Sunday Worship 18 December 2022

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Sunday Service from the URC



worship for challenging times



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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 18 December 2022

Today’s service is led by The Revd Martin Knight
Call to Worship


As God’s people, we draw ever closer to Christmas
We go on waiting – and not for presents under a tree,
We go on hoping – and not for more cards than last year
We go on preparing – and not the ingredients for Delia’s Apricot and Orange Turkey stuffing.
We wait and we hope and we prepare
with bright angels, shocked shepherds and star-gazing kings
with expectant Mary and her swollen ankles and hurting back.
With Joseph, who’s world is about to change.
We wait for a Child – God’s Christmas Gift.
Hymn    Make Way, Make Way
Graham Kendrick © 1986 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music Ltd)  Frodsham Methodist Church Cloud Choir. Accompanied by Andrew Ellams and produced by Andrew Emison and used with their kind permission.
Make way make way 
for Christ the King
in splendour arrives
Fling wide the gates 
and welcome Him
Into your lives
Make way 
Make way 
For the King of kings 
Make way 
Make way 
And let His kingdom in.
He comes the broken 
hearts to heal,
the prisoners to free.
The deaf shall hear 
the lame shall dance,
the blind shall see.
And those who mourn 
with heavy hearts,
who weep and sigh.
With laughter, joy 
and royal crown
He’ll beautify.
We call you now 
to worship Him,
as Lord of all.
To have no gods before Him:
their thrones must fall
Lighting of the Advent Candle
Here is the fourth Advent candle.
We light a light as we greet one another in God’s name.
We light a light like the blaze of the Angel who came to Mary.
We light a light to say “yes” to God’s outrageous call.
We light a light seeking peace in our hearts 
as we receive God’s Great Christmas Gift! Do not be afraid – have courage.
Introduction of Theme: 
‘God’s Christmas Gift’
I am a huge fan of Christmas. I love it. I love all the lights and decorations. 
I love the candles and carols.
I don’t even mind singing ‘O come all ye faithful’ 20 times during the season. If I had to pick a favourite meal, it would be Boiled Ham, Mash potatoes and pickles on Boxing Day. But if I’m honest, there is also a lot that I don’t like: I don’t like writing Christmas cards; I like giving them, I don’t like writing them – so it feels like a minor miracle when I get them done. I don’t like to hear about the pressure that can lead some parents to believe they need to spend more than they can afford. Credit card companies love Christmas! I don’t like the idea that everyone should be boundlessly happy and cheerful – “because it’s Christmas” – Christmas can be very hard for a lot of people. But when we gather to worship, at home, in our sanctuaries, on the bus, we are gathered as church – where we get to the core of Christmas; we are reminded that Christmas is a gift. It is God’s gift to the world. During this service, we will explore the Gift of Christmas.
Prayers of Approach & Confession
Holy God, as we gather in worship, we bring all that we are; all the complexity of our lives, all its challenges and joys.
We are here as family, ready to seek you again, to bring you to the forefront of our minds, ready to sing in praise, to pray in expectation to be empowered by your Word and your Spirit.
O God: to you alone we lift our souls; in you alone we place our trust;
for you alone we wait all day long.

