Home Service for 13th December ’20

Advent 3 – Joy

13th December 2020

Prayers of Approach

Come, let us rejoice before God.
Let us honour the name of the Most High.
God has looked on us, and brought us
to be a people of light celebrating the light.
Our souls magnify God: blessed is the name of God for ever.
Let us lift up holy hands and be glad.

Gathered today, in many places,
we are together on this joyful Sunday in Advent
to celebrate the light of God,
to mark that hope is always present among us,
even when we do not see it.
Let us find joy in this company of friends,
as we praise the one who is always with us.
Though we may be weary or downhearted,
let our hearts be glad, God is always here.
Let us approach God with confidence, because
God has always been with us.
Let our hearts be glad!
Amen.

Music: Joy to the world (R&S 135)

Readings: Isaiah 61:1-4

                 John 1:19-28

Music: Make way, make way for Christ the king (R&S 141)

Sermon/Reflection

Does your church have an Advent wreath? If it does, what colour are the candles on it? Most United Reformed and other non-conformist churches usually have a wreath with four red candles arranged in a circle around a white candle, to be lit on each of the four Sundays of Advent and the central white candle, representing Christ, lit on Christmas day. Roman Catholic and Anglican churches however have purple candles to represent the penitential nature of the Advent season, a time of fasting and preparation for the coming of Christ.

However, in common with the other major period of fasting and preparation in the Christian year, Lent, Advent has a day which is a brief respite from the more rigorous observation of the season. It comes just over halfway through and in Lent is marked on the fourth Sunday, Mothering Sunday. Today is the third Sunday of Advent, which is just over halfway on our journey towards Christmas, and in some churches is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice and in those churches which use colours to symbolise the seasons of the Christian year the purple of penitence can briefly be relieved with the warmer colour of pink, and so this Sunday may also be called Rose Sunday. For this reason the third candle of the Advent wreath is often pink.

As we move closer to Christmas we come closer to the realisation of the promises and the fulfilment of the hope represented by the first candle, and the peace represented by the second. The central theme of today’s readings could be summed up in the words of a traditional carol as ‘tidings of comfort and joy’. Isaiah’s prophecy marks the end of the Israelites exile in Babylon and their return home. Their joy however is tinged with sadness on finding a city and temple in ruins but comfort and the promise of a new future in a restored land are at the heart of Isaiah’s proclamation. A new beginning is promised and the good news is that God has not abandoned his people.

In our Gospel reading John initially seems to dash people’s hopes by denying that he is the Messiah, and not even Elijah or the Prophet. Nonetheless he gives them cause for rejoicing by declaring, in the words of Isaiah, that he is the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘make straight the way for the Lord’. He even goes on to say that the Messiah is already among them but that they don’t yet know him.

In our preparations this year can we see past the sorrow and our disappointment that we may not be able to celebrate Christmas as we would wish to the realisation that Christ is among us as he has always been even if we have not yet recognised him. As we give thanks for the vaccine being rolled out this week there is still much we can do to show God’s love in our communities by reaching out to others, to relieve the fears that remain, to support, strengthen and encourage, and to reduce the isolation and loneliness felt by so many at this time of year. In your Christmas preparations perhaps you might pause to think how you can bring a little joy into someone’s life this week?

Music: Hark the glad sound, the saviour comes (R&S 137)

Prayers of Intercession

Jesus Christ,
Come, we pray, and transform our lives,
that we may live in your eternal presence.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Be with our nation’s leaders and politicians,
that they may govern
according to your justice and freedom.
May your presence be seen in our country and its actions.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Be with those who serve the church,
especially our ministers and clergy.
May your caring love shine forth from their lives.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Be with the poor and disadvantaged,
that their needs would be met,
and your blessings fulfilled.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Be with the sick and infirm,
that encouraged by those who care for them,
they may find your presence in their difficulties.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Be with the dead and the dying.
May those who mourn
know they are safe in your arms.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Jesus Christ we are part of your presence of earth:
help us to transform the world around us,
that people may know the good news.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Music: Hills of the north rejoice

Blessing.

Where there is sadness, loneliness and grief
Let joy find a way in
Where families are far apart
Let joy find a way in
When one day seems as dreary as the next
Let joy find a way in
Let our joy be infectious as we journey together
And may God’s joyful blessing accompany us on our way.
Amen.

Rev. Janet Calderley

(Prayers adapted from ROOTS. Copyright ROOTs for churches. Used by permission).


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