The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, sometimes called Gaudete Sunday.
Call to Worship
God has performed mighty deeds with a strong arm;
and has scattered the proud.
God has brought down rulers from their heights;
but has lifted up the humble
The Lord reigns forever;
Praise the Lord!
Hymn 303 – It came upon the midnight clear
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of majesty and mercy, you are powerful, you are holy, and you are loving. You come among us not as a warrior or tyrant, but as a child, new life born among us and for us. And so we come to worship you this day,
trusting your wisdom with Joseph,
pondering your mystery with Mary.
We offer you our love for all that you have been, all that you are and all that you will be, one God, holy and loving.
God of mystery and mercy, you came to be with us and offer us new life in Christ, and yet we often stray from your side. You came to offer us love, but we confess that we can be stubborn and selfish in the ways we live. You came to reconcile all people, but we confess that we often resist repairing relationships and so remain divided. Forgive who we have been, amend who we are, and direct who we shall be ,through Jesus Christ who reaches out to us from the manger and the cross.
In Jesus Christ, we are a new creation. There is nothing we have done, nothing we could ever do, that can separate us from the love of God shown to us in Christ.
Know that you are forgiven, and with this joyful truth, have the courage to forgive one another
Lighting of Advent Candle
We light this candle for all God’s messengers,
Preparing the way for change and pointing to the new age to come.
As we wait for your promise, give light, give hope.
Hymn 284 – Love is the candle (v3)
Readings – Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
Luke 1: 47-55
Hymn 286 – Tell out my soul
Faithful God, as we continue on this Advent journey, teach us to turn to you in times of joy and pleasure as well as we do when faced with fear and sorrow. May our souls glorify the Lord, may our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour and may everlasting joy be ours, as we seek to follow in the steps of the Christ Child. Amen
The decorations are up, there are lots of coloured lights around our villages, and this week my first Christmas card came. Being a minister, people tend to send me religious cards and true enough, it was of Mary and the baby in the stable. Mary is dressed in blue and is sitting at the manger, maybe singing a lullaby. That is the picture we have of Mary, pretty submissive. In the carol ‘Once in royal David’s city’ we sing that ‘Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ that little child’.
Think again! Certainly from our reading today we get the impression of a determined young woman. Mary was just a teenager, very young. But the angel Gabriel had approached her with the news that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah. Mary didn’t ask her parents what they thought: she took the decision herself and said YES. Yes, she would bear the child. She was a woman who said Yes to God. She then made the long journey to see her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist and there she sang the song we read this morning. It was not a lullaby, but more a song of defiance, a song about God turning the world upside down. I remember at Sunday School singing songs like ‘We shall overcome -one day’, and Mary’s song was in the same mould.
We call the song ‘the Magnificat’, because that was the first word of it in Latin. God was being magnified or glorified. The word ‘magnify’ reminds us of a magnifying glass, which makes things bigger. Mary was praising God and praising the wonderful things God had done. God’s name was great. But equally the lens of the glass should be turned on us as God’s children, but what would people see? Would they be able to see Christ in us? Would the lens be cloudy or would it be transparent, so that Christ could be seen clearly?
What would the lens see if turned on us? A friend tells the story of one Christmas day in her youth. The family were all together, enjoying the day, when the doorbell rang. It was a woman who had recently separated from her husband rather acrimoniously. She was going through a bad time and had taken to drinking more than she should. She was wallowing in melancholy, but my friend’s parents sat with her, talked with her and gave her something to eat, despite it disrupting their plans for Christmas. They offered hospitality and compassion, and by that God was magnified.
Simple acts of compassion are important, and there are so many who will struggle this Christmas for whatever reason. Mary in her song draws attention to the hungry and the lowly and reaffirmed a divine No to the hungry going unfed and suffering going unrelieved. Mary sang her song and in doing so was saying Yes to God’s power and greatness, a God who had the whole world in God’s arms. But she was also singing a NO to hunger and oppression and inequality.
Our world is going through a difficult time; our world is hurting. More than ever we need to hear the angels’ song of peace and goodwill to all, but also Mary’s song – a jubilant Yes to the greatness and love of God, and a defiant No to injustice. May it be our song, and by our song may God be magnified.
Hymn 285 – The angel Gabriel
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Come, Christ Jesus, be our guest
and enter our lives today with your blessing.
We are lonely for you and the peace you bring.
Draw near to us in friendship and faithfulness
so that in this season which combines celebration in the face of uncertainty,
we may know your presence.
Come, Christ Jesus, be our guide
and show us the way to wisdom and gratitude.
We are thankful for the kindness we know in friends and good neighbours which hold off the darkness and fear for the future.
Encourage us to reach out to those who need your embrace and ours.
Come, Christ Jesus, be our hope
and touch us with your healing and grace.
We remember before you all those we know and those know to you alone
who are living with loss or illness this season,
those who face depression or discouragement,
and all who will find it hard to be merry this year.
Shine the light of your comfort into their lives.
Come, Christ Jesus, be our king
and claim your rightful place in our hearts.
Our world is struggling for the justice and mercy you bring. Draw near to our leaders and all working for peace and justice,
and those striving to contain and heal the effects of the pandemic. We remember also the talks over a trade deal with the EU.
Encourage honourable action and co-operation on all sides.
Give hope to people under oppression
and to those who live with fear or hunger day by day.
Hasten the day when the world’s peoples will live as neighbours
reconciled in your truth and freedom.
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory
Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us.
Bless to us, O God, the friends who are around us.
Bless to us, O God, your love which is within us.
Bless to us, O God, your light which leads us home. May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and those whom you love and those whom we are called to love, this day and even forevermore. Amen