For you are the God of our salvation, abounding in mercy and steadfast love.
Help us remain alert and watchful  for signs of the coming of your promised one— the one who comes with power and glory, the one drawing near swelling our hope, the one whom we praise, Jesus Christ. 
And as we go on waiting, we pause…
…aware of all that we do and have done that cause pain and guilt to wait, buried in the hearts of others. We are aware of all that has caused us pain and hurt,  which waits with us, locked inside.
Jesus Christ, Light of the World, may we be aware of your light, shining in us, cleansing and renewing and giving peace.   (silence)
Affirmation of forgiveness
We hear words that Jesus spoke to so many: ‘Be at Peace’. May we be alert to God’s mercy and grace;  signs that the Spirit is already at work in us. God believes in us, and is prompting us to grow into the full wholeness God desires for us. Thanks be to God! We pray together that prayer that gave strength to Jesus and his disciples… 
Our Father…
Prayer of Illumination      
We Will Take What You Offer
Words and Music: John L. Bell, 1998  © WGRG Iona Community, Scotland
Administered by GIA Publications Performed by Musicians of Golden Ears United Church, Maple Ridge, Canada and used with their kind permission.
We will take what you offer, we will live by your word
we will love one another, and be led by you, God.
We will, we will, live by your word;
we will be fed by you God. (repeat)
We will take what you offer… 
Reading:      Romans 1: 1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,  the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,  including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection on reading: ‘A gift for everyone’
I may be quite sad or overly sentimental, but I love Christmas adverts. I don’t love what they are trying to encourage us to do, and particularly not this year with the cost of living crisis, but I see gospel connections that I’m pretty sure the creators didn’t intend! 
There have been some memorable ones in recent years that give us a way-in to our readings for today. Let me say upfront, I do not work for any of these companies and am not advocating their practices. Other stores are available! In 2016 the John Lewis advert begins on Christmas Eve, with a father desperately trying to put together a large garden trampoline, ready for the grand unveiling on Christmas morning. Much huffing and puffing and a few pinched fingers later, it’s complete, ready for the expected and excited child to enjoy. After retreating inside, foxes who had been watching from the hedge discover the joy of bouncing higher and higher, quickly joined by a badger and rabbits. Not the expected recipients and not natural friends. The families Boxer dog is watching from indoors, with some significant jealously!
Come the morning, a young girl opens the door with excitement, running into the garden, quickly overtaken by the boxer, who has a fabulous time flinging himself up and down with gay abandon! ‘Gifts that everyone will love’ says the strapline.
None of us are stupid. This is an advert designed to encourage us to spend our money in the said store. But that line interests me – ‘the gift that everyone will love’, which sounds familiar.
Paul’s letter to the Romans says (I paraphrase…): “I have this amazing story to tell you, It’s about Jesus Christ, And it’s for all of you” When we gather in Church at Christmas, and hear again the story of Jesus birth, it truly is – for everyone. It’s not like the big shops advertising their wares – because their gifts aren’t for everyone, because not everyone can afford presents at Christmas.
The gift of Jesus birth, is for everyone! It’s for Jews and Gentiles, expected and unexpected visitors, for rich or poor, for young and middle-aged and old, for those who can enjoy turkey and all the trimmings and those who use a food bank.  This story, of Jesus Birth – is a gift for all. Perhaps even Foxes, hedgehogs and a boxer dog.
Hymn    Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Charles Wesley sung by the Rev’ds Phil and Lythan Nevard 
and used with their kind permission.

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.


Reading:    St 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.
Reflection on reading: ‘The greatest gift I can give is me’
A less well remembered advert from Sainsbury’s, which shot in stop-frame animation, shows a father overwhelmed by the pressures of Christmas – getting up in the morning, delayed commuting, busyness and chaos in the toy factory where he works. All he wants to do is find the greatest gift he can give his family, but right now he doesn’t have time to breathe. ‘Streets are chaotic, shops idiotic, there’s a queue for the queue
I’m trying to find the greatest gift I can give my family.’ As he contemplates how he can do all that’s expected, possibly by cloning himself, he realises; ‘the greatest gift I can give my family – is me.’
The pressures of daily life – let alone during the Christmas period – can be intense. So much can overwhelm and dominate our thoughts and activities. The advert is not wrong, the greatest gift we can give to each other – is ourselves

  • Our time
  • Our love
  • Our support in tough times
  • Our celebration in good time

But we know, it’s easier said than done. There is also something else in that ad. In Matthew, we read this… 
“Look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Immanuel”
‘The greatest gift I can give is me’ sounds very familiar. 
Immanuel: God with us.  
Perhaps it is as if God is saying to us: ‘The greatest gift I can give you, is me’
God coming to us as a child, in a manger; ‘Immanuel’
God living among us and showing us all a new way of living, through Jesus; a way of hope, compassion, mercy and peace, which we so desperately need.
And just as we give presents as well as receiving them –  we can give that gift to other people; we can give our time and our love, we can encourage them, we can spend time in their shoes and fight for justice.
God’s greatest gift to us is a child in a manger. The greatest gift we can give, as church and as individuals, is God’s love in us. ‘what can I give him, poor as I am, what can I give him, give my heart’ Thanks be to God!
An Affirmation of Faith
We believe that God has come to us as a little child,
proclaiming strength in perceived weakness,
drawing close as one of us: ‘Immanuel’
filling our hearts with joy to be shared with one another.
We believe that God has birthed righteousness and justice into the world, making the cause of the oppressed the highest priority, declaring an everlasting reign of peace, defeating the power of pain and suffering.
We believe that God calls us to participate in this reality of love,
transforming us as disciples to go out into the world, sending us forth to announce his kingdom of peace and comfort, challenging us to see everyone as nothing less than beloved children.
This we believe.  
This we preach.  
This we seek to embody in word and deed.
Hymn    In The Bleak Mid Winter     
Christine Rossetti 1872 sung by Military Wives on BBC’s Songs of Praise.

