Sunday Worship, 26 December 2021

Sunday 26 December 2021 Boxing Day

Welcome

This is how God showed his love among us:

he sent his only Son into the world

that we might have life through him.

Hymn 322 Good Christians all rejoice

Boxing Day

Did you get any presents for Christmas? Has anyone got them with them today? Today is Boxing Day. It is said that at one time some people (particularly servants in big houses) received their presents the day after Christmas Day. I don’t know how many people follow the ‘presents on Boxing Day’ custom now. When we had very small children (who got a lot of presents and ‘wee mindings’ from a very wide circle of friends and neighbours of the family – and were more interested in the wrapping paper than what was inside) we opened some on Christmas Day, some on Boxing Day, and some every other day till they were all open. Some people may have more presents to open today. Some didn’t have many to open yesterday, let alone spread the task over two days. Some maybe didn’t have any presents to open at all.

For some people Boxing Day is part of the festivities – maybe they are having friends or family round, or they are going out for lunch or dinner. For some it is the quiet Day After the Day Before: playing with toys, reading books, having a sleep and eating up left-overs. For some it is just an ordinary day, as yesterday was – nothing special, no gatherings.

Whatever we are doing today, today is a special day, because it is a day to spend with God. Every day is a day with God, and every day with God is a special day. God also wants us each day to think about those who are on their own, who are feeling lonely or sad, who have nothing ‘special’ to celebrate or look forward to, and do what we can to help them.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

Usually at this time of the year

 we look back on the year that has been

 remembering things that we have done

 people we have seen, places we have been

but this year is different

 so many things that we had looked forward to

 so many things that we had planned to do

 did not happen

we all carry some sort of scars

 some had the virus

 some lost family or friends to it

 some feel effects on their mental health

 some lost jobs or income

 some lost educational opportunities

it’s easy to feel angry and frustrated by it

but there are also things we should celebrate

 the commitment of health and care staff

  and other key workers

 the concern of people for their neighbours

 the new perspective on life and its priorities

  that many people have found

 the new appreciation of the world on the doorstep

 new interests and skills acquired and honed

we give you thanks that through it all

  you have been with us

 you have shared the pain

 you have been with the lonely and grieving

 you have surrounded us with your love

We confess that we have failed to give you thanks

 for all your goodness to us

 all your loving kindness

As we come towards the end of this year

 help us to place our hope and trust in you

 and be your beacons of light and hope in the world

 sharing your love, sharing your Good News

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

Hymn 316 Love came down at Christmas

Reading Isaiah 9: 2-7

Reflection

During December newspapers and many TV and radio programmes do reviews of the year, or quizzes about things that happened during the year. It probably helps fill their pages or programmes, but it can also be a reminder of things that happened, about which we had forgotten:

  • let’s start with Covid: we went into another Lockdown that lasted till late Spring/early Summer, then we were now left to be ‘careful’ without definitive guidance, and now…
  • at the start of the year few had been vaccinated, now many have had a third one
  • January saw the messy handover of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden
  • over the year we had the messy withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban; there were new leaders and governments in Israel and Germany; Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border; China engaged in sabre-rattling with Taiwan; there was tension on the border between Poland and Belarus over migrants; tension between the EU and Poland and Hungary over some of their domestic agenda; tension between the EU and the UK over the Northern Irish Protocol; tension between the UK and France over migrants crossing the Channel; catastrophic fires during summer heatwaves; a volcano erupted on La Palma in the Canaries and another on Java
  • we had an election to the Scottish Parliament; the G7 met in Cornwall; the world came to Glasgow for Cop26, and the SEC left Scotland for a fortnight; Storm Arwen created havoc; Scotland was warned in the summer not to use too much water, in case we had a drought
  • there are ongoing stories of people worried about jobs, money, health, schooling and college education, social care

Personally we have our own high points and low points:

  • maybe we managed to meet up with family or friends we hadn’t seen for a long while (or maybe we haven’t been able to do that)
  • maybe we managed a holiday or short break
  • maybe there was good news about a job or exam results, a new member of the family
  • maybe there were times of illness, sadness or loss.

Today’s reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is a very long book, but we don’t know when, how or by whom it was put together. Commentators think it started life as a collection of sayings (some in prose, some in verse; some from the days of the little kingdom of Judah, some from the years after it fell to the Babylonian Empire, and many Jews were deported to what is now Iraq; and some from the years after the Babylonian Empire fell, and some Jews returned to the Holy Land, under Persian control). These sayings were transmitted orally and eventually written down. Some seem to be linked to definite historical events, others are harder to allocate to a specific time. Whenever it was written down, the compiler did not just stick bits together in a random fashion, but used the material to illustrate the theme of the Prophet’s message.

The Book begins with the Prophet denouncing greed, arrogance, corruption, injustice, oppression, exploitation and murder – directing his criticism particularly at the government and ruling elite. The opening is set against a serious political crisis facing the little kingdom of Judah: it was caught between a hostile alliance of neighbouring states, and a superpower that wanted to extend its influence in and through Judah. It was a kind-of ‘can’t win’ situation. Isaiah urged the government and elite to stop playing politics, turn back to God and put their trust in him. His message is rejected, and in despair he promised them a bleak future. Then we come to this morning’s reading: God will act to change the world, to end oppression and violence, to usher in peace and a just and caring government, hope will replace despair.

To the audience in Isaiah’s time this would have suggested literally a new heir and future ruler from the royal house of David. In the centuries since, Jewish people have hoped that God will bring in a better world, even if the link with the house of David has faded somewhat. Christians share that hope, but for us it is not just dependent upon the words of a prophet, but is firmly fixed in the life and teaching of Jesus, the baby born in the city of David.

Although the opening of the Book of Isaiah is set more than two and a half thousand years ago, looking round our world today we see many of the same sorts of problems that he spoke against then. God does not want greed, arrogance, corruption, injustice, oppression, exploitation and murder in his world, and he has acted, through the life, death and rising of Jesus, and through the gift of the Spirit, to bring about change. He offers us hope, but he also offers us challenge: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, to live it out in practice, and to work full out to bring change to his world.

Hymn 303 It came upon the midnight clear

Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer

Lord

Jesus knew the love and security of his earthly family

 we pray for our families and friends

 for those who don’t have families or friends

 those who find relationships with family difficult

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 pray for you church

 the worldwide church

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord

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 324 Angels from the realms of glory

Blessing

May the joy of the angels,

the humility of the shepherds,

and the peace of the Christ-child

be God’s gift to you and to all people

this Christmas, and always.

And the blessing…

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