Armadale UCA

20th December 2020

` Be open – God is asking`

Advent 4

Rev Fiona Winn

Welcome and Grace

Advent liturgy and opening prayer

This fourth Sunday in Advent we light a candle for love…
God of ever-lasting love,
as we light this fourth Advent candle –
we remember Mary`s faith, courage and strength.
May we too learn to trust You and praise You with our whole lives.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
God of Good News,
God of surprises, God of innovation and the new,
You have established Your home in this world.
You made Your dwelling place, You pitched Your tent,
You tabernacled and tabernacle among us,
in Word and sacrament, in human lives,
in our gathered life together in Christian community.
We worship You and thank You.
Today as we consider Mary and how You came to be in her,
We are astonished once again at her faith and trust and courage.
Through her willingness to obey and follow You
Jesus is born – Word made flesh,
Hope of all nations, Prince of peace, Joy of joys.
Truly You are Love.
Your Son – Love embodied.
Your Spirit – Love among us, around us, in and through us…
Hear us as we confess
the ways we reject and refuse Love in our lives.
Forgive our lack of love, our coldness, our indifference –
Transform us by Your Love…Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…
Forgive our lack of awareness, our pride,
any sense of self-satisfaction…
Humble us by Your Love…Christ have mercy…Christ have mercy…
Forgive our resistance to love others
as You love us and all You have made…
Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…
`Here is a true statement that should be accepted without question:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…` 1 Timothy 1: 15
This Advent we hear this…we wonder with grateful hearts
and hear again Christ`s words of grace to each of us
`Your sins are forgiven` Thanks be to God. Amen

TIS 302 `The angel Gabriel
King`s College Cambridge

The King`s Singers

The angel Gabriel The angel Gabriel from heaven came
With wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame
`All hail` said he `thou lowly maiden Mary
Most highly favoured lady.`

`For known a blessed mother thou shalt be
All generations laud and honour thee
Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favoured lady.`

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
`To me be as it pleaseth God` she said
`My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name`
Most highly favoured lady.

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say
`Most highly favoured lady.`

Basque Carol,
Paraphrased by Sabine Baring-Gould 1834-1924



2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16 The Lord's Covenant with David

7 Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26

1I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’” 

19 Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said:
    “I have granted help to one who is mighty;
    I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant;
    with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him;
    my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
    the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
    and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
    and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’

Luke 1: 26-38 Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” 

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

TIS 283 `Long ago prophets knew`

Long ago, prophets knew
Christ would come, born a Jew.
Come to make all things new;
Bear his People's burden,
Freely love and pardon.
Ring, bells, ring, ring, ring!
Sing, choirs, sing, sing, sing!
When he comes,
When he comes,
Who will make him welcome?

God in time, God in man,
This is God's timeless plan:
He will come, as a man,
Born himself of woman,
God divinely human.
Ring, bells, ring, ring, ring!
Sing, choirs, sing, sing, sing!
When he comes,
When he comes,
Who will make him welcome?

Mary, hail! Though afraid;
She believed, she obeyed.
In her womb God is laid;
Till the time expected
Nurtured and protected.
Ring, bells, ring, ring, ring!
Sing, choirs, sing, sing, sing!
When he comes,
When he comes,
Who will make him welcome?

Journey ends! Where afar
Bethlem shines, like a star,
Stable door stands ajar.
Unborn Son of Mary,
Saviour, do not tarry!
Ring, bells, ring, ring, ring!
Sing, choirs, sing, sing, sing!
Jesus comes!
Jesus comes!
We will make him welcome!

Frederick Pratt Green 1903-2000

Reflection and Q and A

Advent 4 - Be open! God is asking.
If any of you have watched The Crown on Netflix – there is an episode in which the name of the British monarchy is established; when the House of Windsor becomes just that – the House of Windsor and not – as Lord Mountbatten apparently sought to orchestrate - the House of Mountbatten.
Mountbatten, being an anglicised version of Battenberg,
It was felt, at the time, to be too closely aligned to Germany.
Thus, the British Royal household became the House of Windsor.
In 2 Samuel 7, the House of David is established – but not as David wanted. David had great plans. God had other ideas.
David thought he knew what God wanted, needed. God puts him right in no uncertain terms.
God reminds David of who he is and where he has come from –
and that it is for God to decide how God wants to be housed and how and where and why.
God is going to be housed in the line of David, in David`s children and their children`s children – for ever.
God`s way, God`s aim - an end to violence, the appointment of judges, rest for the people.
Here is a vision for peace and justice – God`s vision – not David`s.
And this vision is not limited to David and David`s lifetime.
This vision will long outlast David.
This vision is from generation to generation - for all generations.
God promises longevity to this vision, to this house,
The House of David – of whom Jesus will be born,
and which continues in and through us as, in Christ, we are part of, we belong to, this royal household, this royal dynasty.
This House God has established for ever.
In a thrilling, uplifting testimony to God`s ways and workings,
in Ps. 89, David writes of this covenantal promise.
Here David speaks not of God`s creativity but God`s generativity.
God is always creating, always creative.
But God is also always generating, always generative.
This is the story of salvation and redemption:
the Advent story of hope and peace and joy and love.
It is the story of generation,
of all the generations, of all that is generative –
life bringing, life giving.
Mary`s song – the Magnificat - echoes David`s words
of joy and hope, anticipation and expectation
at God`s promise and God` s ways
She enters into God`s way for all coming generations – for us.
As Timothy Dudley-Smith has it at the end of our final hymn today:
`Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children's children and for evermore!
This is who Mary is in the story: progenetrix.
With God she brings life, she gives life to Jesus – and through Jesus she brings life to us and to the world.
The angel Gabriel tells Mary
that God will house God`s self in her.
God will indwell her.
She will become God`s dwelling place.
Mary, incredulous, wonders at how, what the angel is telling her,
will come to pass.
Although she does not understand how,
with trust and faith and courage, she responds with her `Yes`…
God`s way circumvents human conception.
We continue to struggle with this story.
We cannot conceive…It is inconceivable…
But Gabriel tells her, tells us
`For nothing will be impossible with God`. Luke 1: 37
What does Mary teach us?
Might we say - she gives life to God?
Do we resile from such a view of Mary?
What do you make of her `yes` to God`s outrageous request?
Are we open to God?
Then Mary said,
I praise the Lord with all my heart.
 I am very happy because God is my Saviour. I am not important,
but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant. From now until the end of time, people will remember how much God blessed me.
Yes, the Powerful One has done great things for me.
    His name is very holy.”Luke 1: 46-49
Without Mary…

Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer

TIS 161 `Tell out my soul`
A version of The Magnificat – Mary`s Song

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

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 to same;
His holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One

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

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 for evermore!

Timothy Dudley-Smith 1926-


As we wait for God`s promise to be fulfilled this Advent,
may the love of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
indwell, quicken in, and animate us
to live lives of obedience and wonder, today, every day.