you are divinely guided and blessed. The light of God surrounds you; the love of God enfolds you; the power of God protects you. the presence of God watches over you.  Wherever you are God is.   Amen.

YET IN THY DARK STREETS SHINETH

Today's talk is called "Yet In The Dark Streets Shineth,” is about releasing hope in the really tough times. It's based on the 42 Psalm.

BOOK 2
For the Choir Director, A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
The sorrow of separation

Psalm 42: As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul thirsts for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food days and night. While, they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore, I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls; All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime; and his song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to the God of my life. I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. (42: 1-11)

Vindicate me, O God and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For Thou art the God of my strength why hast Thou rejected me?  Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Thy holy hill and to Thy dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise Thee, O God, my God. Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why are you disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God. (43:1-5)

When something unsettling happens to me, I have place in the pit of my stomach, where I feel a churning feeling as the first indicator that something isn’t quite right.  A friend told me that she feels gets a tingling in her forehead and another person told me that he feels the hair rising on the back of his neck when something unsettling happens or is about to happen. Most people have such a churning place somewhere in their body.

Do you? Any number of things can trigger this feeling. Most common to all of us is: bad news, strong fears, strained relationships, a personal illness or illness of a loved one, car accidents, almost running out of gas, going to the dentist, late-night phone calls, or an IRS audit. To this list of what triggers this feeling we can add the news of a global pandemic, school and church closures, homeschooling, working from home and shortages of paper towels and toilet paper. The year 2020 has provided us with a multitude of stressors including the recent Presidential Election.

Look at the superscription before verse one of Psalm 42. This is the translation of the Psalm  just as it is in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Book 2 For the choir director.  A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.  What does this mean? This means that this Psalm is a song that was written and designed to give insight, wisdom and comfort in the loneliest and darkest times of our lives. Those times when you are in the midst of the deepest inner despair.  It begins with an illustration from nature, “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so my Soul thirsts for God;” The writer longs for God like a thirsty deer longs for water in a land where the ground is dry and cracked and as a barren wilderness longs for a cool stream. God was considered “the fountain of the living waters.

“When shall I come and appear before God?” This phrase is an idiom; a technical term for going up to Jerusalem to worship.  “My tears have been my food day and night. While they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?"  The writer is feeling separate from God and alienated from friends and family because her city has been captured by an enemy and she has been carried away, perhaps into slavery or worse. She is far, far from home and all that she holds dear and it seems impossible that anything good can come from this situation. The Psalm reflects the deep loneliness we can feel when we are totally cut off from loving human contact and familiar sources of comfort and support. It represents those times when everything seems to have been stripped away,  destroyed or burned to the ground and there are only two resources left -  you and God.

In the midst of such despair she says: “These things I remember and I pour out my Soul within me.” A more exact translation is “And I said to myself.”  Have you ever talked to yourself? Talking to yourself is often the best therapy. Just watch what you say to yourself!  When you talk to yourself remember good times when you felt close to God-or a time when you had a miracle in your life.

“For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”   This is indicating that this was an individual with talent and skills. The author of Psalm 42 was in an earlier, happier time, most likely a gently bred and raised, protected, cherished leader, singer, song writer in the artistic community and in the Jerusalem temple. In ancient times, the most talented people (including singers, storytellers, people who could play an instrument, speak multiple languages, read and write, etc.) were carted off to enhance the conquering nation. They weren’t always put into slavery or sold to do physical labor because they were so valuable. Talented craftspeople were very often married off to the conquers and assimilated with their gifts into the conquering culture. Imagine how difficult this would be for someone who was dedicated to the temple as a child, raised to have a deep faith in God and taught to maintain a spiritual outlook on life. She was most likely a young member of a protected female group. This individual is remembering happier times of singing while leading major festival processions in Jerusalem and recalling specific ways that God helped in the past. Bringing to mind the feeling of God’s presence in the past is a reminder that God is also present right now. This is the first thing she does in an attempt to lift herself from the fear and desperation she feels knowing that the past is gone and what is done cannot be undone.

Encouraging happy and comforting memories is a powerful way to begin to lift ourselves out of feeling depressed and overwhelmed by our current circumstances. Reflecting on the challenges that we have faced and overcome with God as our partner in the past is a way of reminding ourselves that “This too shall pass.” The writer is feeling a deep sense of human despair over everything that has been lost and takes the first step in countering that feeling of loss, lack and depression with faith and spiritual strength and courage by inwardly asking, “So Why are you in despair, O my Soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?”  In other words, “Why feel sad and focus on what you don’t have and can never have again when you can fill your mind and lift your heart with happy memories that remind you that God is always present and always at work for good? Think about what you and God have faced and overcome in the past and know that with God you will come through this ‘valley of the shadow’ too.

