Sunday Worship, 6 December 2020

Welcome

God said: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you

to clear the way for you.

Someone is shouting in the desert

‘Get the road ready for the Lord

make a straight path for him to travel.’


Watch today’s service on our YouTube channel:

Church Of Scotland Dumbarton – YouTube


You can also follow the scripted service below:

Hymn: Tell out my soul

Lighting the Advent candle


Prayer

Eternal God

when your Son was born

to lighten our darkness

people believed that the earth was flat

that heaven was above the clouds

and disease was caused by demons

In recent centuries we have learned

 to view your world in different ways

and yet we are in bondage to new limitations

we doubt what we cannot prove

we ignore what we cannot see

we find little room for faith

we confess that we suspect angels

and disbelieve good news

we are both infected and affected

by the spirit of our times

behind talk of world peace

we hear the machinery of war

beneath talk of global equality

we see powerful nations striving to be the most powerful

beside talk of your church being renewed

we recognise bondage to the failed patterns of the past

rather than embrace the light

we are fascinated by darkness

past experiences make us cynical

but they are not the key to the future

our suspicions close our minds to hope

we may be able to describe the mountain, but cannot move it

As Christmas approaches

help us to have the naivety and trust

of Mary and Joseph, and all who were then waiting

who encountered angels

believed the Good News

and recognised Christ among them

Hymn: Beauty for brokenness

Reading        Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11

The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit.

He has chosen me and sent me

 to bring good news to the poor,

 to heal the broken-hearted,

 to announce release to the captives

 and freedom to those who are in prison.

He has sent me to proclaim

 that the time has come

 when the LORD will save his people

 and defeat their enemies.

He has sent me to comfort all who mourn,

 to give to those who mourn in Zion

 joy and gladness instead of grief,

 a song of praise instead of sorrow.

They will be like trees

 that the LORD himself has planted.

They will do what is right,

 and God will be praised for what he has done.

They will rebuild cities that have long been in ruins.

The LORD says:

“I love justice and hate oppression and crime.

I will faithfully reward my people

 and make an eternal covenant with them.

They will be famous among the nations;

 everyone who sees them will know

 that they are a people whom I have blessed.”

Jerusalem rejoices because of what the LORD has done.

She is like a bride dressed for her wedding.

God has clothed her with salvation and victory.


Reflection: A world of need

I wonder how many letters, e-mails, texts and social media posts have been sent to Santa so far this year? Hopefully the elves aren’t furloughed and the reindeer don’t have to self-isolate, so that there are lots of happy little people a fortnight on Friday. I wonder whether the requests are the same as they would have been, had we not had the pandemic? Will some have had so many extra things bought this year – toys, books, bikes, scooters etc – that there isn’t much left to ask for? Will some feel that priorities have changed because of the pandemic, and maybe more thought needs to be given to having a lower carbon footprint, or supporting others? Will some have been encouraged to lower their expectations because there isn’t the same money about? There were a lot of people struggling before March, and there are a lot more now.

The events of the year have exacerbated a whole lot of issues that were around pre-Covid:

  • mental health issues from depression, to loneliness, to the stress of living with people where the relationships are difficult
  • physical health issues, with a Health Service that is very good, but is struggling to cope
  • social care issues, particularly but not exclusively in care for the elderly
  • long-term career prospects, particularly for young people
  • housing issues, again particularly for younger people
  • the way the benefits system works
  • abusive behaviour, hate language, intolerance of difference

and if we look at the wider world we see many places with:

  • widespread corruption
  • poverty
  • no access to education, healthcare, safe drinking water and sanitation
  • no tolerance of minorities, or respect for human rights
  • climate change having a devastating impact
  • large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, because of wars

and so on.

Our world has a lot of systemic problems that aren’t easy to sort, and there are a lot of powerful vested interests that don’t want change. It would be easy to give up trying, and think ‘so long as it sees me out’. However God is not enamoured of that line. As the prophet said, he is a God ‘who loves justice and hates oppression and crime’. In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quoted the opening verses of the passage we heard earlier, almost as a manifesto for the Kingdom he was proclaiming: good news for the poor, healing for the broken hearted, freedom for those in prison (in those days mainly political prisoners), sight for the blind and comfort for those who mourned. God was on the move, and he wanted to see change happening. He would make change happen. Real change, systemic change, lasting change.

The change wasn’t to be imposed – people would have to own it. He wouldn’t rely on might and power to enforce it, it would come through self-giving, sacrificial love – apparently so weak, but actually so powerful that nothing can resist it. It is the very nature of God, and it was the very nature of Jesus, and the core of his message. In humility (or humiliation) God was born in Jesus in a stable. In humility (and humiliation) Jesus was put to death in a horrible fashion. In humility and gracious victory Jesus was raised to new life and shares it with us. In generous grace he empowers us with the Spirit to carry on his work, his way. It isn’t easy, it can be painful, costly and lonely. But he assures us that he is always with us, and that in the end his Kingdom of justice and peace will be built, and he will graciously bless us for all that we have suffered. In the meantime, all those problems out there – God is seeking to sort them, but he needs our help.


Prayers for others and Lord’s Prayer

Heavenly Father

We believe that you do indeed

 ‘love justice and hate oppression and crime’

 that you care about the poor, the broken-hearted,

 those in captivity and prison,

 those who are grieving

  or whose lives are full of sorrow

We believe that your Spirit is active

 seeking to put right the wrongs

 of nature and humanity

 bringing hope and new life life

We pray for all who are ill,

 those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us


Hymn: Lo! He comes

Blessing

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

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

Communion

https://youtu.be/8u-0SjSH1q4

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