Home Service 20/12/20 from Rev Jim Williams
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Call to Worship
Across the universe creation waits for the prophets to speak their words of expectation and their vision of renewal.
May we gather round them today once more and let their longing grip us and lead us into birth and blessing.
So come now my friends this is the meeting place of promise and prophecy let us listen through the ancient words that we might be ready to hear – a baby’s cry!
Luke 1:26-38 The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions…” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
Today’s gospel asks us to meet Mary. Later this week we meet her new-born son. Without Mary there is no birth and so no Christmas.
Today’s gospel couldn’t be more dramatic. A young girl’s life is transformed by an unexpected and uninvited visit from an angel. Gabriel, God’s High-powered angelic messenger arrived with incredible news.
Unlike today’s feathery representation of angels. Gabriel’s presence was frightening and seeing Mary’s fear, his first words were “Do not be afraid”. Just as well he tried to reassure her because the angel was about to ask her to do something that would not only disrupt her own life but later, would completely change the world!
Angels, it would seem, are messengers of disruption.
In a short space of time the lives of Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth were turned upside down.
It is very interesting that when the angel came to Mary he didn’t ask her whether she wanted to do the task or not. He just told her what God was already doing in her life. He said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
Mary’s invitation was to recognise what was already happening in her life by the grace of God – and then do something for God within that grace. Mary pondered this and said “Let God’s plan continue”… Mary trusted the plan; she didn’t turn away.
As we’ve all discovered this year; we have/had an illusion of control. There are inevitable interruptions in life which do not fit our plans at all. Covid-19 saw to that!
On this usually rushed last Sunday before Christmas, the last thing we may feel we need are interruptions – we’ve things to do, stuff to buy, meals to prepare, decorations to put up. However, the Angels of Advent may be part these interruptions, inviting us to ‘fear not’, slow down, ponder and be surprised by the great things God is already doing in our lives. Like Mary we may be very surprised.
Prayer of intercession (adapted from Christian Aid)
May Mary’s song be heard through the ages, drowning out the din of Christmas chaos.
May it be heard by the victims of violence.
May it ring in the ears of the traumatised.
May it sing in the hearts of those stuck in the refugee camps.
May it be a song of hope for all standing strong for land rights.
May it be the rally cry of peace for the war-weary.
May it nourish hope in the bellies of those fearful of failed harvests.
May it be a song that stirs reverent fear in the hearts of those who assume power.
And through it may the joyful promises of justice fill our hearts to overflowing action. Amen.
Now is the time of watching and waiting
A time pregnant with hope, a time to watch and pray.
Christ, our Advent hope, remind us to prepare for your coming.
May we watch for the signs and listen for the messengers.
May your people sing a song of peace and hope.
You are good to me
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!