Sunday 13th December 2020

Please note that recordings of this service have been added to each section and may be listened to as well as read.

Welcome & Intimations

Call to Worship (from Psalm 89: 1-2)
I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm for ever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

HYMN 290 The race that long in darkness pined

Prayer

God, we gather this day,
seeking to know your presence,
seeking to feel your touch.
Prepare our hearts
that we may feel the joy of your nearness
and see your presence in all who surround us.

God, we gather this day,
seeking your cleansing Spirit,
seeking your healing love.
Transform us
that we may be made whole in your sight
and be your presence in this world.

God, we gather this day,
to light candles as reminders,
and to pray for your light to shine.
Let us proclaim your love;
let us live out your truth,
that we may praise your name.

The Lord’s Prayer

Advent Wreath

Scriptures

Isaiah 61: 1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’

The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.

HYMN 286 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

Reflection

Tell me, what do you want for Christmas? I know that I have asked that of you already however I wondered if our thoughts on the matter had changed. Recently we have thought about what the Israelites were hoping for when Jesus was born. We have also considered our desire for peace. This week I would like us to think about our desire for joy in our lives.

Today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for ‘rejoice’. It is a reminder that as Christians, we are to be joyful people. However, we must be careful to distinguish between ‘happiness’ which is a passing emotion, and ‘joy’ that is a state of being. Joyfulness should be seen in Christians. It should be seen in their witness to their faith. It should draw others to the joy of knowing God. It should inspire others to know the joy that brings. Yet so often it seems strangely absent.

Why? For many of us it is to do with our relationship with God or, rather, the lack of that relationship. We tend to keep God distant or parcelled up only to be released when our situation is dire or for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter. But what if He is already here in our midst? What if the presence of God was here among us, now? What difference would that make? Here is a story that I heard; it exists in many different forms. Perhaps it will help answer our question.

There once was a church that realised it was going through a crisis. Over time many of the members had left and there were no new ones joining. People were no longer coming for worship and Bible study. The few that remained were becoming old, bitter, and fed-up. The relationships between the members were becoming stressed and sometimes unpleasant. Gossip, rumour, and complaint were becoming the norm. The minister had no clue about what to do so he decided to seek the advice of an older, now retired, colleague. The minister told his colleague how the church had dwindled and now looked like a shadow of what it once was. Only a few dozen folk now came on a regular basis. The older minister told the younger that he had a secret for him. He told him that one of the members of the congregation was the Messiah, but he was living in such a way that no one could recognize him. With this revelation, the minister went back to his church, gathered the congregation on a Sunday morning and told them what he had heard. The people looked at each other in disbelief, trying to figure out who among them could be the Christ.

Could it be the one who is always in a church somewhere praying all the time, but has a “Holier-than-thou” attitude? Could it be the one who is always willing to help but who is always bemoaning that others don’t do as much? Could it be the one who is always complaining because they are not the centre of attention or because things are done differently now.

The minister reminded them that the messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of hiding his real identity. This only made them more confused and they could not figure out who was the Christ amongst them. At the end of the service what each of them knew for sure was that any of them, excluding himself, could be the Christ. From that day, the congregation began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could be the Christ. They began to show more love for one another, their community life became more compassionate, and their prayers deeper. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the church and began attending. Word began to spread, and before long new faces began to appear. The church began to grow again in numbers as the people grew in holiness. All this because their attention was drawn to the truth that Christ was living in their midst as one of them. If the truth be told, Christ was present in all of them.

Living in the presence of Christ is living in joy. It should cause us to be transformed and lead us to rejoice. But to rejoice also takes faith. Many of us are experiencing tough times, much of which is heightened or caused by the pandemic. Despite all of this we may still know joy!

It may seem impossible yet, it is true. But for it to be true we need to exercise a little faith. We are to have faith that God, in Christ, is in our midst. In the here and now it life may hurt but joy is not about short time highs. Joy is a long-term commitment between God and man.

We can know joy in our lives. We can know that presence that gives meaning and the strength to carry on even when life is miserable. That joy can transform us and renew us just as in our story.

So, for Christmas, would you like the gift of joy?

Prayer

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

Just as Mary knew the joy of your presence
so may we bring that presence to bear in our world.
Each day this week, we will continue to go through our everyday life;
and we seek that our faith will make a difference.
Where we encounter broken spirits may we bring hope;
where we encounter troubled minds may we bring peace;
where we encounter broken hearts may we bring your love.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

Just as Mary knew the light of your presence
so may your people bring light to the world.
Each day this week, we will continue through daily life,
hearing and seeing the fallenness of this world.
May we seek out truth rather than lies;
may we work for justice rather than domination;
may we proclaim freedom rather than bondage.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

Just as Mary knew to rejoice in your presence
so may we learn to give thanks to you.
Each day of this week, we will continue through daily life
encountering the signs of your grace and mercy.
May we know and share your grace;
may we know and work with mercy;
may our actions be based in faith in you.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
Amen.

HYMN 277 Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes

Benediction
May you go from here
in the joy of the Lord.

And as you go
may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
go with you
evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
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