The Welcome and the Notices were followed by
The Call to Worship which was taken from Iona resources, highlighted that Jesus came into this world as any person does, born from the body of his mother. His circumstances were more humble than those of most people we know personally but the Good News is that he came for all of us, in our varying states of need.
The Introit with Malcolm playing and Lynelle leading, was a shout of praise of the coming of Jesus. "Hallelujah, glory hallelujah"
"Today we light the second Advent candle, the Bethlehem candle- (prepare). Our first candle was the prophets' candle- the candle of hope."
"Dear God, who comes to us through Jesus at Bethlehem, enable us to open our hearts so that we might have Christ in us. We give you thanks for the places where we meet the Christ. Amen"
The Singing Group led by Lynelle and Malcolm, who have been preparing for weeks, led the worship in song with the theme of "Have you heard" followed by the prayer:
"Lord, we have heard. Stir up in us a fresh desire-a longing for you.Purify us and transform us into the people you would have us to be. Amen."
Hymn 109 "Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord" with its strong, political revolutionary sentiments was Mary's response when she met her cousin, Elizabeth.
When I reflect on this, I wonder how I would be in the same position. Even when given a very ordinary challenge, which would be to the glory of God, in the face of taking up such a minor quest, I shrink back.
Scripture Reading Malachi 3: 1-4 . A prophecy of Jesus coming and a warning that his entry into history was not going to make things comfortable for people but that the end result will be that we will be the people we were meant to be. Much like his personal entry into our lives. If we let him in.
The Response to the reading was to remind us that Jesus's entry into the world was to bring about our forgiveness and salvation.
Scripture Reading Luke 3: 1-6. The calling of John the Baptist and his exhortation to prepare the way of the Lord who was coming to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The Response to the Reading was a response to those prophecies. Jesus's coming was to change the world radically, which would, in itself glorify God, and at the same time, fulfill God's promise.
Helen's Reflection followed, firstly pointing out that this reading in Luke signifies that the narrative about the birth and childhood of Jesus is ended and the story of the ministry of Jesus is to begin.
I wasn't present for this service but Helen's notes indicate the direction she meant to take, so I will follow those with my own thoughts on what she provided.
Helen pointed out that all the names listed in the reading are there to set the events in a definite period of history, as planned by God. This person, Jesus Christ, at one time and in one space was to have an impact on ALL people. And he did. Everything that happened after his life in that little country, at that time, has been affected by his having lived.
My own thought is that, on a personal level, nobody who lets Jesus into the space of their life, is ever the same again.
In Helen's words, John the Baptist was a clanging alarm, urgently demanding attention. The people he was preaching to were meant to pay attention. (We are meant to pay attention). But Malachi made it clear that the world and therefore, each of us, individually, are not going to find a place in this kingdom of righteousness without repentance. We have to change direction. This means breaking with our old life and striding forward into this new life with God, without looking back.
But we cannot do this off our own bat but God incarnate is offering us a new start. He offers us grace, the means whereby we can start anew.
In Helen's words, " Jesus is the new Adam. God's justice is not the destruction of sinful people, not punishment for the past, but a new future. A new relationship with God.
Now, is the time to prepare our hearts for Christmas and a new life with God
As Marsden Road community
The Prayer that followed asked for God's protection, that we will seek him diligently, walk with him lovingly, and serve him faithfully and having been ready to do his will in the world, to be eager to meet him in the glory of heaven. Through Christ our Lord.
Hymn 199 "On Jordon's banks the Baptist cry" a reiteration of the call to change direction and follow the Maker who can meet our every need.
The Freewill Offering was taken and dedicated to making us and the world live alongside our maker.
The Musical Interlude, providing a time for quiet, led into a Christmas Intercession during which, Helen confronted us with the possibility of a radical meeting with God at this Christmas. A meeting where God makes us face the reality of this world, so we cannot pretend people are ok, but are made to realise that to be fulfilled means we need to be more like him, open and vulnerable to him as he was to us. And as a result we can become the people who can do his work.
Helen then prayed on our behalf, that our Lord would come into our lives, and that we would open them up and let him do something different with us.
Hymn 193 " O come, O come, Emmanuel" Enough said.
Blessing May we leave this place with the light of hope shining in our darkness, and our hearts a place of welcome for the Christ.
The congregation then sang:
You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace,
and the mountains and hills shall break forth with singing.
There'll be shouts of joy, and the trees of the field
shall clap, shall clap their hands,
and the trees of the field shall clap their hands
and you'll go out with joy.