December 24, 2019

Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 1:26-38
Matthew 1:18-23
Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-14

“Near to Us”

I am so glad that all of you decided to come to worship this Christmas Eve. I’m happy about it for several reasons.

One is that it feels good to have a pretty full church on Christmas Eve. Your presence adds to the festive spirit of the night, your voices fill out the singing of carols, and your candles will light up this sanctuary with beauty in a few minutes.

I’m also glad you came tonight because many First Church folk worked hard to make this a special night, and your presence makes those efforts worthwhile. They planned and practised the music. They decorated the sanctuary to convey both meaning and beauty. They printed bulletins, and prepared slides, and arranged all the volunteers to read, and greet, and welcome all our members and visitors and new friends.

For those of you who hesitated to come, I’m glad you did, because I expect that the family or friends who invited you tonight are really happy that you’re here. And, if you just came because of the general, open invitation, and you don’t know anyone here yet, let me say that I am glad that you are … Read more »

December 24, 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 2:1-20

“A Royal Birth Announcement”

Tonight, I would like to focus on our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. We hear it every Christmas when it is matched up with the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth, and we usually read without further comment because the preaching is all about the Gospel. If you’re like me, the sound of Handel’s Messiah rings in your ears as the prophet’s words are proclaimed: “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. Unto us a son is given…”

And as we sing or listen to those words, we are thinking of Jesus. He is the one whose birth we celebrate tonight. He is the child who has been born for us, and who has become the “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

But these words were not written to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the eighth century BCE, these words were uttered about the birth of another specific king in Judah, probably the good King Hezekiah who ruled Judah from 715-687 BCE. The poem gives voice to profound hope for the reign of this descendant of King David, at a time when Judah faced the harsh realities of … Read more »

December 24, 2017 (evening)

Luke 2:1-20
Psalm 96

“What Happens in Bethlehem”

You’ve heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? One of my favourite Twitter hashtags is an alternate version of that saying: “What happens in Bethlehem doesn’t stay in Bethlehem.”

The story of Christ’s birth reminds us in a wonderful way that when God became flesh and entered our world as an infant, God was born in a particular place, to an ordinary family, and the news was made known to regular, working-class people who were nearby. God’s entrance was not made with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but he was born in a little town, in a stable out back of someone’s house, where very few people would notice.

But we are also reminded that God’s coming into the world in this way changed the lives of those he encountered, and eventually it changed the whole world. What happened in Bethlehem didn’t stay in Bethlehem.

In many ways, I expect that this has been a pretty normal year in and around First Presbyterian Church. But it has also been a remarkable year, for me especially. A new minister for you has meant at least a few changes. And a new congregation, and home, and … Read more »

March 19, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Philippians 3:10-17
Psalm 1
Luke 2:42-52

“Intentional Faith Development”

I had the privilege this weekend, of being able to sit in on a number of Camp Christopher interviews for counsellors for this summer. We interviewed quite a few young people from Saskatoon, a couple by Skype from Prince Albert, and there are still a few more interviews to do in Regina.

And I found it most interesting to listen to them answer questions like, “Why do you want to work at a Christian camp like Camp Christopher?” and “What is the most important message about God that every camper should leave with?” and “What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the summer?”

It was wonderful to hear about their love for children, their enthusiasm about spending the summer outdoors, and their excitement about the friendships they will develop at camp. But what struck me most was when they talked about “wanting to grow in faith” at camp.

There was one young man who particularly impressed me in his interview. He talked about going to church was he was a kid. His grandparents used to take him every Sunday, and he loved it. But when he was eleven, his … Read more »

January 15, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Proverbs 1:1-6
Psalm 119:1-16
Ephesians 5:6-20
Luke 2:40-52

“Pondering Proverbs”

The idea of doing a preaching series on the Book of Proverbs came from the Christian Education Committee. It wasn’t my idea, and I probably wouldn’t have come up with it on my own. I’ve only preached from the Book of Proverbs a few times before, mostly from the final chapter – Proverbs 31 – about the wise and capable woman. You may not remember, but I actually preached on that text thirteen years ago (the first time I stood in this pulpit) when I preached for the call to St. Andrew’s.

But most of the Book of Proverbs is made up of these short little sayings. If you read through some sections, you’ll notice that they’re often not even organized thematically. They’re just collections of wise sayings… interesting, but rather difficult for preaching.

And then there is the added challenge that some of them are kind of weird… Like this one: “Those who keep the law are wise children, but companions of gluttons shame their parents.” (Pr. 28:7) Or this one: “The lazy person says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’” (Pr. 22:13) Or … Read more »

December 25, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Psalm 98
Luke 2:1-7

“Christmas Carols and Their Stories”

Introduction to the Service

This morning I thought it would be fun and different to sing some different Christmas Carols and hear their stories. Throughout the history of the church, worship has included singing… from the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs mentioned in the New Testament, and through every generation, Christians have composed Psalm settings, sung our prayers as chants, written hymns, carols, and contemporary praise songs. Sometimes we have used instruments, and sometimes not. Sometimes the words have come straight from Scripture, and sometimes it has been poetry inspired by the Bible and a reflection on our faith.

The songs known as Christmas Carols are diverse too… some written specifically for corporate worship, and others sung primarily out in the community or in family homes, but carrying the Christian faith into the public realm of culture and daily life.

“I Saw Three Ships”

The first carol for today is “I Saw Three Ships.” Probably most of us have heard or sung it, but I don’t think I’ve ever sung it in church.

