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Sermons & News

Morning Worship for 24th January 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting

This day water is made wine at the wedding feast.
I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem,
Coming down out of heaven from God,
Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying,
Behold, the dwelling of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them and they shall be his peoples,
And God himself will be with them.
Behold, I make all things new;
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
To the thirsty I will give water as a gift
From the spring of the water of life.

Collect for the day

Almighty God,
Whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
The wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
And in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Lord, thy word abideth.

Readings: Genesis 14: 17-20, Revelation 19: 6-10.

Hymn: O for a thousand tongues to sing.

Gospel Reading: John 2: 1-11.

Reflection

Reflection on the Wedding in Cana of Galilee

Today we engage in the third of the divine epiphanies of Jesus

The first was the Magi bringing their gifts and proclaiming the birth of Jesus to the Gentiles

The second was the voice of God which came to Jesus at his Baptism

And the third is Christ’s first miracle, the revealing of the power of God which rested within him upon which he could call and through which God revealed himself once more

Being invited to a wedding is always a special occasion, I am sure that most of you will have been invited to someone’s wedding at some point in your lives. I have officiated at hundreds of weddings throughout my ministry and each one of them have been very special occasions. However inevitably there will be those which we remember more than others simply because of something which happened which made them stand out and be extra memorable, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes because of some slight mishap or two.

I can remember a wedding where it was not the bride who was late but the groom, and I can recall having to send the poor bride for an extra drive in the car three times before her future husband thankfully turned up.

I can remember officiating at my nephews wedding in a strange church and arriving to find the marriage registers still locked inside the safe with no one present with a key?

One memorable occasion was a wedding complete with several celebrities held in one of my smallest churches in Durham, where the number of floral decorations were so large and numerous that we could hardly get the guests in.

Then of course the extra special grand occasions of local dignitaries and personal friends with free flowing champagne and specially ordered and crafted wedding designer venues.

All very memorable for a variety of different reasons and this wedding to which Jesus had been invited was no exception, Jewish weddings at this time went on for a week, it was not just over in a day, wedding guests would come and go all the time, so a ready supply of wine and refreshments always needed to be available.

Indeed such was the heavy expectation placed upon the bride and groom that not to be able to provide for family and friends and especially those who had been specially invited would have been costly to the standing of the couple in the midst of their society, not a great way to start their new life together.

Hospitality was key, however on this occasion the wine did indeed run out, perhaps it was near the end of the celebrations and the couple had simply under estimated what would be needed or perhaps more guests had arrived including the disciples of Jesus which simply stretched things a bit too far, but run out they did

Now in such circumstance you would have thought that it would be the Father of the Bride, who would have stepped in at this point, after all it is normally he who ends up footing the bill, but in this case it is Jesus’ Mother who takes the initiative, showing that this wedding could well have been that of someone very close to the family indeed, and bearing that in mind it is perhaps not that surprising that Jesus’ mother wants to avoid embarrassment and a potential loss of face.

So why does Mary call on her Son to intervene?

This was his first recorded miracle so she did not know what the outcome would be but here we see her portraying perfect belief that her Son would be able to help in some special way.

At first Jesus was not too pleased, mother interfering again, and failing to recognize that Jesus was not yet ready to begin to display his power in such a public setting, hence the response that it was not yet his time!

However his mother was undeterred, do whatever he tells you!

What a key expression that is, obey and great things will be the result.

So like any Son Jesus responds as asked, yet through the instructions given to the stewards Jesus in turning water into wine reveals how by engaging in his ministry and being reborn by baptismal water the way is opened up for all who follow him into the feast of the kingdom of God.

With the words of the chief steward of the wedding “best wine kept until now,” reflecting beautifully the reality that at the opening scenario of the ministry of Jesus, the wine of the new dispensation, a new covenant with God had appeared, which would lead his people toward him in a way far superior to any revelation made previously by God to his chosen people.

That wine has been poured out for us to taste through the offering of the blood of Christ and as we now go forward to receive the blessing of his sacramental gift, let us recall the mysteries of the wedding feast at Cana and rejoice with all of God’s guests in being so freely invited to share in the heavenly banquet of God’s love.

Amen.

Hymn: O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, as we pray today for your Church, we pray that we guided by your Holy Spirit may find the strength and confidence we need to continue to serve you and others in your name. We pray at this time of continued turmoil for clearer guidance on how best to worship and how best to care for one another alongside those in the communities which surround us.

As we pray together recognising our Lord’s first miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, we pray today for all those couples who have had to postpone their weddings hoping at some point for a relaxation of current restrictions. We pray for those still hoping to be married in the Spring and the Summer of this new year, that we may be able to rejoice with them surrounded by their families and friends.

We pray as we engage with yet another period of isolation from our own family and friends that you may bless us and keep us in good spirits. We pray for all who are struggling with their mental health, all whose lives have been torn apart, and especially for all who find themselves lost, lonely and afraid. May the power of your love wash over them and bring them a little hope and comfort in these difficult and demanding days.

