URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Thursday 31st December 2020

Thu, 31/12/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 31st December - Joy to the World
 
Isaac Watts’ great paraphrase of Psalm 98 has been voted, evidently, the most popular Christmas hymn in North America.  It’s more of an Advent, rather than Christmas hymn and could be used at any time of the year (though it would be a brave minister or worship leader who suggested its use in the summer!)

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.


Joy to the World
Isaac Watts

You can hear, a contemporary arrangement, of this hymn here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xo64Q2ucQ8

Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
and Heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
while fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Reflection

For me, this is a perfect marriage of words and music – and singing it draws me in to its truth.  It moves me.  Without a doubt my favourite carol.

St Augustine, fifth century North African bishop, said ‘those who sing pray twice’.  Singing brings our whole selves into the act of praise, uniting heart and mind, words and melody.  We may cringe with embarrassment when asked to join in an action song, or to dance whilst we praise, but children and young people often embrace the embodiedness of worship in these ways.  Learning British Sign Language or Makaton can further ensure our bodies are caught up in our worship, and connect us more deeply to the meaning of the words we sing.

The Wesley brothers understood that the theology that takes root in our lives is the theology we sing, rather than the theology we hear.  Most of us could probably quote more hymns and worship songs by heart than Bible verses, and certainly than sermons!

I write at a time when singing together is not possible (to help prevent the spread of Covid 19).  I pray the situation will have improved by the time you are reading this.  How much harder it is to praise and worship in isolation – how much do we long for the time when we can gather to worship and sing in a foretaste of the courts of heaven when the unnumbered throng of all people groups will sing praises together.

For me the very act of singing this hymn ushers in joy.  Joy in my heart.  Joy to the world. What better way to mark the ending of one year and the birth of the next than to respond to the Biblical command to sing to the Lord with these wonderful and powerful words. 

Prayer

Help us to lift our voices in praise to you, our Lord and saviour,
Unhindered by self consciousness,
Knowing our heartfelt praise will always sound sweet to your ear
And in harmony with the eternal praise of heaven.
Joy to the world.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe community, Oxford. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 30/12/2020 - 16:00
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service, continuing with the Advent/Christmas pattern of reflections/meditations from Nick Fawcett, will be focusing, of course, on Epiphany! We couldn't let the Sunday pass without singing We Three Kings, also included in Sunday's hymn choices are a triumphant rendition of Gaudete, The First Noel and James Montgomery's Hail to the Lord's Anointed.

As usual, the service will be released at 9:45am for a 10am start. If you have any troubles, read on...!

with every blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
Wise Man, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 30th December 2020

Wed, 30/12/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 30th December - In the Bleak Mid Winter

Christina Rossetti was the daughter of an Italian refugee.  She was raised as a High Church Anglican and broke off her engagement when her fiance converted to Catholicism.  She wrote this hymn as a poem and it didn’t appear in a hymnbook until 1906 - after she’d died.  The English Hymnal editors paired the poem with the tune by Holst and it has remained remarkably popular ever since.

Philippians 2: 5 - 11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

In the Bleak Mid Winter
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

You can hear this carol here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE0aIQp9V4s

In the bleak mid-winter
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 mid-winter
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 mid-winter
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,
Worshipped 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.

Reflection

Here we have two beautiful pieces of poetry, both of which are eminently suitable for Christmastide.

Unlike many other passages in Philippians Paul is not focussing on joy here. Instead he focusses on the Son of God, one with God in all things (“hands that flung stars into space”), dwelling in the heavens, choosing to condescend and live the life of a first century Palestinian man. Paul focusses on the One who, although given every opportunity to avoid it, submitted to torture and death (“to cruel nails surrendered”).

Yet, as we read, Jesus’ ministry did not stop there. Because, as we know, the grave was no match for the Son of God. God raised Him up, giving Him the Name above all names (“’tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord”).

But none of this would have happened had Jesus not condescended to live our life. None of this would have happened if God had not chosen to “enter our world, His glory veiled”.

Today’s Christmas carol, Victorian yuletide imagery aside (was it really snowing in Bethlehem?), focusses on Christ’s coming to earth as a babe. It focusses on His physical and practical needs (“a breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay”).

But I think the carol is about much more than wintery Palestine, or the various animals gathered around the manger. I think it shows how God did not choose to redeem the world through gifts; nor did He choose to redeem the world through money, or fine oratory, or complex law books. Instead He chose to redeem the world through flesh and blood, through the giving of a heart - the life of One for the lives of all. We too, in the confused world in which we live, can only hope to minister effectively and faithfully if we are ready to give our hearts in His service.

Prayer

Lord 
of the manger and stranger,
of the wintry scene and the stark Cross,
of the orphan and sick,
of light and love,
Hear us as we pray. 
Grant us Your grace, 
that we may offer our hearts and lives to You, 
as we seek to proclaim Your Son through our words and deeds.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Michael RJ Topple, Lay Preacher and Elder of Chappel URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 29th December 2020

Tue, 29/12/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 29th December - It Came upon the Midnight Clear

This carol by Edward Sears is a firm favourite across the denominations despite the Unitarianism of the writer.  In the hymn Sears laments the world at war not hearing the message the angels brought.  In the UK it is usually sung to Arthur Sullivan’s tune Noel.  

St Luke 2: 13 - 14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,  ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’


It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
(Edward Sears 1849)

You can hear this carol here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtV477Cqni0

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And we at bitter war hear not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Reflection

One among many of the embarrassing moments in my life was the occasion I chose to compliment the choir leader of a local Anglican church after Evensong.  “How brave of the choir to sing in Latin”, I remarked.  What was intended as a compliment was rapidly identified as an insult.  The anthem had been sung in English!   Sadly, as a hearer I had clearly not heard the words they were singing.  

In this classic carol Edward Sears observes that humanity fails to hear the song of the angels.   In our case, he suggests, the angels struggle to be heard due to the “noise” of “strife”.  The editors of Rejoice and Sing revised it effectively:  … and we, at bitter war, hear not the love-song which they bring:  O hush the noise and end the strife, to hear the angels sing.  This carol highlights both the message of Christmas and the challenge to hear and respond.   The angels are the preachers and heralds;  the “cloven skies” their pulpit.  Their message – their love-song – is that the Word-made-Flesh is among us.  At times that message may sound like an anthem in another language:  a Word proclaimed and translated into the everyday “strife” of human encounter.   One day, we are assured, peace will prevail.   Until then our challenge is to hush our noise and be quiet long enough for God to get a Word in edgeways – the Word that Elijah perceived at Horeb in “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12);  the Word that in a backyard in Bethlehem, drowned out by the noise from the inn, Mary “pondered … in her heart” (Luke 2:19)

The angels’ “glorious song of old” may well not have been sung at midnight but it is when we seek and find “solemn stillness” that we stand a chance of hearing angels – and receiving the Presence that is Christmas.

Prayer

God of cloven skies and angels’ love-song,
grant that within the noise of this season
we may find space for solemn stillness and know you in sheer silence.
Translate, for us, angelic anthems into common parlance,
that with Mary we may ponder the song
and treasure the Word made flesh in Jesus.

In his name and for his sake
may we pledge ourselves anew as heralds and makers of peace
and enable his Word to get in edgeways.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke is Moderator of East Midlands Synod and a member of St Andrew’s with Castle Gate, Nottingham
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 28th December 2020

Mon, 28/12/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 28th December - The Coventry Carol

Both the words and music of this carol date back to the middle ages and put in sung form the dramatic, and horrific, slaughter of the Innocents.  Annie Lennox’s version of it is particularly haunting.

St Matthew 2: 16-18

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

The Coventry Carol
Traditional

You can hear Annie Lennox’s version here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltVWs4jDYsw

Lullay, lullay
My little tiny child
By-by, lullay, lullay

Oh, sisters too
how may we do
for to preserve this day?
This poor youngling
of whom we do sing.
By-by, lullay, lullay.

