2nd Sunday in Advent - Rules and Unsung heroes
The weather has certainly turned very bleak today, causing one think of those less fortunate in our society who face the prospect of many miserable nights on the streets. We give thanks to God for the volunteers and agencies that work so hard to alleviate their situation.
People went to deserted places to hear what was most important. Gathered here today, we light a second candle as a symbol of our pilgrimage towards the things that will last for ever: righteousness, loving-kindness, peace and an eternal home in you, O God, who calls all things towards the fullness of life. Amen.
Hymn Come thou long expected Jesus by Meredith Andrews
We have heard your call, coming from strange places. We have received your gift, calling us into unexpected connections. We have been nurtured by your invitation, making friendships along the way. We approach you now with humble hearts and expectation, knowing you welcome all – stranger and friend. Amen.
God, you have comforted your people, making paths where there seemed no path. You have lifted up valleys, relieved droughts, and made high places low. You have gathered your people in the eternal place of love. You speak to our hearts, and you forgive us for our wandering ways. Your light and love and faithfulness and work are true, ever true, always lasting. We praise you, for the goodness you are, and the pathways you make before us. Amen.
Hymn Blessing – we pray for peace – Laura Blessing
Now and Then Reflecting on 2020 through the Christmas story – meditations by Emily Hoe-Crook and found in Roots which we subscribe to as a church.
Scene 1 Rules and regulations
Our response to directives from central authorities alongside life under Roman rule
Isaiah 40.1-11; Mark 1.1-8 Luke 2:1-5
Now – and then
How might our response to living with frequent directives and legislation from central authorities through a pandemic reflect the reaction of those living in the Middle East at the time of the nativity? How much grumbling really was there, or were people happy to acquiesce to Roman rule? There may be more resonance between ourselves and the Holy Family at this time than we imagine. Can we draw closer to Mary and Joseph’s experience because of our current circumstances?
Monologue: voices of authority
NOW…an anoymous member of Parliament
It’s not easy facilitating a situation like this, you know. It’s unprecedented, a pandemic with global travel, people going wherever they want, mixing with anyone they feel like. It’s hard to keep a handle on this. And movement equals more cases. It might seem like we don’t know what we’re doing, and perhaps acting too late, but honestly, it’s like herding cats! You try telling students in freshers’ week they can’t party!? We’re trying to keep public freedom and the economy going – we’re between a rock and a hard place here. Yes, public opinion is important, and no, we don’t want unnecessary deaths or suffering, so please, just do as we ask. We do have your best interests at heart, you know, and this is all for the greater good.
THEN… A Roman Centurion
This is for your own good, you know. By taking a country-wide census we can get a better handle on where things are up to – who lives where, which tradesmen have moved, how families are growing. There’s more movement than ever now – people moving about all over the country whereas before, you stayed where you were born. It’s like herding goats! We need to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. You might well ask why people can’t just register where they live and collate the answers. Hmm. Perhaps that would make more sense, make things more straightforward, but in all honesty, it makes things harder for us. We’ve got the economy to think of. Just do as we ask, or there will be consequences. We have your best interests at heart, and this is all for the greater good.
Comment by Julie Newitt
Imagine that you were Mary and Joseph, just getting used to life as a married couple, waiting for the birth of this child, perhaps still having wagging tongues about the conception of this child. Then suddenly you hear that the Govt has called for a census – for Mary & Joseph this was a 70 mile journey on a donkey for Mary, not the most comfortable of animals to sit on especially when you are about to give birth. For Joseph it meant walking the 70 miles and being responsible for finding a place for Mary, that would be safe and comfortable. M&J would have been very worried, what bad timing this was. They would not have wanted to follow the rules, but they knew they needed to.
Like us over this pandemic, we thought I can stay inside for 4 weeks, but the weeks became one month and then two and now 9 months. We are being told to not mix with loved ones, to not hug and kiss and hold them. We are told we have to wear a mask covering our faces and putting a barrier between us and others. We can’t see properly or hear properly, but we have adapted to a new ‘norm’ even though we long to go back to life as we knew it.
As Christians we have to acknowledge that God is still in charge, we each have to do the right thing as we are called to think of others and put them first. We follow the laws because we know that Jesus said ‘give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God, that which belongs to God. We have learnt new ways to continue to praise and worship God in this time of COVID and in many ways the technology as enabled more people to listen to God’s word. The vaccine gives us hope that 2021 will be a year when life can return to normal. Let us thank God that He has given scientists the means to create this.
