Sunday Services

Service for use at home

Second Sunday after Epiphany, 17th  January 2021

Haddington West with Garvald and Morham

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

“Arise, shine, for you light has come; and over you the glory of the Lord has dawned.”   Is.60,1

Prayer -
Lord God, we come before you with praise and adoration. By Name you are the mysterious One, always and everywhere present. You make yourself known to us, yet shield us from the realization of your full splendour for we would be overwhelmed by your glory. We are sometimes able to trace your influence on our lives by looking back, but we cannot presume to know the ways in which your love will bless us for you are free to act as you will.
By nature you are gracious and compassionate. You know us all by name and your personal love has been declared to us and promised to us in baptism. We have become part of your distinctive people, the Church, and we enjoy your undeserved favour.
May your heavenly glory touch and transform our human nature so that we may be changed from glory into glory and enter that realm of wonder, love and praise which is without end; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

We confess to you, almighty God, that we have run after passing pleasures and forfeited the gift of real joy. At times we have withdrawn from participation in the common family life of the Church, without realizing that such life is shared with you. We have not always heard or obeyed Christ implicitly, preferring our own inclinations to his promptings through the Holy Spirit. And so our lives have become tasteless.
We long for the royal wine of the kingdom, enjoyed in fellowship and obedience together. As we worship, may we know that we are forgiven; assure us of your continuing presence and patience with us: and grant us joy and peace within; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Lord, you were rich

1.Lord, you were rich beyond all splendour,
yet, for love’s sake, became so poor;
leaving your throne in glad surrender,
sapphire-paved courts for stable floor:
Lord, you were rich beyond all splendour,
yet, for love’s sake, became so poor.

2. You are our God beyond all praising,
yet, for love’s sake, became a man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising
heavenwards, by your eternal plan:
you are our God, beyond all praising,
yet, for love’s sake, became a man.

3. Lord, you are love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship you:
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us and keep us pure and true:
Lord, you are love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship you.

                                                Frank Houghton (1894-1972)

Jn.2,1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him
.

Dear friends

The miracles of Jesus were moments of unveiling – where it was unveiled that Jesus was ‘Immanuel’, God with us. Without such unveiling one could not believe and would not know that God was in Jesus, because all one would see would be a man. And one would not expect God in that man in a veiled way.
Such a faith – for faith it is – has, of course, always had its detractors, people who dismissed that Jesus was the Son of God, the Word made flesh. That was, as John tells us in the prologue to his gospel, the case with “his own”. It carried on through the centuries. A well-known case of this in our own time, for instance, is the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, in which Mary Magdalene sings of an utterly exhausted Jesus who is unable any longer to cope with the need of the people coming to him: “He’s a man, he’s just a man.” The message to those who look at this scene of Mary’s protecting love for Jesus is: “Jesus is unique; but one can ask too much of him. And to believe that he is the Son of God who saves any who come to him, is not just to ask too much of him, it is also asking too much of ourselves. He’s a man, he’s just a man.”

But is he? The events at the wedding in Cana unveil something that led those who could see to put their trust in him. So John says: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
What did this unveiling present? Let us not overlook the relevance this has for us. Jesus’ invitation to the wedding, far from being merely incidental, is meant to signal an invitation to you and me (to the reader) – an invitation to the unveiling of the Saviour, God in Christ.

Every unveiling encounters expectations. So the question must be, What do we expect here? Is it more of the same? More of the usual? Perhaps we do. And perhaps that is because we don’t want anything other than the usual, it’s where we are at home and what we are familiar with, it suits us; we like variety but only of the usual. And we want the same, just more of it and better. What we expect, then, is Jesus the good person, the high-minded moral teacher, a lovely and endearing character perhaps even a little divine, but a Saviour who reinforces the usual, namely that we can save ourselves (and do!), that it’s up to us, that we are not lost to God and heaven and are not by nature – without redemption - deserving of wrath (Eph.2,3), that there are many ways by which one is saved;  and if Jesus is to be accepted he is to be the kind of Saviour who lets us be the same, just better, and lets us have the same, just more of it.
But perhaps the reason we expect the unveiling of Jesus to be more of the same as what is already out there, is that we have given up desiring something better, something other, something new. And we think that Jesus will take his place among the usual suspects of religious systems and leaders that cannot effect deep change (like one of water turned into wine!).

But what is unveiled to us here, dear friends, is that if there is something that Jesus is not – it is more of the usual, more of the same! This is beautifully captured in the words of the master of the banquet to the bridegroom after tasting the new wine: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” In other words, it was un-usual, and it was not at all what he expected.

Here is not more of the same, which it would be if Jesus was ‘just a man’. Here, in this man, is God come to make things new and make them well, to deliver his people – all who believe – as he said he would - from the burden of evil, sin and death. For this is what water into new wine symbolises: Man’s redemption, as a result not of his own striving but of God’s saving act and power, so that God would have a people that are truly his own, a people that would know him and delight in him and through serving him would deliver the joy of love.
What ‘Cana’ unveils is that Jesus is God’s saving act – not one for more of the same and not one for more of the usual, but the one who changes water into wine: Who receives sinners and justifies them, and does it not on condition but does it for them so that it be a thing of grace; who leaves no one unchanged who comes to him, because through forgiving them their sins on account of bearing them on the cross, he makes God’s love known to their hearts and they have life, begin to trust and obey and have life eternal. Water into wine: Jesus God’s saving act.