In the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone:
snow had fallen,
snow on snow, 
snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, 
heaven cannot hold him,
nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away
when he comes to reign:
in the bleak midwinter
a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him whom cherubim
worship night and day,
a breastful of milk
and a mangerful of hay:
enough for him
whom angels fall down before,
the ox and ass and camel
which adore.
Angels and archangels
may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim
thronged the air,
but only his mother,
in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the Beloved
with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
if I were a wise man I would do my part,
yet what I can I give him, give my heart.
Prayers for Others
God of eternity, in the last minute rush of Christmas shopping
we pause to consider what money cannot buy.
In the excitement of wrapping the presents
we pause to listen to the story that lies beneath the paper.
In the busyness of cooking and entertaining
we pause to remember those who have no place to go.
In the choosing of trees and putting up decorations
we pause to pray for those who find Christmas a difficult time.
In the singing of carols and costumes of nativity plays
we pause to think of what lies behind our customs and traditions.
In the letters to Santa and hanging up of stockings
we give thanks for your gift of yourself in the birth of a baby.
We thank you that two thousand years after the story of Jesus,
God is still with us here in this community.
God is still with us here in this church.
God is still with us in our own hearts, 
God is still with us – and it is an amazing gift beyond all gifts. 
Offertory Prayer 
Holy One, this Advent Season we wait in hope and we give in hope.
Hope for your coming Kingdom; 
hope because of your presence with us now;
hope because light is banishing the dark.
Receive these gifts  and use them, we pray, 
for your work of healing and hope in the world. Amen
An Advent Communion
Adapting Liturgy from the Iona Community

God’s Banquet is coming. The time we await,  when all will gather from North, East, West and South. A banquet where the rich and powerful  will sit with the weak and poverty-stricken. A table where young and old will learn from each other.  A time when all will sit together in peace,  “and the wolf will lie down with the lamb”. Here at this table we find a foretaste of God’s banquet.  This is indeed God’s table, not the churches, and so all who seek to follow Jesus Christ are welcome to eat and drink from it. Come and taste the grace eternal,  Come and see that god is good.
Hymn:   Laudate Omnes Gentes
© 1991 Les Presses de Taizé. G.I.A. Publications, Inc
sung by an unknown choir on YouTube.
Laudate Omnes gentes, laudate Dominum!
Shout all you people, shout to the Lord!
The Story Remembered
As we prepare to celebrate his birth,  we remember the life that this baby will live. We remember how he broke the bonds of human tradition,  to show all what the banquet of hope could be,  as he ate openly with the despised and the outcast of his world. And we remember one special meal,  foretaste of the banquet that is to come,  that he ate with his closest friends. Gathering them together in an upper room to share the story of liberation. And at the end of the meal he took bread, blessed and broke it,  then passed it to them saying: take and eat.  This bread is the body of life, broken by the world.  Eat it in remembrance and in hope.
After that he took the cup, blessed it, and passed it to them saying:

this cup is the sign of the new covenant.  Whenever you drink it remember me.

Remembering the birth of the child in the stable,  we remember also his life, his death and his resurrection. We remember how he poured his love out to all he met  and we look forward to his return and the coming reign of peace, love, and justice.
The Great Thanksgiving
Let us pray
God is with us – we are not alone
Christ is present here – the Spirit moves within us
Let us give thanks to God – in memory and in hope

Blessings be to you, Creator God, 
who in the beginning brought light and life to the world 
and who continues to bring it love and light everlasting.
Your song of wisdom echoes down the years, 

Your ancient promise still brings us hope.

Over the ages you have called people to embrace your hope and share your love.  But even when they have closed their ears to the song, you did not stop singing.  You sent prophets and messengers to your people, reminding them of the promised time of peace and justice that would surround the world.  And then you came to a young woman named Mary
and laid out the promise in a new way: promising her a son, who would be called Jesus, promising her that in her son the world would be changed, and now as we prepare for that child to be born,  we echo the ancient cry: O come, O come Emmanuel
Pour out your Spirit upon us, as we eat and drink may we know your presence.  As we eat and drink may we be opened to the possibilities of your hope and power and may we be strengthened  in our time of waiting for peace and justice so that we will have the courage to follow the Christ Child. Amen
Hymn:   Laudate Omnes Gentes
© 1991 Les Presses de Taizé. G.I.A. Publications, Inc
sung by an unknown choir on YouTube.
Laudate Omnes gentes, laudate Dominum!
Shout all you people, shout to the Lord!
The Breaking and Pouring and Serving
The Bread we break is the Bread of Life. The Cup we Share is the Cup of Promise These are the gifts of God for the people of God. The banquet awaits, let us eat.
Prayer following Communion
God of pregnant expectations,  God of Christmas promise,  God of child-like hope,  we have eaten and drunk from your table.  May the eating and the drinking  fill us with hope in a world of despair. May we be beacons of hope  as we wait for the day when the world will be changed.  Amen
Hymn    Tell Out My Soul
Timothy Dudley Smith © 1962, renewal 1990 Hope Publishing Co. Sung on BBC’s 
Songs of Praise

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 the 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 forevermore!

Let us bless each other as we enter this last week of Advent,
and as we prepare to receive again, the Gift of God – Immanuel:
The light of the Christmas Star to you.
The warmth of home and hearth to you.
The cheer and good will of friends to you.
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.
And the blessing of God,
Creator, Child and Spirit
be with us all today, 
through this Christmas season,
and always. 

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Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
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