The word 'despair'- comes from the Hebrew word ‘shahkak’ which means “to crouch, to bow down."   It describes days we feel like curling up in the fetal position and quitting.  Having disturbing feelings in such a situation is normal if we are living primarily on the human level of mind. There is an Old Arab saying, "All sunshine makes a desert." Jesus had down days too but he knew how to turn to God and lift himself from the deepest valley to the highest mountaintop through prayer.  (John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21) What isn’t normal according to the Psalmist is to indulge in self pity and victim consciousness by lingering in the pits of despair for days, or months or years.

The Psalmist is sharing an important spiritual insight. Sometimes we get so low and things look so bad to our physical eyes that we begin telling ourselves, “Things will never change for the better.” When we sink into this frame of mind simply talking to ourselves about happy memories isn't enough. We are too emotionally worn out to get out of the pit of despair we are in with positive self talk.

So what else can we do?  Who else is there to talk to?  “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His Presence.”  When talking to yourself and focusing on happy memories and miracles of the past isn’t enough to lift your mood in the present, Turn and talk to God.

“O my God, my Soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls;”

Look at that expression:  “Deep calls to deep.”  This is one of the most profound messages in the Bible. It tells us the way up and out of the deepest depression.

First the writer thinks of the cycles of nature. That which is deep in God’ communicates to that which is deep in nature--and change occurs as the changing seasons.

The 'deep' in God calls to the 'deep' in nature and the warmth of summer begins to turn into the cooler days of Fall. God calls to the deep in nature and the first frost comes and the leaves on the trees leaves begin to turn into radiant colors and fall to the ground. As Fall transforms into winter the snow falls and everything looks dead. But God continues to silently call to the deep in nature and before long the snow covering the mountains begins to melt, causing waterfalls, streams and rapids to flow and refill the rivers and lakes in the dry lands below. The deep in God calls to the deep in nature and new birth takes place as leaves bud, trees flower and the fruit of life appears again.  The ‘deep’ in God calls to the ‘deep’ in the salmon and millions travel back many thousands of miles to spawn.  All this illustrates ‘deep calls to deep’.But the Psalmist is talking about more than just mountains, trees and fish.  She's talking about herself. The ‘deep’ in God is calling to the ‘deep’ (her Christ Mind and nature) in the midst of her and the ‘deep’ in the midst of what she is currently experiencing.

“All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime; and his song will be with me in the night.” As waves of inner turmoil 'roll over me' –You, God, speak to me, Your 'deep' calls to my 'deep' and reminds me of the unchanging relationship of love that exists between us.  There are cycles of seasons and there are cycles of moods within me. These up and down mood swings are part of my human nature.  By maintaining the tension between these alternate, opposing moods, the Spirit stays awake and vital.

There is joy and sorrow, fulfillment and lack, there are times of forgetting God and feeling abandoned and times of remembering to call the heart (soul-thoughts and feelings) back to the awareness of God's presence. This is how we truly live in the divine presence. This is how we truly learn to grow spiritually by remembering God in the tough times and releasing more of all that God is out through in order to cope with the changing seasons of our lives.

I will say “A prayer to the God of my life.” (I won’t just say a prayer to God in the up times of my life or say a prayer to God in the down times of my life.) “I will say a prayer to the God of my life.” I will say a prayer to the God for all the circumstances and seasons. “I will say to God my rock, "why hast Thou forgotten me?”  This appears to be a contradiction. On the one hand she is calling God ‘my rock’, (which means ‘my immovable unchanging love and Source’,) and on the other hand she is asking God,  “Why have you forgotten me?”

Bible scholars believe the author of this Psalm was a woman who was captured and carried off into captivity by a conquering army. Historically we know what would most likely have happened to her as a result and it would be terrifying. From her own words we can imagine her experience.

She has been stripped naked by her captors and is standing naked for sale. She is also being taunted by her captors. “Where is your God? Why doesn't he come down here and save you? This is just like what happened to Jesus and it happens to each of us. In an extreme moment of despair and torture from deep within her, wells up a cry of faith and confidence, rebellion.

“Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me. While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?'   Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of my countenance, and My God.” She doesn't respond to their taunts and the negative appearances in the outer because she's so sure of God. The next time the feelings of despair cause you to  crouch, live your faith. “Yet in the dark streets shineth the everlasting light.'