Dear friends, at the end of this unveiling in Cana the disciples, it is said, believed in him. This is important, because it tells us something of the way in which one comes under God’s saving work, – by faith in him. Salvation, rescue, redemption through Jesus Christ, appropriating all he is and has done for you – it is by faith; change, from water to wine, is by faith.
An example of faith and what it does the disciples had there in Mary. She believed that Jesus could and would help, that it was right to bring the burden to him, and she also believed that Jesus ‘word was then to be followed: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’    AMEN

We turn to Christ alone

1  We turn to Christ alone,
the Son of God divine,
to bow the knee before His throne,
to bear His name and sign;
to bear His name and sign
and walk the narrow way,
to make His love and glory known,
His word and will obey.

2  We turn from self and sin
in penitence and shame;
we trust, to make us clean within,
the power of Jesus’ name;
the power of Jesus’ name,
whose cross is strong to save,
who gave His life our life to win
from sin and death and grave.

3  We turn from every wrong,
from every evil way,
who in the Spirit’s strength are strong,
as children of the day;
as children of the day
from dark to light we turn,
disciples who to Christ belong,
His way of life to learn.

4  We turn to Christ as Lord
who died and rose again,
as those whose hearts receive His word,
as subjects of His reign;
as subjects of His reign,
who calls His servants friends,
our King of love to life restored,
whose kingdom never ends.

Words by Timothy Dudley-Smith

 
Lord God, we give you thanks for the gift of Christ’s cross and resurrection. Like the disciples who believed in Jesus when they saw his work in Cana, so give us grace to see that he is your saving work whereby you change us, like water into wine, from sinners to becoming your righteousness. Grant us to know the burden of our sin and that your Son our Saviour, has made it his own and taken it from us on the cross, so that in the knowledge of your mercy and the living hope we have in your Son whom you raised, we may praise you in trust and obedience.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

May the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shine in your hearts, transform your lives, and brighten the world.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

3rd Sunday after Christmas, 10 January 2021

Haddington West with Garvald and Morham  

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

“God the Lord has spoken and summoned the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. God shines out of Zion, perfect in beauty.”   Ps.50, 1-2

Prayer -
Eternal God, yours is the greatness, the power, the majesty, the splendour and the glory; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. We worship and adore you; we bless and praise your holy name.
Throughout the ages you have revealed to men and women glimpses of your glory – the glory that was fully manifest in Jesus Christ our Lord. For he is your eternal Word, the source of life and light. That light shines on in the darkness and darkness has never been able to quench it. The Word became flesh and lived among us; and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth.
Eternal God, revealed to us in Jesus, we worship and adore you, we bless and praise your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Epistle reading: Eph.1,3-14

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.’

THANKS TO GOD WHOSE WORD WAS SPOKEN

1 Thanks to God whose word was spoken
in the making of the earth.
His the voice that called a nation,
fired her vision, tried her worth.
God has spoken:
praise him for his open word.

2 Thanks to God whose word incarnate
came to save our human race.
Deeds and words and death and rising
testify to heaven’s grace.
God has spoken:
praise him for his open word.

3 Thanks to God whose word was written
in the Bible’s sacred page,
record of the revelation
showing God to every age.
God has spoken:
praise him for his open word.

4 Thanks to God whose word is published
in the tongues of every race.
See its glory undiminished
by the change of time or place.
God has spoken:
praise him for his open word.

 

5 Thanks to God whose word is answered
by the Spirit’s voice within.
Here we drink of joy unmeasured,
life redeemed from death and sin.
God is speaking:
praise him for his open word.

Thomas Brooks (1918-19850

Jn.1,16-18:

‘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.’ (NRSV)

Dear friends

In Christ, the incarnated Word, God and man stand in a relation to one another. This relationship is key to who Jesus is, to his person. It is also key to what a person becomes through receiving him – a child of God (v.12!), that is, a person who as man relates to God as a child to the Father.

This we shall ponder a bit further, having last time spoken about Jesus being the revelation of God and also the knowledge of God and saying that this knowledge is central to being who we truly are and what we need to gain in order to become it.  By way of a summary statement John here lets us see something of what he then shows at length in the rest of his Gospel, laying out carefully the evidence so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life” (Jn.20,30).

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. What is his fullness? [John here wants to evoke a sense a beggar might have on being offered full access to all things plentiful, a prisoner on being offered liberty, a thief on being offered pardon, one dying of thirst on being offered water for free…]. We must withstand the temptation to enter here our wishes and wants, our unrealised plans and unfulfilled desires, our gripes and grievances, and say: ‘This is what I lack, let then his fullness cover it!’ It is tempting, because certainly this is the kind of thing that we are inclined to imagine and desire: to have God in our pocket; a pocket-god who ensures that I am healthy and prosperous, who keeps all suffering, hardship and difficulties away from me, who gives success and the end I wish, who enables me to have my way and says ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’ to what I choose to offer him in return for such blessings.
But the thing here is that in this way while man may get his way God does not get his man! And this is the reason for the incarnation: that God may get his man, and man may be man truly when God does – that man may get God’s love, may be won for the light, for life, that man may not perish but have everlasting life, which alone is life in all its fullness: the truly human life, the life of true humanity.

There is a poverty in us and about us – a lack, a need, a sickness – to which Christ’s fullness corresponds, a poverty which he made his own, a poverty into which he came so that we might partake of his fullness and receive it and no longer be poor and sick but rich and well.

To know the fullness of Christ, then, we need to know the nature of this poverty and sickness. Because, will we receive of his fullness truly (that is, will we believe in him) if we think we are not poor but quite full, not sick but quite well? Indeed, one of the most, if not the most, troublesome aspect of humanity and its ways lies precisely here: (not in CO2 figures, not in economic inequality, not in the quality of education, not in societal unrest and war etc., but) in the mind and heart of man who is full of himself, who is, and means to be, full without God, is full of his own ways and thoughts and the conviction that this is just what the world needs to receive in order to heal and achieve fullness.