Lord Jesus, fulfilment of the promises of old, give hope to all who suffer at this time, especially those in hospital, or receiving care in their own homes. We pray for the NHS and all caring professionals, all who are anxious, distressed, frustrated and depressed due to our present life restrictions, and for all whose health, wellbeing, livelihood and financial security are so adversely affected at this time. May all who are currently struggling, persevere in the hope that things may soon change and their present difficulties be resolved.

Finally Holy Father, we hold before you all who mourn the loss of loved ones, for all those who now face this New Year alone, for those mourning loved ones lost in years gone by and for all who mourn the loss of those who have in so many different ways inspired them in their own lives. May the memories which they treasure be ever in their hearts bringing them glimpses of joy in their times of sadness.
Lord Jesus Christ, in you the Father makes us and all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory.

Amen.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Forth in the peace of Christ we go.

A Song of Solomon

Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;
For love is strong as death passion fierce as the grave;
Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
If all the wealth of our house were offered for love,
It would be utterly scorned.

Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it.

Blessing

May God the Son,
Who turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana,
Transform your lives and make glad your hearts.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 17th January 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting

God of gold, we seek your glory:
The richness that transforms our drabness into colour,
And brightens our dullness with vibrant light;
Your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.

God of incense, we offer you our prayer:
Our spoken and unspeakable longings,
Our questioning of truth, our search for your mystery deep within.

God of myrrh, we cry out to you in our suffering:
The pain of all our rejections and bereavements,
Our baffled despair at undeserved suffering,
Our rage at continuing injustice;
And we embrace you, God-with-us,
In our wealth, in our yearning, in our anger and loss.
Jan Berry, Sheffield 1990

Collect for the day

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
And in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Come down O love divine.

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-20, Revelation 5:1-10.

Hymn: Gracious Spirit Holy Ghost.

Gospel Reading: John 1:43-51.

Reflection

When it is cold and rather wet and somewhat miserable outside and especially now that we have entered into another lock down and have to stay at home, I am sure that many of you will take the opportunity of sitting by the fire in a comfortable chair and opening up a book. It may well be something new perhaps a book bought for you by a friend as a Christmas gift. Within the pages we will discover images portrayed either of fictional characters or historic actualities, and inner messages will slowly be revealed to us.

Well the same kind of imagery is played out before us today as we recall the words we heard from the book of revelation. St John the Divine loves apocalyptic imagery and Revelations is filled with it, and we are called as indeed we are always called by a good book to look in detail about what is before us and to grasp the message which the words are trying to portray to us. So what is the story behind the few verses we have had the pleasure of hearing today?

Well in Revelations the primary concern is the forthcoming glory of God in the fulfilment of his kingdom. But how is the kingdom to be heralded in, when will God act and wipe away the unfaithful and reward the righteous?

This is what the text for today seeks to reveal to us through the imagery of the scroll with seven seals. I love the way which this is expressed as it reveals a book desperate to be opened, but a book which can only be opened by someone who is worthy. This scroll represents for St John the book of destiny for the earth. It is both a book of doom and a book of triumphant exaltation, it will reveal all that God has planned for us and all that he will do, but only when the time is right will the scroll be opened and read, and only when the book is opened will the reign of Satan be terminated and a new era begin.

A search is made throughout heaven, earth and all parts of God’s creation but no one is found worthy to break open the seal of God on the destiny of the earth. No one that is except Jesus Christ in his resurrected form as the Holy Lamb of God.

So why is Jesus the only one worthy and why is he revealed to the Evangelist as a lamb standing as if slaughtered, rather than as a Jesus triumphant sitting at the right hand of God in Glory?

Well this image of the slaughtered lamb reflects so much scriptural prophecy that it becomes a truly symbolic image filled with depth and meaning. The lamb of God is not only standing firm despite its slaughtered appearance but it stands firm with 7 horns every horn representing symbols of divine power, and with the 7 horns are 7 eyes which represent the 7 spirits of God as reflected in the prophecy of Zechariah where the 7 eyes of Yahweh are revealed through the prophets divine vision.

This image of the messianic Lamb of God again takes us back to the very Exodus of the chosen people of God from Egypt, where the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the doors of the Hebrew people saved them from the plaques of Egypt and the death of the first born. Jesus is therefore the first born of the dead, the lamb who was sacrificed by God for us that we may find ourselves liberated from oppression. For the Evangelist this is a key prophetic image which acts as a prototype of the coming liberation of all Christians from the oppression of the might of Rome.

So the purpose of the scroll is to bring about the defeat of Satan it will bring forth retribution upon the wicked and heap reward upon the righteous, which is why only the one who is truly righteous can open the seals of God.

Thinking of a scroll with 7 seals seems rather an odd image but what this represents is the gradual opening of the apocalypse, it is not done at one precise moment but part of Gods vengeance on the wicked is revealed through the opening of each and every seal. Just as with the Exodus from Egypt God placed 7 plagues upon the earth so too will seven plagues of retribution be unleashed by the Lamb as he opens each and every divine seal upon the scroll of destiny.

