Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 2nd Sunday of Christmas.
Call to Worship
A new year has begun
O Lord, call us so we may hear Your voice
The world turns to hopes and dreams of the future
O Lord, keep us in Your ways and on Your path
We enter this new year with hope
O Lord, guide us as we look to You and worship You.
Hymn 161 – O God, our help in ages past (1,4,5,6)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of our lives and the times in which we live,
we come before you on this first Sunday of the year,
marvelling that another year has passed.
For some of us, time has slipped by and we wonder where another year went.
For others, the pressures of the pandemic have been intense; the sorrows, heavy; the conflicts, challenging.
O God, you have seen us through this peculiar year and we are grateful.
In the year to come, be our help and company. Hold our hands as we journey onwards and may your dream of shalom, where all will be at peace, be our guiding star.
God of our lives and the time in which we live,
we know you are with us through thick and thin,
in times of great joy and at moments of disappointment.
We confess we sometimes feel let down when the joy of Christmas has passed. Our hope seems to get folded away with the gift wrap, our energy for the future feels a bit tattered.
Forgive us when our faithfulness flickers like a Christmas candle burning down.
Renew our hope and energy for the year ahead
through the steadfast grace of Christ our Lord.
Hymn 324 - Angels from the realms of glory (1,2,5)
Readings – Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13
Matthew 25: 31-46
Hymn 305 – In the bleak mid-winter (1,4,5)
Father God, help us to remember that the Christmas story did not end in the stable but continued as Jesus grew into a man. As a New Year begins and with it, the next chapter of our lives, help us to grow in faith and wisdom and to recognise that you have set eternity in our hearts. May we experience your peace and joy throughout the year ahead and may your presence be with us in all we do and say. Amen
Welcome 2022 and Goodbye to 2021! Are you glad?
This last year has been dominated by the Pandemic, and we have had to adjust our lives accordingly. But the year was also marked by tensions over Brexit and the pull-out from Afghanistan and also a greater awareness of the Climate Crisis and the fragility of our Earth. There have also been births and weddings and somehow life goes on.
So what will 2022 bring? In the carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ we hear the words ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’, and inevitably there will be the hopes and fears, the good and bad. New Year is a time to look backwards and to look forward and take stock. Maybe it is appropriate that we look at Ecclesiastes, which reflects on time.
We live in a time-obsessed society. We live by the clock; have time-saving devices like microwaves – where would we be without them. We become agitated if a bus or train happens to be 5 minutes late or if we have to wait longer than expected at traffic lights. Africa, on the other hand, is time-rich. Church services would begin late and often go on for hours. Visitors from Scotland found it difficult to cope. Maybe the answer lies somewhere in between.
Ecclesiastes! In the original Hebrew it is called Qoheleth, which means the Preacher. The Preacher reflects on time. Some view the book as being quite cynical, and the line, ‘All is vanity’ comes up over 20 times in the book, though not in our passage this morning. In other words, what’s the point! In the Middle East there is one phrase you hear again and again. ‘Inshallah’. We will meet tomorrow inshalla. It means ‘God Willing’. It is quite fatalistic, but recognises that everything is in God’s hands, but a distant God in some far-off corner of the universe. But there are others who would say Qoheleth was more a realist, a practical theologian who refused to look at the world through rose coloured glasses. He says it as it is, and certainly in our reading today, there is a time and season for everything under heaven –a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to be silent and a time to speak, and I think immediately of Desmond Tutu speaking out. Even some of the ‘seasons which jar, like a ‘time to kill’ can have meaning as we think of old habits that need killed off this new year. In the end the Preacher recognises we must stand in awe of God, who ‘puts eternity in our hearts’.
Yes, everything is in God’s hands, but we see another picture of God in the bible, and that is of a God who is continually doing new things. God is in the business of newness. Behold I am doing a new thing, writes Isaiah, while John the Divine had a vision in Revelation of a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem. And scripture makes it clear that God is a God who takes a risk. A God who did a new thing by taking the gigantic risk of being born as a child among us in a draughty stable, as Emmanuel, God with us. This is a God who is involved, not far off in a distant heaven, but hands-on. Who calls us to be involved too, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger.
Dag Hammarskjold was UN General secretary, whose plane crashed in Zambia while he was trying to make peace in the Congo in the early 60s. He was a very spiritual person and he wrote, For all that has been – thanks. For all that shall be – YES. I love the yes, for that is a Yes which works for peace and justice, for inclusion and unity, for a greener world, for a world in which we are kind to one another, for as our Gospel reminds us, we do it to Christ.
2022 lies ahead of us, and who knows what kind of year it will be. But with God, we can move forward giving thanks for the past and saying Yes to the future, for God accompanies us and will never forsake us.
Hymn 526 – This is a day of new beginnings
Prayers of Intercession
God of majesty and mystery, we bring our gifts to you, grateful that you are with us in good times and hard times. We do not know what the year ahead will hold but your love shines like a star to guide us. Bless these gifts that they may keep the light of Christ shining through the church to offer the world truth and wisdom, healing and hope in Jesus name.
God of all time and space,
as we gather in prayer, we recognize that our lives are but small details in the vast expanse of your universe. We thank you for attending to the details of our lives.
We thank you for the year just past, for walking through the good days and the hard days with us.
The pandemic has been exhausting in so many ways
but we are grateful for your steadfast love.
Thank you for friendships that sustain us in uncertain times.
We ask for your Spirit to guide us into the future,
and create new possibilities for ministry and mission through our congregation.
God of all people and places,
The year just ending has held sorrows for so many in our community and around the world.
We remember dear ones of have died and pray for those who look ahead in loneliness or sadness.
We pray for those who face challenges in health, in their families or at work; for all who are ill or mourning. Support each one who needs you close by.
God of community and commitment,
We pray for wisdom and courage in the year ahead.
Strengthen us as a congregation to be a lively and committed witness to your love.
Help us reach out to our community in faithfulness and service.
Guide leaders in our nation and around the world
so that justice and peace may prevail,
especially in troubled places and vulnerable lives.
Show us all how to honour and protect your creation,
even when that takes sacrifice on our part.
Receive our humble prayers
and encourage us onward in the name of Jesus our Christ. Amen
Hymn 235 – God is working his purpose out (1,3,4)
God of time and eternity,
Alpha and Omega, beginning and end
Bless us now in your unconditional love, that this may be a year of grace for us and for all the world.
And the blessing….