The fullness we see in Jesus, however, is diametrically opposed to this and so it must be in all that receive him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt.11,29) His fullness is not one of self, it is not one he arrived at by self-determination and self-expression (as is man’s way, and is how all fullness was lost!). It is a fullness that arises out of and consists in his relationship with the Father as the Son. Through the incarnation this comes to stand in a person in whom, in an utterly unique way, man and God relate in the right way, in truth. 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.

You see, then, what our poverty and sickness is? That it has to do with the way we relate to God? That we are alienated from God and are as a result not rich in goodness nor well in heart? We are in person different from the person that is Jesus, from the true humanity that he is, because we do not relate to God as we ought to, in a true way.
We “have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, says Paul (Rm.3,23). John leads us to the same conclusion when he mentions that the law was given through Moses”. Because the law was given as the way for man to relate to God in truth. The law was to be the enabler of true humanity. Now this is an important point because the idea is close to us that there is something by which we see when we are good and when we do good – and the standard by which we do that is law! And so to the law we look. But let us do it properly by the gold-standard, the law that was given; and when we do it this we find that the law has not enabled us to meet its demands, but that it has left us oppressed by them, guilty and condemned. For, demands you cannot meet, and do not, become oppressive, they push you into hiding, into the secrecy of the dark – that is the poverty and sickness of man in which all humanity shares.

But this is what Christ’s fullness corresponds to. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Dear friends, Christ’s fullness, available to all, is not about demand but about a gift – the gift of his coming from God to be under the law, to bear the full weight of sin the law pronounces, to cancel the oppression of the law’s unmet demands through fulfilling it on our behalf and to heal our broken relationship with God through sharing with us his own. In him we have, as God’s gracious gift and by faith, the forgiveness of sins and a true relationship with our Father.
From his fullness let us receive, grace upon grace. AMEN

 

 

FATHER OF HEAVEN

1 Father of heaven, whose love profound
a ransom for our souls has found,
before your throne we sinners bend:
to us your pardoning love extend.

2 Almighty Son, incarnate Word,
our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord,
before your throne we sinners bend:
to us your saving grace extend.

3 Eternal Spirit, by whose breath
our souls are raised from sin and death,
before your throne we sinners bend:
to us your quickening power extend.

4 Jehovah – Father, Spirit, Son -
mysterious Godhead, Three in One,
before your throne we sinners bend:
grace, pardon, life to us extend.

                         Edward Cooper (1770-1833)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord God, you have made heaven and earth, to you it all belongs and of the wisdom and might of your works it all speaks. We praise you that you have made us for knowing you and to enjoy you forever. You do not want that anyone should perish but everyone to come to repentance. We thank you that you have made a way for us to dwell with you and have fellowship with you, something that is impossible but for the grace of Jesus who died for us so that we should become a new creation, who for our sake became poor so that we in him should become rich. Great is the wisdom of our redemption through Christ, and great indeed is the blessing of the inheritance prepared in him for all whom you have given to him and all who are still to be called. Through faith in him we fully share already in his fullness as your Son; now it is no longer about law and demand, but about being a new creation. Fill us with your Spirit, we pray, so that we may grow more fully towards the fullness of Christ.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen’

 

May the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shine in your hearts, transform your lives, and brighten the world.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

Sunday 3rd January 2021

2nd Sunday after Christmas

Haddington West with Garvald and Morham       

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

“God the Lord has spoken and summoned the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. God shines out of Zion, perfect in beauty.”   Ps.50, 1-2

Collect: God of power and life, you are the glory of all who believe in you. Fill the world with your splendour and show the nations the light of your truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN

MP 535  O what a mystery I see

1  O what a mystery I see,
    what marvellous design,
    that God should come as one of us,
    a Son in David’s line.
    Flesh of our flesh, of woman born,
    our humanness He owns;
    and for a world of wickedness
    His guiltless blood atones.

2  This perfect Man, incarnate God,
    by selfless sacrifice
    destroyed our sinful history,
    all fallen Adam’s curse.
    In Him the curse to blessing turns,
    my barren spirit flowers,
    as over the shattered power of sin
    the cross of Jesus towers.

               Words and music by Graham Kendrick

Jn.1,10-18

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when I said “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’.) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Dear friends
Before the Incarnation (“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” – v.14) let the heart be upright and become still. The chatter and noise of all the thoughts and ideas about God that we carry within us and that clamour for our attention – let it fade away (as you realise that here they are so out of place). So too the silence with which our secular age has sought to mute the notion of ‘God’ and ban it to but the most private and irrelevant parts of the mind – let its grip be gone in the strength of this stillness which alone is proper before God (it too is found to be out of place here). Let the heart become still. And the things that it is busy with, the planning and plotting, the desiring and regretting, the grieving and sorrowing, the accusing and condemning – let it all be embraced by stillness so that the heart may wonder and look out.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Let the heart be still. For in this stillness and out of it we perceive the One who is God and is also man, the fact that here is now full and reliable knowledge of/about God, but also us, because we are made for knowing God. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”  (v.18)

We must shed the idea, or the notion, that the incarnation is a piece of religious, spiritual content that we must understand (a piece of knowledge which if we ‘handle’ it correctly gives us some insight) and we must take seriously the notion that no one has ever seen God. He has made us, we know of Him and long for Him, but our sinful ways have made this relationship impossible. All our talking and thinking about God does not yield true knowledge or amount to it, knowing God is utterly and decidedly beyond our grasp. And with the lack of knowing God goes the lack of knowing ourselves, goes the lack of our true humanity. (That is how sin is the one great problem the world has but cannot solve)

But the incarnation is about God coming into our world – the Word became flesh – to give the world knowledge of Himself, by becoming man and enabling man, as it were, to lay eyes on Him and know Him – and doing so by dealing with sin (Mt.1,21: “’She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

The incarnation means God has revealed Himself in the world and to the world – and Christ Jesus is that revelation. Every attempt, be that religious or be it of reason alone, to know God apart from Christ must fail, it is an exercise in deception of oneself and each other. If you look for God other than in Christ you will miss Him. Every search for God that would not find Christ but would reject him, is stuck in darkness. Every lofty idea about God, and about man (!), which dismisses Christ in his way of cross and resurrection, is itself eternally dismissed. And everyone who holds that God cannot be known, can now because of Christ know better (and ought to).

