Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on the Fourth Sunday of Advent
God who spoke to Mary and Elizabeth,
speak your Word to us now.
God who blessed them with new life,
bless us with great expectation.
God who gave them songs of praise to sing,
receive our joyful praise.
Hymn 315 – Once in royal David’s city (1,2,4)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
O God, our Saviour,
With Mary, our spirits rejoice in you this day,
for you look with favour on all your children.
You have done great things for us.
You have scattered the proud and lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and kept the promises made to our ancestors.
Your mercy is known from generation to generation.
And so, we praise and magnify your holy name
with hearts full of gratitude,
trusting you will do great things once again through Christ our Lord,
born for us, born to be with us.
God of Life and Love,
The stories of Advent remind us that you are a God of surprises. You surprised Elizabeth with news she would bear a child late in life. You surprised Mary with news she would bear our Saviour.
Your surprises overturned their lives
We confess we do not always meet life’s surprises with the same courage. Forgive us when we hesitate to greet you in the unexpected. Forgive us when we prefer routine over new possibilities.
“Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine.
Love shall be our token,
Love for plea and gift and sign.”
We have made our plea for mercy, trusting in God’s gift of love made flesh in Jesus. Now receive God’s forgiveness as a lasting token of God’s love
Lighting of Advent crown
We light this candle for love.
God, as we wait for your promise,
Give light, give hope.
Hymn 284 – Love is the candle (v3)
Hymn 292 – It’s rounded like an orange (1,2,5)
Readings – Micah 5:2–5a
Hymn 302 – It was on a starry night
Reading - Luke 1:46–56
Hymn 322 – Good Christians all rejoice (Yeth)
Choir Anthem (M/B)
Everlasting God, we share today with Mary and Elizabeth their love and joy as the waiting for Jesus’s birth nears its end. Quieten our hearts and lives so that we can hear your voice bringing peace amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life as Christmas approaches. Amen
I had a disappointment the other day. I had ordered a crate of oranges. This was no ordinary crate of oranges but organised through Fiona Kendall, one of the Church’s mission partners, who works with refugees and migrants in Italy. She has a link with a fair-trade organisation growing fruit in Calabria, who support the migrant fruit pickers. BUT red tape, linked to Brexit, has meant that they have been delayed at the border, so they won’t arrive until January. I had hoped to hand them out today, but you will have to wait!
We have all had disappointments, and now with Omicron, our Christmas celebrations are going to be affected again. So it is good to read this morning about some hope, about two women celebrating together over such unexpected news – that they would bear children. Unexpected in that one was older and the other one young. It was of course Mary and her older cousin Elizabeth. You can imagine the scene, with lots of hugs and excitement, but also the fears of giving birth. They celebrated new life, but also a new age dawning.
Mary and Elizabeth, in a day and age that so much of the time overlooked women, become the people through whom the Lord of grace makes his entrance. In a day and age when women were often given little voice, Mary and Elizabeth shout and sing and become examples of the power in believing…in believing that God might be up to something new…in believing that the miraculous might happen. Where would we be without the faith of Mary and Elizabeth?
Elizabeth’s baby kicked in the womb in recognition of Jesus, and Elizabeth was the first to call him ‘Lord’, the title Jesus would be known by after the resurrection. Zechariah the priest was struck dumb by his doubts, but it was his wife Elizabeth who uttered the prophetic word.
And Mary? She sees a world where God has put everything to rights, where the people who are proud and who have everything and who cling to power are removed from everyone’s list of role models and those who are humble, weak, and lowly are lifted up as the examples to follow. She sings of a world where the hungry and the needy are satisfied with more than leftovers and where those who have a lot finally learn to live with less. We don’t typically think of Mary’s Song as a Christmas carol, but in many ways is the first one, and maybe the most essential.
Mary magnifies the Lord. A magnifying glass makes something bigger, and somehow when we look at Mary and Elizabeth’s faith, we see it magnified, and that gives us hope for the future.
Real Advent hope is not just sitting hearing the promises again. It is about active hoping, allowing God to shape and fill us, so that like Elizabeth and Mary we become the signs of God’s new world, where the lowly play their full part and the poor are heard to speak the truth of God.
Hymn 322 – Good Christians all rejoice (M/B)
Prayers of Intercession
God of love and joy, God of peace and hope, we are so grateful for these Advent gifts, which bring comfort and courage even in the most challenging times. Receive our gifts as tokens of our love and loyalty. Bless them so that they will bring love to those who need it so much this year.We pray for all your people around the world, no matter their colour or creed, language or diversity, as this Advent draws to a close, may they know the importance of this week in all its earth-shattering fullness. May they see the immensity of your gift that goes on giving.
For those for whom Christmas will be especially hard this year through the challenges, changes and consequences of this past year and more; those who have lost family or friends, homes or employment, health and well-being; for those who feel life as they have previously known it is slipping away with uncertainty and insecurity.
For the thousands affected by catastrophic weather conditions, floods, rains, wind, storm, tornedo, snow; for health and social services, their staff and clients, that in the midst of illness and need, in the midst of birth and death, in the midst of pain and distress, in the midst of their darkest and most worn-out nights, the light of Christ may shine into their world.
For those who will travel this week, or hope to travel, for those who will need to stay at home, for those visiting and those receiving guests, may they together be aware of each other’s needs, especially in these Covid times; give us all a sense of care and compassion that we may comfort the distressed and show care for all.
For those who go above and beyond what is expected of them; those who show extra love and generosity; for the Food Bank donors and organisers; for all who share the gospel message of love, life, joy and hope.
And for ourselves and our families and friends, whether we meet with them or not over the Christmas season, may we be a blessing to each other sharing love, joy hope, good news and gospel stories.
These prayers and the prayers deep within our hearts we offer to you this day Lord God.
Hymn 301 – Hark! The herald angels sing
May the song of the Angels, the joy of the Shepherds and the peace of the Christ Child be in your hearts this Christmas and 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