With this gift of divine power and presence given to the Lamb, God shares his divine qualities with his Son, The Lamb assumes Gods power of being present everywhere and having access to the omnipotent power of the Almighty.

Revelation of course is an apocalyptic prophecy which stands before us awaiting its fulfilment, Jesus is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which awaits Gods chosen people. We are saved from the power of the evil one through the divine grace of God in Jesus achieved for us through his own death and resurrection, however the kingdom of God has not reached its fulfilment, sin and the power of the satanic forces still lead us into temptation. The plaques released by the opening of the scrolls seals still hover over us, they have not yet reached their full potential, for those who dwell in wickedness have not been marked with the blood of the lamb, so that when the day of judgement appears the hand of the plagues of retribution will strike, and only those marked with the blood of salvation will be saved.

Who then is to be saved, who will be marked out? Only those who are called like Nathanael will be saved, Philip said come and see and when he followed Philip to Jesus he declared Rabbi you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel. And Jesus responded: you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

Jesus the Son of Man opens the seals of the book of destiny for the earth, casts aside the reign of the Evil One and opens up the doorway between the heavens and the earth. In so doing he reveals to us the divine image of the elders of heaven bowing in prayer before the Lamb surrounded by the incense of prayer which comes forth through you as Gods chosen people. Through our prayers for others we lift up the earth to heaven, through the divine omnipresence and omnipotence of Christ he as our great high priest gathers those prayers together and in presenting them to the Father he enables God to act. In God’s good time and only when our prayers are just and true will God bring about the completion of the glorious kingdom and only then will we who are worthy, like the sacrificial lamb be enabled to sing a new song and see for ourselves the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

That time is however not yet, we as God’s children are not being punished for our wickedness, as we know that the divine revelation of God’s Kingdom will come to us not as a result of pain and despair but rather in triumphant glory. We as people of faith place our trust in the Lord Jesus to be there for us and to assist us with divine grace, but we do know that we are generally unworthy of that grace. In seeking to be good to self and others, in preserving al that is good in the world whilst seeking to do our best to eradicate evil we despite the difficulties we are all facing at this terrible time, must believe that the day will come when God can see enough of himself in us, that the promise of the kingdom will be fulfilled.

So let us strive to continue to do our very best for God, and may the hope which comes through living a life of faith, in God’s good time restore us back into the arms of our heavenly creator.

I close with a few beautifully intimate words from today’s psalm:

“For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvellously made; your works are wonderful and I know it well.”

Thanks be to God

(Reverend Clive.)

Hymn: Immortal Invisible.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,

Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, as we pray today for your Church, we pray that we guided by your Holy Spirit may find the strength and confidence we need to continue to serve you and others in your name. We pray at this time of continued turmoil for clearer guidance on how best to worship and how best to care for one another alongside those in the communities which surround us. We pray that through our inner sense of calling that we like Philip and Nathanael may truly believe in your kingly presence and respond to your calling in willing obedience.

We pray as we engage with yet another period of isolation from family and friends that you may bless us and keep us in good spirits. We pray for all who are struggling with their mental health, all whose lives have been torn apart, and especially for all who find themselves lost, lonely and afraid. May the power of your love wash over them and bring them a little hope and comfort in these difficult and demanding days.

Lord Jesus, fulfilment of the promises of old, give hope to all who suffer at this time, especially those in hospital, or receiving care in their own homes. We pray for the NHS and all caring professionals, all who are anxious, distressed, frustrated and depressed due to our present life restrictions, and for all whose health, wellbeing, livelihood and financial security are so adversely affected at this time. May all who currently struggle, persevere in the hope that things may soon change and their present difficulties be resolved.

Father, as we pray for the wider world we remember those facing struggles and anxiety caused not through illness but by the oppression and tyranny of others, for all who have had to flee their homes from violence or racial rejection, for those denied the civil liberties which we have in abundance. We pray that justice may prevail in your world and that all people may be enabled to find their voice, be enabled to live in comfort and peace and free to enjoy the liberty of freedom.

Finally Holy Father, we hold before you all who mourn the loss of loved ones, for all those who now face this New Year alone, for those mourning loved ones lost in years gone by and for all who mourn the loss of those who have in so many different ways inspired them in their own lives. May the memories which they treasure be ever in their hearts bringing them glimpses of joy in their times of sadness.

Lord Jesus Christ, in you the Father makes us and all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory.

Amen.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: The Churches one foundation.