The tune of this carol is a traditional English folk song and the words (of which there … Read more »

December 27, 2015

Luke 2:41-52
Colossians 3:12-17

“We Belong to God’s Family”

It often happens when I am preparing to conduct a funeral. I am thinking about what I should say in order to proclaim the Gospel in the context of the life of one individual follower of Jesus. I am reflecting on what I know about that person’s life, and the stories I have heard from the family, and the stories that will be shared as part of the eulogy or tribute.

I sometimes begin to wonder about what stories might be told and shared at the end of my life. And if there was only one story, what would it be? And what would it reveal about the meaning and purpose of my life?

We are blessed to be able to share more than one story to remember and celebrate the complexity of our lives in this world, and we are blessed to have many, many stories passed on to us about the life of Jesus – the One whose way we seek to follow with our lives.

But we only have one story about Jesus as a child. One story, carefully chosen… that reveals a great deal about who he was and the person he was … Read more »

December 20, 2015

Luke 1:26 – 2:7

“Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things”

This morning all our scripture readings are from the Gospel of Luke… large sections of the first chapter, and a little of the second as well, where we will begin again on Christmas Eve. And today we are focussed on Mary’s story.

An angel shows up in Mary’s life and tells her that she’s going to have a child. It will be a special child from God, and God will make him a great king. Mary, amazingly, just asks a couple of clarifying questions, and then agrees to the plan. “I am your servant,” she says to God, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

When that angel messenger suddenly appears with his very strange news, I can only imagine that Mary must have been in shock. It’s not the kind of thing that happens to a young woman every day, and it was certainly the kind of news that would take some time to sink in, to consider what it meant, and to figure out how to deal with it.

And though the Gospel has Mary quickly agreeing to cooperate with what God is going to do in her life, the very next … Read more »

December 24, 2014

Luke 2:1-20
Psalm 96

“What Happens in Bethlehem Doesn’t Stay in Bethlehem”

You’ve heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? This morning I noticed someone post a tweet with the hashtag #Christmas and alternate version of that saying: “What happens in Bethlehem doesn’t stay in Bethlehem.”

The story of Christ’s birth reminds us in a wonderful way that when God became flesh and entered our world as an infant, God was born in a particular place, to an ordinary family, and the news was made known to regular, working-class people who were nearby. God’s entrance was not made with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but he was born in a little town, in a stable out back of someone’s house, where very few people would notice.

But we are also reminded that God’s coming into the world in this way changed the lives of those he encountered, and eventually it changed the whole world. What happened in Bethlehem didn’t stay in Bethlehem.

In many ways, this has been a pretty normal year in and around our church. But it has also been a remarkable year. And one of the ways that it has been remarkable is the number of babies that have … Read more »

December 30, 2012

Colossians 3:12-17
Psalm 148
Luke 2:41-52

On the back of this morning’s bulletin, Rev. Hans Kouwenberg describes this first Sunday after Christmas as “low Sunday.” And compared to the full church that we experienced here the last couple of Sundays and on Christmas Eve, today does feel a little low. The crowds are gone, just like the nearly-deserted temple in Jerusalem after the big pilgrimage festival was over.

But like Jesus, who would spend his life in and out of the temple and the synagogues, learning more and more about God and the will of God for human people, we will continue to gather here week by week, and learn day by day about God and God’s will for our lives.

Even though the crowds have dispersed somewhat, the scriptures today “won’t let us get away with any lowering of our praise,” as Kouwenberg put it. Whether or not we have with us a well-rehearsed choir or a huge congregation, we must continue to join with the whole of creation in praising God as today’s psalm encourages us: “Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let us praise the name of the Lord, for he alone is exalted; his glory is above earth … Read more »

December 24, 2012

“What Christmas Means to Me”

Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-14

Yesterday afternoon I caught a little bit of the CBC Radio One program, “Cross country checkup,” as I was driving in my car. And the question of the day, that Reg Sherren was asking Canadians across the country to respond to, was: “What does Christmas mean to you in a multicultural Canada?”

When I turned it on, there was a woman talking about inviting her Jewish and Muslim friends to her annual Christmas dinners, as well as accepting invitations to their special holiday events. It sounded like a good and enriching experience to share hospitality and friendship across cultural and religious lines.

Someone else talked about Christmas having been transformed from a religious observance to a secular and commercial celebration. I thought at first that she was going to complain about that change. But instead she said that this was a good thing, because now everyone (whatever their religion or culture) can participate in Christmas together – exchanging gifts, sharing special meals, having parties, bringing their kids to the mall to sit on Santa’s knee.

Later, when I got home, I went online and read some of the email responses to the Cross country checkup question of … Read more »

Christmas Eve 2007

Luke 1:5-19
Luke 1:26-38
Luke 2:1-7
Luke 2:8-20
John 1:1-14

Writing sermons for Christmas is not the easiest part of a minister’s job. Choosing the carols and the readings for tonight’s service was straight-forward enough, but deciding what to say about them I found to be a little more difficult. It was complicated further in my mind because I’ve been reading some biblical theology lately that questions the historicity of the Christmas stories and challenges the faithful Christian reader to delve deeper into the biblical texts to discover the theological truths contained in the oh-so-familiar stories.

It would be easier to just tell the stories. It would be easier to just sing the carols. And it would be nice too, especially with family and friends gathered around, and candles, and memories of Christmases gone by. But as a modern interpreter of the texts, I need to at least acknowledge that most of the story is unlikely to have been historically true.

The questions might begin with angel appearances and virgin births, and then if you start studying all the historical details, you soon discover all the inaccuracies and problems with the dates of the rulers and the … Read more »