But Christ Jesus is also the knowledge of God. That is why and how it is a thing of power. The knowledge of God is not just a piece of information which we then do something with, or not; it is a thing of power, doing something to us, involving us in something God does. The person that knows God is taken up into a movement that revolutionizes everything. Knowledge of God is never anything less than a complete remaking and reshaping, a total overhaul of human nature which shall have a redeeming effect on all the rest of creation, it is a path of dying and of rising, a power to bring the dead to life, the sinner to righteousness, it is a new birth (Jn.3).
It doesn’t come bigger or more powerful than the knowledge of God. And Christ is this knowledge. Wherefore John in his gospel points out that it was those who received Christ who were given the power to become children of God, were given the power of the new birth.

Where is knowledge of God but in the heart that receives Christ, in those who believe in his name? It is the point of the incarnation that Christ Jesus be received – not just looked at from a distance, known about, admired, studied, venerated, but received – so that he should impart to us the knowledge of God, be God with us and save us.

Dear friends, in Jesus Christ if we receive him, we see and know the Father heart of God as He loves and saves, we see and know that He is full of mercy, that He is gracious and is the truth of what we shall be and what even now we become – God’s children. John saw it in his encounter with Jesus, together with others who received Jesus for who he was - the saving Word of the Father. Time and again John witnessed Jesus do and speak exactly like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son: bringing to light the sin of unbelief and disobedience and where it gets people, and then going out of his way to meet the lost, to forgive and heal and restore them to their true home – to the Father heart of God, to sonship!
Nowhere did he see the glory of God’s love and mercy more than on the cross where he understood that in going the way of all flesh, Jesus, and in him God, bore our death and so took away the sins of the world and reconciled it to God. He also witnessed that God raised Jesus from the dead and thus showed Christ to be His saving Word, so that all the world is now called to receive Christ and believe in his name and so have the forgiveness of sins and know the Father even as His child.  AMEN

MP 1359 There is an everlasting kindness

There is an everlasting kindness

    You lavished on us,

when the radiance of heaven came to rescue the lost.

You called the sheep without a shepherd

     to leave their distress,

for Your streams of forgiveness

    and the shade of Your rest.

2 And with compassion for the hurting

    You reached out Your hand,

as the lame ran to meet You

    and the dead breathed again.

You saw behind the eyes of sorrow

    and shared in our tears;

heard the sigh of the weary, let the children draw near.

   What boundless love, what fathomless grace

   You have shown us, O God of compassion.

   Each day we live an offering of praise

   as we show to the world Your compassion.

3 We stood beneath the cross of Calvary

    and gazed on Your face,

at the thorns of oppression and wounds of disgrace;

for surely You have borne our suffering

    and carried our grief,

as You pardoned the scoffer

    and showed grace to the thief.

What boundless love . . .

4 How beautiful the feet that carry this gospel of peace

to the fields of injustice and the valleys of need;

to be a voice of hope and healing, to answer the cries

of the hungry and helpless with the mercy of Christ.

What boundless love . . .

 Keith and Kristyn Getty / Stuart Townend 

 
Lord God, we thank you for coming into our world through your Son and fulfilling in him, Jesus Christ, your promise of redemption and salvation. He is your mighty Word by which all who hear it, who receive him, know your love and are enfolded in it, receiving grace upon grace, your mighty Word by which you make all things new. Grant us, for his sake, that we may grasp more fully the extent and significance of the truth that through him we are your children and you are our Father in heaven with whom we belong. Grant us a true sense of our sins so that your mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ become to us the light that they are and that makes known to us and the world the praiseworthiness and glory of your name. Help us to let go of all that would dim our eyes and dull our hearts for your grace, and help us to face what comes, whatever the years may bring, with a steady faith, a sure hope and in the love of Christ.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen’

May the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shine in your hearts, transform your lives, and brighten the world.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Sunday 27th December 2020

Call to worship

Christmas has arrived, God is with us – Emmanuel. We are your people, and we believe in your new life, new hope and the possibility of transformation.  Within us. Amen.

MP589 See him lying on a bed of straw.

Prayers and Lord’s prayer.

MP83 come and join the celebration

Intercession Prayer

Reading Luke 2:22-40 Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. 

MP 39 As with gladness men of old verses 1, 4 & 5

Sermon

Merry Christmas. Happy third day of Christmas.  Are we already getting ready to put all the decorations away?  Have you been asked if you had a nice Christmas?  For some it is as if that’s Christmas over for another year. But there are twelve days of Christmas, so we are really still celebrating and are still okay to wish each other Happy Christmas and to add our good wishes for the New Year and the good thing about this we can still sing carols. And as we think of the reading this morning we hear the story of Simeon and Anna. Simeon was very old and he had lived his entire life waiting for the Messiah to come. He spent many hours at the temple praying that each baby that came to be baptised would be the Messiah. And of course it wasn’t until Jesus was brought to the temple and he took him into his arms that he knew his Messiah had finally come to the temple. On seeing Jesus, he said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which has been prepared for all people.” He did not need to see signs of miracles or Jesus telling the parables he just knew and believed.  Anna who also was very old, when she saw the baby Jesus, like Simeon did not need to see the signs she also knew and believed the Messiah had finally come just like most of us. Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple to comply with the rituals of their time. According to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law, ‘a pair of turtle doves and two young pigeons.’  Fortunately, nowadays we do not have to bring a sacrifice when we bring a baby to be baptised in the church. But it is lovely when we do have a baby baptised everybody has that fuzzy feeling of love for the baby and the concept of baptism renews us all.