A Song of Christ’s Goodness

Gather your little ones to you, O God,
As a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you,
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
Tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
In sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
By your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
Through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead,
Your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us;
In your love and tenderness, remake us.
In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
For the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

Gather your little ones to you, O God,
As a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Blessing

May God, who in Christ gives us a spring of water
Welling up to eternal life,
Perfect in you the image of his glory;
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 10th January 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting

Helpless God as child and crucified, laid in a cradle and cradled on a cross;
Help us discern in your submission not weakness but the passionate work of love. You tell us you are poor in every age:
Naked hungry, and without a home.
Help us in your poor cradle of today to see what is of you and what is not:
That suffering does not often save, or helplessness redeem our sorry lives.
And so forbid us sing when we should weep.
Yet come to us and all of ours, O child of Mary and of God,
In all the poor who saw you first, and laughed with you, and heard you well.
And now run back from nowhere with their news,
To plant their seeds of hope in our dry ground.
Michael H. Taylor, Christian Aid.

Collect for the day

Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus
Revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,
That we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.

Readings: Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19:1-7.

Hymn: Breathe on me breath of God.

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:4-11.

Reflection

Today we celebrate a divine epiphany not the story of the Magi or the three wise men arriving after their travels to meet the baby Jesus but rather an epiphany of the Lord God himself speaking to his Son. Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. We are of course speaking of the baptism of Jesus, the point at which the ministry of Jesus on earth truly begins. And this seems so relevant to us today as we begin a new year and a new approach to our own ministry for Jesus here in this place. So let us therefore reflect on the reality of our own baptism into the faith and its significance for us today.

I cannot remember my own baptism being baptised as an infant only a few days old alongside my twin brother in our local parish church, I guess like many who bring their children to baptism today my parents and the family enjoyed the occasion, But was there any divine epiphany were the heavens rent open and did my Christian ministry truly begin at that very moment? In a symbolic way perhaps it did but it was certainly not put into action for many years to come.

Jesus’ baptism was very different it was a public declaration and a moment of great significance; Jesus approaches the great John the Baptist and enters into the waters

Despite John being rather reluctant Jesus immerses himself symbolically into the water not to repent as did those around him but to create the opportunity of public identification with his people.

He goes under the waters the waters of primordial chaos and emerges to the divine epiphany a glorious revelation acknowledging the beginning of a new dawn upon the world. Immediately he arose from the water the voice of God responded, wow what a divine magnificent moment heralding in a new creation or in the words of revelation a new heaven and a new earth one to which a door had finally been opened.

At the very beginning of creation in the book of Genesis when the earth was void and darkness the wind from God swept over the waters and there was light. The first day of creation is matched up beautifully with the first day of our Lord’s ministry. Although the emphasis of this connection has been a little lost in translation we hear the words the heavens opened and a dove descended upon him. Beautiful as this rendition is we are often confused by the imagery,

The dove speaks to us of a symbol of peace and a sign of the divine Spirit of God, and yet in this story the dove truly symbolises the creative power of God himself.

It is that creative power of God which is so abundantly around us at every baptism, and at every end and every new beginning, it may not always appear in such a dramatic way, for us and for those who bring their children to baptism a dove may not suddenly appear from heaven and yet the heavens symbolically are still torn apart as if in a violent storm bursting asunder with grace and light and great power,

For just as at the baptism of Jesus in the eyes of the faithful every baptism is accompanied by a light or a fire erupting in the waters revealing the creative force of God being channelled upon his chosen and anointed people.

The reading from Acts builds upon this powerful understanding of the Holy Spirit, and here we see it not just as a gift to God’s chosen people but to all the nations of the earth. In speaking directly to a Gentile audience Paul speaks with conviction of how effective the Spirit is at the point of conversion. But that is where the challenge comes to us today, at what point did our conversion occur and in what way did the Spirit make itself known?

Here we find the reality behind the baptism of Jesus and that of our own baptism, it was not just a symbolic opportunity but a life changing event, which is why every baptism should be seen as life giving and magnificent for through it the Holy power of God is revealed to his people.

Baptism is still today very much a public declaration and a means by which an infant is recognised by and welcomed into the wider community. This is a significant moment because it speaks powerfully of a sense of identity; that is what baptism is really all about, as it identifies a new member of society into the community into which she or he will hopefully grow and prosper. We all need a sense of identity in order to live creative and meaningful lives.

Baptism heralds in the possibility of sharing that life with God in and through the power of his Holy Spirit, so let us all rejoice at every baptism, let us all rejoice again at our own, let the power of the Spirit burn within the waters of new life and may we with Jesus and the rest of the Gentile World truly celebrate the magnificent reality of the divine revelation of God in our midst.

For we need to be prepared to see the heavens opened and the glory of God rest upon us. Of course this may not happen in such a divine and beautiful way as was the occasion of God’s own Son, but the power of the moment and its significance should still be felt by those around every new convert to the faith for if we truly believe then we open our eyes to the glory of God and we see in faith and hear the Lord our God speak inwardly to us just as he did to Jesus.

The early church realised the magnificence of this moment of divine epiphany, and were reminded of the holy words revealed in the servant songs of the prophet Isaiah who reminded them of the very purpose of Baptism, the beginning of a ministry which will transform the world.

“Behold my servant whom I uphold my chosen in whom my soul delights I have put my Spirit upon them.”

