3rd Sunday in Advent - Searching and Isolation
The order of service for this Sunday has been prepared by Julie our Pastor. As a result of the initiative of Blaby Elves and the generosity of local people, our school room has been a hive of activity over the past week as Julie, together with members of our church, and local volunteers, have been busy packing boxes with goodies and toys. These boxes will bring comfort to those families who are in need this Christmas.
Opening Words John 1:1-5
Magnificat! Magnificat! Gathered here today, from many places, we are together on this joyful Sunday of Advent to celebrate the light that we light, to mark that hope is always present among us, even when we do not see it. Let us find hope and strength in this company of friends, lifting up our voices together in a great song of praise to the one who is always with us. Amen.
Hymn 211 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Peters CD No 20
Some of us are weary or downhearted. Still we say: let our hearts be glad, God is always here. Let us approach God with confidence, because God has always been with us. Let our hearts be glad! Amen
God, you hovered over chaos, like a brooding hen, bringing order over chaos. But we – through thought, deed, misdeed and omission – have quenched the spirit of life that you give us. We have turned our faces away. And now, we turn our faces back to you, light of all light, God of all gods, and ask for the light of your life to lift us again. Bring us out of chaos into the order of creation, for your name’s sake, and for the sake of your goodness among us. Amen.
Jesus, son of God and son of Mary,
you came among us, baptizing with fire and light,
calling us to the true vocation of humanity:
to reflect the glory of our creator. We thank you for your work among us, how you gathered, how you spoke, how you ate and drank, how you left us your Spirit to lift us up and hold us in the light. We praise you, because you came to us, and keep coming to us, because of your great love. Amen.
Hymn Christmas Offering
Meditations - Then and Now
Scene 3 Travelling light
Migrants’ search for a safe home and the wise men’s journey to an unknown destination
Bible Reading : Matthew 2:1-12
Now – and then The wise men travelled a great distance in order to worship the newborn king. Travel has been a significant issue for each of us in this pandemic. Migrants’ struggle to find sanctuary and escape conflict are perhaps forgotten in the light of pandemic news. We long to visit our loved ones and have freedom of movement – we have all experienced to some extent the emotions and upheavals of being far from loved ones and having travel restricted. We reflect on journeying with the wise men, and our own experiences of this Covid-19 journey.
NOW… Spoken by a migrant
Part of me wonders if I’ll ever see my home again – it feels very far on this dark night. My companions are exhausted, hungry and impatient, but those thoughts are not mine. The child – the small boy – his face is imprinted into my mind. He looks so small, so fragile, so frightened. We have come so far, clinging to whatever we can – the side of the dinghy, the destination, safety, each other. Our possessions are few, all we could carry – I am grateful now for brevity – I have walked so many miles, and the hands of my loved ones are all I care to hold in this moment. Strangers must think me mad, but they do not know my story. Houses destroyed, the hospital I served in, my children’s schools, whole cities, wiped out in a night. The fear, the lack of anything we needed – food, security, purpose. There was no alternative. The child, I hope there is a future for him in this new country, for all of us. Lord, guide us there safely, I pray. I can’t help thinking about my wife back home. She’s quite used to me announcing a new path, a journey, a quest. Not usually one that takes me so far away, but she’s supportive and understanding. Strangers must think me mad, but they do not know my story.
THEN… The wise men
The journey has been rigorous – though grateful for servants and beasts to carry my possessions, the roads are rough and unforgiving. I was relieved beyond words to reach my destination – following a star, my trade, my belief and my skill – to finally arrive and be received by the surprised family. A young boy, eyes twinkling and bright with curiosity and grace, mother tired but welcoming and kind, father strong and good-natured. The travelling with my companions had been worth every step, every callous and every night away from my wife. We now have a long journey back, but I know I will see my homeland again.
Comment by Julie Newitt
I wonder what did make those wise men decide to follow the star? I wonder if at the start they knew where the end would lead them and what they would find? Did they have a feeling that they were searching for something, maybe within themselves, something unfulfilled, something they could not describe.?
We are by nature people who are searching for something, a new house, new car, new clothes something to assuage the feeling of need that we have. I wonder how far we would go to search and reach for the impossible dream.
The wise men sought for 2 years, how often did they feel like giving up? Yet something made them continue to follow, no satnav no maps, they followed the star until it came to the place where Jesus lay. They had found Him, the King, The saviour of the world, they had found Him and nothing would be the same again, for them or for the world.
Do we seek Jesus with the same fervour? In Jeremiah God says ‘If you seek me with all your heart I will be found by you’. The only thing that will satisfy us is Jesus, and once we have seen Him, then like the wise men, nothing will ever be the same again. We need to seek Him with all our heart and soul and mind and when we find Him we can then offer to Him the only thing of value, our humble thankful hearts.
Our whole life is a journey and sometimes the journey is easy and sometimes it is hard and long, but when we arrive at the destination we are better people for the journey, for we learn so much along the way, and we come to depend on God who is always there for us. Jesus said ‘be assured I am with you always to the end of time’ and our experiences of life will find that when the road is long and hard, Jesus walks it with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hallelujah, what a saviour.
The journey of the wise men and Mary and Joseph remind us just how perilous it was for them, the wise men crossing the desert and Mary and Joseph fleeing with Jesus into an unknown country to find and seek refuge. The holy family were refugees and let us not forget this as we see images on the screen of migrants today crossing dangerous continents hiding in trucks or boats to find a place of safety, many dying on the way. People are still seeking today, may then find a place of peace and the love of God through Jesus.