Jesus went through his cultural traditions as was expected of his parents as he was the first born son. And that he was here on earth as a real human baby. I bet he was just like other children and did all the things he was not supposed to do. He was the son of a carpenter and was taught at Joseph’s side the skillsets of a carpenter. He was a normal little boy but we do not hear of his early childhood and that is when it is hard to see the human behind the Messiah. During the season of Christmas and the twelve days of Christmas, we give thanks that Jesus was truly human.  God comes to us in an in the form of baby Jesus.  He was born in a stable, in a manger full of straw, alongside the live animals that lived in the stable. Just an everyday scene in those times I mean the stable. It only became special when the baby Jesus was born in that humble stable. As we know the church year begins anew on the first Sunday in Advent, as we wait again for God to come to earth through his Son. An ordinary little boy born to humble parents but, we with our knowledge today know that the baby was no ordinary baby. He was born to be a leader, a counsellor, a king of kings and the one who truly followed his Father’s will to the very end so that we would have all our sins forgiven. Such love giving God giving his only son so that we be forgiven.  Our Christmases are filled with love.  Love for one another and as we write the cards and wrap the gifts we are reminded of family and friends it is often a very hectic time but it is also a time to reflect on friends and family and renew our faith once again. We surely do not need to see Jesus performing miracles, or signs and no wonderful revelations. All we have to do is remind ourselves that he is God and believe in the wonder, and love of that special holy birth. Christmas is all about Jesus that tiny baby, Christ amongst us always. Let us be like Simeon and Anna look upon the baby and believe in God’s holy word.     Amen

MP 35 Angels from the realms of glory. Verses 1,3 & 4

Blessing

 

Christmas Eve service.

Call to Worship

All through this season of Advent, we have encountered Hope, Peace and Joy and Love. Today we will hear the story of God's wonderful love. Today we will be challenged to believe in all that God can do. Open our hearts, Lord, that we may be ready for your love. AMEN.

MP 539 ‘Once in royal David’s city’ verses 1, 2, 4 & 6

Candle lighting.

Isaiah 52:7-10 7How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" 8Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

2nd Reading: Ps.98

1Sing to God a brand-new song. He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves, He set things right.

2God made history with salvation,

He showed the world what he could do.

3He remembered to love us,

a bonus to his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.

Look—God’s work of salvation!

4Shout your praises to God, everybody!

Let loose and sing! Strike up the band! 

5Round up an orchestra to play for God,

Add on a hundred-voice choir.

6Feature trumpets and big trombones, Fill the air with praises to King God.

7Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,

with everything living on earth joining in.

8Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”

And mountains harmonize the finale.

9A tribute to God when he comes,

when he comes to set the earth right.

He’ll straighten out the whole world. 

He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.

MP 503 ‘O little town of Bethlehem’‘

3rd Reading: Lk.2,1-20  The Birth of Jesus

1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant. 6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. 8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighbourhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” 13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. 15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. 19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

MP 211 Hark! The herald angels sing’ 3 verses.

4th Reading: Hebr.1,1-4

1Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. 2Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. 3This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God's nature. He holds everything together by what he says - powerful words! 4The Son Is Higher than Angels, far higher than any angel in rank and rule.

Intercession   Let us pray. Loving God, you gave us your Son, the Saviour of all, lying in a manger. On this holy night bring us into the mystery of your love. Join our voices together with the angelic host above that we may give you the glory on high. Help us to be like the shepherds and look on this special gift with awe and wonder. the one for whom we have waited, Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, let us pray for the Church around the world as it celebrates the birth of Christ. give your wisdom to all governments, Grant peace to those living with conflict and violence, that they may live once more in peace we pray for all who are cold, hungry, or alone this night be with them Lord as they struggle to find the hope and joy that we all have in knowing you. We pray for all who are anxious, depressed, or ill. Draw near to those who find this season a time of pain or grief, and to all who are suffering or sick, especially those we remember in our own hearts ... we especially think of John and the family that they may feel the comfort of this holy night. Uphold them Lord in your care. Let us pray for parents, and families. It is a special time but so hectic for them give them a time of quiet and strengthen them in the bonds of love and commitment. Let us pray for ourselves and for the blessings of Christmas. May we feel you ever near us. Amen.

Reading: Jn.1:1-14 

The Word Became Flesh 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Now as Fergus plays O Holy night we can focus on the saviour of the world’s birth.

And be still and know that he is God’s own Son.

MP 393 ‘Joy to the world’  3 verses.

Benediction.  Go, singing a song to the God of our salvation. Sing of mighty deeds and glory. Join the heavenly chorus and sing: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace."  Sing of God's salvation from day to day. Jesus Christ is born today!

 

Sunday Service for 20th December 2020

Call to Worship

In times past there was a message given of God being near. - “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” - And today we still have the promise of God being near and his promise is the same today as it was so long ago.  as we wait the coming of his anointed son who will bring joy to the world and to take away the sins of the world. God is with us Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. Amen.

Hymn 493 O come O Come Emanuel.

Prayer and Lord’s prayer.  God of all love, our hearts await your coming, as we offer to you our prayers and songs Draw us to you we offer ourselves to you in hope and we praise you for your never-failing love to the world. We come, O God, with adoration and praise, as well as thanksgiving, to you.  Our anticipation grows as we come nearer to the day of great celebration of the birth of your Christ.  Open our hearts that we may truly receive the gift of your Son, and know that the joy of life with you.  God our redeemer, who chose Mary to be the mother of this so special baby help us to be ready to welcome Jesus as our saviour when he comes again. This we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ (who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”)

Candle lighting CH4 282

Christmas is coming the church is glad to sing

and let the advent candles brightly burn in a ring.

