Sunday December 12th 2021   

A warm welcome to our service this morning for the third Sunday of Advent.

 

Hymn 319 Of the Father’s love begotten

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kK4JLP9i7U

 

Prayer of Approach

 

Lord Jesus Christ

We have come to worship you in this glad season of Advent

A season of expectation,

Of celebration

And , above, all, of preparation.

 

We come now, because we want to be ready –

Ready to give thanks for your coming

To recognise the ways you come to us now,

And to welcome you when you come again.

 

Open our hearts as we worship you,

So that all we share may give us a deeper understanding of this season,

And a fuller experience of your love,

For the sake of Christ who taught us to pray together saying, Our Father….

 

Hymn 316 Love came down at Christmas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvHSE6WiQJ0

 

Readings      

 

Isaiah 61: 1-2   (NIV)   

 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,

    because the Lord has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

    and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn.

Luke 4: 16-21

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Hymn 286 Tell out my soul

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz-FkqobgXY

Reflections

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

In September I had one of these embarrassing experiences which has probably happened to most of you at some time or another.  David and I had just arrived at Finchcocks Manor house in Kent for a baroque music course on playing the harpsichord.  We were the first people on the course to arrive and we were shown up to our room by the course co-ordinator, Jenny.

She left us to unpack and I took out my sponge bag and put it on the table.  Also on the table was a tray with two glasses on it and a bottle of water.  Well, maybe you can guess what happened.  The sponge bag decided to fall over, it caught one of the glasses which tipped over and rolled onto the hard wooden floor and smashed into a million smithereens.

So less than five minutes after arriving I had managed to cause a breakage.  I had to go downstairs and beg a dustpan and brush to clear up the damage.  And just as I was standing at the bottom of the stairs with my dustpan and brush, everyone else on the course arrived and immediately formed the conclusion that I was part of the cleaning staff.  I had to explain, so my shame was known to everyone. 

But the question remained – what did I do with all the broken pieces of glass? 

Well I swept them into a bag and gave them to Jenny to throw in the bin

After all, that’s what you do with everything that’s broken, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Suppose it was not a broken glass that you had to deal with, but a broken person? 

Suppose it was a child with a broken arm?

Or an elderly patient in a hospital suffering from a heart attack?

Or suppose you had to deal with somebody whose mind was broken?  Someone with dementia?  Or an alcoholic? Or maybe somebody who has lost their reason because of traumatic experiences that they find too awful to bear---the victims of war, the victims of natural disasters, the victims of poverty?

Would you just give up on these broken people and throw them onto the rubbish heap as well?

And what about broken societies, societies ruled by greed and selfishness, societies where power oppresses weakness, and corruption tramples on justice? 

Indeed, what about a broken world, where exploitation, violence, and power politics seem to be the only answers people can find? 

Would you give up on that also?

Of course, some people would say, “Yes, let everything defective be annihilated, let everything imperfect be destroyed.”

The temptation to go down that route can be very strong.   In the face of a broken life or a broken world, people may feel that the easy option is to just give up. People may say: “Why bother trying to patch things up? Let’s destroy everything we don’t like and show no mercy and no pity. Let’s wipe the slate clean, and have a world where nothing broken is ever allowed to survive.”

You can see a little of that in the last part of our Old Testament reading from the Prophet Isaiah. In those verses, Isaiah is describing the Old Testament idea of what was going to happen when the Messiah came.  People in Old Testament times thought that the Messiah would be a great military leader, and so Isaiah says he will bring the day of vengeance on Israel’s enemies. In effect, those enemies will be wiped out.

And wiping out everything that you find objectionable is an approach that has tempted people all through history in one way or another, sometimes with horrifying results. In the Old Testament, whole nations are threatened with annihilation.  In more modern times we have seen Nazi Germany, where large groups of people were condemned to death because they were deemed to be inferior or because they were considered to be physically or mentally defective.

There have always been people who think like this and who believe that the weak, the defenceless, and the infirm deserve no mercy and no compassion. And let’s be clear about it: if we accepted that idea, then none of those people I mentioned earlier---not the child with a broken arm, nor the hospital patient, nor the mentally ill---none of them would be offered healing.  They would instead be told that to be broken, to be imperfect, means to be rejected,  to be fit for nothing but to be thrown out.

History has many examples of people pursuing this vicious search for perfection---in politics, in religion, in society in general.

But at Christmas time we celebrate a unique event in the whole of human history, an event that stands in complete opposition to all the viciousness that has gone before.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and we can appreciate many different aspects of it---the baby Jesus in the manger, the shepherds and the angels, the wise men, the escape from wicked King Herod.   All of these are important parts of the story and they all in one way or another tell us something about the meaning of what happened in Bethlehem.

But there is a larger meaning to that great event, a meaning which Jesus spells out clearly in our reading from the Gospel of Luke. 

In that passage, Jesus gives the Bible reading in the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town.  And the passage he chooses to read is precisely that one we read earlier from the Prophet Isaiah, in which Isaiah describes what the Messiah will be like. 