Behold my servant that is you, the ones chosen in whom God’s soul delights, that is you, and the one upon whom God has placed the power of the Spirit that is every one of you.

So live in the reality of God’s divine presence and may your lives be filled with baptismal grace and truth. That you may be enabled to grasp new opportunities and a fresh direction in your faith so enabling every baptised member of the Church to reach their full potential and seek to serve the Lord their God with all their hearts and minds.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Hymn: Thou whose almighty word.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, as we pray today for the commemoration of the baptism of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for our own baptism into the faith, and for all those preparing to be baptised and so enter into a new life with our crucified Lord. Let us pray that we may live the life to which he has called us.

Lord Jesus, eternal Word,

Proclaimed as the Christ by John the forerunner, hear us as we pray for all who proclaim your word, for the prophets of the past and all those whom you call today to proclaim your wonder and your message of peace and hope and joy.

Lord of truth, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, baptizing with the Spirit and with fire, strengthen us to withstand all the trials of our faith, as we continue through the present darkness of these times, may your glorious light prevail and lead us into glory.

Lord of truth, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, bringing forgiveness to all who repent, teach your Church dependence on your grace, that we may seek to walk in your light with confidence and hope amidst the changes soon to come upon us as we seek to renew and reinvigorate the way in which we reach out and give you worship.

Lord of truth, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, fulfilment of the promises of old, give hope to all who suffer at this time, especially those in hospital, or receiving care in their own homes. We pray for the NHS and all caring professionals, all who are anxious, distressed, frustrated and depressed due to our present life restrictions, and for all whose health, wellbeing, livelihood and financial security are so adversely affected at this time. May all who currently struggle, persevere in the hope that things may soon change and their present difficulties be resolved.

As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain. May your promise of renewal and eternal hope bring all who struggle comfort at this troubled time.

Lord of truth, hear our prayer.

We pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live, especially for those whom have approached us for prayer at this time. And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

Lord Jesus Christ, in you the Father makes us and all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory.

Amen.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Crown him with many crowns.

A Song of the New Jerusalem

Nations will come to your light,
And kings to your dawning brightness.

Arise, shine out, for your light has come,
The glory of the Lord is rising upon you.
Though night still covers the earth,
And darkness the peoples;
Above you God’s glory appears.
The nations will come to your light,
And kings to your dawning brightness.
Your gates will lie open continually;
Shut neither by day nor by night.
The sound of violence shall be heard no longer in your land,
Or ruin and devastation within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,
And your gates, Praise.
No more will the sun give you daylight,
Nor moonlight shine upon you;
But the Lord will be your everlasting light,
Your God will be your splendour.
For you shall be called the city of God,
The dwelling of the Holy One of Israel.
Nations will come to your light,
And kings to your dawning brightness.

Blessing

May God the Holy Spirit,
Who came upon the beloved Son
At his baptism in the river Jordan,
Pour out his gifts on you
Who have come to the waters of new birth.
Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 3rd January 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting

We thought we knew where to find you;
We hardly needed a star to guide the way,
Just perseverance and common sense;
Why do you hide yourself away from the powerful
And join the refugees and outcasts,
Calling us to follow you there?
Wise God, give us wisdom.

We thought we had laid you safe in the manger;
We wrapped you in the thickest sentiment we could find,
And stressed how long ago you came to us;
Why do you break upon us in our daily life
With messages of peace and goodwill,
Demanding that we do something about it?
Just and righteous God, give us justice and righteousness.

So where else would we expect to find you
But in the ordinary place with the faithful people,
Turning the world to your purpose through them.
Bring us to that manger, to that true rejoicing,
Which will make wisdom, justice and righteousness alive in us.
Stephen Orchard, All the Glorious Names, the prayer handbook for 1989 published by the United Reformed Church. Based on Luke 2: 1-20.

Collect for the day

O God, who by the leading of a star
Manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:
Mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith,
May at last behold your glory face to face;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Brightest and Best.

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12.

Hymn: O worship the Lord.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12.

Reflection

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany the visitation to the Holy Family by the three wise men, the final visitors to the new born Christ-child, they have travelled considerable distances guided only by the light of a star in the sky, recognizing that through the form of this heavenly light a special event was being recognized and witnessed to by the heavenly realm itself. Such unusual celestial happenings were given enormous significance by our ancestors, as their understanding of the heavens above were clouded in mystery and intrigue, Godly powers were closely associated with any unusual activity and so religious as well as secular significance were naturally always aligned to the heavens above.

We may be somewhat more sophisticated in our understanding of the heavens today and yet there is something about the evening sky which acts as an irresistible magnet to us.

So captivating are those sparkles of light that it is so easy to lose ourselves completely in the awe and wonder of it all.

I guess for those three wise men that what they saw and followed must have filled them with the same kind of wonderment and of course such was the beauty of the light they witnessed in its arising that they abandoned normal life itself in order to follow it and to see the wonder of which it spoke.

Naturally when entering into the territory of a king, it was only common courtesy to let them know of your arrival and also to share that which they believed was being foretold by the star they were following.