The first is for God’s promise to put wrong things right,

and bring to earth’s darkness the hope of love and light.

The second for the Prophets, who said that Christ would come

with good news for many and angry words for some.

The third is for the Baptist, who cried “Prepare the way”

be ready for Jesus, today and every day.

The fourth is for the virgin, who mothered God’s own son

and sang how God’s justice was meant for everyone.

At last we light the candle we kept new for Christmas day

this to shine bright for Jesus, new-born here to stay.

Christ is among us the candles in the ring

remind us that our saviour will light up everything.

Hymn 337 In the Bleak midwinter

Reading Psalm 89 1-4

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. 3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 4 ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.”

Intercession prayers Lord God, we join our prayers to those of Mary, your faithful servant and mother of our lord, to proclaim your greatness, and sing in gratitude for all your wonderful gifts given to us, be with us as we focus on the coming of your kingdom and the gift of your son this Christmas we pray that those in power would use their power wisely and compassionately so that, the hungry be fed and equality be established between rich and poor. Lord we ask you to show your mercy on all who are sick, fearful or in mourning and especially we pray for those members of our church, families and friends we especially pray for John and the family at home and in Switzerland in the sudden loss of his sister in law, a loving wife, mother, aunt, daughter and daughter in law be with father as they come to terms with this enfold them all in your loving care. Heavenly Father, you sent to earth the gift of your son Jesus Christ that in your power and love we might also have the gift of eternal life; bless those whom we love that have departed this life with the gifts of your all-encompassing love and life eternal.  Heavenly Father, who chose Mary to be the mother of the promised saviour: fill us with your grace, that in all things we may embrace your holy will and with her rejoice in your salvation; send us out to finish our Advent journey filled with love and joy and peace ready to receive that promise afresh into our lives.

Hymn 631 Tell out my soul

Reading 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 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.

Sermon

How many homes are delivery drivers going to at this time. There must be thousands of deliveries of one kind or another arriving at doors. They just knock and stand back for you to pick it up. Well we do know that angels do not ring a bell and wait they can appear anywhere. How would you feel if you had an angel appear without any forewarning behind you? Even now knowing the story of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary I can only think panic would certainly be my first instinct. They do say fight or flight well I would be flying as fast as I could away from said angel. It would have to be able to catch me to tell me what the message was. In my eyes Mary was extremely brave by staying still even though she must have been in a state of fear and alarm and wondering how this angel had appeared before her. She most certainly had a very strong trust in God to be prepared to listen to the Angel Gabriel.

 Even though she was bemused and mystified she only questions “How can this be?” the management of what was being asked of her would be huge. To have such trust in God was amazing after all she would be a single mother it would affect her relationship with Joseph who she was engaged to be married to.  Luke gives an illustration of Mary’s trust as a true discipleship and faithfulness. Gabriel is not asking Mary, to be the mother of Jesus Mary is being told that God has chosen her and to have a belief so strong as to believe in something that to us is not possible.  Mary has to believe that all will be okay. To trust in the covenant that God had made many years before that he would be with us always and to trust in him to do the right thing.  As was Elizabeth trusting God that she too would have a baby in her older age.

Coming back to today we are also facing a question of trust. Do we have this vaccine when offered it do we trust the scientists enough to have faith in their vaccine?  Are we going to put our faith in God that he will be with us? Is this our angel Gabriel bringing hope to the world will we wonder like Mary did how can this be?  We can only have the strong trust that the right way will be given to us.


Just like us Mary would be really worried about what will happen to her she has been favoured by God or held in a high regard and everything in her life is turned right around. Again it’s just like us throughout this past year. We have been left totally baffled and confused on what we are really supposed to be doing at any one time so many different rules within so many different regions it’s no wonder we are at sixes and sevens. We must be feeling that we are all in an impossible time right now. Maybe it is time to look for the Angel coming to stand beside us and feel that God is there – right there beside us walking with us carrying us if necessary. Not worrying about what comes next we must put our trust in God and like Mary have the full faithfulness and discipleship to carry us through and to remember trusting in the covenant of Jesus Christ our Saviour that with God nothing is impossible.  God is Love the care and as in the advent Ring we wait in anticipation for the hope peace, joy and love in Christ Jesus returning to bring peace and joy to the world. God’s love is coming fully into the world and we see love made in human flesh.  Are we ready to receive him?  Are we ready for such a perfect love? Amen.

Hymn 451 Love came down at Christmas

Benediction

Go into the world. Speak the good news of Jesus and respond to the messengers that God may send, that the fulfilment of his perfect plans may draw nearer in our lives. And may the Love of God be with you all now and forever amen.   Amen.

 

Sunday 13th December 2020

3rd Sunday in Advent

Haddington West with Garvald and Morham       

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

“The Lord is good to those who look to him, to anyone who seeks him; it is good to wait in patience for deliverance by the Lord.”   Lam.3,25-26

Collect: God of power and mercy, you call us once again to celebrate the coming of your Son. Remove those things which hinder love of you, that when he comes he may find us waiting in awe and wonders for him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN

O God beyond all praising

1 O God beyond all praising,

we worship You today

and sing the love amazing

that songs cannot repay;

for we can only wonder

at every gift You send,

at blessings without number

and mercies without end:

we lift our hearts before You

and wait upon Your word,

we honour and adore You,

our great and mighty Lord.

2 Then hear, O gracious Saviour,

accept the love we bring,

that we who know Your favour

may serve You as our king;

and whether our tomorrows

be filled with good or ill,

we’ll triumph through our sorrows

and rise to bless You still;

to marvel at Your beauty

and glory in Your ways,

and make a joyful duty

our sacrifice of praise!

