Sunday Worship 1 January 2023

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 1 January 2023 

 
Today’s service is led by The Revd Nicola Furley Smith

Call to Worship

The Psalmist says:

Praise God from the heavens!

Praise Him from the skies above!

Praise God, angels and all the hosts of heaven!

Praise Him, sun and moon, and shining stars!

Praise God, all creatures great and small,

Praise God, kings of the earth and people everywhere,

Praise Him, men and women, young and old! Let all the earth bring praise to the Lord, at whose word creation came into being.

We gather to praise and worship our God!

Hymn The Coventry Carol
English Traditional sung by Hannah Fridenmaker of the folksandhymns YouTube channel and used with her kind permission.

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child, bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child. By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
for to preserve this day;
this poor Youngling
for whom we sing,
bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
charged he hath this day;
his men of might, in his own sight,
all children young, to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever morn and day;
For Thy parting, neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Lord of the passing years, in you all time and space are perfectly at one:
we lift up our hearts to you, with gratitude for your faithfulness to us.

We look back over a year that is gone
and celebrate that you have been with us each step of the way: the times you were closer than breath, nearer than hands or feet; the times when your love carried us through the darkest of deep valleys
and your light shone brightly;

the times when we were not so conscious, but deep in our hearts knew you were there.

We confess we have not always walked with you: we have turned aside and found other paths.
We confess we have not always listened to you: we have tuned our hearing to other sounds.

We confess we have not always been faithful: we have not shown your love for your world. With heart and voice we ask forgiveness.

So hear our prayers, asked and offered in the name of him who stands at the door of the New Year: even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

In Jesus Christ, God makes all things new. The former things have disappeared.
God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Sisters and Brothers,

your sins are forgiven; be at peace. Amen.

A Prayer of Inspiration

At the start of this New Year, Almighty God, the giver of light and the source of all peace, illumine our hearts that we receive every word you speak to us today. Amen

Reading Hebrews 2:10-18

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will

proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of thecongregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hymn See Him Lying On A Bed Of Straw
Michael Perry (1942 – 1996) © Mrs B Perry/Jubilate Hymns sung by the choir and

people of Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church and used with their kind permission.

See him lying on a bed of straw:
a draughty stable
with an open door;
Mary cradling the babe she bore
the prince of glory is his name.

O now carry me to Bethlehem
to see the Lord of love again:
just as poor as was the stable then,
the prince of glory when he came.

Star of silver,
sweep across the skies,
show where Jesus
in the manger lies;
shepherds, swiftly
from your stupor rise
to see the saviour of the world!

Angels, sing again
the song you sang,
sing the glory of
God’s gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl’em’s little baby can
be the saviour of us all.

Mine are riches, from your poverty,
from your innocence, eternity;
mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
child of sorrow for my joy

Reading St Matthew 2:13-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Sermon

A Happy New Year!

It’s not a nice world out there. Once the hype of Christmas fades, and the wonder of the new-born babe in the manger starts to become a memory, we come back down to reality.

The Gospel reading for this first Sunday after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from

anticipation of Advent and the revelry of the holidays to the fragile and dark days between what God has promised in Jesus and its fruition.

Threats abound but God carefully orchestrates Jesus’ earliest daysaccording to Matthew. As the Christ-child lies defenceless in hismother’s arms, God’s steady protection and Joseph’s faithful obedience combine to ensure his safety in a world of danger.

No wonder given the stark focus of today’s Gospel reading on political tyranny, senseless mass killing, and the continual threat of violence, it is difficult on first glance to find any “good news” for New Year’s Day as we look forward with hope into 2023.

It’s not a nice world out there.

King Herod has been tipped off that a baby has been born in Bethlehem and that this baby is believed by some to be the one who will be the long-awaited Messiah. His duplicity and fear were evident the very moment the magi arrived in his kingdom. Herod is under no illusions that the Messiah is some purely spiritual title. He knows perfectly well that if the people start following a Messiah, they will stop bowing down to the ruling authorities. Herod’s not going to allow any upstart baby to start fracturing the unquestioning obedience that he currently enjoys from his fearful subjects. But unable to identify the exact baby, Herod simply dispatches a death squad to kill all the boys under the age of two in the village. It is simple. It is brutal and it is chilling.

The popular version of Christmas has no story of Herod killing babies. The Nativity play ends with the arrival of the kings bringing gifts, not with the flight into Egypt. People want Christmas to be full of the feel-good factor, not a time to be reminded of tyrants and injustice.

Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t be surprised. It is not a nice world out there. 2022 has seen war in the Ukraine, political tensions amid drought and conflict in the Sudan. Economic crisis compounded pounded by a decade of war in the Syria. Humaritarian crises in Somalia, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Not to mention the crash of our own economy with many thinking about making the choice between food and heat.

Herod’s reputation for brutality was well known in the ancient world.Neither his spouses nor his children could escape the effects of his paranoia. So, an angel tells Joseph to flee his home and head into exile in Egypt.

Egypt becomes the unlikely refuge and safe haven for the Holy family. Egypt is Israel’s enemy and oppressor. Egypt is the home of the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, who initiated the hundreds of years of Hebrew enslavement. And Egypt evokes the story of Moses and the liberation of Israel from the tyranny of slavery. In order to make his point Matthew cites Hosea’s prophecy: “Out of Egypt I called my son”. recalling the journey of earlier Joseph in Egypt and the strange providence that made Egypt a place of refuge and protection for that Joseph’s family. But Egypt was also the place of slavery, the place where God’s children lived under the Pharaoh’s yoke, the place from which God liberated Israel. And now, from Egypt, Jesus, God’s son is called. and the promises made to Israel by God are fulfilled.