Hymn 590 Seek Ye First
Scene 4 At a distance
Family life in lockdown and the Holy Family’s isolation at the time of their son’s birth
Bible Reading Luke 1 26-38
Now – and then
Mary had to give birth far from her family; there was immense pressure on Joseph to care for his new family in isolation, away from home. We explore their emotions: anger perhaps, helplessness, frustration, uncertainty. We will be thinking about families we know who have had new babies throughout lockdown and coping with family and friends not being able to get close, unemployment and financial issues many have faced, and are facing, as a result of the pandemic.
NOW… spoken by a new mother
I can’t tell you the wrench of knowing my mother would never hold my newborn. She’d meet him, of course, but not as a newborn – we had no idea when we’d actually be able to get together as a family again. Technology helps, of course, there are so many ways to communicate – video calls are a pretty good way of keeping in touch, but nothing substitutes having your arms around someone and breathing them in. My partner is stressed as well – once his furlough ended, his whole career went up in the air and hasn’t landed still – I keep telling him not to worry too much, there’s more to life than money, but the rent does need paying, and foodbanks can’t provide everything. I can’t wait for all of this to be over – relationship is everything – we just have to get through this, and everything will be all right, God willing.
THEN… Mary the mother of Jesus
There I was, the servant of the Lord. Stepping well and truly out of my comfort zone. I don’t want you to think that it was easy, dropping everything and taking on this responsibility, but it came naturally – it felt right. The timing of it, that was a complication, certainly. I sensed that the angel knew the gravitas of the task he informed me of. He knew it would change our lives for ever. Take Joseph, for instance, we couldn’t imagine carting all of his tools on the road with us, could he really be a carpenter on the move? Besides, people trust their local tradesmen – even if he could produce his usual quality of work away from home, would anyone be inclined to buy it? It’s a tricky time for us – financially, and emotionally. Any new mother would have felt the same, I’m sure. The difficulty is, new mothers almost always have their own mothers with them. It’s just how we do things, one generation caring for the next. Family is integral, absolutely essential, and here we were, travelling to somewhere I’d never been before and where my Joseph knew no one. We just needed to get over those initial problems, then we knew everything would be alright, God willing.
Comment by Julie Newitt
I guess during lockdown I and my family have been lucky.Tony and Chris being key workers have continued to work, Rich was furloughed during the first lockdown but has worked and been given more hours on his contract since the end of May. I worked from home and now do half and half. I have used technology to continue to spend time with my friends and I met many of them for walks at this time.But if I reflect on those who live alone and are isolating then this year has been long and hard and lonely, for those who have lost loved ones through whatever reason, this time has been hard. For those who have lost work, and none is available the future looks bleak and uncertain. For those in care homes and with family in hospital, the not seeing them, or hugging them is trying and hard. Richard has not been in my house since March and I have not hugged or held him since then either, and through this I can only imagine how hard it must be for others in a worse situation.
For many this pandemic has hit those on low pay and living in crowded housing, so many family people work part time in the hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit. So many churches have opened or started food banks at this time to help and support those who find themselves without money, whether for a short or long term. I am particularly proud of the part that we are playing in Blaby Elves, if you go into the school room you will see the boxes we are creating and the toys that have been donated. Thank you for those who have either given money or gifts, speaking to some of the families this will make a real difference at this Christmas time. We are where Christ would be, helping those who are struggling and have no family support.
Hymn Mary did you know?
We pray today for all who are downtrodden, all who are oppressed, all who know the heavy hand of marginalisation on them. God, we turn to you, remembering the words of Mary, praying that you will lift up the lowly, you will raise the voice of justice, and you will scatter oppression. May all who are oppressed be set free. We ask this, in joy and gratitude. In your name we pray. We pray that we might find rhythms of life that sustain us here. Rhythms for cultivating and renewing the earth; human community; justice; and creativity. We ask this, in joy and gratitude. In your name we pray. Amen.
In the Gospel passage, we read that when people were praying for the Messiah to come, the Messiah was already among them. We never need to look for God, as if God is not already here. We need to turn to God who is always here, always ready, always listening. Take time to listen to the breath, to the heart that is always beating, knowing that as surely as the heart beats, God is always with us.
Gathered in, Lord, we have been nurtured by your Spirit of Life. Now, sent out, we go in the assurance that your Word lasts for ever, and your promises are true. Let the lowly be lifted up. Let the hungry be fed. Let the mighty listen: God, who is merciful, hears all. Come, let us go in the blessed joy of God’s kindness.
Loving God, this time is a struggle in so many ways, but help us to spare the time and energy to consider those going through more immediate peril and desperation. We pray for those who have to flee from places of insecurity and fear, and the places that receive them. Help us to be open-hearted, and proactive in our response to need on our doorsteps. Amen.
Loving God, we offer each of these little ones to you, and their families, aware that this is a strange time for them, not what they had planned, but they are loved and held by you. We pray for your blessing on all those going through major life changes, whether joyful or painful. We ask for your blessing on each one of them, in your precious name. Amen.
Pray for those on our Prayer list and known to us in the community.
Hymn 491 O Come let us adore Him
491 O Come let us adore Him