Pat welcomed Lynette who was to take today's service and, Lynette in turn, welcomed all present with the
Call to Worship based on Isaiah 12: 2 - 6 and written by David Mosser
This call was an acknowledgement of all God has done for us. He is our salvation and from him we will draw all that we need and for this we should praise him.
The congregation responded by affirming that we will trust him and not be afraid, calling on him for all we need, and will remain aware that we should give thanks to the Lord for this and exalt his name throughout the world.
The lighting of the The Third Candle of Advent - The Shepherd's Candle - followed, with Lynette, explaining:
"The candle is offered in honour of the shepherds, whose love and care for their sheep became the example of God's love for us. We remember that shepherds were the first witnesses of our Saviour's birth."
Hymn 228 " O Come all Ye Faithful" was sung with bursting hearts. If only we could respond to Jesus with this fervour at all other times. This was followed by the
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession, led by Lynette. Lynette urged us to "Rejoice in the Lord always/Shout out his name" - for he is all to us. She then prayed for forgiveness for all of us - that God would draw us close to himself, that we would know his ways and be aware of his presence with us, bringing comfort to each of us.
Lynette then made a Declaration of Forgiveness:
God is love,
Through Christ your sins are forgiven,
Take hold of this forgiveness and live your life
in the power of the Holy Spirit.
To which we answered "Amen. Thanks be to God."
Hymn 193 " O Come, O Come Emmanuel" a prayer to our Lord. The Lord who has been with us forever - " O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here: "
A prayer to raise us out of the chaos and confusion of the things of this world.
The Scripture Readings were then delivered by Warwick.
The first, Zephaniah 3: 14 - 20, a song of joy, exulting in the presence of God among his people, putting everything to right and restoring brokenness to wholeness. A message to each person ever born, and one we need to grasp and never let go.
The second, Luke 3: 7 - 18, a warning by John the Baptist that our claim to be a Christian is not enough: we must live the life that we are called to live. Then John hailed the coming of Jesus as the one who would divide people. There would be the true believers and then those who were fakes, who could not claim the inheritance of the authentic followers of the the Lord of Lords.
Something to think upon.
Reflection: Tis the Season of Joy
Lynette introduced her reflection with reference to the Shepherd 's candle and the fact that it is also known as the Candle of Joy and then defined Joy as that "sense of pure delight that starts in the middle of your chest and infects your face."
She then told a number of stories from her work with the elderly in nursing homes, where people who had not experienced joy for a long time, had a chance to be filled with it again, infecting others at the same time.
She then spoke of the many people who find Christmas anything but joyful: those facing uncertain futures, those facing illness or the just plain mean. To all of these, Jesus came.
Matthew 1: 22 - 25 tells us that "Jesus" means "God with us", the only one who can heal this broken and hurting world.
From a story by James W. Moore, " Christmas Gifts that won't Break" we were told of gifts that don't break, such as the Gift of Hope, the Gift of peace, the Gift of Joy and the Gift of Love. These are the real gifts an authentic follower of Jesus can give.
Lynette then pointed out that John's message is one each generation should hear anew.
Instead of the shallow so-called Christmas celebrations, God calls us to concrete acts of compassion. "we are called to travel from the cradle to the cross and in so doing bring the joy of the good news of salvation and with it the joy of encouragement, thoughtfulness, graciousness, compassion and justice.
John was called to prepare the way. What are our preparations as we travel to the manger?
Hymn 200 " Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" our liberator, our strength, our consolation, our King, our only hope. We cannot sing these hymns all through the year, over and over, but we would be happier people if we kept our focus on their meaning.
In the Prayers for the People Lynette prayed that our prayers would be more real, deeper, and more effective. On our behalf she prayed for the Church at all levels and all who worship with us. She prayed for peace and all those who work to achieve it and those that suffer because they live in a world where it doesn't exist. Lynette then focussed on those in need: the sick, the lonely, the homeless, and refugees. She then prayed especially for those suffering as a result of the cyclone in Samoa and Fiji and for all those families in the United States of America grieving in their terrible loss of their little children.
Our response was:
Lord in you mercy,
Hear our prayer.
The Offering was then collected with the prayer: " ... Dedicate these gifts to help build the Kingdom that is your vision, not ours. Help us to celebrate this season as Christ would have us celebrate it: in love, kindness, joy, and gratitude. In your Son's holy name, we pray. Amen.
Hymn 224 " Joy to the World" " Joy to the World! The Lord is come; ... He rules the world with truth and grace..." Isn't that what it's all about? That's why we come here on Sundays and strive to be more like Him.
May the spirit of Christmas which is peace...hope...joy...love, be yours now and tomorrow.
May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.
May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.
May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.
May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you home. Amen