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URC Daily Devotions Service for Sunday 20th December 2020
Advent 4 – Come thou long expected Jesus
I believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas They said there’ll be peace on earth But instead it just kept on raining A veil of tears for the virgin birth. I remember one Christmas morning A winter’s light and a distant choir And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell And their eyes full of tinsel and fire.
They sold me a dream of Christmas They sold me a silent night And they told me a fairy story ‘Till I believed in the Israelite And I believed in father Christmas And I looked to the sky with excited eyes ‘Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn And I saw him and through his disguise I wish you a hopeful Christmas I wish you a brave new year All anguish, pain and sadness Leave your heart and let your road be clear They said there’ll be snow at Christmas They said there’ll be peace on earth Hallelujah, Noel be it heaven or hell The Christmas we get we deserve
Andy Braunston: Hello, well we’re almost there. Christmas is almost upon us, and despite the strange ways in which we’ll be marking it this year, like Greg Lake in his 1975 song we’ve just listened to, we hope that your Christmas will be without anguish, pain and sadness. Of course the first Christmas had these things in abundance but were also lifted by the joy of new birth, the adventure of parenthood and the mystery of all that went on.
Lesley Thomson: Year after year during Advent we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel and Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus but do we actually mean them? Do we really look forward to the coming of Christ and the changes that will bring? Do we really believe that one day he will return? These are the questions that Advent gives us; it reminds us that the season of expectation and excitement isn’t just about Christmas – fun though that is – but also about the return of Christ at the end of time. In a few days we will, once again, be celebrating the birth of Jesus amongst us but remember also to look forward to the end of time when He will return that we might recognise Him then.
Call to Worship
We wait for the Lord and in His word we hope. We wait for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning
This is no darkness in you, O Lord.
O people, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love. and with God is plenteous redemption.
There is no darkness in you, O Lord.
Glory be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, There is no darkness in you, O Lord.
Come let us worship
Hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel from the Latin 12th Century
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
2 O come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its ways to go.
3 O come, the branch of Jesse’s tree, free them from Satan’s tyranny that trust your mighty pow’r to save and give them victory o’er the grave.
4 O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.
5 O come, Desire of Nations, bind in one the hearts of humankind. O bid our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.
Prayers of Approach, Confession, and Forgiveness
We come to worship you today in expectation and excitement, Expectation of a time when we see your face, Full of excitement in this season of advent praising your birth.
Lord provide us with Patience
Amongst this time of expectation and excitement, we can sometimes let these feelings overrun our minds We may use the wrong words at times, words that can hurt and harm others
Lord, provide us with Patience
Within the rush to make sure that everything is ready to celebrate your birth, We forget to show the love and understanding of your teachings to others We close our eyes to the lonely and the hungry, the lost and the scared. Open our eyes that we may see all those in need around us.
Lord, provide us with Patience
At times we want everything to happen immediately, We have no time to wait in line, no time to talk to each other Allow us to slow down, to remember that everything happens in it’s own time, In your time.
Lord, provide us with Patience
We think of times to come, rushing towards an end goal Without taking the time to recognise what is happening around us Grant that we may show your love and mercy within the world today Helping to bring your kingdom here on earth.
Lord, provide us with Patience
In this time of Advent, allow us to show kindness to all people No matter if they have the same religion or beliefs as ourselves Let us share the love for others taught to us by your son Jesus The Patience and understanding the sharing of our beliefs with others
Lord, provide us with Patience
Help us to keep faith in the understanding that one day we will all get to see Jesus When the new heaven and earth are here And until that time we ask Lord, for your patience in our lives And hear us now as we join together in the words Jesus taught us, saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven…..
Prayer of Illumination
We come to your word in expectation and excitement, Expectation for the lessons we will learn in the readings Allow us to listen and hear the scripture readings today. Excitement for the knowledge we will gain from the reflections, Grant that we might understand and implement these teachings into our lives today.