Once Herod realises that the magi have circumvented the conspiracy to eliminate this new-born king of the Jews, his instinct to preserve his power at all costs kicks in. Knowing the approximate date of the child’s birth thanks to the magi’s calculations, he orders the extermination of all male children under the age of two born “in and around Bethlehem.” Herod will not rick the chance that this child has slipped out of the city.

So the Holy Family flee to Egypt. As a result, the innocents are killed and, as predicted by Jeremiah, there is weeping and loud wailing in Ramah.

Then after an angel announces the death of Herod to Joseph, the coast is clear for the family to return home to Bethlehem of Judea. However, after learning that Herod’s son Archelaus now ruled Judea, the family makes a new home in Nazareth in Galilee. For the third time, Matthew points to a prophetic promise: “He will be called a Nazarene.” Nazareth, an ordinary town, which is famous for…Well, being the home town of Jesus. But its also built on fertile land as well as the locus of Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles.

For Matthew, this escape is not simply an expedient move or an accident of history. It has been foretold. God chose this path in thedistant past. Ancient prophecies come to life and guarantee Jesus’inescapable mission.

But what of this mission? The value of the Christmas we have just celebrated lies not in the fact that it celebrates the birth of a child wondrous as it is because child-birth happens all around us. Rather, the value of Christmas and all Christmasses we celebrate lies in the nature of this new child and what this new child will accomplish as Redeemer and Saviour of the world.

This is the story of the birth of one king and the violent opposition of another. The royal power represented by Herod from the very beginning cannot tolerate the presence of Jesus. The first word of his birth leaves Herod troubled. In one sense he rightly perceives the threat Jesus represents Jesus is Israel’s true king.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that our human sinfulness is inextricably linked with the suffering of Christ, that the baby whom we happily adore at Christmas is the one whose relationship with us leads to the cross. Because Jesus identifies with us his suffering provides not only new life for us but a model of hope and endurance for those of his followers who likewise may experience suffering and temptation just as he did.

As we move forward from the manger out into the larger world of human pain and destructiveness, a world over which the new-born king rules which will ultimately mean his suffering and death, we must move also.

At the start of this New Year we are called to model our hope and endurance on Christ and create something new.

Our hearts must sing with the good news not just that the King has come but that the king has come to die – and rise again! Our New Year’s message must include the awful truth of Good Friday. And it is good Because the God who sent the new-born babe at Christmas reclaims the Son at Easter! It’s not a nice world out there But with the message of the Good News Christ brings We can say with certainty it is a Happy New Year after all.
 

Hymn The Tyrant Issues His Decree
© Iain D. Cunningham (b.1954) Sung by the Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Langdon (Organ)

The tyrant issues his decree,
and only those forewarned can flee;
while children, true to prophecy,
are culled because of jealousy.

Bewildered parents claw the air
with shrieks of horror and despair,
and all of Bethlehem laments
the slaughter of the innocents.

Only a tyrant could impose
this murder of imagined foes;
yet still the power of love defies
the love of power and all its lies.

A Saviour, saved by sacrifice
of those who died there in his place,
shall live to die another day,
and, dying, show another way.

An Affirmation of Faith

God is the God of all beginnings and all ends who remains faithful.

In each moment God is present.
God’s steadfast mercy and grace remains our constant yesterday, today, and forever.

God is the God of all beginnings and all ends who remains faithful.
Amen

Prayers of Intercession

God of all beginnings and all endings at this dawn of this New Year,
call us to something new.

God of all beginnings and all endings
we pray for people who cannot see the way ahead:
for people who because of prejudice cannot see truth,
that you will be the dawn for all who cannot see move forward.

God of all beginnings and all endings
we pray for people carrying heavy responsibilities:
people who in Christ work to create peace,
strive to create a better health service,
a better police force and better schools;
people who seek to bring the truth of Christ to caring for those unable to care for themselves,
and to children and young people vulnerable to bad influences, that you will be the dawn for all who carry heavy responsibilities.

God of all beginnings and all endings
we pray for your church throughout the world:
for the church where few people are interested in a truth outside themselves;
for the church where the words of others drown out the Word; for the church where your people feel uncertain of the truth;
that you will be dawn of light and truth renewing your church, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Loving God, you sent your only Son to live among us, bringing us your grace and truth. All we have to offer is what you have given us in manger and cross. Receive all that we have and all that we are to your glory and for your service, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Hymn Unto Us A Boy Is Born
Sung by Maddy Prior, Latin, 15th century translated Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)

Unto us a boy is born!
King of all creation,
came he to a world forlorn,
the Lord of every nation, the Lord of every nation.

Cradled in a stall was he
with sleepy cows and asses;
and the very beasts could see
that he all folk surpasses, that he all folk surpasses.

Herod then with fear was filled: 
“A prince,” he said, “in Jewry!” 
All the little boys he killed
at Bethlém in his fury, at Bethlém in his fury.

Now may Mary’s son, who came
so long ago to love us,
lead us all with hearts aflame
unto the joys above us, unto the joys above us.

Omega and Alpha he!
Let the organ thunder,
while we sing our songs with glee
and rend the air asunder, and rend the air asunder.

Blessing
As Mary and Joseph were called to Egypt
Go your way;
                     go forward in faith;
                    go forward in hopefulness;
                    walk in the light of God.
And the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be amongst us and remain with us
this day and for evermore. Amen.

 
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Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
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