Gustav Holst

Jn.1,6-8.19-28

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you a prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptise if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ ‘I baptise you with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.   

Dear friends

A declaration is made, plain and clear, which everyone must understand – that John “was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” This is a distinction necessary to his witness and is lying at the heart of it – the distinction between what was the light and what was not. It was necessary then and it is very much necessary today.

However, making such a distinction is not popular today, I would say it is properly frowned upon, because we believe that anyone should believe what they will and as they want, that everyone chooses their own light as a matter of preference. Nevertheless, the distinction is vital, because it rests upon the distinction between God and man, between what is from God and what is from man (- do we think there is none?). The cost of ignoring the fact that a distinction needs to be made, and needs to be made truthfully, between what is the light and what is not, is to be left in the dark.

John was not the light! You see, it is not about any, or even the many, lights and luminaries of the world – people who hold the light to reason, to science and technology, education and leadership, glitz and glamour, beauty and appeal, influence and power etc. etc., and neither is it about the light adorning our houses inside and out, nor the things that delight us, like trees, gifts, food, carols, the ceremonies. For all they bring we must recognise that they are not the light; they must be distinguished from the light that shines in the darkness and truly penetrates it, that comes into the dark and with its brightness lifts it from us.
But what is this darkness which neither John nor any other of the ‘lights and luminaries’ can lift? Must it not be clear to us what our darkness is if we are to look out for and receive the light to which John testifies and if we are to reject as the light that which is not? It is a darkness, after all, which in its own eyes (in the eyes of the world) is not darkness but light. As the witness of the light points out, verse 5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That is, the darkness has tried: meaning it is darkness in that it considers the light darkness and itself the light.
Does this not describe the world to a tee? Does it not in utter clarity show us our predicament, our darkness? For let us ask: Is there a greater and truer indictment of human darkness than its rejection of Jesus Christ? Than the rejection of the one truly human life offering to redeem us, bring us to God and through his death enable us to live a new life, and to choose instead the life of Barabbas, the life of the rebel, revolutionary and murderer, the life of self-making and self-rule? Than to reject the way of faith and obedience – the way of Christ – and choose instead the way of unbelief and disobedience?
This is the darkness of the world, is it not, that we are in bondage to sin and to death, that we reject as though it was dark the way that leads to life and choose as though it was light the way that leads to death.

Dear friends, John came as a witness to the light, which shines in the darkness, and is not overcome by it but overcomes it. Jesus is indeed the Redeemer, and there is plenty of redemption in him for all! But this connection between witness and the coming light is of great importance and is a real help for us when we ready ourselves to grasp the light, which, as John explains, we do through faith – by way of believing. “He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe.”
The point becomes clearer, hopefully, as we wonder at John’s persistent refusal to play ball with those who want to know who he is, want him to witness to himself as though that “explained” John, who John is and what he lives for and is about, as if that would bring light into John’s life and theirs. Because: Who can make sense of John’s existence but John himself? But John is John as a witness to the light; not in answering ‘Who is John?’ but in testifying to ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’ Who John is and what the true meaning of his life is, that has its answer in who Jesus Christ is and is for him, in the fact that his life is ordered in the direction of Christ. That is faith, and one through which the light shines into the darkness and lifts it.

Dear friends, we have what we need, the witness to the light, the witness to Jesus Christ – who he is and what he has done for us. We have it in Scripture, in the “faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). It is given so that through it our lives be ordered in the direction of the coming light, of Christ and his coming; it is given because where the witness is and finds faith, there Christ comes, in the fulness of God’s love and mercy to help and redeem, to come into the depth of our darkness, our sins and our death, our despair and lostness, to save and heal us and bring us into his glorious light and direct us in the way that leads to life.       AMEN

 

Joy has dawned upon the world

1 Joy has dawned upon the world,

promised from creation:

God’s salvation now unfurled,

hope for every nation.

Not with fanfares from above,

not with scenes of glory,

but a humble gift of love:

Jesus, born of Mary.

2 Sounds of wonder fill the sky

with the songs of angels,

as the mighty Prince of Life

shelters in a stable.

Hands that set each star in place

shaped the earth in darkness,

cling now to a mother’s breast,

vulnerable and helpless.

3 Shepherds bow before the Lamb,

gazing at the glory;

gifts of men from distant lands

prophesy the story.

Gold, a king is born today,

incense, God is with us,

myrrh, His death will make a way,

and by His blood He’ll win us.

4 Son of Adam, Son of heaven,

given as a ransom,

reconciling God and man,

Christ our mighty champion!

What a Saviour, what a friend,

what a glorious mystery:

once a babe in Bethlehem,

now the Lord of history!

Stuart Townend / Keith Getty

 

Lord God, You destined man to be Your image, to love You and all that You have made and to rule in justice and righteousness, You made them for the praise and glory of Your name, that their works should be such as to show Your goodness and holiness. But we have forsaken Your light, through the sin of ingratitude and pride we have become subject to desires and lusts that have taken us far from You. In making our own destiny we have lost the one we had and we have lost our way, we dwell in the darkness of sin and death. But in Your great mercy You sent the light to bring us back to Yourself, to lift our darkness from us and restore us to our true destiny, to the praise and glory of Your name and the joy of all creation. Prepare us, we pray, for the coming of Your light and open our heart to Christ our Redeemer, to Whom with You and the Holy Spirit be all our thanks and praise.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen’

 

Look forward in hope to the coming of your Saviour, prepare the way for Christ your Lord; welcome him with love and faith when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Sunday 6th December 2020 a service for use at home

2nd Sunday in Advent

Haddington West with Garvald and Morham       

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

“The Prophet of the Most High will be the Lord’s forerunner, to prepare his way and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”  Lk.1,76-77

Collect: Almighty God, you sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people to welcome the Messiah. Inspire the ministers and stewards of your truth to turn our disobedient heart to you, that when the Christ shall come again to be our judge we may stand with confidence before his glory; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN

The Servant King

1  From heaven You came, helpless babe,
entered our world, Your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give Your life that we might live.
        This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

2  There in the garden of tears
my heavy load He chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ He said.
This is our God . . .