“Vindicate me, O God and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!  For thou art the God of my strength; why hast Thou rejected me?  Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

This is a ‘word picture’ of a person who is cornered and in a no possible escape situation. In prayer, the Psalmist asks for God's help not as vengeance against outer enemies, but as deliverance from the inner enemy of fear and turmoil resulting from forgetting God's presence in times of trouble. This is a prayer to remain centered in God and not in outer appearances.

“O send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me;  Let them bring me to Thy holy hill and to Thy dwelling places.  Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy;  and upon the lyre I shall praise Thee, O God, my God.”

Gods’ Light and truth is Spiritual understanding of God's perpetual presence and this is what gives us the ability to stay connected and centered through all the up and down cycles of life including the up and down cycles of our own inner moods.

Having done the inner work of prayer she's in right relationship with God and the God in the humanity that persecutes her. In this moment Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In a similar moment the Psalmist with exaltation sings “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why are you disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, The help of my countenance, and my God.”

Each us has to come to the place where we trust in God completely as the One Presence and One Power active in and as life. The immobilizing presence of inner turmoil can be overcome, it comes to pass.

Let me summarize the three steps given by the Psalmist.

1.  Recall times you've felt in the pits before and gotten over it. Use your own memory to recall miracles and joys, life's ups and positives rather than to recall life’s downs and negatives.

2.  Remember 'deep calls to deep’. A cycle of moods is natural just like the seasons come and go but we aren't to remain in any part of the cycle for a prolonged period of time-our God is a God of change whose love for us remains unchanging.

3. Pray for spiritual understanding that God is everywhere and in everyone.

 I hope this ancient wisdom will help make that happen in your life.  I’d like to close this message on Hope with an Advent Blessing. I invite you to speak it each morning when you wake up and each night before you close your eyes and go to sleep.

For this Holy feast of hope and great expectation, I let the power of my imagination cast blessings on all the events of the days ahead.

I dedicate myself to being an open channel for the coming of the Christ upon the Earth.
I invite God to bless my home with warmth, divine order, love, health and prosperity.
I ask God to bless all children and to bless their dreams, their hopes and joys.
I pray for all people and behold in each person the pure joy and beauty of Christ love.
I ask God to bless my Christmas tree and every revered symbol of this Holy season.

I ask God’s guidance in the selection of gifts I prepare to give and ask for God’s blessing on my preparation of the holiday food.  Divine love blesses the hand that prepares every sweet morsel and fills every receiver with delight and well-being.

I ask that God's presence be felt at all gatherings of friends and families.
May divine love bring harmony, enjoyment and healing love wherever two or more are gathering in My name this Holy season.

May the lights of Christmas forever symbolize illumined hearts joining together to prepare for the coming of the Christ. Let the Christ be born in me this day and everyday.

Deep calls to deep as hope expresses through my heart this Christmas in the spirit of oneness with God.   Amen.


How to Set Up a Traditional Advent Wreath

adventwreath


Candles are usually arranged in a wreath to symbolize eternal life. The candles for the first three Sundays, Hope, Peace and Love are purple and the candle for Joy is pink. A large white candle is set in the center to represent God and the birth of the Christ Child and is lit on Christmas Day.

·       The first candle, Hope is usually lit by the youngest member of the family.

·       The second candle, Peace is usually lit by the Father.

·       The third candle, Love is usually lit by the Mother.

·       The fourth candle, Joy is lit by the oldest family member.

Each week each person relights their candle before the candle for that Sunday is lit. Everyone lights the God/Christ Candle together. You can adapt this service according to the size and needs of you own family. You can also celebrate Advent with your friends or Prayer Circle. If you are social distancing each person participating can make their own Advent Wreath and join in Zoom, Facebook, or on their telephone’s FaceTime to participate in candle lighting and speaking the Affirmation together.


MEDITATION ON FAITH – 1st SUNDAY IN ADVENT
I have all the faith I need to overcome any challenge. Centered in the Christ within, I am strong, confident, and clear. As I calmly make wise choices, greater good unfolds in my life. I look past outer appearances and release any worries or concerns. With God, all things are possible, and God is active within me now and always. I know that I am whole, worthy, and loved. There is nothing lacking or missing from the truth of who I am. Looking ahead to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I eagerly anticipate the new possibilities being born in me. Faith is my constant companion, and I am grateful. Amen. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”-Hebrews 11:1

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