Home Service 1

Home Service for Sunday 3 January 2021 ~ Compiled by Peter Ratcliffe

Welcome to this Home Service and welcome to the first Sunday of 2021. The most predictable greeting for this service would be: – “Happy New Year” In previous years we may have marvelled at fireworks from around the world and maybe gathered with a group of friends to count down the last seconds of the previous year before launching into Auld Lang Syne. Resolutions, new beginnings, hopes, dreams, ambitions . . . these have been the hallmarks of any new year, but this year 2021, has a tinge of uncertainty about it.

Last week’s Home Service was about ‘putting your hand into the hand of God’ despite the difficulties and uncertainties that swirl like a storm around us. The angels and star positioned outside the chapel have been
proclaiming ‘love, peace, joy and hope in Jesus’ throughout the Christmas season. Many comments of appreciation have been received. To many they be just simply words with no weight or value, but to Christians words like these are the hallmarks of faith and help us with confidence to put our hand into the hand of God.

Matt Redman’s song ‘Bless the Lord O my soul’ has had various outings in our series of Home Services.
As you reflect upon the words again or if you’re able to, enjoy an Albert Hall presentation of this song, you may like to change the opening line of the first verse to ‘The sun comes up it’s a new year dawning’ . . .

Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing.
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near and my time has come.
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending;
Ten thousand years and then forever more.

Let us pray together:
Dear God, Thank you for helping us to make it through this last difficult year. Thank you that you’ve carried us through the uncertainty of deep waters, through the flames of trials, and through the pain of hard losses. We are constantly aware of how much we need you, your grace, your strength, your power working through
even the toughest days. Help us to keep our focus first on you this season. Please forgive us for giving too much time and attention to other things, for looking to other people before coming to you first. Help us to reflect again, on what Christmas is really all about. Thank you that you came to give new life, peace, hope, and joy. Thank you that your power is made perfect in our weakness. Help us to remember that the gift of Christ, Immanuel, is our greatest treasure, not just at Christmas, but for the whole year through. Fill us with your joy and the peace of your Spirit. Direct our hearts and minds towards you. Thank you for your reminder that both in seasons of celebration and in seasons of brokenness, you’re still with us. For you never leave us. Thank you for your daily powerful Presence in our lives, that we can be assured your heart is towards us, your eyes are over us, and your ears are open to our prayers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

On Christmas Eve, I turned the page of a perpetual calendar and read ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…’ (Do you sometimes discover the Bible often provides very up to date words to encourage us?) Then later that evening Louise and I attended a socially distanced
Watchnight service at St. George’s, where Revd. Catherine Vaughan said, “For nearly a year we haven’t been able to sing, engage in worship or greet one another as normal, but Christ is the same yesterday, today
and forever, and we recognise his birth for us tonight.”

Let’s read a section of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Romans 8:28 – 39
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus
who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For some people, this may be a difficult question… What are you looking forward to in 2021? Some obvious answers may be; things to get back to normal, the return of Lunch Club, to be able to sing God’s praises, theatre, concerts, sporting events and so much more. Hopefully with the vaccine programme being rolled out some kind of return to normality may be possible. Nothing is certain but as we have just read, the love of Christ surpasses everything. Christ who was raised to life, is at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Our
hopes and fears that we may have sung about last week, are with Jesus, nothing can separate us from him.

I wonder what Mary was looking forward to as she cradled her new born son? Angels had visited her, shepherds came and went, wise men would follow eventually. Luke’s gospel tells us that ‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’.

The following reflective song tries to collect Mary’s thoughts and looks forward to the life her son would lead.
For us the song is a powerful reminder of who Jesus was, is and is to come, and some of the life-changing actions that convinced people that he really was Lord of all.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb!
Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am!

Today being the first Sunday in the month our Chapel service would normally be a Communion Service. Again, we long for the day when we can gather once more around the Lord’s table as a family of God’s people
to remember what Jesus did for us. Despite the restrictions placed upon everyone this Christmas, there have been constant reminders of the season we’ve been celebrating. Houses have been festooned with lights, seasonal food has been in plentiful supply, delivery firms have been kept very busy and most of us will have exchanged gifts in some form.

The apostle Paul describes Jesus as ‘God’s Indescribable Gift’ (2 Cor 9:15). A gift described very well in the verses of this Christmas carol:

See, amid the winter’s snow, born for us on earth below,
see the tender Lamb appears, promised from eternal years.
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies;
He, who throned in height sublime, sits amid the cherubim!
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn…
Say, ye holy shepherds, say, what your joyful news today;
wherefore have ye left your sheep on the lonely mountain
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn…
“As we watched at dead of night, lo, we saw a wondrous light;
angels singing ‘Peace on earth’ told us of the Saviour’s birth.”
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn…
Sacred Infant, all divine, what a tender love was Thine;
thus to come from highest bliss down to such a world as this!
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn…
Teach, O teach us, Holy Child, by Thy face so meek and mild,
teach us to resemble Thee in Thy sweet humility!
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn…

The Lord’s Prayer
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.

Lord, Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives. Thank you for your goodness and for your
blessings over us. Thank you that you are able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening us for your purposes. Thank you for your great love and care. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Forgive us for when we don’t thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you’ve given. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh. Renew our spirits; fill us with your peace and joy. We love you and we need you, this day and every day. We give you praise and thanks, for You alone are worthy! Amen!

Our last song helps us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Jesus is king and I will extol him
Give Him the glory, and honour His name
He reigns on high, enthroned in the heavens
Word of the Father, exalted for us
We have a hope that is steadfast and certain
Gone through the curtain and touching the throne
We have a Priest who is there interceding
Pouring His grace on our lives day by day
We come to Him, our Priest and Apostle
Clothed in His glory and bearing His name
Laying our lives with gladness before Him
Filled with His Spirit we worship the King
O Holy One, our hearts do adore You
Thrilled with Your goodness we give You our praise
Angels in light with worship surround Him
Jesus, our Saviour, forever the same

Finally, some words from the prophet Isaiah, spoken hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.