Sadly of course we know how negatively this was received by Herod, and although we rightly condemn his response we must however recognize that those in authority even today in the democratic world in which we live can be and indeed often are very wary of anything which may shake the foundations of the power-base they currently employ.

Herod was renowned for his cruelty as well as for his subtle use of the words of diplomacy, however those from afar will not have known that at the time, how easily we can be drawn in by the sound of kind words and eagerness that we fail to recognize the truth which lies behind them. Reading people and their true intentions can of course be incredibly difficult, especially when we ourselves have already fixed in our own hearts what the responses of others should be. How often I wonder have you been really excited by some new idea or potential exploit that your own enthusiasm and positivity has tended to cloud your judgment.

Examples soon come to my mind of where I have really pushed for something only to find out that colleagues were really not keen or had a different agenda which made them see what I saw from a completely different perspective. I wonder however what the wise men really thought of that which they discovered at the end of their journey. Great signs and wonders came before them the fears and insecurities of people in positions of power were brought to the fore. The wise men had carried with them the fabled gifts of symbolic kingship to present to the heralded in Messiah and all they found when the star came to its rest was a simple abode with a mother and child.

At first thought we may well have wondered what was so special, what was so different about this child than any other, no palace, no courtiers no one in attendance just a mother and Father surrounding their child with nothing but love.

So ordinary and yet so special at the same time. Once again when we read the scriptures which we have before us we must be wary of placing upon them our own understanding and expectation instead of being open to the recognition of God’s within them. Our story does not speak of any sense of disappointment or at a hint of rejection by the three wise men, because the eternal truth of the story is to recognize the glory the wonder and the awe that is present whenever we look through things with the eyes of God.

Our world is full of awe and wonder and God surprises us every single day, from the simplicity of a beautiful winter’s morning to the beauty of the birth of a new born child. Beauty as they say is in the eye of the beholder, sadly often our eyes are clouded with our own expectations, yet those three wise men remind us that God surprises us in the everyday life which surrounds us. Their eyes were not to be clouded by their own expectations for they were to behold the wonder of God in all its fullness, seeing it portrayed through the wonderment of love.

So as we gather together today in giving thanks to God for the visitation of the Magi, may we lay before the lord Jesus Christ the precious gift of our own love for him, and in so doing may that gift be absorbed by Jesus and offered to the Father, for the Lord does not require our Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh only the gift of our love in return for his and that is why the wise men were not disappointed, for in witnessing true love, they were themselves richly blessed and their journey was made worth-while.

May our journey to the Christ-child be equally blessed that we may never underestimate our own ability to achieve great things when we do them in and for, the glory of God.

Amen.

Hymn: Angel voices ever singing.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, as we pray today for the commemoration of the visitation of the wise men to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for their devotion, for their endurance and for the trust they had in you to follow your star to the point of their fulfilment.
We pray for every Disciple of Jesus, that we may all pay homage to your Son, and bring to him the gift of our love.

We pray for your Church in this land, especially for this Diocese of Lincoln, we pray for those who lead us and for the new approach to ministry being encouraged in our midst. We pray for understanding and acceptance that through new approaches, your Church will grow and flourish and seek to bring justice and peace into the hearts of those whom it serves in Christ’s name.

We pray for the emergence of this New Year before us, and we pray that it may bring respite to many from the difficulties of the year which is now past. As the world seeks to protect itself from the onslaught of further infection may your healing grace wash over us all and renew our will to seek to promote peace, joy and hope in our troubled communities.

We continue to hold in our prayers all whose health, wellbeing, livelihood and financial security are so adversely affected at this time. May all who currently struggle, persevere in the hope that things may soon change and their present difficulties be resolved. As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

We pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live, especially for those whom have approached us for prayer at this time. And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: Jesus good above all other.

Acclamations on the gifts of the Wise Men

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe:
To you be praise and glory for ever.
As gold in the furnace is tried and purified seven times in the fire,
So purify our hearts and minds that we may be a royal priesthood
Acceptable in the service of your kingdom.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe:
To you be praise and glory for ever.
As our prayer rises up before you as incense,
So may we be presented before you
With penitent hearts and uplifted hands
To offer ourselves in your priestly service.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe:
To you be praise and glory for ever.
As you give medicine to heal our sickness
And the leaves of the tree of life
For the healing of the nations,
So anoint us with your healing power
That we may be the first-fruits of your new creation.
Blessed be God for ever.

Blessing

May God the Father,
Who led the wise men by the shining of a star
To find the Christ, the Light from light,
Lead you in your pilgrimage to find the Lord.
Amen.

May God, who has delivered us from the dominion of darkness,
Give us a place with the saints in light
In the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Amen.

