Morning Service for Advent 3

 

HYMN - Hark a herald voice is calling NEH 5 - Merton

1 Hark! A herald voice is calling:
'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say;
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!'

2 Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

3 Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven;

4 So when next he comes in glory,
And earth's final hour draws near,
May he then as our defender
On the clouds of heaven appear.

5 Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run. Amen.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
When the Lord comes, he will bring to light things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 Amen


FIRST READING - Isaiah 61.1-4,8-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  

For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed. 

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. 

HYMN - On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry NEH 12 - Winchester New

1 ON Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come then and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.

2 Then cleansed be every Christian breast,
And furnished for so great a guest!
Yea, let us each our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.

3 For thou art our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without thy grace our souls must fade,
And wither like a flower decayed.

4 Stretch forth thine hand to heal our sore,
And make us rise, to fall no more;
Once more upon thy people shine,
And fill the world with love divine.

5 All praise, eternal Son, to thee
Whose advent sets thy people free,
Whom, with the Father, we adore,
And Spirit blest, for evermore. Amen.

GOSPEL - John 1.6-8,19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptise with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.

SERMON

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Isaiah, at least this Isaiah, comes to a troubled and unhappy people.  The exiles, the landowners, the professionals, the craftsmen, the well-to-do, have returned from Babylon and found Jerusalem a wreck.  This was not the triumphal homecoming they had expected, and worse the people who had been left behind were not all that pleased to see them, resentment simmered.   Isaiah’s response was to reawaken the hope that had kept them going in exile.  That the vision of a nation dedicated to the worship and service of the one true God was real and alive, that the old promise to Abraham, that his descendants would some day be a blessing to all the nations on earth, would still come true; that the sins of the people which had spoiled the vision would be forgiven.  That this vision would unite all Israelites.

John the Baptist stands at the ancient border of the promised land, waste deep on the foreign side of the river Jordan and says - the vision is still real, still alive.  He invites his people to renew their faith, to begin again - he calls his fellow Jews to use the rite of Gentile initiation into Judaism and to re-enter the promised land.  He tells them that a new “anointed one”, Messiah, is to come, someone who will make the vision a reality.

John asked people to take a long hard look at themselves, and to change the direction they were going.  He saw that their political and religious priorities were all wrong, that they had lost a sense of their part in the vision of the promised land and the city of peace - Jerusalem.  And people responded, at least the people without power, without the trappings of religious or civil authority, the same people in fact who were to respond to Jesus.  

John said, it’s not enough to sit back and wait for divine intervention, a city of God cannot be born through war and armed rebellion, it begins with you, it begins with the direction you want to go.  And so he baptised in the river Jordan.

A naive idea? There was nothing naive about John he knew exactly where he was heading. He didn’t live in a liberal democracy where dissent is not only tolerated but positively encouraged. He lived where, and when, to challenge the ruling elite was to risk your life. John knew the risk he was taking, he also knew that rousing the disaffected would bring only bloodshed and suffering to his people. The only way to assert the people’s identity as the ancient people of Yahweh was to return to ideas of faith, where what mattered most wasn’t a narrow nationalism, of even a righteous defence of the Temple or Torah but a radical holiness that showed itself in integrity, generosity, compassion and forgiveness. A radical new practicing the rule of God, living in the way of God’s purpose. A non-violent revolution of morality and service. This was the message that Jesus embrace and named ‘the kingdom of God’, teaching it through story and example. This is the way that led him to the cross and inspired millions to follow - and inspires us still.

HYMN - Hail to the Lord’s anointed NEH 55 - Cruger

1 Hail to the Lord's Anointed!
Great David's greater Son;
Hail, in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free;
To take away transgression,
And rule in equity.

2 He comes with succour speedy
To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing,
Their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying,
Were precious in his sight.

3 He shall come down like showers
Upon the fruitful earth,
Love, joy, hope, like flowers,
Spring in his path to birth:
Before him on the mountains
Shall peace the herald go;
And righteousness in fountains
From hill to valley flow.

4 Kings shall fall down before him,
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore him,
His praise all people sing;
To him shall prayer unceasing
And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
A kingdom without end.

5 O'er every foe victorious,
He on his throne shall rest,
From age to age more glorious,
All-blessing and all-blest:
The tide of time shall never
His covenant remove;
His name shall stand for ever;
That name to us is Love.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Lindsay Dolphin

Heavenly Father, as we once again prepare for Christmas, help us to find time for quiet thought and prayer, that we may reflect upon the wonder of your love and allow the story of the Saviour’s birth to fill our hearts and minds. May our joy be deeper, our worship more real and our lives worthier of all that you have done for us through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

We pray for our Benefice, for William and all his family. We pray for all who work within our church community, in particular all those who have kept our church going during the Covid crisis. Grant that all who come into our church this Christmas, or enjoy our online services, may be inspired to renew their relationship with you. Help us to be glad of your presence and to rejoice in the coming of your Son. 

Your Son came to us the Prince of Peace and brought a message of peace for all people. Strengthen all your church in the service of Christ ; that those who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

Help us to be peacemakers on our own homes, at work and whenever we meet people so that the peace and goodwill of the Christmas message can find a place in the hearts of all people. Give grace to all of us, our families and friends, and to our neighbours that we may serve Christ in one another, and love as he loves us. 

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

In this Christmas period may we remember all those who are lonely, who are in hospital and those who are housebound. In particular, we think of those who are going to have to spend this Christmas  isolated from family and friends because of Covid restrictions.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind and spirit, give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring them the joy of your salvation. We pray for those known to us who are in special need. We pray for those on our benefice prayer list.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

And we remember those who died in faith, commending them to your safekeeping. We pray especially for Sybil Stone who died this week. 

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
Christ the Sun of righteousness shine upon you, 
scatter the darkness from your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory.
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - O come, O come, Emmanuel NEH 11 - Veni Emmanuel

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God’s dear Son.
Refrain:  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

2. O come, thou wisdom from on high!
Who madest all in earth and sky,
Creating man from dust and clay:
To us reveal salvation’s way. (refrain)

3. O come, O come Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From Sinai’s mountain, clothed with awe, 
Gavest thy folk the ancient law. (refrain)

4. O come, thou root of Jesse! Draw
The quarry from the lion’s claw;
From those dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save. (refrain)

5. O come, thou Lord of David’s key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar he way to death’s abode. (refrain)

6. O come, O come, thou dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night’s lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb. (refrain)

7. O come, desire of nations! Show
Thy kingly reign on earth below;
Thou Corner-stone, uniting all,
Restore the ruin of our fall. (refrain)

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

To end:

Handel - Hosanna to the Son of David - Gibbons - Voices of Ascension