Welcome to our online worship today. We hope you are enjoying a restful, if different Christmas and that you are able to reflect on the wonder of God made man at Christmas. As always, today’s online worship contains the readings, the prayers and the reflection we are using in church plus some lovely musical offerings. Our worship takes about half an hour.
The Prayer for Today: The Collect
Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: A great and Mighty Wonder
A great and mighty wonder, a full and holy cure! the Virgin bears the Infant with virgin-honour pure: Repeat the hymn again: 'To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men.' The Word becomes incarnate, and yet remains on high; and cherubim sing anthems to shepherds from the sky: Repeat the hymn again: 'To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men.' While thus they sing your Monarch, those bright angelic bands, rejoice, ye vales and mountains, ye oceans, clap your hands: Repeat the hymn again: 'To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men.' Since all he comes to ransom, by all be he adored, the Infant born in Bethl'em, the Saviour and the Lord: Repeat the hymn again: 'To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men.'
The First Reading: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3
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.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Anthem: The Infant King
The Gospel Reading: Luke 2:15-21
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Hymn: While shepherds watched their flocks by night
Today’s Reflection: from Rev. Jane Cresswell, our Vicar.
We heard on Christmas Day the story of the angels’ visit to the shepherds and today we hear how they journeyed to Bethlehem to see the child that had been born that the angels had made known to them. It’s a continuation of the well-known Christmas story.
I spoke about the shepherds at our carol service a week ago. The shepherds received the good news with joy. But it is Mary from today’s gospel who, so we are told, treasured the angel’s words that were relayed to her and pondered them in her heart.
Mary is the one who is on an inner journey to penetrate the deepest meaning of all that has happened and the mysterious sign that has been given to her. You could call the shepherds believers. They believed what the angels had said, went to see for themselves and shared with Mary what the angels had told them. But Mary is a disciple. She takes time to reflect and process and allow the message of the angels to take root in her heart. Sometimes our experiences need time to take root in our hearts.
God comes to us at Christmas as story. It’s a true story because he came and comes in history. We are given a story because only by story can our imagination begin to be amazed by God’s coming down to earth in Jesus.
Soren Kierkegaard tells a different story …
“There was once a king who fell in love with a lowly woman. But how was a king to make his love known to a mere country girl? He considered sending one of his servants. But on hearing of the kings’ love for her, the woman only laughed in unbelief. How could she know the message was really from the king and not a trick to ridicule her?
What could the king do to convince her of his love. One thing he could do: he could visit her himself in all his splendour, making her forget herself in adoration. That might satisfy the woman but it wouldn’t satisfy the king because he loved her and desired a genuine loving response from her, rather than his own glorification. He feared she might never be able to forget that he was the king and she a lowly maiden.
What more could the king do to express his love. Only one way remained. He must renounce his rights and power and become a servant. If, thought the king, he had the heart of a servant, if his truest self was expressed in his love for the woman, there would be no deception in becoming a servant. He would be expressing his true self.”
All this God has done for you and me to win our love. As St Paul says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich.” And if we live the story of the baby of Bethlehem, inhabit it, let it roam freely and frequently in our imagination, then the effects of Christmas will take root in us. But we don’t just leave Jesus as a baby in a crib. We’ll let Jesus grow up in us as his story unfolds through the Christian year, until the living Jesus finally becomes part and parcel of our own story.
It’s not the story that saves us; it is Jesus who saves us. But by pondering and living his story and giving space to his Spirit, our lives are infused with wonder, gratitude, generosity and hope.
Hymn: Thou didst leave thy throne
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, When Thou camest to earth for me; But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room For Thy holy nativity. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang, Proclaiming Thy royal degree; But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, And in great humility. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing, At Thy coming to victory, Let Thy voice call me home, saying "Yet there is room, There is room at My side for thee." My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me.
Our Prayers for Today:
Anthem: Lux Aurumque – Taplow Youth Choir
May the joy of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, the worship of the wisemen And the peace of the Christ Child be ours this Christmas. And the blessing of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be with us and remain with us always. Amen.
Final Hymn: Joy to the World
Voluntary: Let Earth Receive her King – organ solo