May the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
Shine in your hearts and fill our lives
With his joy and peace.
Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 20th December 2020

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting

Come humbly, Holy Child, stir in the womb of our complacency;
Shepherd our vision of the little we need for abundant living.
Come humbly, Holy Spirit, to whisper through the leaves
In the garden of our ignorance, exposing our blindness
To children dying, hungry and in pain.
Come humbly, Holy Light, pierce our lack of generosity and love,
Scattering our dark fear of living freely in your way,
Poured out in wanton service.
Come humbly, Holy Wisdom, cry through the empty streets
Of our pretence to care, that the face of the poor
Will be lifted up, for holy is your name.
Come humbly, Holy God, be born into our rejoicing,
Come quickly, humble God, and reign.
From a Mothers’ Union day on Magnificat’ Durham 1989

Collect for the day

Who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary
To be the mother of your Son:
Grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
So we may be ready to greet him
When he comes again as our judge;
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Amazing Grace.

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11. 16. Romans 16:25-27.

Hymn: The angel Gabriel.

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26-38.

Reflection

Today we truly begin to move from Advent to Christmas. Mary a young woman engaged to Joseph, has a vision, an angel of God whom we know as Gabriel appears before her and says those amazing words.

Greetings favoured one, the Lord is with you!

Our account of this from Luke says Mary was somewhat perplexed by these words, a slightly understated response when we consider the scene today. Firstly there is the reality of witnessing the presence of an angelic visitor. Throughout the centuries messengers from God have been sent to his people. References to angels abound not only in sacred texts but also in folk lore and general story telling. Angels appear often at the most surprising times, we see them or hear of them within the context of Christ’s birth, our carols are full of their sense of awe and wonder, the school nativity plays portray them in their Victorian beauty compete with wings, but I wonder how Gabriel presented himself to Mary?

Was there a glow of light, did the stars twinkle around her was there a beautiful man clothed in gold with wondrous wings or was this visitation somewhat different?

I believe the tone of our reading suggests a different kind of visitation, as I suggested when I began maybe it was in the form of a dream or a vision, maybe even merely a sense of the presence of something just outside the ordinary, however Mary wonders not so much about the angelic visitors appearance but rather on the significance of the words from God.

Greetings favoured one the Lord is with you? What could this mean, why is she favoured above others and what does the angel mean when he says the Lord is with you?

Mary is no one special an ordinary young girl engaged as young women were at that time to a man chosen by her family, a life of quiet domesticity already planned out for her. Why should she be favoured by God?

Why indeed, in this story we begin to see something of the Glory of God unveiled, God chooses the most unlikely people at times, and of course God chooses each one of us in the self- same way, how often have we thought the same thing as Mary, how often have we been a little perplexed at events in our own lives, and how often have we said the words Why me?

Why me must have been going through Mary’s mind as the Angel continued with his message, Do not be afraid, again something of an understatement, she is faced with a visionary presence sent from God, she has been singled out and a special calling has been placed upon her, and the angel says do not be afraid for you have found favour with God, at this point if I had been Mary I think I would have been just a little more than perplexed and wondering, I think I may well have been rather more concerned with a little fear of the unknown beginning to well up inside me.

And yet there is something about angelic visitations which still the storm of uncertainty in our hearts, their very presence although surely awe-inspiring still something within us as only something which is truly of God can.

I am sure you have all had those moments of stillness and wonder, have witnessed or felt the presence of God in such a unique way even if only for a fleeting moment, and it is in those fleeting moments when our fears, our doubts and uncertainties are put to one side and all seems simply to be fine, to be certain, and a sense of peaceful wonder washes over us filling us full of the glory of God.

Mary has the glory of God washing over her at this very moment, her life is to change, no longer is she scheduled for quiet domesticity, she is to carry within her the glory of God, the Angel tells her, the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will over shadow you, your child, your amazing gift of God will be called Holy, and be called the Son of God. Now is the time to be afraid, now is the time to say why me, now is the time to run and hide and say depart from me and place this calling on someone else, but no, that is not Mary’s response. Undoubtedly her feelings of wondering will now have changed, undoubtedly there will be fear within her heart, at all the uncertainties which will lie ahead of her, and yet her simple response is here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.

Mary simply says yes to God, she allows the divine presence into her life, she opens her heart to the love of God, and in simple trust, allows her life to be transformed into that which will for generations be remembered and act as a witness to faith for all eternity.

Mary says yes to God and so we move from Advent to Christmas, the time draws near, soon the message of the annunciation to Mary will be fulfilled. Let it be with me according to your word.

As we ponder on our own calling from God, as we reflect on those special moments when we have rested in God’s presence let us respond as Mary responded, let us be washed by God’s presence and let us like Mary say yes to God, that our lives like hers will be richly blessed and that we too may not be afraid, knowing in our hearts that we like her have found favour with God.

Midnight Mass Reflection

It is with great joy that I speak to you tonight as we gather together to give thanks and praise to God for the gift of his Son. We have heard through listening to our carols the glorious Christmas story and now in the quiet of this night it is time to reflect on the glory gathering around us. In the reading from Hebrews we heard some very special and unique words, verse 3 reminds us that Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being and that he sustains all things by his powerful word.