3  Come see His hands and His feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
This is our God . . .

4  So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone Him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
This is our God . . .

Words and music by Graham Kendrick

Mk.1,1-8:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”’
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Dear friends

His coming stands announced. This opens up the need and the opportunity to prepare for it. Are we prepared for Christmas? His coming is certain. Whether we partake in it, whether it is with or without us, that is a matter of whether and how we prepare for it.

There are those who take no interest in the One who comes from the Most High – this great movement from heaven to earth -, they make no preparation and let his coming go past them, thinking it much of a non-event. And a non-event, in a sense, for them it must prove: for the lack of being prepared things must continue to pass much as they always have, without the light of hope and renewal, but with the verdict that it was rejected when it came.

He who comes says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev.3,20) What of these words and the preparation they imply?

Do we not tend to want to be prepared for that knock on the door that announces the coming of our visitors? And conversely, do we not stand shamefaced when our guests find us unprepared for their coming? Or, in a different context, where is the family that does not turn their thoughts to preparing for it the moment the arrival of a new member is announced? Indeed, it is no undue generalization to say that we all spend an awful lot of time preparing and getting prepared for what is coming. It is a basic mode of life and of living. Whether our receiving of something that is coming makes for something fitting depends a lot on the manner of our preparation. Should this not serve to drive home the truth that for a fitting reception of the One who is coming there is a preparation to be done?

But how do we prepare for the coming of the Most High? How do we prepare for this? How do we prepare when we realise that he is coming to such as are the least high? And we cannot even begin to prepare until we realise that that is the case. How do we prepare if we have every bit as much reason, if not more, as John had, to say of this coming: It is that of “one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”?
We cannot prepare nor be prepared, dear friends, that is the truth of it! We all have to cast down our eyes before his coming and tremble at what we present to him.

In the bright light of his coming all that is left for me is to confess my utter unworthiness; in this light nothing is hidden of all the things, even those of my innermost thoughts, that make me unprepared for his coming, unfit to receive him. I must know that his coming is my judgment.
I cannot prepare a path for him – for his coming to me -, for surely I must own the words of Isaiah: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Is.64,6)

Dear friends, we cannot prepare, for we have to be honest and say: “I am unprepared”. Yet, we are only truly unprepared when we think that we are prepared and cannot see, or won’t see, that we aren’t. For when we know that we are unprepared – that our sins lie in his way like a mountain on the path running along a valley, that our sins bend his way unto judgment – then we learn that the Lord’s coming is such as to prepare us for it and make us fit for him! This is a most wonderful turn (which only the poor in spirit perceive): The Most High Himself provides the way for the least high to dwell with Him!
There is nothing else that teaches so clearly what the coming of the Lord actually is: That it is the love of God, in search of those who are unprepared for him, to cleanse them from their sins and take away their reproach and give them life through fellowship with him; prepared to fulfil what they could not, to bear himself the judgment due their sins and forgive.

The Lord sends his messenger ahead of his coming to “preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. And there you have it in a visible sign and event. The confession of being unprepared for his coming and dwelling with us, is the preparation for “getting” what otherwise we wouldn’t – the glory of the love of God which searches us in order to bestow on us all its glory through cleansing us by the forgiveness of our sins and opening up to us life in him (path to life, to heaven).s

And the point of John the Baptist in the wilderness and the people coming out to him to be baptised as they repent of their sins, is that it prefigures the coming of the love of God in Christ Jesus. To him, away from the figure towards what it prefigures, he points saying: “I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”

Dear friends, the love of God is coming – restoring, all-giving – in power to cleanse us from all our sins, to free us from the fear of death and give us life, even life everlasting. Its name is Jesus Christ, in whom all of this is complete and for us, and he is received in power through repentance and faith (of which baptism in his name is the seal and sign). Let us receive him with joy, for he is our peace.                                                                                                                                    AMEN

God whose love is everywhere

1  God whose love is everywhere

made our earth and all things fair,
ever keeps them in His care;
praise the God of love!
He who hung the stars in space
holds the spinning world in place;
praise the God of love!

2  Come with thankfulness to sing
of the gifts the seasons bring,
summer, winter, autumn, spring;
praise the God of love!
He who gave us breath and birth
gives us all the fruitful earth;
praise the God of love!

3  Mark what love the Lord displayed,
all our sins upon Him laid,
by His blood our ransom paid;
praise the God of love!
Circled by that scarlet band
all the world is in His hand;
praise the God of love!

4  See the sign of love appear,
flame of glory, bright and clear,
light for all the world is here;
praise the God of love!
Gloom and darkness, get you gone!
Christ the Light of life has shone;
praise the God of love!

by Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)

Lord God, you come for judgment, in grace and mercy to give us what we are lacking, free us from what binds us and take away what oppresses us and weighs us down. How wonderful is your love which does not wait for us to be worthy of it, but comes to redeem us; how sweet the words of you Son: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”; how comforting the knowledge that the power of grace is made perfect in weakness. Lord God, we praise you, and pray make us ready always by the power of your Spirit, through a true sense of our sins to know the beauty and power of your forgiveness and grace in Christ and to cling to him in faith.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen’

Look forward in hope to the coming of your Saviour, prepare the way for Christ your Lord; welcome him with love and faith when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN