Sunday, 13th December; 3rd in Advent.

Welcome to our online worship today. It contains prayers, the readings for the day, a reflection and some lovely musical offerings. Our worship takes about half an hour.

3rd Sunday of Advent! Rejoice Sunday! | The Family of The Good Shepherd

The Prayer for Today: 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.

Hymn: Hills of the North, Rejoice

Hills of the north, rejoice; 
river and mountain spring, 
hark to the advent voice; 
valley and lowland, sing; 
though absent long, your Lord is nigh; 
he judgment brings and victory.

Isles of the southern seas, 
deep in your coral caves 
pent be each warring breeze, 
lulled be your restless waves: 
he comes to reign with boundless sway, 
and makes your wastes his great highway.

Lands of the East, awake, 
soon shall your sons be free; 
the sleep of ages break, 
and rise to liberty. 
On your far hills, long cold and gray, 
has dawned the everlasting day.

Shores of the utmost West, 
ye that have waited long, 
unvisited, unblessed, 
break forth to swelling song; 
high raise the note, that Jesus died, 
yet lives and reigns, the Crucified.

Shout, while ye journey home; 
songs be in every mouth; 
lo, from the North we come, 
from East, and West, and South. 
city of God, the bond are free, 
we come to live and reign in thee!

The First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Hymn: Hark What a sound

Hark, what a sound, and too divine for hearing, 
stirs on the earth and trembles in the air! 
Is it the thunder of the Lord's appearing? 
Is it the music of his people's prayer?

Surely he cometh, and a thousand voices 
shout to the saints and to the deaf and dumb; 
surely he cometh, and the earth rejoices, 
glad in his coming who hath sworn, I come.

So even I, and with a pang more thrilling, 
so even I, and with a hope more sweet, 
yearn for the sign, O Christ, of thy fulfilling, 
faint for the flaming of thine advent feet.

Yea, through life, death, through sorrow and through sinning, 
he shall suffice me, for he hath sufficèd: 
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning, 
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.

The Gospel Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28. The Testimony of John the Baptist

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.

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 baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize 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 baptizing.

Anthem: This is the Record of John. Orlando Gibbons, 1583-1625

Today’s Reflection: from Rev Jane Cresswell, our Vicar. John 1 v6-8, 19-28

The season of Advent continues.  Today we have three candles lit on our Advent wreath.  And our readings focus on the importance of what is to happen. They are future focused, hope filled, pointing to one who is to come, bringing new life and salvation – The Messiah.

Hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon to find their beloved Jerusalem ransacked and destroyed.  Isaiah prophesied that the ruined city would be rebuilt and the devastation repaired.  He also promised that the Lord would anoint a messenger who will bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to prisoners, to turn ashes to garlands and mourning into gladness.  It’s an appropriate message on this third Sunday of Advent when we light the candle for Joy.

Advent Wreath Candle: Joy | Trinity Christian School

But several hundred years later in 1st century Palestine, all was not well.  The land was occupied by the Romans.  The people were not free and some were beginning to think that maybe John the Baptist was this promised person.  And so the priests and Levites from the temple in Jerusalem go out to Bethany to question John, as we heard in today’s gospel “Are you Elijah?  Are you a prophet?  Are you Isaiah?”

John says he is none of these people.  But rather a signpost, pointing to the Messiah, preparing the way for the Messiah to come.  John’s task is to try and turn people around so that when the Messiah comes, they will be ready to respond.

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Two thousand years later and we again find ourselves in a time and place where all is not well.  We don’t live in an occupied country in Britain, but we do live within the restrictions of a pandemic that has curtailed our freedoms and created great suffering over the past year.  Across the world people suffer, not only from that, but from all kinds of natural disasters, economic crises, political chaos, and societal division.  Yes, we’ve been resilient, but still we have suffered and are suffering.