John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Meditation of John the Apostle
There’s only one word for it, one word that gets anywhere near the truth, that sums up the wonder of it all, and that’s ‘Jesus’. Trust me, I know, for I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find the right words. Since I followed Jesus all those years ago, since I sat with the apostles in that upper room, since we went out teaching and preaching in the Master’s name, I’ve been looking for ways in which to describe my experience, and I’ve used words, masses of them, more than I can begin to count . . . When I stood and preached to the multitudes, when I nurtured believers in their new-found faith, when I prayed for the sick, when I led times of worship, when I reminisced with friends, when I witnessed to strangers, words, words, words. But they’ve never been sufficient, never begun to express what I really want to say. And now more than ever I find that’s true, sitting here trying to record the good news as revealed to me. I’ve written so much, page after page, my own words and his, woven together as best I can into a tapestry of his life. I’ve told of the beginnings and the ends, of his signs, of his teaching, of his actions. I’ve spoken of those lesser-known characters, the ones Matthew, Mark and Luke missed out, and I’ve given details of those private moments, when it was just us and Jesus together as the end drew near. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried to get it across, to tell you what Jesus meant to me and to so many others. But there’s so much more I could still write, so much I’ve had to leave out. I could go on to the end of time and still not do justice to all I want to tell you. That’s why I say there’s only one word, one word that says it all, because Jesus was the fulfilment, the embodiment, the personification of God’s word. The Law and the Prophets spoke of him. The wisdom of the teachers spoke of him. The universe in all its glory speaks of him. And if you want to listen, if you want to hear, if you want to understand what life is all about, then take my word for it, the only way is to know him for yourself, the word made flesh!
HymnOf the Father’s Love Begotten Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
Of the Father’s love begotten ere the world from chaos arose, He is Alpha, from that fountain all that is and hath been flows he is Omega of all things, yet to come the mystic Close, evermore and evermore!
2: His Word was all created he commanded and ‘twas done Earth and sky and boundless ocean Universe of Three in One all that sees the moon’s soft radiance, all that breathes beneath the sun evermore and evermore!
3: He assumed this mortal body, frail and feeble doomed to die that the race from dust created might not perish utterly which the dreadful Law had sentenced in the depths of Hell to lie evermore and evermore!
4: O how blessed that wondrous birthday when the Maid the curse retrieved brought to birth our kind’s salvation by the Holy Ghost conceived, and the babe, the world’s Redeemer, in her loving arms received, evermore and evermore!
5 Sing ye heights of heav’n, his praises; Angels and Archangels sing: Wheresoe’er ye be, ye faithful let your joyous anthems ring ev’ry tongue His name confessing countless voices answering, evermore and evermore!
2 Peter 3: 1-4
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’
Meditation of Peter
‘How much longer?’ they keep asking. ‘When will the waiting be over and the kingdom arrive?’ Well, how should I know? In all honesty why should I have any more idea than the rest of them? But they just don’t get it. They think because I was with Jesus, close to him for those three years, that I must have some special knowledge, inside information, a hotline to heaven. If only I had! At least then I could shut them up and get a bit of peace. At least I could give some answers instead of telling them yet again to be patient. Patient! Why should they be? I’m not! I’m consumed with frustration, chafing at the bit, desperate for something to happen, for it’s hard, I can tell you, being a Christian today. There are informers everywhere, looking to make a quick penny. There’s the Pharisees spitting poison. There’s the rest of them, our own kin, intent on destroying us. And there’s Caesar, mad Caesar, delighting in cruelty, any way of using us for sport. We’ve seen brothers and sisters in Christ tortured, flogged, stoned; We’ve heard their screams, their groans, their sobs, listened to their cries for mercy, their pleas for help; and they want to know, who can blame them, when it will all end. It’s made worse by what Jesus told us – all that stuff about not seeing death before he comes. If he hadn’t said that, not raised our hopes, it might have been easier – we’d certainly have felt different – so what was he thinking of making such a promise? Yet maybe that’s not fair, for he told us after all not to speculate about the future, not to imagine we can ever be certain, not even to concern ourselves with dates or times. ‘Leave it to God,’ that was his advice. ‘Trust in him and get on with living. It may be hard, it may be costly, but you’ve a job to do, here and now.’ I’m not saying that answers everything, but the more I think about it, the more it does help. for, of course, he has come, through his Spirit, and his kingdom is here, all around us, if only we have eyes to see it. He will return in person too, I’ve no doubt about that; sometime he will finally reign supreme. But what matters is not when that happens; it’s living each moment in the confidence that it will. And if I’m really truthful, most of the time, when we’re not facing danger, when we’re not running for our lives, I’m quite happy with that, for I love this life in so many ways and am in no hurry for it to end. Is that wrong? I don’t know. All I can say is, ‘In your time, Lord. In your own time.’
