What a week it has been weatherwise! The roads are still bad, so please don’t venture out if you are unsure.
Lighting of Advent Crown – Hymn 284 (v4)
In the darkness of these days, O Most High,
we dare to light candles;
Candles to represent Joy,
candles to represent your light in our dark world,
that we might be lights in the darkness of our world.
Call to Worship
As God’s people, we draw ever closer to Christmas:
we go on waiting – and not for presents under a tree,
we go on hoping – and not for more cards than last year,
we go on preparing – and not the ingredients
for Delia’s Apricot and Orange Turkey stuffing.
We wait and we hope and we prepare:
with bright angels, shocked shepherds and star-gazing kings,
with expectant Mary and her swollen ankles and hurting back,
with Joseph, whose world is about to change.
We wait for a Child – God’s Christmas Gift.
Hymn 320 – Joy to the world
Prayers of adoration and confession
Emmanuel, God with us,
We praise you for your presence throughout the amazing universe you have made. The shining stars sing your praise which echoes in the depth of space.
The smallest snowflake and a baby’s tiny fingers reflect your intricate love for the details of each and every life.
In Jesus Christ, you were born among us to show us how your great love is lived out day by day. Inspire us with your loving Spirit as we move through Advent toward Christmas Day, so that our celebrations of love made flesh in Jesus will share the presence of your love with those who need it most. So may we live the praise we offer to you, Emmanuel, God with us, now and evermore.
You called Joseph to honour his love for Mary, even when custom called him to break his engagement.
You call us to love our neighbour,
but we resist your call if our neighbours annoy us.
You call us to love our enemies, too, but that seems impossible in these contentious times. Forgive us for loving only in the safest situations. Dare us to love as Jesus loved so he will be born again in us.
We hear words that Jesus spoke to so many: ‘Be at Peace’.
May we be alert to God’s mercy and grace; signs that the Spirit is already at work in us. God believes in us,
and is prompting us to grow into the full wholeness God desires for us. Thanks be to God! We pray together that prayer that gave strength to Jesus and his disciples… Lord’s Prayer
Jesse Tree – Leaving a trace
Hymn 321 – Come and join the celebration
Readings – Isaiah 7: 10-16
Romans 1: 1-7
Talk 1 – Christmas Adverts
Hymn 313 – See in yonder manger low (vv 1,2,5)
Readings – Matthew 1: 18-25
John 1: 1- 14
Hymn302 – It was on a starry night
Gracious God, who chose Mary to be the mother of the promised Saviour: fill us with your grace, that like Mary we might rejoice in your salvation. Send us out to finish our Advent journey filled with love, joy and peace ready to receive that promise afresh into our lives. Amen
Bing Crosby may well be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I will be quite glad with a grey one with no snow on roads or pavements. What are you dreaming of this Christmas? A big family get-together after these Covid years? Or peace in Ukraine and other areas of conflict?
We all have our dreams. Mary and Joseph had their dreams too. They were engaged and maybe were dreaming of creating a home together and children and raising them to be good people. But then their dreams lay shattered, at least as far as Joseph was concerned. Luke tells the story from Mary’s point of view, but in Matthew we get Joseph’s side, and you can feel his disappointment, his sense of shame, for he had become aware that Mary was pregnant – and he knew that he wasn’t the father. He had worked so hard, put so much effort into the marriage contract, had such dreams for the future – but now everything lay in ruins. It didn’t seem fair. Just like all the plans we had which went by the board because of Covid in the last two years. For joseph, the dream had become a nightmare, and it could be the scandal of the year, but being a decent man, he planned to divorce her quietly.
But then Joseph has a dream, and in his dream an angel told him not to be afraid, because angels were quite terrifying. But also not to be afraid to take Mary as a wife, to love the child, to look to the future and to dream again. For the child would save the world and would be the symbol of Emmanuel, God with us. Joseph’s dream was small, but God’s dream was bigger, was world changing.
Joseph’s whole future seemed to be unravelling, but he was told to trust, for God is with us, always and everywhere. And if God is with us, how can we be afraid. We too have to learn to trust. We live in a world where we are worried about the cost of living and strikes. There is war and rumour of war. In our anxiety we are told to trust, for God is with us.
There is a story of a farmer, who wasn’t a churchgoer. His wife had gone off to church one Christmas Eve night, and the farmer was alone beside the fire. Then there was a racket, for some birds were hitting against the window, longing for the warmth and the light. He put off the lights, but still they tried. He went out and opened the door of the barn, so they could go inside, but to no avail. ‘if only I were a bird , I could encourage them to follow me into the barn,’ he thought. Then the meaning of Christmas dawned on him. God came into the world to show us the way, to show that God was truly with us through thick and thin.
Hymn 291 – When out of poverty is born
Holy One, in this Advent Season we wait in hope and we give in hope. Hope for your coming Kingdom;
hope because of your presence with us now; hope because light is banishing the dark. Receive these gifts and use them, we pray, for your work of healing and hope in the world. Amen
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Intercession
‘Tis winter now; the fallen snow Has left the heavens all coldly clear; Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow, And all the earth lies dead and drear.
Gracious God, at this time we feel the snap of winter cold and sharp winds blow throughout the land. Days are short, nights are long, temperatures painfully low. Hear us, then, as we pray for others and for ourselves. God of winter time: enfold us all and warm us with your love.
We give you thanks for our homes and we pray for those who do not have a home at this time; for those fleeing their homelands and living in tents; for those in our land who are living on the streets. Encourage and guide those who work to find homes for refugees and shelter for the homeless. God of winter time: enfold us all and warm us with your love.
We give you thanks for homes that are warm and secure. And we pray for those who struggle to keep their homes warm; for those trying to pay increased gas and electricity bills; for those stuck in poor quality accommodation. Give to governments, power providers, and landlords a strong sense of responsibility for citizens, customers, and tenants. God of winter time: enfold us all and warm us with your love.
We give you thanks that our society keeps moving and we pray for those who work to make this happen; for gritters and road-clearers; for electricity workers and emergency service staff. Give them strength in hard times and encouragement through appreciation from others. God of winter time: enfold us all and warm us with your love.
We give you thanks for your Church and we pray for our life and witness as Christmas approaches. Through our service, witness and worship may we and others come to know you better. God of winter time: enfold us all and warm us with your love.
We give thanks for your gift of life in all its richness, from birth to death, through ups and downs. And we pray for others and ourselves; for health and healing, for strength and courage; for comfort when times are hard. God of winter time: enfold us and warm us with your love.
O God you give the winter’s cold, As well as summer’s joyous rays, You warmly in your love enfold And keep us through life’s wintry days. Amen
Hymn 286 – Tell out my soul
Let us bless each other as we enter this last week of Advent, and as we prepare to receive again, the Gift of God – Immanuel:
THE LIGHT OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR TO YOU
THE WARMTH OF HOME AND HEARTH TO YOU
THE CHEER AND GOOD WILL OF FRIENDS TO YOU
THE LOVE OF THE SON AND GOD’S PEACE TO YOU.
And the blessing of God, Creator, Child and Spirit
be with us all today, through this Christmas season, and always. Amen