Sunday 27th December
Let us all, here, young and old, be like Anna and Simeon – nurtured in the place of prayer, and looking to the world for the signs of God’s presence. Held together by this beloved truth, we turn together to worship the one who calls us all in prayer and practice towards the works of love.
Hymn O little town of Bethlehem
As Mary and Joseph went on the pilgrimage of faith to Jerusalem, so we, too, have come on a pilgrimage of faith today, to this place of worship. Meet us, O God, as we gather, and open our eyes to see the eternal truths all around us, calling us into love and more love and things that are everlasting. Amen.
We come with all we have – body, frailty, energy – and we approach you, who welcomes all, knowing that you sustain us at all ages, and in all ages, calling us to love. Amen
We thank you that at Christmas you came to live and dwell with us.
We thank you that you stay with us for all our lives walking beside us and holding our hands.
We thank you that you guide us and lead us.
Help us to give to you the best that we can, our humble thankful hearts, now and always.
Be with us during this service open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you and our hearts to let you in. Amen
Isaiah 61.10-62.3 Galatians 4.4-7 Luke 2.22-40
Hymn In the bleak mid winter
The Christmas Story as we have already observed is one that has captured the imagination of generations the world over, and yet there is a strange irony here, for you see the Christmas narratives are not a story at all but rather they are an introduction, the beginnings of a continuing saga that is still being written today. To think about Christmas on its own is to take the whole story out of context, it is to misunderstand what Christmas is actually about. You see Christmas is the beginning of Gods Salvation to and for us.
It began in Genesis with God creating something which was wonderful and beautiful for us to live in and to be with him, but then as we know, Eve was fooled by the snake and then she in turn enticed and encouraged Adam. Once they had both tasted the apple they had knowledge, they knew they were naked and so they hid in the garden from God. God knew that they knew, He knew that they had disobeyed the one commandment that he gave them, ‘do not eat of the tree in the centre of the garden.
There are consequences, there were consequences to eating from the tree and so God banished them from the garden that he had created for them and for us. Then began the story of God trying to bring us back into that garden, His paradise. The Old Testament is that story of how God attempts to bring us back. The Prophets, the Kings, the Judges, they were all there to show people what God was like and that all God wanted was our hearts, our humble thankful hearts.
But we wouldn't listen and so in the end God only had one option left and that was to send his son, to live amongst us to show us what God was like. Even at the beginning God knew what the outcome would be, Jesus knew that his whole purpose was ultimately to sacrifice himself for everyone else. The sinless one took our sin so that we might be made whole and being made whole we are assured of a place in heaven with God. So you see Christmas is just a small part of our amazing God trying to bring us home and when we return, like the prodigal son the father opens his arms and embraces each and everyone of us. But in order for all of that to happen God’s son had to be born. and all the way back in Isaiah we see references to the Messiah, Jesus’ birth didn't just happen by accident it was planned and organised meticulously by God down to the very last detail.
Mary was not just randomly chosen, God chose her, but how many times I wonder did she say ‘why me’? , We have already seen in our Christingle service over Christmas how difficult it was for marry to carry God’s son, surely there were others who were more eligible who were in a better position to do that. But no, God choose Mary and although Mary questioned, her question was issued in awe and wonder and her response was given in praise and in Thanksgiving, ‘Lord I am your handmaiden I will do as you ask’.
Yet just 33 years later I wonder whether she was asking the same question, this time in a very different mood, for now she stands beside a cross watching her son nailed to it, His back lacerated by the Roman whip, His head bleeding from the crown of thorns, His body shaking as the nails are beaten into his hands and his feet. At this point once again, she would have thought why God choose me to raise this child and then to kill him so horrendously why did she have to experience that most heart wrenching of sorrows of seeing her own child suffer and die.
Yet though the truth was probably hidden from her, there was as much cause for rejoicing that day as on the day Jesus was born, it's just that until three days later she didn't realise that in fact Good Friday is the day for even more rejoicing, for this is the moment that Jesus brought new birth and knew life for all. It was the moment her son had been born for, this supreme expression of God’s love for all.
There will be times when we cry out in despair and ask why, why is this happening to me, why is this happening now, sometimes Gods purpose is clear, sometimes it's completely baffling and yet at the very heart of the gospel is the conviction that God is there at all times and that by his grace for those who love him, all things will work together for good. (Romans 8:28)
At his birth and just after there were signs that Jesus was no ordinary child, the shepherds, the wise men, the star shining brightly in the sky and then when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the synagogue even there, there are signs. Anna the prophetess waiting there for years praying and hoping, acknowledging that Jesus was the long awaited for Messiah. But it is Simeon who we remember more, Simeon who has waited all his life, he's prayed to God that he wouldn't die until he had seen the promised Messiah and when this child arrived and he took the child in his arms his words ‘Lord now let thou thy servant depart in peace’ are a proclamation that here and now he has seen the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
But even here looking at Mary, he says ‘a sword will pierce your heart’, confirmation that being the mother of Jesus would be hard and bring pain. As Mary watched Jesus grow, she sought to help him and lead him and yet he went His own way (at 12 staying in Jerusalem, they had to search for Him), but maybe it was she who forced Jesus into His ministry at that famous wedding feast. Mary would not have known where it would end three years later, Simeon’s words were true, a sword did indeed pierce her heart.
And so we celebrate Christmas, not for itself but for its part in the continuing story of God’s love for each and every one of us. As our hearts burst with thanksgiving, we fall down and worship Him. Hallelujah, what a Saviour.
Meditation 14 Why Me – Mary the mother of Jesus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kolo8xjmcug Thorns in the hay.
Hymn Make room in your heart – casting crowns
Lord Jesus I remember today the joy you brought through your birth to those whose lives were touched by you - Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, Simeon and Anna their lives overflowing with praise and Thanksgiving. Forgive me the joy I have felt in turn can sometimes be lost as the years go by because of familiarity or swamped by the cares of daily life - speak the good news to me again and enter my heart afresh so that I may know once more the gladness that only Jesus can bring, in his name I ask this Amen
Today we honour Simeon and Anna. Old, both, they had a light that sustained them. They both held strongly to what they knew they hoped for. May we – people of all ages – be held together by what sustains us. Whether seven or seventy, may we know what is most important.
Today we honour all shapes of families. Families by choice, families by adoption, families by birth, families in grief, families in multiple homes, families in negotiation, families in care, families in support. In all shapes of family, may we find words of love and kindness.
Today we pray for people who are ignored because of their age. In an era where youth and beauty are praised, we have so often ignored wisdom, experience, longstanding faithfulness and perspective. For all who have felt overlooked, for all who have love and wisdom to share, we pray. We pray for those on our prayer list and in our community - for those helped by the Blaby Elves appeal and by the foodbanks, we know they will need support not just this week but for many months. For the homeless helped during Christmas week by SHARP, Crisis and The Salvation Army, it is cold and lonely on the streets so be with them and open our hearts to help them.
We pray for the elderly and particularly those that live alone, we trust in you that day centres, drop in centres and community events will open again once the covid vaccinations have been provided.
We pray for the bereaved facing the holidays without their loved ones.
Lord, your faithful servants Anna and Simeon had dreams and visions that sustained them into their old age. Enrich us all with visions and dreams that sustain us, from one decade to the next; so that our eyes might always be bright, with the life that we see all around. Send us out, today and all days, with this love, and this vocation. Amen.
Hymn O come let us adore Him