Hymn Come Thou Long Expected Jesus Charles Wesley
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
Revelation 21: 1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
Meditation of John One day we’ll see him again. Don’t ask me when, don’t ask me how but one day when all this struggle is over – all the pain, all the grief, all the fear, all the doubt – then he will return to establish his kingdom. I know that’s hard to believe sometimes. When you keep battling against the odds and nothing seems to change, when you stand up for what is good yet evil seems to triumph, when love is met with hatred, gentleness with violence, truth with falsehood – of course you start to wonder. When you’re faced with suffering, sickness, death; when greed and corruption are rewarded with plenty and justice is trampled underfoot; when the poor get poorer and the world goes by uncaring – it’s impossible not to ask yourself, day after day, why is it allowed to happen? But he will come, I’m certain of it – not just because he promised to, though that’s important, of course; not simply because he came back before, cheating death of its victory, triumphing over the grave, though that’s more vital still; but because he has to return if anything is finally to make sense, if faith is to be anything more than a grand delusion.
And it is more; it has to be. These goals we strive towards, this life revealed in Christ, the promises he made, the truths he taught, everything he lived and died for – they’re real, I know that, for they have turned my life around, sustained me through my darkest moments, lifted me beyond my highest thoughts, and given me a joy that knows no bounds. So though now we see but do not understand, though faith is sometimes hard and Christ seems far away, we’ll hold fast to hope, waiting for a time when there will be an end to tears and pain and death, a time when God will live among his people in a new and beautiful kingdom; and we shall see him again, our Lord Jesus Christ, crowned in glory and splendour, King of kings, Lord of lords, all in all, yet one with us!
Hymn Into the Darkness of This World Maggi Dawn
Into the darkness of this world Into the shadows of the night Into this loveless place You came Lightened our burdens eased our pain And made these hearts Your home Into the darkness once again O come Lord Jesus come
Come with Your love to make us whole Come with Your light to lead us on Driving the darkness far from our souls O come Lord Jesus come
2 Into the longing of our souls Into these heavy hearts of stone Shine on us now Your piercing light Order our lives and souls aright By grace and love unknown Until in You our hearts unite O come Lord Jesus come
3 O Holy Child Emmanuel Hope of the ages God with us Visit again this broken place Till all the earth declares Your praise And Your great mercies own Now let Your love be born in us O come Lord Jesus come
(LAST CHORUS) Come in Your glory take Your place Jesus the Name above all names We long to see You face to face O come Lord Jesus come
Affirmation of Faith
It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity, of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
We join together now in our prayers for others, let us pray
Hear us as we pray for the patience and understanding to help all those throughout our world today, For those who are lost and lonely at this time, without a home, bed or family to share a meal with, Without the hope and excitement that special morning brings to so many We remember that Jesus was born in a lowly manger, yet his light shines so brightly for all.
We pray for those who are struggling with health issues, For those in hospital, care homes and hospices, removed from the comfort of their own homes, missing their friends and families. We give thanks for those who are caring for all these people at this time.
Lord we pray for people throughout the world living in situations of vulnerability In countries where the political atmosphere is unstable, Where corrupt leadership puts the lives of the people in danger, We pray for patience, peace and understanding to these lands
Hear us as we pray for those living with the threat of violence within their own homes, Where debt, unemployment and hopelessness seems to be everywhere When the only way out is an impossible option Provide those people with love Lord, and hold them within your arms
We pray for the fragility of our planet, help us to we continue to make the correct decisions with regards to this precious garden you have provided for us, that we remember that we are but the custodians of the earth Give us the time and patience to make the changes that are required to protect your world Lord.
Lord, we also pray for those close to us this morning, Those in need of a helping hand, an understanding ear and the loving patience of a friend We hold them close to our hearts and ask that they feel your love today And in this time of silence we say their names to you now Lord.
(time of silence)
Thank you Lord, for hearing our prayers this morning, and as we go into the week of Jesus’ birth, help us to carry forward his love and patience to all those we meet and spend time with. In your loving name we pray.
Offertory Introduction and Prayer
Let us give thanks for all that is good in our lives; our friends and families, the blessings we have, the love we share the church that holds and nourishes us friends today worshipping separately but together, we bring these, and the gifts we offer to God’s work before the Lord and pray that he transforms our fragile gifts, our fragile lives our fragile churches to be instruments for God’s glory. Amen
HymnJoy to the World Isaac Watts
Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing,
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns; Let all their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love.
Blessing In this time of expectation and excitement, draw us together in unity, that our praise and worship may echo throughout our lives.
In this time of expectation and excitement, draw us together in mission, that the hope within might be the song we sing, and the melody of our lives.
In this time of expectation and excitement, draw us together in service, that the path we follow might lead us from a stable to a glimpse of eternity.
Marion Thomas, David Shimmin, Christine Shimmin, Carol Tubbs and Alison Jiggins for the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith
Anne Hewling, Ray Fraser, Carol Tubbs, John Young, John Wilcox, Tina Wheeler, James Whately for reading various other spoken parts of the service.
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762