Hymn The Blessing
Scene 2 Unsung heroes
The contribution of key workers and the shepherds’ key role in telling the Good News
Bible Reading Luke 2.8-20
Now – and then
The shepherds could be seen as the lowliest grouping of people at the time of Jesus’ birth – the humble key workers who had to work in all weathers, all circumstances, with little time off and next to no recognition. But in this passage, we see them raised up – there is a distinct adjustment in their apparent value to others. There is a curious resonance here with our attitudes towards the NHS and other key workers in this time of pandemic, allowing much food for thought and discussion. Also, the high proportion of BAME key workers and how they continue to be adversely affected by Covid-19.
Monologue: key workers, now – and then
NOW… A shop worker
I can’t believe it! For the first time, people show gratefulness for the work I’m doing. Passers-by have started to give me eye contact. Give a pat on the back (metaphorically, that is, we have to observe distancing like everyone else these days). Suddenly, everything’s changed. I’m no longer someone to get frustrated with all the time – yes, there’s a long wait, you feel like you’re wasting your time – my delivery might take longer than usual with the extra checks we have to do – but we’ll get to you as soon as we can. Others have found this too – teachers, paramedics, A&E nurses and doctors. Eye contact smiles for the first time, unsought. A recognition that we’re working hard for you, putting our lives on the line for you. Humble key workers, suddenly seen differently – clapped for once a week – sandwiches and cold drinks placed into our hands in appreciation. Everything’s changed. I hope they don’t forget.
THEN… A shepherd
They’d never noticed me before, those people rushing about their everyday business – collecting wool for weaving, selling produce, raising families. We were passed by whenever we actually ventured down into Bethlehem – too smelly from living with the sheep, I suppose. No one would give us more than a fleeting glance, perhaps inwardly thanking God they didn’t have to do our jobs or look the way we do. I was an inconvenience mostly, someone to give a wide berth to. Humble key workers. But everything changed that night. The angel’s visit – well, don’t get me started, I’d swear I was dreaming at first – but I know full well I couldn’t dream up a sound that pure or a sight that beautiful. That’s another story, but the way people looked at us once our story was confirmed – suspicion to begin with, naturally – after all, why would the new-born king want lowly visitors like us to be the first to see him? But once others had seen him, found out for themselves how special the baby was, they looked at me in a way I’d never known before,respect; reverence. That tiny baby boy in the filthy stable made all the difference. I hope they don’t forget.
Comment by Julie Newitt
Before the pandemic encounters between key workers and people they serviced were close, they involved talking about ordinary things and engaging in conversations, we formed friendships and felt cared for. Now we find that we don’t speak to people, we have this mask like a barrier, we can’t get close to people and it is hard to find joy with others. In many ways we took for granted the key workers, we would complain about the NHS and shop workers, or teachers. Now we have a new respect for these key workers, those putting their lives on the line for us to continue to serve us and keep the country going. For the shepherds before the angels came, they too were taken for granted, they were ignored, they were not considered valuable to society. After the angels came they were important and remembered, the story they told to all was important, the fact that God came to them first shows a God who values those society doesn’t value or takes for granted The clap for keyworkers helped them to feel valued, and we need to continue to realise and value our keyworkers today and in the future. Jobs not deemed important really are, those deemed important really are not. The pandemic has turned the world upside-down, Jesus came to turn the world upside-down.
Hymn How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Loving God, it’s not easy facing this pandemic and all of its wide-reaching consequences.
Nor is it easy being the ones making decisions which affect so many in vital ways.
We pray for those in power, for your wisdom and discernment to guide the conversations and choices ahead.
Grant us peace and grace in trying times and draw us closer to you.
Loving God we pray for those known to us who were key workers during the time of the first lockdown, and those who have continued to work throughout. We pray for Tony and Chris, for Ellie, For Carol (daughter of Val), for Brian’s daughter, and to all those known to you, who I have not named here. We ask your blessing on those keyworkers and ask that you will continue to keep them safe, wrap your arms around them and give to them your sense of peace.
For those lost in valleys.
May they be lifted up.
For those stuck in the heights.
May they be helped down.
For those in barren places.
May they find shelter.
For those in rough places.
May they hear eternal words.
For those seeking forgiveness.
May they find it.
For those seeking apology.
May they hear it.
For those waiting for a long time.
May they find patience in your patience.