Home Service: Sunday 13 December 2020 ~ Advent 3: ‘He is Christ the Lord’
To begin, here is a setting of words from a service written in the fourth century. They remind us that sometimes, reverent silence is the place to begin worship. The language may be old, the musical setting is modern and the message timeless.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary. As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords, in human vesture, in the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six-winged seraph, cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Lord Most High!”
Father, in these moments as we come to worship, may any fear we have be driven away by the love of Jesus.
May any doubt we have be answered by the truth in Jesus. May any sense of guilt we feel be dismissed by the grace of Jesus May this be a time of wonder, love and praise. Amen
The writer of the letter we know as the Epistle to the Hebrews, began it with some great statements about how God has spoken in Jesus.
Reading Hebrews 1: 1-6 (Good News Bible)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these
last days he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one through whom God created the universe,
the one whom God has chosen to possess all things at the end. He reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power.
Let’s sing of the mystery and the truth of God’s love.
Song: I cannot tell why He whom angels worship
I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship,
should set his love upon the sons of men,
or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that he was born of Mary
when Bethl’em’s manger was his only home,
and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured,
and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.
I cannot tell how silently he suffered,
as with his peace he graced this place of tears,
or how his heart upon the cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted
and stays our sin and calms our lurking fear
and lifts the burden from the heavy laden;
for still the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.
I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
how he will claim his earthly heritage,
how satisfy the needs and aspirations
of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,
and he shall reap the harvest he has sown,
and some glad day his sun will shine in splendour
when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.
I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
when at his bidding every storm is stilled,
or who can say how great the jubilation
when every heart with love and joy is filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
and myriad myriad human voices sing,
and earth to heav’n, and heav’n to
earth, will answer,
‘at last the Saviour, Saviour of the
world, is King!’
Prayer of thanks
Pause to reflect on the words of that hymn. Give thanks quietly or speak them aloud.
Generous Father, thank you for all that you have created, all in the heavens and all that is on earth,
things visible and invisible. Thank you, Father for your love for me. Thank you for all your wonderful deeds.
Thank you for the gift of salvation, for a secure, eternal future with you. Thank you for life in Jesus through His resurrection from the dead. Receive my thanks and my praise, Father. Amen
Before we pray for people and matters on our hearts, hear something of what Jesus told His disciples about prayer
Reading Luke 18: 1-7
… Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet
because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? Jesus was not saying God is like the judge who had to be pestered and who responded only reluctantly. Our Father is the exact opposite!
Prayers of intercession
Father, if we have got the wrong idea about you, please open our minds to receive your truth.
If we need to turn from wrong ideas or actions, please forgive and renew us. If we have not loved You or others as we ought, please forgive and warm our hearts with your spirit. But Father there are things we want to ask you. There are people and situations we would bring you. Father hear the prayers we bring you now.
For… In your mercy hear our prayer. Amen
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. Amen
Song Like a candle flame
Like a candle flame, flickering small in our darkness,
Uncreated light shines through infant eyes.
God is with us, alleluia, come to save us, alleluia,
Stars and angels sing, yet the earth sleeps in shadows;
can this tiny spark set a world on fire?
God is with us, alleluia, come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.
Yet His light shall shine from our lives, spirit blazing,
as we touch the flame of His holy fire.
God is with us, alleluia, come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.
Now we read again about how the ‘uncreated light’ came into this world.
Reading Luke 2:8-15 as paraphrased by JB Phillips.
There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night
over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendour of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Saviour
has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.” And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!” When the angels left them and went back into Heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Now let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.”
Reflection: Did he say, ‘in a manger’?
No nativity scene is complete without a manger, but it is just one of the props on the stage of the play, isn’t it?
Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention this detail and uses a word that comes from the Latin for ‘chew’ or ‘eat’ and refers to a feeding trough as used by sheep, donkeys and cattle. Luke is telling us that the Son of God was laid in a trough! So that we would not miss this, he mentions it three times in chapter 2 of his Gospel – in verses 7, 12 and Why? One answer might be that it places Jesus’ birth in the real world with all its mess and troubles. The manger was dirty. Joseph and Mary probably cleaned as best they could, but there is no way to romanticize this baby’s cot into anything other than a mucky feeding trough. Luke did not witness this himself, but of course Mary did. This was a detail she would not forget. How did she feel about having to use a
manger for her child? Placing the Son of God in a trough! That stayed with her. And it was the manger that was a sign to the shepherds. The angel told them something unbelievable. To confirm this, they would need a
sign. The angel gave it. “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Every baby in Bethlehem was wrapped in swaddling cloths. That was not the sign. The sign was the manger. This must have sounded scandalous, yet as they discovered, no other king anywhere in the world was lying in a feeding trough, except Jesus. And the manger spoke of the sacrificial love of the one it cradled. Paul put it like this “…of his own free will he gave up all he had and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross.” This is the path He walked: from infinite deity to feeding trough; through a selfless life to the cross, then rising to glory. How significant that Jesus, the ‘Bread of life’, was to be found in a feeding trough, a manger. But that was only a beginning!
To conclude, a simple song with profound truths, that turns our gaze fully on the child, rather than the manger.
Song: Child in the manger
Child in the manger, infant of Mary; outcast and stranger, Lord of all;
Child who inherits all our transgressions, all our demerits on Him fall.
Once the most holy child of salvation gently and lowly lived below;
Now as our glorious mighty Redeemer see Him victorious o’er each
Prophets foretold Him, infant of wonder; angels behold Him on His
Worthy our Saviour of all our praises; happy forever are His own.
May the peace of God be in our hearts.
The grace of God be in our words.
The love of God be in our actions.
The joy of God be in our souls and
the song that our lives sing.
God bless you and keep you.