Jesus suggests that this passage from Isaiah actually applies to him, but when he reads the passage he leaves out completely the whole verse about vengeance.   And that was no accident.  Jesus quite deliberately deleted everything about the Messiah being a great military leader because he wanted everybody to know that that was not the sort of Messiah he would be. 

Other people might be looking for a victorious warrior-king, but he was going to be a man of peace who brought comfort for those who suffered and healing for the broken-hearted. 

Right at the beginning of his ministry Jesus was saying emphatically that his way was different, his way was special.

And everything Jesus said and did for the rest of his life confirmed that.

Every single time that Jesus came face to face with the damaged and the broken, he refused to reject it.

Instead in every case he tried to heal the brokenness.  In every case, he offered acceptance and healing, never rejection and abandonment.

This was so consistently the approach of Jesus that there really can be little doubt that this was what he regarded as the central feature of his mission---to reach out to the world and to heal the broken---broken people, broken societies, the whole broken world.

Jesus never said to anybody: “You are imperfect, so there’s no place for you in my world.”

Instead, Jesus said:  “You are imperfect, but I welcome you in spite of that, and I offer you the chance, and the help, to be better.” 

Jesus knew that in the great journey towards becoming a better person, everybody has to start from where they are.  But Jesus was offering to accompany on that journey everybody who was willing to walk with himThat was the only precondition.

Of course, people are at liberty to reject that offer, and many people do. 

Some people think that this is the fault of Jesus: why does he not force everybody to follow him, they ask?

But of course that is precisely what Jesus is not about.  His birth and life and ministry were not about dragooning slaves into following him against their will.  He did not come to compel bad people to do what he told them. 

He came to take bad people and turn them into better people, people who would want in their turn to join him in the great task of making the whole world a better place.

Jesus offered to heal those who accepted him, and invited them to help him heal a broken world.

That is the real meaning of Christmas.

That is the offer which is made to us this Christmas.                            

Amen.

Hymn 291 When out of poverty is born

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzwyjnACz0o

Prayer of Intercession (by Gwen)

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,

We come together this morning thanking you that we are able to look forward to welcoming you anew in the shape of your Son, Jesus Christ, as a baby. We look forward excitedly to all the celebrations, the decorations, the Christmas tree, the presents and meeting together with family and friends.

But while we look forward to the coming events, we know that there are many for whom this is just a cold, lonely, difficult time of year.

There are those who are homeless, living on the streets, braving the cold and wet with no heat, no food, no roof over their head and no one to even talk to.

There are those cramming into inflatable rubber boats to brave the cold stormy channel to try and reach an impossible dream.

There are those who are bereaved, having lost dearly loved ones and not been able to have closure due to the restrictions from the pandemic. There are those too who are sick and will be unable to enjoy the festivities and those who are isolating and unable to see loved ones.

There are those who lie heavily on our minds today, as they need some extra care from you and us and we hold them up to you in the silence of our hearts.

There are difficult times for a lot of people as they realise that money isn’t going to go so far this year and they fear that poverty is going to make a poorer Christmas experience due to all the stress and pressure, forgetting that our Lord was born in poverty, not having all the glitz and glitter and expense that we are looking to create.

We thank you that we are able to enjoy the pomp and ceremony that is on offer this year as we look forward with love to welcoming you afresh into our lives as we journey together towards Christmas Day.

We pray for your hand to reach out and touch all those in need at this time and these things we ask in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Hymn 302 It was on a starry night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeRrAzapOQ0

Blessing: 

Look forward in hope, to the coming of your Saviour,

Prepare the way for Christ your Lord;

Welcome him with love and faith

When he comes in glory

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always, Amen

Closing Voluntary:  John Rutter:  Shepherd’s pipe carol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMYLb6O2QQ8

 


 

 

Intimations

Tarff and Twynholm

£125.00 was raised for Mercy Ships at our Communion Service on 31st October. Thank you to everyone who donated.

There will be a Kirk Session Meeting on Wednesday 22nd December at 7.30pm in the Church Hall and also one on 5th January at 8.00pm in the Church Hall when two members of the Ministry and Resources Committee will attend.

Christmas Services

19th December Lessons and Carols  Service. Depending on any new advice from the Church of Scotland it is hoped to serve  refreshments in the Church Hall afterwards.  Please remember to bring your Jar of Grace for UNICEF.

Christmas morning   There is no service in Tarff and Twynholm Church but the joint Christmas Morning Service will be held in Gatehouse Church at 10.00am. Everyone welcome.

Boxing Day 26th December. There will be no service in Gatehouse Church but  the congregation is invited  to join us here in Tarff and Twynholm at the usual time of 11.30am.

Gatehouse

Kirk Session:  There will be a meeting of the Kirk Session with representatives of the Presbytery Ministry and Resources committee on Wednesday January 5th at 7pm in the Church Hall.  This is to discuss the Presbytery Plan.

Christmas services:  Sunday 19th December Lessons and Carols 10am

Christmas morning family service – joint with Twynholm at Gatehouse at 10am

Sunday 26th December Joint service with Twynholm in Twyholm Church at 11:30

Kirkcudbright Choral:  The Kirkcudbright Choral Concert will be held on Sunday 19th of December in Kirkcudbright Church at 7:30pm.  Entry by donation.