Morning Service for Advent 4 2022


The fascinating thing is not what the differences are, but what each author meant by the difference. Why they wrote what they wrote, what lies behind their thinking, is much more interesting than trying to make their accounts fit into some mythic unified historical whole, like a children’s nativity play. There is no stable in any gospel, or innkeeper for that matter! 

Morning Service for Advent 4 2022

HYMN For Mary, mother of the Lord NEH 161 – St Botolph

1. For Mary, Mother of the Lord

God’s holy name be praised,

Who first the Son of God adored

As on her child she gazed.

2. The angel Gabriel brought the word

She should Christ’s mother be;

Our Lady, handmaid of the Lord,

Made answer willingly.

3. The heavenly call she thus obeyed,

And so God’s will was done;

The second Eve love’s answer made

Which our redemption won.

4. She gave her body for God’s shrine,

Her heart to piercing pain,

And knew the cost of love divine

When Jesus Christ was slain.

5. Dear Mary, from your lowliness

And home in Galilee,

There comes a joy and holiness

To every family.

6. Hail, Mary, you are full of grace,

Above all women blest;

Blest in your Son, whom your embrace

In birth and death confessed.

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


We recall our Lord’s command to love and in a moment of silence we confess 

the many ways we fail to keep his command:

Most merciful God, 

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.  Amen

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


God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary

to be the mother of your Son: grant that, 

as she looked for his coming as our saviour,

so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge;

who is alive and reigns with you,in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

FIRST READING – Isaiah 7.10-16

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted

HYMN The race that long in darkness pined NEH 57 – Dundee

1 The race that long in darkness pined

Have seen a glorious light;

The people dwell in day, who dwelt

In death’s surrounding night.

2 To hail thy rise, thou better Sun,

The gathering nations come,

Joyous as when the reapers bear

The harvest-treasures home.

3 To us a Child of hope is born,

To us a Son is given;

Him shall the tribes of earth obey,

Him all the hosts of heaven.

4 His name shall be the Prince of Peace,

For evermore adored;

The Wonderful, the Counsellor,

The great and mighty Lord.

5 His power increasing still shall spread;

His reign no end shall know:

Justice shall guard his throne above,

And peace abound below.

GOSPEL – Matthew 1.18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


Ahaz is accused of not having enough faith in the power of Judah’s God to save his nation. Jerusalem and Judah with it are threatened by an alliance between the northern tribes of Israel and Syria, so Ahaz responds by seeking an ally in the powerful and ruthless Assyrian Empire. This gives the king of Assyria the excuse he was looking for to attack and destroy the northern part of the old Davidic kingdom of Israel, leaving Jerusalem and Judah (the southern part) exposed and a virtual vessel state. The prophecy of which our reading forms a part is rather confusing, perhaps looking forward to the birth of a son, possibly Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, a much more successful king, and the eventual improvement of Judah’s fortunes. The northern tribes are taken into exile by the Assyrians, and spread across their empire, never to return in any numbers, their land will indeed be deserted. Why do we read this prophecy at this time of year? Our forebears happily took lines from the scriptures out of context if they saw them as potentially relevant. So St Matthew sees “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son”, as applicable to Jesus’ birth. It pointed to something miraculous when the old greek translation turned the Hebrew alma, a young woman, into the Greek parthenos, a virgin.

Mathew’s birth narrative sees the event exclusively from Joseph’s perspective. He is the head of the household and it is he who must care for him. He locates the action in Bethlehem, King David’s home village, no awkward census for Matthew to get them to Bethlehem. Joseph is referred to as the son of David, and it would appear a resident of Bethlehem. In all Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy and birth contains five prophecies, five dreams, he uses the name Bethlehem five times, and five times he will write Christos, variously translated as Christ or Messiah. Five is the number for Moses, from the five books ascribed to him making up the Torah or Law. For Matthew Jesus was the new Moses, leading his people to salvation, a new promised land of the kingdom of heaven. This time not as physical journey through the desert, but as a spiritual journey of new life. Matthew saw Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as the fulfilment of Israel’s destiny to be a blessing to all mankind, in him all prophecies would find their fulfilment. In his gospel Matthew quotes Jesus giving five long sermons encapsulating his teaching and guiding his followers in how to be a community of disciples.

