Home Service 31st December 2023

Prayers of Approach

At the end of the year we remember: the places we have seen – we place them in God’s hands; the challenges we have faced – we place them in God’s hands; the people we have been – we place them in God’s hands.

As a new year beckons us forward. We, too, want to be made new in you, our Lord God. We are called as Christians. We are followers of Christ.

God our Saviour, as Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to present him before you, we, too, come just as we are, with praise and thanksgiving in our hearts, to offer our lives to you, our gracious God. We come with awe and thanksgiving in our hearts. God, who spoke to Simeon and Anna, speak to us today. We’re listening, Lord.

Jesus, our Saviour: we worship you. Jesus, our Redeemer: we worship you. Jesus, our Brother: we worship you. Jesus, our Friend: we worship you. Jesus, name above all names: we worship you. Amen.

Hymn Angels from the realms of glory (R&S 163)

Readings: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3

Luke 2:21-40


The naming of Jesus in the Temple is the moment when his identity moves from being private, reserved for his parents, and instead he becomes public property and even a source of pain to his parents, as he is proclaimed ‘saviour’. The Isaiah text also captures the significance of naming promising that God himself will give them a new name, placing it in a cosmic setting. The prophet responds to what God has done and is confident in what God will do. There is a sense that change has begun but is not yet complete – and there is more to come.

Hymn Unto us a boy is born (R&S 169)


What’s in a name? Shakespeare indicated that it doesn’t matter what you are called when he had Juliet declare, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ It is who or what you are that matters. Yet names do matter. New parents or parents to be often spend a great deal of time and put a lot of thought into choosing the name of their child. Often the name has a special meaning and they hope that their child will grow up to fulfil the meaning of the name that they have given them.

In the ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas special there was a character called Kulvir Sharma whose name meant ‘pride of the community’. His mother had such high aspirations for him and he had worked so hard to make her and his community proud and to live up to his name. He had done well at school and gone on to university and then joined the Indian Air Force, where he become a skilled navigator. At the outbreak of WW2 he volunteered for the RAF and gained a reputation for always knowing just where they were and for navigating his aircraft safely home even if the instruments were shot up and not functioning. On one mission however the plane was badly damaged, made a crash landing, in which the pilot was killed on impact, and burst into flames. After seeing the pilot’s body brought out of the destroyed aircraft Kulvir was too traumatised to ever fly again and, considering himself a coward, felt he could never go home because he no longer lived up to his name and would shame his mother and his community.

Being a ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas Special of course there is a happy ending. Kulvir is put in touch with the British Legion who help to find him a place to live in a home with other ex-RAF service men, where he can receive treatment to overcome his trauma, be assured he is not a coward and once more be a part of the community. And to show that he is accepted and valued for who he is, he is co-opted to be one of the wise men who followed the star (since he could navigate by the stars) in the local Nativity Tableau.

Kulvir’s name had brought him both great joy and great sorrow at different times in his life but ultimately had revealed just who he was. Like him, for most of us our names are chosen for us, although it is up to us whether we live up to them or not. Jesus’ name too was chosen for him but not by his parents. At his official naming, when he was circumcised at 8 days old, ‘he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.’ (Luke 2:21). This was the name which the angel had given to Joseph in a dream when he was told that the child Mary was to have was from the Holy Spirit, ‘She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21).

It’s quite a name to live up to – Jesus – God (or he) saves. It’s a name that will bring him and his parents both joy and sorrow, as is pointed out by Simeon when Jesus is brought to the Temple. But it is not the only name given to him, as well as declaring that he has seen God’s salvation he calls Jesus ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’. Anna too speaks about Jesus ‘to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem’. And if that is not enough there are the names given by Isaiah in other readings we will have heard over Christmas – wonderful counsellor… prince of peace, (Isaiah 9:6) – Messiah, Son of God, and of course Emmanuel, God with us.

Today our names, our identity, give access to the means to live: a national insurance number and access to employment, a passport and the right to travel, a school place, a bank account. Throughout the Bible, names provide clues, not just to differentiate one person from another, but to show who they are, what they do or have achieved, what sort of person they are, and what is their relationship with God. People are given new names by God, growing into the characteristics and attributes they suggest. The significance of names and the message they hold is especially relevant at Christmas: God sent his Son, Jesus – Saviour; Emmanuel – God with us. And Christmas continues in us every day, as we seek to live out the consequences of that – of ‘Jesus in our lives’.

· How important are names in our lives?

· What name would you like to be known by?

· And can we live up to our name of Christians?

Hymn Love came down at Christmas (R&S 614)

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, at the beginning of a new year we pray for our troubled world, and all who work for peace. May your heavenly light shine upon them, and give them strength.

We pray for the Church throughout the world, and especially our fellowship here. May your heavenly light shine upon us, and bless us richly.

We pray for all those who are sick, in body, mind, or spirit, and all those who care for them. May your heavenly light shine upon them, and bring them hope.

We pray for those who are bereaved, that you will comfort and strengthen them in their dark days. May your heavenly light shine upon them, and grant them peace. Amen.

Hymn It came upon the midnight clear (R&S 144)


Lord, we’ve realised today just how important our names are. As we go into a new and busy week, may we take time to give people the lovely gift of calling them by their name.

May God, the Lord of the years, help us to carry this year into the next, to hear the voice of his Son, calling us forward, and to know the power and blessing of his Spirit. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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