Armadale UCA

13th December 2020

Advent 3

Rev Fiona Winn

Welcome and Grace

Advent liturgy and opening prayer

On the third Sunday in Advent we light a candle for joy…
Prayer
God of all true celebration,
as we light this third Advent candle
so refresh and renew us that even in the hard places and times of life
we may radiate the deep, lasting joy only You can bring.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen
God over all, in all, God tender towards all who call on Your Name,
we believe You to be, and honour You as, trustworthy and true:
true to Your Word, keeper of Your promises,
in all times and places, for all peoples and every nation,
faithful to what You have said and consistent in what You have done.
In this promised Child, You announce a different way of life,
a new way to be:
a way of forgiveness, mercy and grace,
of hope, peace and joy.
We long and pray for the day to come soon,
for this Child to come soon and be born in us again.
Come Lord Jesus come. Come Lord Jesus come.
We rejoice in hope and with anticipation at Christ`s coming,
because He proclaims good news for the poor,
freedom for those in prison, comfort for those who mourn,
the rebuilding of all that is broken down and derelict.
Come Lord Jesus come. Come Lord Jesus come.
And forgive us…
Forgive us for the promises we have broken, the vows we have dishonoured…Restore us O Lord…
Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…
Forgive us for our disobedience and our capacity for self-deceit…
Purify us O Lord…Christ have mercy…Christ have mercy…
Forgive us that we are slow to listen, hard of hearing – hard of heart...
Teach us Your ways…Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…
The prophet Isaiah says:
`…the time has come for the Lord to show His kindness…` Is. 61: 2
We hear Christ`s words of grace `Your sins are forgiven`
Thanks be to God. Amen

TIS 275 `Hail to the Lord`s anointed`
https://youtu.be/eWDVkOO04uk
James Montgomery 1771-1854

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 brings salvation speedy to those who suffer wrong;
he saves the poor and needy, and helps the weak be strong;
they sing who once were sighing, their darkness turned to light,
for they, who once were dying, are precious in his sight.

3. He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth,
and 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. All powers shall bow before him, and gold and incense bring;
all nations shall adore him, his praise all people sing,
for he shall have dominion o'er river, sea and shore,
far as the eagle's pinion or dove's light wing can soar.

5. O'er every foe victorious, Christ 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.

Readings

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11; Ps. 126; Luke 4: 14-22

 1The Spirit of the Lord God is on me. The Lord has chosen me to tell good news to the poor and to comfort those who are sad. He sent me to tell the captives and prisoners that they have been set free. He sent me to announce that the time has come for the Lord to show his kindness, when our God will also punish evil people. He has sent me to comfort those who are sad, those in Zion who mourn. I will take away the ashes on their head, and I will give them a crown. I will take away their sadness, and I will give them the oil of happiness. I will take away their sorrow, and I will give them celebration clothes. He sent me to name them ‘Good Trees’ and ‘The Lord’s Wonderful Plant.’
Then the old cities that were destroyed will be rebuilt. Those ancient ruins will be made new, as they were in the beginning.
 That’s because I am the Lord and I love justice. I hate stealing and everything that is wrong. So I will give the people what they deserve. I will make an agreement with my people forever. Their descendants will be known throughout the earth, and everyone will know their children. Whoever sees them will know that the Lord has blessed them.
10 The Lord makes me very happy.
    I am completely happy with my God.
He dressed me in the clothes of salvation.
    He put the victory coat on me.
I look like a man dressed for his wedding,
    like a bride covered with jewels.
11 The earth causes plants to grow,
    and a garden makes the seeds planted there rise up.
In the same way, the Lord 
God will make goodness and praise
    grow throughout the nations.

Ps. 126
A song for going up to the Temple
1It will be like a dream
when the 
Lord comes back with the captives of Zion.
We will laugh and sing happy songs!
Then the other nations will say,
“The 
Lord did a great thing for Zion!”
Yes, we will be happy
because the 
Lord did a great thing for us.
So, Lord, bring back the good times,
like a desert stream filled again with flowing water.
Then those who were sad when they planted
will be happy when they gather the harvest!
Those who cried as they carried the seeds
will be happy when they bring in the crops!

Luke 4: 14-22 Jesus Begins His Work in Galilee

14 Jesus went back to Galilee with the power of the Spirit. Stories about him spread all over the area around Galilee. 15 He began to teach in the synagogues, and everyone praised him.
Jesus Goes to His Hometown
16 Jesus travelled to Nazareth, the town where he grew up. On the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue as he always did. He stood up to read. 17 The book of Isaiah the prophet was given to him. He opened the book and found the place where this is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.
He has chosen me to tell good news to the poor.
He sent me to tell prisoners that they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again.
He sent me to free those who have been treated badly
19     and to announce that the time has come for the Lord to show his kindness.”
20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the helper, and sat down. As everyone in the synagogue watched him closely, 21 he began to speak to them. He said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!”
22 Everyone there said good things about Jesus. They were amazed to hear him speak such wonderful words. They said, “How is this possible? Isn’t he Joseph’s son?”

