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CALL TO WORSHIP

Prayer of Approach - Hymns - Prayer of Adoration and Praise - Readings from Old Testament - Epistle - Gospel - A Word with the Young - Prayer of Confession - Sermon - Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession - Offertory Prayer - Benediction


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ADVENT B

LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLE

ADULT: The season of Advent continues. Today we shall be lighting the candle of love.
CHILD/YOUNG PERSON: No other word describes what we know of our God.
ADULT: For God so loved the world that a child was given....Love incarnate.
CHILD/YOUNG PERSON: We light the candle of hope to proclaim that God’s light is coming into the world.
The purple candle is lit
ADULT: We light the candle of peace to proclaim that the Prince of peace is coming to us heralded by the angels’ song of peace and goodwill to all.
The purple candle is lit
CHILD/YOUNG PERSON: We light the candle of joy to proclaim that God came into the world to share our common humanity.
The pink candle is lit.
ADULT: We light the candle of love to proclaim that God’s love is revealed in the Child born in Bethlehem, and that we are challenged to proclaim and reveal that same love in all we do and say and are.
The purple candle is lit
We give thanks for a love that passes our human understanding, and we await the birth of God’s enduring love once more this Christmas season. Amen



PRAYER OF CONFESSION

It isn’t easy to be loving all the time - so we take time to think about the times in this past week where we have failed to love... Forgive us, O God, when we have failed to let your love spill over into our lives, and through us to others... Forgive us and empower us with your Spirit to proclaim your love in word and deed to those who are close to us and to those who at this time feel rejected, unwanted, lonely ... those who are sick and those who mourn - especially those for whom this season is a time of sadness ..... Those people, young and old, who are trapped in a cycle of poverty, the many people across the world who have been forced into being refugees, and those who suffer at the hands of others. May the words we speak and sing about peace and good¬will over these next few days become reality for those who are denied them as we seek to live and love even as Christ did. These things we pray in his name. Amen.



ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

The Psalmist declared that God’s steadfast love was established forever - to all generations. (Psalm 89:v1,2) The evidence of that love is surely found in God’s entry into the world in Jesus Christ “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned.” Thanks be to God!



SERMON

For this last Sunday prior to Christmas it seems fitting that all three lessons are concerned with speech...words which are abrupt, unexpected, decisive and world changing...they are fitting because they give us a glimpse of the speech of the gospel which changes lives... God's communication to us by the Word made flesh.

The gospel reading is a familiar one at this time of the year. One that we can quite easily take for granted without looking at it too closely. But when we have a closer look, we find that Mary is greeted with an odd, unsettling greeting from an unusual source which gives a whole new direction to her life.

Odd and unsettling because the greeting is from Gabriel, messenger from God. The narrative on the one hand treats this happening quite routinely, as if an angel belongs in a story just like Herod, Zechariah or Simeon. And yet, in an understated way, this narrative wants us to see that this is no ordinary speech. It intrudes into the routine world of the woman. It brings news that transforms forever everything in her life.

The substance of the greeting is a birth announcement...a new direction in the life of Mary...and a new age in the life of humanity. Extraordinary means - an angel - are used for extraordinary news. No doubt this is to be a most unusual birth. That cannot be disputed in this text. But the uniqueness of the virgin birth belongs in a narrative which is unusual in all its parts, not just the biological part. We are already on notice about that because of the messenger, Gabriel.

But the story does not linger over the bold claim of virginity. What takes up the major portion of the text is the characterisation of the child to be born. That poetic blessing by Gabriel is in two parts. The first part is king talk, so the surprising content of Gabriel's message here is political, not biological, because the king is to be born to peasants, who live in a place as unnoticed as Nazareth. The talk is of throne, reign, kingdom. The language is not only king language, it is God language. Yet it is a speech to unnoticed, unimportant, ordinary folk.

In verse 37, the narrative draws the unavoidable conclusion - nothing is impossible for God - not a virgin birth, not a new beginning, not a king among peasants. The news is impossibility now become possible.

It is interesting to note Mary's response to this assault on her everyday, known world. In verse 34 she is `greatly troubled' - and who wouldn't be! In verse 34 she is obviously perplexed at the impossibility. But in verse 38, at the end of our reading, she accepts the word, acknowledges her identity in relation to the Lord - "I am the Lord's servant" she said, and she submits herself to the unreasonable announcement.

The text invites us to ponder how we respond to such an announcement. The news of the birth is word about something new which will shatter the whole, familiar old world. And if the ready response of Mary is to be our model, we have to note that she submits herself to God's impossibilities, not because she believes in biological miracles, but rather because she trusts that God's promises will come to shattering, surprising fulfillment. These verses from Luke are about faith - they do not linger over a biological oddity but point to an alternative future that is initiated by nothing more substantial than a promise - and that from an angel!

The OT reading from Samuel is understood by some scholars to be a pivotal text in the faith of the Israelites. It is not brought by an angel but by Nathan the prophet - better known as the deliverer of the stinging parable condemning David's adulterous behaviour with Bathsheba…...



PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION

Loving God, our spirits do rejoice in all your gracious acts towards us, most of all the event we so look forward to - the wonderful and precious gift of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks for the willingness of Mary to believe that the impossible could and would happen. Help us to have a like faith. Open our hearts and minds to believe that your promises can come to surprising fulfilment. Show us how we can best serve you with mercy and in humility, empowering people to live lives of dignity and worth. As we look at our television screens and read accounts of people throughout the world who are being made powerless because of the greed and violence of others, remind us of the great possibility of prayer to effect changes for good. To bring down the powerful, and to lift up the lowly; to fill those who are hungry, and to drive away those who profit by the weakness and ignorance of others. Be with all those who feel that life holds no hope, and help them and each of us truly to believe O God, that with you, nothing is impossible. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen




Click here to play COMING HOME - A short video recorded of Moira telling her story of faith and her journey through a divine encounter into full time ministry.

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