Home Service for Sunday 26th December 2021

Call to Worship: (read Isaiah 42:6)

Shout for joy to God, all the earth, sing the glory of his name, and give him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings your praises; they sing praises to your name.’

Hymn: O come all ye faithful (R&S 160)

Prayers of Approach

Lord, as we gather in your name, teach us more about you, more about being your disciples, so that wherever we are and whatever we do, we go in your name, share your wisdom, and spread your good news.

Incarnate God, after yesterday’s joy and celebration, we may feel drunk on the treasures you have given us.

Today we breathe, and ask: while we were so busy celebrating… What did we miss? What did we fail to see or hear? What did we fail to feel and sense?

In the time we have together today, Lord, show us the treasure we may have missed.

As church bells rang Christmas in; as organ notes echoed from within sacred walls; as guitar chords searched for joining voices – we raised our eyes to the heavens.

Now, in the dawning of a new day, we see your wisdom and your love, your teaching and your care.

Today Lord, we raise our voices once again, and lift our eyes above yesterday’s shuffled lists. Instead of sparkling Christmas lights, the flaming Spirit’s fire we seek.

As shepherds and wise men bowed before the manger, so we bow before you now, in deepest adoration. Amen.

Reading: Luke 2:21-40 (41-52)

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

Sermon/Reflection

Amidst all the busyness of angels celebrating and shepherds hurrying to Bethlehem to greet the newborn saviour, Mary pondered quietly what Jesus’ birth meant, a question that she would revisit more than once in the years to come, the next time in the Temple as Simeon welcomed them and warned about the sorrow to come.

At this time of year sorrow is a theme we are all reluctant to face, and I readily include myself in that. Today’s set gospel reading actually jumps to Jesus’ visit to the Temple, aged about 13, missing out quite a large part of the Christmas story. To be fair the first part of the long reading I chose to look at today is dealt with in six weeks’ time at Candlemas on 2nd February, when Jesus is presented in the Temple according to the Law, 40 days after his birth. But we also often miss out the terrible aftermath of the visit of the wise men when the young boys in Bethlehem were killed. Again we could say we don’t need to think about that until after Epiphany, although some churches do observe Holy Innocents day on 28th December.

Nevertheless Christmas is a time for rejoicing, this is why Christ came – Emmanuel, God with us – he came to be one of us, to be our Saviour, and that is more than enough reason to rejoice and be happy. But equally, in those quieter moments, if we feel a touch of sadness or sorrow we need not feel guilty about it. It is in those moments that, like Mary, like Simeon, we can appreciate the true meaning of Christmas. The message is plain, God with us – Emmanuel, means he comes to us, he is not waiting for us to go to him. It means that God is not only beyond us but beside us – in every situation, he is with you wherever you are, now! God understands, deeply and truly, and loves us no matter what. God with us means that we are not alone, and will never be alone again.

A former Moderator of General Assembly, Edmund Banyard wrote,

Let a star shine out through the darkness,
Let a new song greet the dawn,
Let the whole earth hear good tidings,
For a saviour has been born.
Sing, sing, sing to the Lord,
Let the earth be filled with his glory.

 

Let the wise set out on their journey,
Let the watchers hail his birth,
Let the heavens ring with rejoicing,
For a saviour’s come to earth.

Sing, sing…

 

Let the air be vibrant with music,
Spread the news without delay,
Let the joy be universal,
For a saviour’s born today.

Sing, sing…

 

Hymn: See him lying on a bed of straw (R&S 151) or Come and join the celebration (R&S 166)

 

Prayers of Intercession

Christmas is here. On this second day of Christmas, as we worship you with joy and celebration we bring our prayers for others.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those, who like Mary and Joseph, seek shelter in a strange land, a strange place. For those far from family and friends. For those needing shelter, companionship, warmth, friendship and food.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those who are journeying, searching for somewhere to put down roots, someone to put down roots with, something which will root them in their being.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those who have received no gifts, no parcels wrapped with love and care, no surprises or treasures beneath the Christmas tree. For those who have had no cards of greetings and remembrance. For those who will have spoken to no one and seen no one over this Christmas weekend.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those who are too ill, too frail, too near to death to lift their eyes in praise and celebration. For those who work from choice or need over Christmas, who do so much for others, to meet their needs and show them care.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those who have been joy givers to us; who have been hope givers to us; who have shown us care and compassion; who have blessed us with words of peace and offered us unconditional love.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For those for whom Christmas has no meaning beyond eating, drinking and being merry. For those who do not know the story of the nativity and who find no meaning in the Christian way of life.

Emmanuel, God with us Be with all those for whom we pray.
For all these and all those whose names and needs are treasured in our hearts we offer our heartfelt prayers this Christmas time. Amen

Hymn: Hark the herald angels sing (R&S 159)

Blessing.

Wise and loving God, you have used prophets and teachers,
young and old, to teach us more about you. Help us never to stop learning, and to grow in wisdom, as Jesus did, every day. Amen.

 

Prayers © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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