Three descriptions of what truly lies ahead for us this holy night, firstly Jesus as the reflection of God’s Glory, when I think of this particular image I am reminded of St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, at present we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we shall see face to face. This is a reference of the glory which is to be revealed to us all at the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Here all who have loved the Lord Jesus shall see his glory not as a mere reflection but face to face. The epistle reminds us of the promise of eternity and the great advent hope of the second coming of Jesus in a personal way enabling the recreation of what our Christmas Story really began.

With Christ being presented before us we are given a glimpse into the reality of God, a God who loves us, sustains us and is always there for us. It seems that it is not God who presents himself as a mirror image but rather that we in all our own insecurities are the ones who see ourselves as we are rather than as the people God created us to be.

For it is only when we can gaze upon ourselves and see Jesus that the mirror image fades and face to face engagement takes place. It is in the realisation that we are not created for self but for God that our very existence grasps hold of our eternal reality.

This is why Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s very being. In Jesus we can not only see God but we are brought into his personal presence. One of the ways I find most helpful in exploring this mysterious heavenly connection is through the art of iconography. For generations holy scholars and historic devoted monks have dedicated their lives in creating icons which in themselves act as windows to heaven. Every icon tells a story and within each icon there is a central character to which everything else points. Follow the icon with the eye of faith and it will open up a divine window through which we as human beings can reach out and touch that which is divine.

This is what is meant by Christ being the exact imprint of God’s very being, what we see in Jesus is God interacting with his people in a unique and holy way. The Christmas birth celebrates this reality in a very human way, it reveals God’s glory through and in the glory of all that he has created, and this although deeply profound is so beautifully simple to understand.

Whenever we gaze into the eyes of a new born child what do we say? Oh look he has his mother’s eyes, or look see no mistaking that nose he is certainly his Fathers son! Beautiful gestures which remind us of intimacy, of relationship and of continuity, looking through the eyes of Jesus we look directly into the holy and divine eyes of God, not just a mirror image not just an imprint of God’s very being, but into the very most inner sanctum of Gods eternal presence. To gaze on the Christ child is to gaze upon God, We are then called to open ourselves up to that glorious reality, and we are challenged to see within ourselves the reality of God Emmanuel, God with us.

God with us eternally by his presence and his grace revealed most intimately by the word of God made incarnate into human form.

For this new born holy child is the glory of God revealed in and through his Holy creative word. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

Those holy words of St John so beautifully remind us that all that matters in this life is the holy word of God, without it we are nothing, without it in our lives we see nothing but ourselves in the mirror and we never manage to open a window into the divine life which created us and sustains us. Without the word darkness swallows us, and we never see the light of a new day, but with the word, darkness is cast away wherever it may appear, for with the word of God written in our hearts our lives are transformed and we rest secure within the loving embrace of the Christ child. May the beauty and the wonder of this night be truly magical for us to behold, and as the story of life unfolds let us be enabled to see our own lives given purpose and fulfilment in and through the beauty of gazing upon God face to face,

Look to Jesus and he will open your eyes, there will no longer be any confusion or uncertainty, look to Jesus and you will discover yourselves and in so doing find that you are already filled with the Glory of God, look to Jesus and be as one with him, look at his nose and see your own inhaling the divine breathe of God, look at his ears and listen to your own responding to the word of God, look into his eyes, and weep with sheer delight as you gaze upon God and find yourselves wrapped for ever in his eternal love.

May the glory of the Christ child fill you with peace and joy and hope, in his holy and glorious name; Amen.

Hymn: Of the Father’s love begotton.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,

Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, as we pray today for the Blessed Virgin Mary and all who have given witness to Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for their devotion, for their endurance and for the trust they had in you to deliver your promise of salvation. We pray for mothers throughout the world giving birth to new life amidst the present darkness and we rejoice that your eternal light shines forth to bring joy and hope and reassurance for the future.

We pray for your Church as it continues to promote your name in and through Christ Jesus our Lord, we pray for all being attracted to the faith at this time, and we rejoice as we draw near to the glorious feast of the Incarnation, that we together heralding in the birth of Jesus, may draw strength from his humility and vulnerability.

We pray for the nations of the world and every attempt by those in authority seeking to restore peace and order within their societies whilst attempting to address all the difficulties placed upon them by the Corona Virus. We give thanks for the vaccines now coming on stream across the world, may we all soon be freed from the fears of this pandemic, whilst seeking at the present to continue to keep ourselves and others safe and free from harm.

We hold in our prayers all whose health, wellbeing, livelihood and financial security are so adversely affected at this time. May all who currently struggle, persevere in the hope that things may soon change and their present difficulties be resolved. As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

We pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live, especially for those whom have approached us for prayer at this time. 
And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

The Song of Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
For he has looked with favour on his lowly servant,
From this day all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me
And holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him, in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filed the hungry with good things
And the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant, Israel,
For he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our forebears,
To Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now
And ever shall be, world without end.
Amen.

Blessing

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side,
And guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.