Like the Israelites there are many in our communities who need to hear good news that goes deeper than material things, good news that heals, restores and saves – the good news of Jesus Christ.  We have that good news to share.  We carry within us the saving love of Jesus and take it wherever we go.  But as the Church we need to be careful not to get in the way of the message.  Very often we find ourselves pointing the way to the Church, ourselves, rather than the way to Christ.  We rather like to say “What a great church this is.  What a wonderful choir we have.”  Those things may be true, and we may value them, but what people need to hear and we need to say is “What a great God we have.”

Spread The Good News – Nothing Is Unreachable

Like John the Baptist we are not here to point to ourselves, but away from ourselves to help people see and believe that Christ is at work among and within them.

St Paul in the reading we heard from the first letter to the Thessalonians shows us how to live the good news of Jesus for others.  “Rejoice always,” says St Paul.  Maybe we find it harder this year, as we face the prospect of a rather different Christmas without the freedom to gather the whole family together and celebrate as we might have liked.  But we are still celebrating again the coming of Christ, so let’s rejoice.

“Pray without ceasing” says St Paul.  Prayer isn’t just for Sundays or for emergencies.  Our whole lives, every second of every day need to be underpinned by our awareness of God’s presence.  So next time you find yourself sitting in the hospital waiting for routine blood test … as I did earlier this week … or push your trolley round the supermarket as many of us do every week, or simply go for a walk or sit watching the world go by outside your window, ask for God’s blessing on each person you see.  It’s a habit well worth cultivating and will make a difference in yourself and all those around you.

Prayer changes things. Including your workplace. - Working Women of Faith

St Paul also urges us to “Give thanks in all circumstances”.  We are awfully good at moaning when things aren’t quite as we’d like them to be.  But God can bring good out of every situation, even the most desperate.  God’s Holy Spirit is at work in God’s world and we are to expect the unexpected, be prepared for surprises and open to change.  

We don’t try to second guess God … We are not God.  But we can hold fast to what is good, and abstain from every kind of evil.  And in doing all those things, we become examples of Christ like living for all those around us.

This is how we make a real difference in our communities as Christians – and when we live like that, and point the way to Jesus who is greater and deeper than ourselves, others will want to know more.  That’s how we can be signposts for our friends, families and colleagues and neighbours.

Signposts: Pointing the Way to Success! - Dreamstime

As we approach Christmas this year, we will have visitors to our churches and perhaps, if we are lucky, a few to our homes.  Whoever they are, God welcomes them and longs for Christ to be revealed to them.  So let’s pray that we can point them to Christ who promises restoration to everyone and longs to bring them home.

Hymn: Wait for the Lord

Our Prayers for Today:

‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people’ says your God.  This Advent we do need our Lord’s help as we prepare for Christmas which we know will be different for many.   A sad time, a reflective time, but for those in recovery from illness a thankful time.  Nevertheless, let us find time for quiet thought and prayer reflecting on the wonder of God’s love and giving thanks for so much.  We have our health, our homes, our families which so many have not.  We pray that we may be ready to accept each day as it comes and ready to respond to what the future may bring.      

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

 We give thanks for those who have watched and protected us during these times; for Doctors and Nurses and all who have given their time to help others.  Now with the promise of vaccine protection, we give thanks for the hope of a brighter future.   

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

 We pray for our families, our friends and neighbours and all who listen to and help those in trouble.  We pray for those in pain, the refugees and the homeless.  And we pray for ourselves, for Jane and Suzanne, for our choir, our congregation and those unable to attend Church.     

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

 We pray for our Queen, steadfast in her devotion to you dear Lord, and to us, her people. May those who hold high office in our land guide us in these uncertain times, and we pray for world leaders who have an unenviable task.     

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

 Hear us as we pray for those grieving the death of a dear one.  May they feel your loving arms around them.  Grant to any who have died in recent days, your peace, and let light perpetual shine upon them. 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

 So dear Lord in times of anxiety, give us serenity.  In times of hardship, courage.  In times of uncertainty, patience and at all times a quiet trust in your wisdom and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.

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!

Notices for the Week

To see this week’s notices, click the image below or go to this week’s pew Leaflet.

notice sheet image – Dalton Parish – The Parish of Dalton and Ireleth with  Askam

Blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you.

Voluntary: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. J S Bach

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