Matthew and Luke both use Jesus’ birth as an important preface to their work. In it they point and hint at themes that will recur in their gospels, just like the overture to an opera. Much as John will use his prologue to lay down who he believes Jesus to be, so Matthew and Luke use their birth narratives to lead us into the story if his life and teaching. Where he came from , and who he came from was of great importance to them both, whereas for Mark and John, it all begins at the River Jordan and the ministry of John the Baptist. The fascinating thing is not what the differences are, but what each author meant by the difference. Why they wrote what they wrote, what lies behind their thinking, is much more interesting than trying to make their accounts fit into some mythic unified historical whole, like a children’s nativity play. There is no stable in any gospel, or innkeeper for that matter! 

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

HYMN Tell out my soul NEH 186 – Woodlands

1. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;

Tender to me the promise of His Word;

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

2. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name!

Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;

His mercy sure, from age to age the same;

His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One.

3. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by;

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight;

The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

4. Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word!

Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.

Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord

To children’s children and forevermore!.


Lord, as we come before you today on this Fourth Sunday of Advent we ask you to prepare us for your coming. You promised through your son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith and we bring before you today, the needs of the Church and the world.
Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for your church today, gathering all around the world in tiny churches and great cathedrals to praise you and to hear your holy word. Give us a sense of expectation as we come and inspiration as we go. 

Help us to put our differences behind us and to unite instead behind the great commission of Jesus to make disciples of all nations and all people. 

We pray for your blessing on all those who preach, and teach the message of your salvation, especially for those in this Benefice as they seek to do your will and guide us through our spiritual and worldly journeys.

Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

We pray for our own nation, for Charles, our King, and for all those who serve the people at all levels of government. Drive away despair from our politics, revive our dreams of justice and truth, restore our passion for what is good and right. 

We ask you to govern the hearts and minds of all those who lead nations and for those in authority that they may act justly, with honesty and integrity according to your will. 

Establish a just and gentle rule in areas of the world where there is conflict and where peace has been powerless and violent people have had their day. 

Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

We pray today for our families. Lord Jesus, you came into the world and lived in a human family, so you know the ups and downs of normal family life. We pray that you will hold all our families in your love and protection.   

We remember those families this year who are caught in financial difficulties, those who face unemployment and hardship and those who are separated from their loved ones.

May they have the constant comfort of the knowledge of your love and care for them. 

Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

On this day we pray for those facing the consequences of natural disasters and for the homeless, the refugees, the expelled and forgotten people everywhere.
We ask you to help us all to use our gifts and our talents to the greater good of all, challenge us to drive away complacency and apathy when we know in our hearts that we can do more to help and sustain those in need. 

Lord, we pray for those for whom this day will seem long and hard, for those in hospital or ill at home and for those struggling with despair or depression.  In a moment of silence, we remember especially Diana Axford and Roger Lowman and all those known to us.

Comfort and heal all who suffer, give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring to them the joy of your salvation. 

Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

We remember before God those who have died and those whose anniversaries fall at this time. We pray for those who mourn through recent bereavement, and for those who over the years still miss the companionship and care of loved ones. We give thanks for the lives of Diane Bently, Sue Down and Diana Axford.

We remember especially today those young lives lost in the recent tragic accident in Birmingham, those lost in the explosion in Jersey and in the English Channel this week.

We hold them all in our hearts, knowing that you, Lord, hold them in yours and commend them into your everlasting care and protection. 

Lord in your Mercy Hear our prayer

As we leave this place today, Advent Lord come even nearer. Come to rejuvenate our faith, come to fortify our social conscience, come to widen our eyes of wonder, so that when the Saviour comes, he may enter into our hearts and find them ready.

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.

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  Hills of the North rejoice NEH 7/AMR 269 – Little Conrad

1 Hills of the North, rejoice,

river and mountain-spring,

hark to the advent voice;

valley and lowland, sing.

Christ comes in righteousness and love,

he brings salvation from above.

2 Isles of the Southern seas,

sing to the listening earth,

carry on every breeze

hope of a world’s new birth:

In Christ shall all be made anew,

his word is sure, his promise true.

3 Lands of the East, arise,

he is your brightest morn,

greet him with joyous eyes,

praise shall his path adorn:

your seers have longed to know their Lord;

to you he comes, the final word.

4 Shores of the utmost West,

lands of the setting sun,

welcome the heavenly guest

in whom the dawn has come:

he brings a never-ending light

who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

5 Shout, as you journey home,

songs be in every mouth,

lo, from the North they come,

from East and West and South:

in Jesus all shall find their rest,

in him the universe be blest.

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