TIS 272 `Come thou long expected Jesus`
St. John`s College Cambridge (Tune: Cross of Jesus – Stainer)
https://youtu.be/JEEd0uWnDGs
Charles Wesley 1707-1788

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Reflection and Q and A

Rejoice! God has promised
Luke 4 - no sermon, no homily - simply a direct assertion about which the people listening have to make up their minds.
This the Gospel for today. Clear. Strong.
Asking, inviting a response.
Jesus walks to the centre of the stage in today`s reading in Luke.
There the spotlight is turned, not so much on him,
as on the promise of God to send someone,
the anointed one, the Messiah,
who would speak good news to the poor,
bring release to those in prison, and sight to the blind.
Jesus has just returned from the wilderness.
He is just about to embark on his ministry.
He is full of the Holy Spirit…Luke 4: 14
News has been spreading about him…Luke 4: 14
Those who have heard him are impressed…Luke 4: 15
As is his custom he enters the synagogue to teach.
There is a great sense of anticipation as he takes the scroll
and quotes from Isaiah chapter 61.
He rolls the scroll up and gives it to the attendant.
He sits down.
(It all reads as though someone was taking notes,
noted what happened.
This is a notable, remarkable event.)
`The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him`
Luke 4:20
The text is electric. The situation highly charged.
And then Jesus speaks:
`Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing`. Luke 4:21
What??
The people are amazed and impressed and marvel at the graciousness of his speech. Remember, the people say of Jesus:
`…He taught as one who had authority – and not like their teachers of the law` Matthew 7: 29. (See also Mark 1: 22)
Those listening are confronted with an extraordinary situation.
There is no place to hide.
How might we have responded at the time?
How do we respond today to what Jesus is saying?
Jesus is saying:
`Remember that promise from long ago about a coming Messiah?
Remember Isaiah`s prophecies?
Well - I`m the one. I`m it. I am he.
I am the fulfilment of Isaiah`s prophecies long, long ago.`
What would the people have made of this?
So challenging and confronting –
and comforting – if they could allow themselves to believe…
What if he is `it`? What if he is the one?
They`ve heard him. They`ve been impressed with
what he`s been saying and how he`s been saying it – up till now.
Their response? `Isn`t this Joseph`s son?` Luke 4: 22
They want to locate him in terms of his parentage – which of course they get completely wrong.
(Remember Matthew 13: 54 `Isn`t this the carpenter`s son?` )
That will put him in his place, cut him down to size.
It is too much for them to comprehend.
What about us? How do we respond to the claims of Jesus as they come to us today, this third Sunday in Advent?
Jesus confronts us, challenges us.
And if we will let him, he will comfort us with his words.
In this passage Jesus echoes words spoken seven hundred years before by the prophet Isaiah:
words honoured and cherished, words recited and spoken,
words heard over and over again, to feed, nourish and sustain
people through their darkest days.
Today we hear the words of the prophets and the words of Jesus, Who is the Word of God, the Messiah.
He continues to speak words that offer hope to those who struggle, those who are bound, those who are blind.
He speaks words which build people up and do not destroy.
Who speaks such words to us today?
Words which remind and re-mind us? Words which inspire us and resolve in us the desire to live and act differently?
Do we hear the words of Jesus in this way?
Which words? Which words of Jesus offer you hope?

Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer

Let us pray…

Lord, you come to us each Advent with the promise of new life; of good news for the poor and all those in need. Loving Lord help us to listen for your new messages to us during this window of opportunity in Advent, and in our present circumstances, to discern a new way forward…
May your kingdom come on earth.
Lord, we give thanks for the learnings we have made during this very strange and difficult year. We have been confronted with different perspectives on our world and different ways that we might live our lives. The inequalities and injustices just below the surface have been brought into stark relief.

Creator God, you made our earthly home for our enjoyment and your Spirit is in and through all.
But it must sadden you greatly to see how much damage has been done in so many ways. Help us to continue to enjoy your world but with greater awareness and stewardship so that future generations may also delight in their environment.

Lord in Your Mercy…Hear our prayer

Lord, in our humanity, we know that we can feel weak and vulnerable at times. But we are grateful and confident in your promise that you will show us your kindness. You will free us from our visible and our inner prisons; you will cure our physical and our inner blindness. You will give us the joy we were made to embody.
But Lord, how can we enjoy your joy and peace when we have the inequalities of our world before us every day? Can there really be 270 million people in the world who are starving? Are there now more refugees than the world has known? If we are asked to be your hands and feet in your world help us to be there as much as we are able for all those who are suffering in so many ways.

Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

We pray that you will be there Lord for all who are being impacted by the coronavirus both directly and indirectly.
We give thanks that measures are being implemented in our country to more adequately care for our elderly and those who have felt short-changed financially during the Covid epidemic. …
We give thanks and pray for all world leaders, governments and those in positions of influence. May there be greater movement towards peace and goodwill towards all people.
We give thanks for our minister Fiona and for our Church Council.
We ask that you be with all who need your help in our congregation …and ask for your healing light, your comfort and presence to be with them and all those they care for.
We pray especially for Lyn and Keith, Cheryl and Stephen, Margaret Leach, Mike, Yvonne and Pat and all our young families.

Shall we say the Lord’s prayer together….

TIS 209 `And can it be`
Congregational version https://youtu.be/sQeIGbKqiw8
An a capella version https://youtu.be/8INg_Kb137g

Charles Wesley 1707-1788

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shoudlst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine
Bold I approach the eternal throne
And claim the crown, through Christ my own
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou my God, shouldst die for me?

Blessing

As we wait for God`s promise to be fulfilled this Advent,
may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
fill you with hope, peace and joy,
today and in the days ahead. Amen