Herod the King
in his raging
charged he hath this day.
His men of might
in his own sight
all children young to slay.

Then woe is me
poor child for thee,
and ever mourn and say.
For thy parting
nor say, nor sing.
By-by, lullay, lullay.

Lullay, lullay
My little tiny child
By-by, lullay, lullay

Reflection
This carol has a haunting, chilling tone to it, as it reminds us of the horror of Herod’s act to maintain his position.  It is not often heard in churches as we like to sing the rousing carols of celebration.  But it appeals to me as it shows us that the Nativity was never a cosy little tableau where everything was easy – where the straw was soft and gentle, and a glowing light surrounded everyone’s head.

There is no pain worse than losing a child – at whatever age.  Before birth, it is often hard for the mother to acknowledge her motherhood as she has nothing to show for it.  When a baby is lost we mourn the potential of what could have been.  As the child ages, their loss is no less felt, as the potential that has been lost is keenly felt and parents have to deal with the guilt that they feel as they think that it should have been them first.

To be with someone who has suffered the loss of a child, while heavily pregnant, or cradling your own baby brings almost unbearable feelings of guilt and almost a sense of wanting to hide what you have to protect the one who has lost.  Yet often this does not help, as those who are suffering want to know that life goes on.  But the grief does not go away.  The guilt of loss stays with you, however well you learn to manage it.

I wonder what Mary made of it all…..

Prayer

Lord there is no greater loss than that of a child.  But you have been there, as you have given up your precious Son for us.   Be with us in our mourning that we may know your comfort, that we may know you share in our suffering and show us the light at the end of our darkness.  For your light is the hope we need always.  Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th December 2020

Sun, 27/12/2020 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th December 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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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
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th December 2020

 
Christmas 1 - Holy Innocents

Opening Music Carol of the Bells sung by Libera
 
Introduction
 
Hello and welcome to this special Daily Devotions service where we think of a darker part of the Christmas story.  Sometimes we don’t always get what we wished for, sometimes the thing we long for turns out not to be what we wanted or needed.  
 
In the middle of the Christmas season the church jumps to the end of the story - the horrific slaughter of the children by Herod.  Sequentially this part of the story takes place after Epiphany but this event is always marked between Christmas itself and Epiphany.  Today, then, we reflect on the darker side of the Christmas story and unite ourselves with all who suffer
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.
 
Hymn       What Child Is This?
                W C Chatterton Dix
 
What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?
 
2 Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
 
This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
 
3 So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
 
Raise, raise the Son on high.
The Virgin sings her lullabye
Joy, joy for Christ is born
The babe, the son of Mary

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Lord
 
We come to you to worship together today, 
people who have been walking in a cloud of darkness, 
looking forward to a time when your light is shining brightly once again.
Open our hearts in joy and praise
 
There are times when the flame of our faith is dim
The candle is about to go out, 
Keep us strong in your grace and allow our light to shine brightly once more
Open our eyes to the brightness of your love
 
We can often become introspective, 
Concerned only with our own problems and issues
Ignoring those who are struggling in the world around us
Open our ears to hear the call of those you love
 
When we lose our way and the path is dark
Lord, remind us that your light shines to guide us through
Help us to see that the road is not blocked 
Allow us to follow in your footsteps
 
Many of us struggle with doubts and questions
Wondering if our prayers and contemplations have been misplaced
Forgive us Lord, when we lose heart
Remind us that you are always with us 
 
When events around the world through us into confusion
When emptiness is surrounding us and
We are struggling to find your love and understanding in others
Rekindle our faith and provide our soul with peace
 
Forgive us Lord when we stumble and fall, 
Help us to get back on our feet and follow the teachings of your son,
And hear us now as we join together in the prayer he taught us saying:
 
Our Father who art in heaven…
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Lord, 
 
Open our eyes to see your message today
Open our ears and allow us to hear to your message today
Open our hearts and souls, allow us to understand your message today
Open our mouths and voices that we may spread your message to all 
 
Amen
 
St Matthew 2: 16-18
 
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
 
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
 
Meditation of Herod 
 
Could they have been right, those visitors from the East?
Were they not so misguided after all?
I laughed when they first arrived,
rambling on about a star like that –
a bunch of cranks I thought,
but we humoured them just in case.
 
They were wealthy after all,
the sort who might well show appreciation worth having.
So I called together the chief priests,
summoned the scribes,
and set them to work –
about time they did something useful.
But what did they come up with?
 
Bethlehem, that’s what!
Foretold apparently by the prophet Micah.
Bethlehem! I ask you!
That provincial backwater!
It’s in the middle of nowhere,
hardly the place for a king to be born.
 
No, it would have to be Jerusalem,
any fool could have told them that,
but it was all academic anyway,
no king had been born;
well, I’d have been the first to know, wouldn’t I?
Stands to reason.
 
Unless some usurper, some would-be Messiah,
had designs on my throne;
there’s always enough of those –
blasted troublemakers!
 
But I couldn’t see it,
not after what we did to the last imposter.
 
No, I didn’t pay much attention,
but just in case I told them to come back,
let me know when they found him
so that I could pay my respects in turn.
 
They never did, of course –
never expected them to either.
No doubt slunk off home with their tails between their legs.
Yet I’ve not been able to sleep these last few days,
not since I heard this rumour doing the rounds –
three strangers apparently,
who turned up in Bethlehem and offered gifts,
costly gifts,
gold, frankincense and myrrh,
and all for some child not yet out of his cradle.
 
There may be nothing in it, of course,
but it sounds like them, doesn’t it?
 
And if it was, then who was the child?
What did they know about him?
Why didn’t they come back?
Could there be something going on,
some plot I don’t know about,
a rival to my throne?
 
Could it be that prophet knew what he was talking about, all those years ago?
It’s unlikely, I grant you, but I’m making certain,
deadly certain –
just in case they were right.
 
Hymn       Coventry Carol
                 English Traditional
 
Lullay, lullay, my little tiny child,
Bye bye, lullay, lullay.
My little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
 
O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling of whom we do sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay?”
 
Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All children young to slay.
 
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting nor say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.”
 
Lullay, lullay, my little tiny child,
Bye bye, lullay, lullay.
My little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

St Matthew 2: 13 - 15
 
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  Then Joseph  got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,  and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
 
Meditation of a Mother in Bethlehem.
 
It was though all hell was let loose,
    the most terrible day in my life,
    as suddenly the soldiers burst in up us –
    cold,
    cruel,
    clinical –
    westing our little ones from us,
   ignoring our screams for mercy,
    their screams of terror,
    and hacking them down in cold blood before our very eyes.
 
There are simply no words to describe how we felt –
     the fear,
     the horror,
     the emptiness,
     the rage,
     and above all, the helplessness –
     unable to do anything but watch grief-stricken
     as our world fell to pieces.
 
One moment life was full of promise,
      the next, utterly bereft.
One moment we were laughing with our children,
      and the next sobbing our hearts out as we laid them to rest.
 
Why did it have to happen?
What could have possessed even Herod to do such a thing?
and, most of all, how could God ever have allowed it?
I’ll never understand that, as long as I love – never!
It’s thrown a cloud over everything, even faith itself,
    for I can’t help thinking of an event not so very different,
    that moment of our nation’s deliverance,
    centuries back, from Egypt,
    when, after the death of their firstborn,
     Pharaoh at last let our people go.
 
A glorious chapter in our history, so they tell us,
    and maybe it was,
    but I can’t help thinking of all those mums
    and the agony they must have gone through,
    while we skipped away to freedom.
 
We were spared then of course –
     the blood of a lamb setting us apart –
      but not this time –
      this time we were left to face the full force of unbridle evil,
       hatred incarnate,
       humanity at its most vile –
       and all, apparently, because Herod heard some rumour
       that the Messiah had been born
       somewhere here in Bethlehem.
 
How much longer must it go on?
How much more suffering must there be,
    before God decides to do something about it?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me
    if he really loves this world as he says he does,
    then it’s about time he provided another lamb,
    another sacrifice,
    just like he provided before,
    only this time one to save not just a few of us,
    those specially chosen, set apart,
    but everyone.
 
Hymn       Unto Us Is Born a Son
                 Unknown, 15th Century
 
1. Unto us is born a son,
King of choirs supernal:
See on earth his life begun,
Of lords the Lord eternal.
 
2. Christ, from heav'n descending low,
Comes on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their Owner know
Now cradled in a manger.
 
3. This did Herod sore affray,
And did him bewilder,
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer.

4. Of his love and mercy mild
Hear the Christmas story:
O that Mary's gentle Child
Might lead us up to glory!
 
5. O and A and A and O,
Cantemus in choro,
Voice and organ, sing we so,
Benedicamus Domino.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
Let us join together in our prayers for others, let us pray:
 
Lord, 
 
We pray today for all those who are finding their faith growing dim, for the lonely who have no one to share the joy of advent with: may they feel the care and love of Jesus in the friendship of others
 
For the hungry who are unable to feed themselves and their families
We give thanks for the help of many, for the foodbanks and charities
We pray that they receive the help and support available
 
For the homeless who are lucky if they find a doorway to shelter in 
We give thanks for the people providing support around the streets of our towns and cities
For the homeless shelters and the support of charities
 
Lord, we pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one at this time
distraught and empty, full of confusion
Help them to feel your arms around them offering support and love 
 
For those who are coping with illness and disease 
Restricted from the love and care of their families as they receive treatment
Allow them to grow stronger in the knowledge that you are with them
 
We hold all emergency workers in our thoughts and prayers,
For those who are working long hours to provide support for the most vulnerable
Provide them the strength and resources to cope with the stresses of this time
 
We pray for the leaders throughout our world, provide them with guidance and patience 
Allow them to make the best decisions for the many and not the few
Remind them that they are responsible for the care of their people
 
Today, we also hold in our hearts, 
those who are close to us but feel far away
Those who are hurting and lost to your light
Those who have lost their way and are struggling to find your path
 
We bring them to you now in this time of silence….
 
Strengthen our faith and resilience that we may help others in need
 
Enhance our hope and allow us to shine your light for all to see
 
Fill us with joy that we may share the joy of Jesus’ birth with all we meet
 
Allow our souls to be at peace, as we hold the fragile earth in our hearts today.
Until we meet again in your name we pray.  Amen
 
Offertory
 
Take our gifts, Loving God, 
our gifts of time, talent and treasurer,
and use them, and us, to make a difference in our world
that the innocent may no longer be slaughtered,
the corrupt no longer enrich themselves,
the poor no longer be hungry
and the oppressed no longer suffer,
may your Kingdom come, O Lord,
and let us be part of it.
Amen.
 
Hymn       On This Day Earth Shall Ring
                 Personet Hodie from Piae Cantiones, 1582
                 trans. Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929)
 
On this day earth shall ring
with the song children sing
to the Lord, Christ our King,
born on earth to save us;
him the Father gave us.
 
Id-e-o-o-o, id-e-o-o-o,
Id-e-o gloria in excelsis Deo!

2. God's bright star, o'er his head,
Wise Men three to him led;
kneel they low by his bed,
lay their gifts before him,
praise him and adore him. 
 
3. On this day angels sing;
with their song earth shall ring,
praising Christ, heaven's King,
born on earth to save us;
peace and love he gave us.

Blessing
 
Lord Jesus, may your light shine our way
As once it guided the steps of the magi
That we too maybe led into your presence and worship you
 
The child of Mary
The word of the Father
The king of nations
The saviour of mankind
To whom be glory forever. Amen
 
Closing Music Masters in the Hall - 2009 HSPVA Madrigal Choir
 
Sources
Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas (C) 2001 Nick Fawcett.  Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
 
Carol of the Bells sung by Libera
What Child Is this? – W C Chatterton Dix. Sung by The Gardiner Sisters
Coventry Carol – English Traditional. Sung by Annie Lennox
Unto Us Is Born a Son - Unknown, 15th Century. From Kleinkoor Caprice.
On This Day Earth Shall Ring- Personet Hodie from Piae Cantiones, 1582. Trans. Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929). Sung by Kings College Choir
Masters in the Hall. 2009 HSPVA Madrigal Choir.
 
Thanks to…
… Andy Braunston and Lesley Thomson
 
Thanks to Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Dan Morrell, Rachel Harvey, Anne Hewling, John Wilcox, Karen Smith, Tina Wheeler, Philip Jones, John Young and Pam Carpenter for reading spoken parts of the service.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 27th December 2020

Sun, 27/12/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 27th December - The Candle Song

Candle lighting has long been part of Catholic and Orthodox spirituality but was treated with suspicion at the Reformation.  It’s interesting that in many of our churches we have, at least in Advent, lit candles and we realise that it’s now a popular part of spirituality.  Kendrick recognises this with his modern song.

St John 1: 1-9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 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. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

The Candle Song
Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1988 Make Way Music,

You can hear the song here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teZaQUKjx24

Like a candle flame
Flickering small in our darkness
Uncreated light
Shines through infant eyes

God is with us, alleluia 
God is with us, alleluia 
Come to save us, alleluia 
Come to save us 
Alleluia! 

Stars and angels sing
Yet the earth sleeps in shadows
Can this tiny spark
Set a world on fire?

Yet his light shall shine
From our lives, Spirit blazing
As we touch the flame
Of his holy fire

Reflection

I find candlelight beguiling.
It draws me in.
It’s fizz in the dark is profoundly hopeful.
 
The dimness and shadow of winter in the northern hemisphere means that we welcome the sparkle of tealights awakening our souls, reminding us of warmth and brightness.
 
The popularity of Graham Kendrick’s song is testament to our longing for the light.  ‘God is with us’, we are told, like a candle flame flickering in the darkness.
 
You will know a shaded space in your own life, and we all know it in the life of the world. How we long for a flames glow!
 
We can be forgiven, in this space between Christmas and New Year, for having shrunk away from the blazing Christ light. It is hard to hold Christ’s dazzling love at the front of our daily lives for too long, as the reality of the shadows creep in again.
‘Can this tiny spark set a world on fire?’
 
Yes. Yes it can!  Here is a reminder that any glimmer of God’s presence in the shadows of life, can spark the kind of hope and joy that can beguile us and draw us in - igniting change, exposing injustice, giving warmth that comforts and heals.
 
John’s words, so often read at the end of Lessons and Carols, are a stark and wonderful reminder of how God is with us: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’.
 
Here is light for us and for all.
Here is light for us to reflect.
Here is light that saves us.
 
In this weird space after Christmas, the light still shines.
Thanks be to God!

Prayer
 
God with us,
We give thanks for the light of the world.
Shine in our night, we pray.
Shine in the world’s shadows.
Shine through infant eyes, and let us sing
‘Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia’
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC). Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming - worship tomorrow!

Sat, 26/12/2020 - 10:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Christmas greetings to you all!

Normally you would expect this email much earlier in the week. But given the numerous services available from the Daily Devotions team, I didn't want to confuse you too much. To be perfectly honest, over the Christmas period, all days of the week are thrown out of the window for me, so feel blessed that I'm even getting this out on time!

Tomorrow's service is Holy Innocents, where we look at a rather more sombre part of the Christmas story. Whilst Herod's killing of the innocent children takes place after Epiphany, chronologically. It is traditionally marked in the Sunday between Christmas Day and Epiphany.

In keeping with our advent services, this service will contain meditations from Baptist minister Nick Fawcett. Hymns include What Child is This, a beautiful Annie Lennox rendition of Coventry Carol, Unto Us Is Born a Son, and On This Day Earth Shall Ring.

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  

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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 26th December 2020

Sat, 26/12/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 26th December - Good King Wenceslas

This hymn written by the Anglican hymn writer and translator JM Neale was written to promote the spirit of generosity.  It is thought that Boxing Day - the Feast of Stephen - was when servants and tradespeople received their “Christmas boxes” from the employers.  Turning to the legend of Wenceslas he used the song to influence people to be more generous.


St Matthew 25: 34-40

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”


Good King Wenceslas
JM Neale 1853

You can hear this hymn here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQVUMG6LZGM

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Reflection

The hymn ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is incredibly evocative for me and comes to mind quite frequently when walking on the Lakeland fells in the mist or rain or snow at any time of the year. I am not a map reader, nor have a good sense of direction, so I usually find myself following in the footsteps of my walking companion and quite literally stepping in the prints he’s made in the mud or snow. I often burst into this song as I picture that page boy trying to keep up with the determination of the good king wanting to show his generosity of spirit – just on this special day of Christmas - to those he sees suffering in poverty and to whom he feels a sense of responsibility.

Christmas does that to us, doesn’t it? It is a time when we show our generosity – not only in response to folk who have kindly given us an unexpected gift, but we also find that perhaps it’s a time to give a bit more to charity – perhaps to ease our conscience over spending all that money on food and drink…….
Or is it because we wish to see the justice of God prevail as in the scene of the heavenly banquet when those who cared for the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned and strangers are recognised and welcomed into the kingdom? And not only at Christmas.

I am always grateful that when I can’t see where I’m going on the hills I have someone to follow and so too in my life as a disciple. I try to walk the walk and talk the talk but I am certain that if I tread in the footsteps of the Master I will be led in the right direction.
 
Prayer

When we forget to be generous – remind us of our riches
When we see hunger and thirst – show us your face
When we are tired and can’t go on – refresh us with the encouragement of your Spirit
When we lose our way through the mist of uncertainty  – guide our steps on the right path
Strengthen our determination to follow where you lead, for Christ’s sake. Amen
 
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is an active part-time retired minister. She is a member of Kendal URC
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Christmas Day Service

Fri, 25/12/2020 - 11:15
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Christmas Day Service from the URC

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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
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
United Reformed Church Daily Devotion Service

for Christmas Day 2020
The Rev’d Wilbert Sayimani
 
Introduction
 
Shalom, greetings to all of you friends. It is my greatest joy to be sharing the word with you today, on Christmas Day. My name is The Rev’d Wilbert Sayimani, the minister of Richmond Hill St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Bournemouth. A place known for its warmth, love and care, you are all welcome to come and join us and worship with us, should you get the chance.
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.

Carol        O Come All Ye Faithful
                 tr Frederick Oakeley
 
O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant!
O come ye,
O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
 
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.
 
2: God of God,
light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
begotten, not created:

3: Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens
of Heaven above!
Glory to God,
glory in the highest:
 
4: Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing!
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession
 
Jesus, child of the crib,
with Mary who bore you,
with Joseph who protected you,
with the animals who watched over you,
with the Angels who sang of you-
with our brothers and sisters throughout the world,
we welcome you today and we come to you.
 
We may not have much to give you Lord,
but what we have, you can have.
We pray that you be born in our hearts today.
Gracious God, forgive us when,
as the innkeepers of our time,
we turn away those who are different from ourselves.
When there is no room in our hearts for those you love,
confront us until all the doors and windows of our souls are flung open, that, inspired by your love for us,
we might be generous to all who come near to us in need.
We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
who promised and assured us forgiveness
if we come with a repentant heart.
 
Thank you Lord for coming into our world to die in our place
and forgive all our sins.
We are forgiven and for that we give glory to God
in Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Almighty God,
in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Open our eyes today that we may see the wonders of your word,
the glory descending on us today
and the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.
 
Give us grace that we may clearly understand your word
and freely chose the way of your wisdom,
to embrace and welcome your Son born to us on today.
 
We pray and ask this in the wonderful name
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Reading:           St John 1: 1-14
 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
 
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.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
 
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
 
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
 
Carol        It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
                 Edmund Sears
 
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

2: Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
 
3: Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
 
4: For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
 
Sermon
 
This [John 1:1-14] is a well-known passage. We hear it almost every Christmas and it becomes so familiar that the depth of it is sometimes lost. 
 
To try and retain its depth, let me pick only one verse in this passage that is verse 11 where it says: “He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
 
At this first Christmas, the word became flesh. God walked among us full of grace and truth. But sadly, his people did not accept him. 
 
This is the greatest tragedy of human history. Not accepting or recognising Christ when he walked here on Earth. 
 
This reminds me of Isaiah 1:3 where God laments the folly of humanity. “The Ox knows it’s master, the donkey it’s owner’s manger but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
 
How tragic that his own people failed not only to accept him but even to recognise him as the son of God.
 
Right from the beginning, we see king Herod trying to kill him and he had to become a refugee in Egypt because there was no sanctuary in his own town. How tragic is this!
 
Throughout his ministry, Jesus struggled with the opposition from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 
 
This happened right through to his crucifixion on Good Friday. His own people did not accept him. 
 
It’s so sad to see here that the Christmas story becomes the story of the unwelcome Christ. “He came to what was his own, and his own did not accept him.”
 
Today we are here to celebrate the Christmas story and the question is, ‘are we going to accept him and welcome him into our hearts?
 
Welcoming Christ into the world, into the church and into our lives is what Christmas is all about.  Welcoming Christ is what is at the heart of the Christmas story. 
 
Blessed are those who will welcome and accept Christ into their lives this Christmas. Isaiah says, “They will shout for joy when the Lord returns to Zion, and they will see it with their own eyes and burst into songs of joy together.”
 
And John here says they will be called the children of God. 
 
I am encouraged that while others rejected Christ, there are those who welcomed him and this time, I will be counted amongst those.
 
Do you remember the innkeeper in the story? Even though the rooms were full, he still welcomed Christ in some way. 
 
In Palestinian culture, hospitality was taken seriously that the innkeeper could not afford seeing Mary and Joseph walk away in that condition. He had to welcome them somehow. 
 
People wrongly interpret this text to say that they were turned away but they were not. 
 
In fact there are so many myths surrounding the Christmas story that we often miss what the Bible really say and we don’t look carefully enough at the story and are in danger of missing the point. 
 
What people don’t realise is that guest houses in Palestine in Jesus’ time were on two open floors; the upper floor being bedrooms and the lower floor for cattle and horses.
 
And this is where Joseph and Mary had to be welcomed in. Even though they had to be in the downstairs part of the building. 
This gives me joy that at least Christ was welcomed by someone at his birth. He was welcomed at his birth - born into a humble, loving and caring home of Joseph and Mary. 
 
The Shepherds came from the fields; men of poverty with humble jobs and lowly status in society but they welcomed Christ. 
 
Ironically and somewhat embarrassingly, it seems that the humble and the lowly welcomed Christ. The humble and lowly shepherds welcomed Christ but the holy and religious people of the day did not welcome him. 
 
What a challenge to our comfort and complacency this story is! This is an upside-down story, it does not work the way we think it should.
 
Surely the Priests and Religious people should have been there to welcome Christ but they are the ones who rejected him and missed him.
 
It is the lowly, the poor and the marginalised who recognised the Messiah for who he truly is.  
 
Friends, God is not found in our religiosity but he meets us in our humility and poverty of spirit. Welcoming Christ is something we do out of our poverty of spirit where we say, ‘Lord, I don’t have much to give you, but what I have, you can have. 
 
I am not very righteous, in fact I get so much wrong in my life.
Lord, I don’t have much to offer you at all, but what I have, you can have. And so the manger was made available. 
 
This is the type of welcome that Jesus wants. The welcome of a lowly guest house, The welcome of a humble home, the welcome of poor shepherds and the welcome of a humble and broken spirit that we can give this morning. 
 
I pray that the Lord will help us this Christmas to recognise him as the Messiah who came and stayed with us here on Earth. Let’s embrace this and begin to shout for joy because Christ is born. 
 
May God bless you.
 
Carol        See Him Lying on a Bed of Straw
                 Michael Perry (1942 - 1996)
 
See him lying on a bed of straw:
a draughty stable with an open door;
Mary cradling the babe she bore
the prince of glory is his name.
 
O now carry me to Bethlehem
to see the Lord of love again:
just as poor as was the stable then,
the prince of glory when he came.
 
2 Star of silver, sweep across the skies,
show where Jesus in the manger lies;
shepherds, swiftly from your stupor rise
to see the saviour of the world!
 
3 Angels, sing again the song you sang,
sing the glory of God's gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl'em's little baby can
be the saviour of us all.
 
4 Mine are riches, from your poverty,
from your innocence, eternity;
mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
child of sorrow for my joy.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
God of Christmas, we unwrap our presents –
help us to remember those who have nothing. (pause)
 
As we eat our festive food - help us to remember those who are hungry. (pause)
 
We have fun with our friends and family - help us to remember those who are lonely. (pause)
 
We think about the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable - help us to remember all animals, and to be kind to them. (pause)
 
We reflect that Mary gave birth a long way from home - help us to remember those in refugee camps today. (pause)
 
As we enjoy being around those we love, in our happiness - help us to remember all who are sad today and entrust them to you in Jesus’ name. Amen. 
 
Our Father, who art in heaven…
 
Offertory
 
Today we celebrate the gift of God to the world. We share his love as he told us to when he said, “Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.” I encourage you friends to give your gifts and offering unto the Lord this morning.  Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”  Come, let us pray now for the offerings we bring:
 
Faithful Father, we thank you for the gift of life and the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. You are indeed a good God. You give good gifts to your children. Everything we have is a gift from you. As we bring our offerings to you, we give back to you from the abundance or from the little that you have given us already. May our gifts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, we give praise, glory and honour to your name this morning through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Carol        See Amid the Winter’s Snow
                  Edward Caswell (1814 – 1878)
 
See amid the winter's snow
born for us on earth below.
See the tender Lamb appears
promised from eternal years.
 
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn
Hail, redemption's happy dawn
Sing through all Jerusalem
Christ is born in Bethlehem
 
2: Say, ye holy shepherds, say
what your joyful news today?
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?
 
3: Sacred infant, all divine
what a tender love was thine!
Thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this!

Blessing
 
May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship from the Presbyterian Church of America’s publication Call To Worship (Advent and Christmas)
Affirmation of Faith from the PCUSA’s 1967 Confession of Faith
All other prayers by Wilbert Sayimani.
 
O Come All Ye Faithful translated by Frederick Oakeley performed by The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, David, Corkhill and the Bach Choir.
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears sung by the Choir and Congregation of Kings’ College Cambridge
See Him Lying on a Bed of Straw by Michael Perry sung by BBC’s Songs of Praise
See Amid the Winter’s Snow by Edward Caswall, performed by Annie Lennox
 
Thanks to…
Wilbert Sayimani.
 
Dan Morrell, Andy Braunston, Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Rachel Harvey, Pam Carpenter, Karen Smith, Jean Stokes, Ruth Watson and Alison Jiggins for reading the spoken parts of the service.
 
A special thank you and well done to Evie Richardson, aged 5, for reading the blessing.
 
On behalf of the Daily Devotions team, we wish you all a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas. --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 25th December 2020

Fri, 25/12/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Friday 25th December 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 25th December - While Shepherds Watched their Flocks By Night

This carol is a paraphrase of the Gospel account of the angels and the shepherds made by Irish man Nathum Tate.  Many tunes have been used for this - we normally use Winchester New which has an appropriately churchy feel to it.  However, Cranbrook normally gets folk to enjoy the hymn and sing it with some ghusto!

St Luke 2: 15 - 20

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.

While Shepherds Watched
Nathum Tate c1700

You can hear this here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgYzJDxxzN8 for the tune normally used but the far better tune Cranbrook is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZxvfZ9Ga2E

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around

"Fear not," he said,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,
To you and all mankind."

"To you in David's
Town this day
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign
And this shall be the sign."

"The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid
And in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph,
And forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
Addressed their joyful song

"All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease!"

Reflection

Wait,  what is that? 
Can you see it? 
Can you hear it? 
Surely it isn't for us? 

It's so bright it fills the whole sky, it's so loud it echoes across the valley.

It's too glorious for people like us, it must be meant for someone else.

Yet the angels didn't appear to the great and the good in nearby Jerusalem, barely 6 miles away.

They deliberately sought out people who were among the lowliest in society.

Shepherding wasn't a career choice for the brightest and best, it didn't demand skills or brainpower. Whoever heard of a good shepherd?

So here was a group of unimportant shepherds on the hillside above an insignificant town on the edge of the world. Maybe the angels were lost on their way to somewhere else. Their celestial sat-nav had sent them the wrong way.

But there was no mistake, this was the place, this was the time, and these were the people who got the invitation to witness the arrival of a baby born to shepherd many sheep.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus had been born in a palace and that the witnesses were royalty, High Priests and political leaders, how could that baby have grown to become our saviour? 

Jesus was destined to be born in an outbuilding.

It's easy to be distracted at Christmas by the sparkly, impressive, expensive and seemingly important things. All of the pomp and ceremony.

Let's not miss the greatest gift, tucked away in a corner and wrapped cheaply.

The stable and the shepherds prove that this baby is for everyone. 

So let there be glory to God on high, 
and to this our earth let there be peace
May this baby bring good will, let life
Begin and never cease

Prayer

Loving God
Help us to remember how vulnerable you became at Christmas.
You came then as you come now
to a world that is broken and in need of healing.
You came without power, but with love.
Without might, but with hope
Into the darkness you brought light.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Sam Goodman, Elder, Central URC, Derby
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Christmas Eve Midnight Communion

Thu, 24/12/2020 - 23:30
96 URC Daily Devotions Christmas Eve Midnight Communion View this email in your browser

Christmas Eve Communion from the URC

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worship for challenging times
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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, carols and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the carols.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.

This service contains the sacrament of communion. You are welcome to share in bread and wine/juice at the appropriate time.
Daily Devotions from the URC
Christmas Eve - Midnight Communion 2020
 


The Rev’d Dr Kirsty Thorpe
 
Introduction   
 
Good evening. I’m Kirsty Thorpe, minister of Wilmslow United Reformed Church in Cheshire. Later in this Christmas Eve service we will be celebrating communion.  You may wish to pause now so you can prepare wine or grape juice and bread for yourself. This is a night for watching and waiting, for hope and anticipation.  This is a time to light a candle in the darkness of the world’s pain and loss. This is a moment to be in unity with the whole Church, around the world, in heaven and on earth, past, present and yet to come. Let us share a brief silence as we prepare to worship:
 
Call To Worship
                 
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us,
a son given to us!
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.
 
Carol        Silent Night, Holy Night 
                  Joseph Mohr (1792-1848)
 
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother & Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
 
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Glory be to you, God of grace and salvation. On this night we celebrate your presence with us, made flesh in Jesus and born in Bethlehem. You come to the world through one family,  in one place, at one moment in time - an event transforming the future for every family, every place and the whole of eternity.
 
In this moment of innocence, expectancy, risk and hope we gather to await your birth and to reflect on our lives. We recognise our part in the cynicism and weariness of our world, our failure to look for your presence all around us, our preference for safe options and our lack of hope. (Silence)
 
Fill us with your forgiveness, gracious God,
as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Change us as we approach the mystery of new life.
Renew our wonder and joy as we journey into the future with you. Amen.            
 
Isaiah 9. 2-7
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
                 
St Luke 2. 1-14
 
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
 
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
 
Sermon   
 
Twelve months ago, not even the most downbeat of us would have imagined that 2020 would prove to be such an unforgettable year for all the wrong reasons. Our world finds itself in the middle of a dangerous and deepening health crisis which, at times, can seem to threaten our entire future.
 
Meanwhile our planet teeters on the edge of unprecedented climate change which could already have slipped beyond our power to avert or control. As we look around us we’re faced on all sides by deep and disturbing struggles - between truth and lies, hope and despair, life and death, light and darkness. Can the world have ever needed Christmas Eve more than it does this year? Have I ever spent so much time before, exploring what I really believe and longing to see God take action to transform the world around me?
 
                  As I struggle with these questions I’m reminded of lines from a prayer by the Reverend Professor Stephen Orchard, former Moderator of General Assembly and retired URC minister. They appeared in the Prayer Handbook in 1989. The prayer is framed as a conversation about Christ’s birth in which humanity addresses God:
 
                  ‘We thought we had laid you safe in the manger;
                  we wrapped you in the thickest sentiment we could find,
                  and stressed how long ago you came to us;
                  why do you break upon us in our daily life,
                  with messages of peace and goodwill,
                  demanding that we do something about it?’
 
There’s nothing quite like Covid 19 for stripping the layers of sentiment away from Christmas. You can’t easily retreat into a glitter and tinsel version of God’s plan to redeem the world if you’re surrounded by reminders of pain and brokenness all around you. Those powerful words from the prophet Isaiah, about God’s light breaking in on a people who walked in darkness, resonate afresh with us now. Our world, too, is experiencing deep darkness. We, like the people of Israel of old, are waiting for light to break in on us and for our enemies to be defeated. In our case, the tramping warriors we’re up against take the form of a dangerous virus. This invisible foe has proved capable of dismantling normal life for vast swathes of the world’s people, over the last year. It has undermined our economic plans, reduced our social interactions beyond recognition, kicked people out of relationships, jobs, homes and routines, left many of us with seriously damaged physical and mental health and killed more than a million people already worldwide. And those who suffer most are primarily those who had least to start with – the refugees, the victims of civil war, the poorest of the poor, the landless and the lost of every community – those who are the back of every queue that forms, always, whatever the setting.
 
The garments rolled in blood, evoked by the prophet, remind us of the contaminated PPE equipment, the discarded face masks and used plastic gloves that have now crept into every corner of our lives and imaginations.
 
But, with God, it is when things are at their worst that the possibility of light, hope and a new beginning are always ready to break in and change things. Isaiah shares this glorious promise of an heir, a son, who will rule in a way that commands universal trust and respect – the ideal leader – the Prince of Peace. And, amazingly, there is nothing we human beings need to do or be in order for this to happen: ‘The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.’
 
By the time of Jesus’ birth this prophetic promise was seen to have been made long ago. The effect of Roman military occupation, of deep divisions within Jewish society between rich and poor and of a religious establishment which had lost the ability to bring people into a living relationship with God, had built up to create a deeper darkness than people could ever remember living through. The desire for a Messiah was as ardent as ever but the hope that God’s chosen one would actually arrive to turn things around for all God’s children was more of a vague longing than a real expectation. Which is when, under the radar, God chooses to slip into the world in the person of a new-born child, delivered away from home, in makeshift surroundings to a young mother and her partner. Anyone who has been present at a birth will know the combined impact of the mother’s urge to push, the breaking of waters and the drama of delivery. That scene of the birth of Jesus is one we have tried to wrap in sentiment and frame in an Old Master version, free from disturbing traces of bodily fluids or an accompanying soundtrack of labour.
 
In a normal Christmas we might, just, get away with that evasion of reality. Now, in the midst of this pandemic, the pretence can no longer be sustained. We, like generations of Christians who have gone before us over the centuries, are now hearing messages of peace and goodwill while living through previously unknown experiences of pain and loss. Do we do the equivalent of singing carols with our eyes averted from the news headlines and our fingers in our ears so we can’t hear the weeping around us?
 
Surely, like those socially distanced, ritually unclean shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem, we need to get up in the dark and take a risky journey beyond our comfort zone this Christmas Eve. As we meet the new born Jesus, in the company of the poor and the humble, we may learn more about God’s plans for peace on earth and our place in bringing them closer to reality. We may be reminded, too, that blood and water are part of Jesus’ story right up to and including his death on a cross. Pain, loneliness, loss of hope, persecution and grief are parts of life that Jesus knows and understands because he’s been through them too. They can be midwives of hope, joy, laughter and a renewed impulse to love and care for others such as the responses a baby can draw out of us. Such experiences of renewed light and revelation are all the more powerful if discovered in deep darkness.
 
May we, by God’s grace, discover within ourselves the gifts we need to be followers of Jesus, God’s Messiah, the child of Bethlehem, in times such as these. And may God find the Church, this Christmas, not hiding away for safety but sharing good news in a way that will draw people to Jesus and transform their lives for the better.
 
Carol        Infant Holy, Infant Lowly 
                  Anonymous Polish translated by Edith M G Reed (1885-1933)
 
Infant holy, infant lowly,
for his bed a cattle-stall;
oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging angels singing,
nowells ringing,
tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all;
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
 
2: Flocks are sleeping,
shepherds keeping
vigil till the morning new;
see the glory, hear the story,
tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
praises voicing, greet tomorrow,
Christ the Babe is born for you!
Christ the Babe is born for you!
 
Affirmation of faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Prayers for the Church and the World 
        
God of light and love, you are present everywhere on the earth and in the heavens. On this hope-filled night we bring our prayers for the Church and for the world.
 
We remember before you the life of your Church across the world and the congregations we hold dear. Reveal to us the gifts we have which are for sharing and help us to support one another in mission and service.
Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us.
 
We hold up to you the people of the world, especially those facing disease, violence, poverty and abuse. Reveal to us the roots of oppression and show us how to speak and act for truth and justice.
Jesus, light of the world, renew us for service.
 
We remember before you those dear to us, who we long to be with but are kept apart from. Reveal to us the secret of waiting on you as we yearn for reunions and communion together once more. Amen.
 
Holy Communion
 
Invitation
                 
We come together to share this holy meal accepting God’s invitation to honour the birth of our saviour, to treasure the life of Jesus son of Mary,
to proclaim the truth of Jesus son of God, and to share the light which stretches from a manger in Bethlehem across the world and down the ages.
 
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Peace be with you.
 
Hear the story of the Lord’s Supper.  While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take: this is my body,’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
Taking of bread and wine
 
We take this bread and wine and bring to God our prayer of thanksgiving.
Let us pray:
 
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
 
As we gather quietly and expectantly before the manger, in the company of anxious parents and watching beasts, we bring our thanks for the birth of God’s own son, Jesus. Born among us, one of us, Emmanuel – God with us –  Jesus changes our life beyond all recognition. With the poor and humble, the stumbling and fearful, we give thanks for the love beyond all measure which is God’s gift to the world at Christmas. We give thanks for those who deliver new life as midwives of hope, faith and service.  We thank you for those who help us to keep self-giving love at the heart of Christmas. We pray that through your Holy Spirit the bread which we eat may be for us the body of Christ and the wine which we drink the blood of Christ. Bringing our prayers together we say the Lord’s Prayer:
 
Our Father, who art in heaven…
 
Sharing
 
The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.
 
The cup of blessing which we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ.
 
Let us pray.
 
Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here.  You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service.  Now we give ourselves to you: and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.                    
 
Carol         Hark the Herald Angels Sing
                  Charles Wesley   (1707-1788)
 
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise;
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin's womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as a man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel:
 
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings:
mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise the things of earth,
born to give us second birth:
 
Blessing  
 
God of new life, be with us as we celebrate the birth of your son Jesus.
Jesus our saviour, draw out our concern for the weak and needy around us. Holy Spirit, rekindle our hearts with your hope and joy as Christmas dawns. May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with us and all those we love, now and for ever. Amen.
 
Sources
 
Opening Music: All Poor Men and Humble (a traditional Welsh Carol rendered as The Poor and the Humble in Rejoice & Sing) sung by the Victoria Scholars.  
Infant Holy,  and Silent Night sung by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge.
Hark the Herald from BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Closing Music: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman performed by Pentatonix.
 
Call to Worship from the Presbyterian Church of America’s publication Call To Worship (Advent and Christmas).  Affirmation of Faith from the PCUSA’s 1967 Confession of Faith.  Communion Prayers from Worship from the URC 2nd Order p. 22 and 4th Order p. 51 All other prayers by Kirsty Thorpe
 
Music during Communion – In the Bleak Midwinter from the album Midwinter by Christian Forshaw and the Sanctuary Ensemble
 
Thanks to…
Andy Braunston, Victoria Turner, Rachel Harvey, Reuben Watt, Nick Booth and Dan Morrell for reading the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
Kirsty Thorpe, Myra Rose, Andy Braunston and Dan Morrell for recording various parts of the service. --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 24th December 2020

Thu, 24/12/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Thursday 24th December 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 24th December - Hark the Herald Angels Sing

This hymn has been edited since Wesley’s, long forgotten, original.  George Whitfield changed some of the words and cut some of the verses (which were originally of four lines each) whilst Charles Burnley changed the hymn to its current form of three 8 line verses.  We have no idea what the original tune was - Wesley wanted something slow and solemn! - since it was paired with Mendelssohn’s masterpiece.  

St Luke 2: 8-14

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,  ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ 

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley 1707-1788)

You can hear this carol here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_iLXNSIaYc

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem."

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King!


Christ, by highest heaven adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favoured one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th'incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as a man, with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hail! the heaven-born
Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that we no more may die:
Born to raise the folk of earth,
Born to give us second birth.

Reflection

It always baffles me how much the phrase “and they were terrified” downplays the reality that the shepherds must have been experiencing. It’s very much just mentioned in passing. But the fear and anxiety the shepherds must have been feeling, is tough to describe. But similarly, a short sentence from the angel for comfort: “Do not be afraid”. “Yeah, cheers”, they must have been thinking. But then they are offered something that will bring great joy for all the people. A reason not to be afraid, a reason to celebrate!

When we’re feeling afraid or anxious, often we need more than just a few words. And it’s not something that can necessarily change overnight, or in an average afternoon. But as we can see here, God, in this case through the angels, offers us so much more than just a few words. We are offered a Jesus-filled life. A life that will still have its ups and downs. But in those down moments, we still have Christ by our side, and each other.

It amuses me how we happily sing this carol all the way through Advent, yet withhold the famous 6th verse of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ until Christmas Day. Yes, I know it talks about ‘born this happy morning’, but still.

But doesn’t that say something? About how we, too, should be harking like the angels throughout all of Advent, Christmas, and beyond. Harking about the good news of Jesus Christ. I can guarantee someone, somewhere, will be feeling afraid, and they will be blessed by hearing the message of “Do not be afraid, for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:” Try it, see what happens… 

I wish you all a very blessèd Christmas.

Prayer

God of Mission,
Who, alone, brings growth to your church.
We thank you for the gift of your son Jesus Christ this Christmas. 
We pray that you would give 
vision to our planning, 
wisdom to our actions, 
and power to our witness.
Help us to grow in spiritual commitment to you,
through celebration of the birth of your son Jesus Christ.
Help us to spread the message of hope in our communities.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen

Adapted LYCIG (Leading Your Church Into Growth) Prayer
 
-->

Today's writer

Dan Morrell, Media for Ministry Consultant working across several synods, member of St Andrew’s Roundhay, Leeds.
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Carol Service - 23rd December 2020

Wed, 23/12/2020 - 19:30
96 URC Daily Devotions Carol Service - 23rd December 2020 View this email in your browser

Carol Service from the URC

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worship for challenging times
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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers and carols for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the carols.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
URC Daily Devotions Carol Service on 23rd December 2020


Led by Karen Campbell
 
Carol        O Come O Come Emmanuel
traditional Latin 12th Century
 
O come, O come Emmanuel
To free your captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
 
Rejoice, rejoice O Israel
To you shall come Emmanuel
 
Veni, veni, Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel
Qui gemit in exilio
Privatus Dei Filio
 
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel
 
Introduction & Prayer
 
Wherever you are, whoever you are, warm greetings to you.  My name is Karen Campbell and I am the URC Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries. I welcome you to this advent Carol Service. Welcome to this time of worship and reflection.
 
Let us pause, readying our hearts and minds to consciously seek and acknowledge God's presence with us; 
 
Let us be still… and in the quiet, I invite those who have an advent candle ready to light them together now... (pause)
 
And let us pray...
Saviour God, light of the world, we praise you.
We give thanks for your presence with us, between us, and everywhere.
We see you reflected in all of Creation - your life, your breath, your wonder, your beauty.
 
Who are we that you should love us so? And yet you do!
 
Who are we that you should gift to us the life and love and joy of Christmas? And yet you have!
 
We rejoice that you are with us in this moment, and in every moment, our inescapable God of love.
 
Thank you, Friend. Thank you, Saviour. Thank you, Lord.  Amen
 
Carol        O little town of Bethlehem
The Rev’d Phillips Brooks (1835-1903)
 
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
 
2 O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
 
3 How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

4 O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.
 
Psalm 80
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth...
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O LORD God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
 
Prayer
 
God of compassion,
we know you receive your people's prayers;
hear us today.
 
Listen to us as we humble ourselves before you;
as we lament all that is broken in our world.
 
Hear us as we recognise the part we play 
in making things as they are;
the ways we fail to act as people
called and claimed and beloved by you.
 
Forgive us our shortcomings;
and make us whole
that we may live and love 
in your name
and always for you.  Amen
 
St Luke 1:46-55
 
And Mary said,
 
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
 
Carol        Silent Night
Joseph Mohr
 
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!
 
 
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, oh, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
 
Reflection 
It seems the world has always been waiting for a saviour
 
In today's Psalm, the Psalmist cries out to God for Israel to be restored.
O Lord, please listen to us, and answer us.
We are not what we were;
we are not what we want to be!
We have been crying out for so long - please come and help us!
When will you listen and answer our prayers?
 
And God does listen.
God does answer... but in the most unlikely of ways!
Not according to human wisdom or expectations, but speaking to and through Mary - an insignificant girl.
No promise of a mighty army, no wars being waged - but the birth of an infant to an unmarried nobody.
Yet through Mary - her willingness to hear and be part of God's plans, salvation will come.  
Not just for Israel, but for all.  
 
God's great plan of salvation will see everything turned on its head-
the proud will be brought down;
the downtrodden will be lifted up.
Earthly power will count as nothing;
and the powerless will have their souls satisfied.
 
O, Lord God, how long have your people waited for their salvation!
And the words of the carol declare it plainly - 
Christ, the saviour is born.
Christ, the long awaited saviour, is born.
 
Carol        Born in the night
Geoffrey Ainger
 
Born in the night, Mary's Child,
a long way from your home;
coming in need, Mary's Child,
born in a borrowed room.
 
Clear shining light, Mary's Child,
your face lights up our way;
light of the world, Mary's Child,
dawn on our darkened day.
 
Truth of our life, Mary's Child,
you tell us God is good;
prove it is true, Mary's Child,
go to your cross of wood.
 
Hope of the world, Mary's Child,
you're coming soon to reign;
Savior of all, Mary's Child,
walk in our streets again.
  
St Luke 7:31-35
 
Jesus said: ‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,
 
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.”
 
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’
 
Reflection 
 
Christ the Saviour is born - but what does that mean?
What is a saviour, and what does a saviour do?
As I consider our Bible texts, I am reminded of our world today-
It is more than 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus, the Christ, and yet the world seems to be yearning and crying all the more for its saviour.
This is the season of peace and goodwill... but things feel chaotic, on edge, volatile... far from peaceful.
 
Everything seems to be in turmoil...
Our politics; our economics; our world order; the very survival of the Earth and all her inhabitants
Countless voices are crying out for change, for justice... for a saviour fit for the challenges of the present day
Some are certain what that saviour should look like - the policies; the rules; the perfect model to implement
Some want everything on their own terms - the way things used to be!  The world as it makes sense in their eyes, or deals favourably with them!
Too many are blind to the impacts of 'their saviour' on the world around them; the consequences of 'their terms' for the people with whom they share this planet.
 
I see something of this heightened dis-ease captured in Jesus' words as recorded in Luke:  'To what can I compare the people of today?'
The people yearned... but John the Baptist did not fit their picture of salvation.
The people groaned... but Jesus couldn't satisfy their expectations either.
Everybody seems able to voice their dissatisfaction and disillusionment, but there are few solutions - no universally accepted, positive responses.
 
I look at the UK today - yearning to put the 'Great' back into 'Britain;
But our current would-be saviour - Brexit... isn't proving to be what people thought or hoped for.
Look at the knots in which we've tied ourselves;
deal or no deal;
the fears for British industry and agriculture, the potential impact on life in general.
And that's before we mention the racism and scapegoating of migrants that was unleashed by the negative Brexit campaigns on both sides of the debate. 
 
Wider afield, we see the chaos being created on the world scene by powerful leaders flexing their political muscles, apparently without due regard for the consequences today, tomorrow, and in the times to come.
The impact of extremist religious and political persuasions - all seeking to be their own kind of saviour, focussed on appeasing people who think and believe as they do, desiring to establish their power; their empire; their way.  
 
But it all comes crashing down!
 
This Christmas, now more than ever, we need to revisit God's picture of salvation - not built on power and might and force... but an invitation, issued to and through people the world deems to be of no consequence.
Here is a saviour for all.
Here is a saviour whose power is seen in the powerlessness of a wooden cross.
Here is the saviour - Mary's Child!
 
Carol        Come and join the celebration
Valerie Collison
 
Come and join the celebration 
It's a very special day 
Come and share our jubilation; 
There's a new King born today! 
 
1: See, the shepherds 
Hurry down to Bethlehem, 
Gaze in wonder 
At the Son of God who lay before them 
 
2: Wise men journey, 
Led to worship by a star 
Kneel in homage 
Bringing precious gifts from lands afar, so 
 
3 "God is with us" 
Round the world the message bring 
He is with us 
"Welcome", all the bells on earth are pealing 
 
Isaiah 11:1-9
 
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
 
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
 
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
 
Reflection 
 
A couple of Christmases ago, my 5-year old Grandson, Zekiah, had Christmas Jumper Day at school.  A bleary-eyed Zekiah woke that morning, stroked the festive dinosaur on his jumper, and declared 'I love dinosaurs!'
Then, he smiled a huge, half-awake smile and said 'I wish I could marry a t-rex!'
It was just lovely!
I LOVE Christmas.  I usually have a wonderful Christmas spent with my family.  But, lovely or not, I know this Christmas will be different. 
 
Many people are wondering - in this time of COVID - will the 'usual things' be able to happen?  Certainly, the Campbell Family table will be missing its head - my Dad having been lost to COVID earlier this year. 
 
Will the world be able to feel truly festive, following the upheavals of 2020? 
 
The killing of George Floyd and all the fallout since; the rising outcry against racial inequality, the pushback by some who cannot or don't want to see that there is a problem.  
 
And what about the huge challenges faced by nations such as Syria and Lebanon, Palestine - and too many to name... 
 
It may be Christmas, but Lord, it feels depressing...
 
And yet, is this so unfamiliar?
There have always been issues.
John the Baptist came and spoke into a world of issues.
Jesus himself was born into and for a world of turmoil.
But the Isaiah passage holds up and holds out a different picture - a Peaceful Kingdom, where, somehow, all is well.
 
It feels unrealistic - maybe even impossible - yet the image is there.
And I think to myself, isn't that what we are about - or isn't that what we should be about?
 
We are called to be a people of hope - counter-cultural, believing in what might seem impossible... AND living it into being.
 
Living as if it is already here - God's topsy-turvy kingdom built on upside-down values!
 
But it won't 'just happen'.  We have to be like Mary, and play our part - whatever that might mean.
More often than not, it will be small gestures, tiny steps, which to the world - and in the grand scale of things - may seem irrelevant.  And yet, they matter!  
 
The people we engage with; the thoughts we think; our willingness to be generous of spirit; open to others; challenged in our thinking and in our actions; patient with people who may get on our last nerves.
 
These things matter... and we have to keep believing that they matter. 
 
We have to keep standing on our faith and living out our faith - in spite of whatever may be going on around us.  In response to whatever is going on around us - otherwise, all that is left to do is lament - 'We played the flute, but you wouldn't dance.  We wailed, but you didn't weep.'
 
So, this Christmas, instead of being depressed by a world which too often does feel depressing, let us delight in the moments of pure magic which do exist if we are willing to see them...
a phone call made or received at just the right moment...
some small gesture which tells you that somebody is thinking of you...
a song, or a piece of music, which carries you away and makes your heart sing...
a little boy dreaming of marrying a dinosaur...
 
Let us  commit to living out the Good News we claim to have received, 
Let us  recommit to sharing that Good News whenever, wherever, however and with whomever we are able.
And let us be willing to share the Good News not on OUR terms...  but just as freely as has been given to us.  Amen  
 
Carol        See him lying on a bed of straw
Michael Perry (1942 - 1996)
 
See him lying on a bed of straw:
a draughty stable with an open door;
Mary cradling the babe she bore
the prince of glory is his name.
 
   O now carry me to Bethlehem
   to see the Lord of love again:
   just as poor as was the stable then,
   the prince of glory when he came.
 
2 Star of silver, sweep across the skies,
show where Jesus in the manger lies;
shepherds, swiftly from your stupor rise
to see the saviour of the world!
 
3 Angels, sing again the song you sang,
sing the glory of God's gracious plan;
Sing that Bethl'em's little baby can
be the saviour of us all.
 
4 Mine are riches, from your poverty,
from your innocence, eternity;
mine, forgiveness by your death for me,
child of sorrow for my joy.
 
Offering
 
Let us take a moment to give thanks to God
for the wealth of blessings we still receive
and the gifts we are able to offer back -
even in these strange times -
for the building up of Church and world:
 
Wonderful God,
we give thanks that you are a God of abundance
and of cups overflowing.
You are a God who gives not just what we need to survive,
but all we need for life in its fullness.
 
Thank you.
 
We ask you to take our gifts of money and resources -
our gifts of time and talents -
bless them,
multiply them
and use them according to your purposes.
 
And, most of all,
use us, Lord.
Let each heart say
'Use me!'
 
Amen
 
Prayers for the world:  Could it be...?           
 
Loving God, dare we conceive of a topsy-turvy kingdom
where the wolf lives peaceably with the lamb,
the wild beasts play tenderly with the farmyard young 
and the innocent child takes charge of them all?
 
Can we conceive of such a kingdom
where no-one is hurt and no life is destroyed; 
where community against community,
nation against nation,
religion against religion 
are a thing of the past? 
 
Can we conceive of a justice with power to transform,
calming the voices which clamour to speak,
distilling wisdom from a myriad truths 
which demand to be heard?
 
The noise of the world is deafening;
     how can we hear your promise of peace?
The claims for right and wrong are complex and multi-shaded;
    how can we discern what to trust or believe? 
 
So our hearts yearn for you, 
and your topsy-turvy kingdom of peace,
where wolves can live peaceably with lambs,
wild beasts can play tenderly with farmyard young,
and human beings, at last, can live side by side -
at peace with each other; at peace with the world
and at peace, O God, with you.
 
Carol        Joy to the world
Isaac Watts
 
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room,
And heav'n and nature sing.
 
2 Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
 
3 No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

4 He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

Blessing 
 
Let us share a blessing as we part company today:  Whether going out or staying in, this Christmas let us recommit to live and love and serve and laugh in the name of Christ, and may the eternal God of Love be with us always.  Amen
 
Closing music: O Holy Night by Céline Dion
 
O Come, O Come Emmanuel- traditional 12th Century Latin. Performed by Enya
O little town of Bethlehem- The Rev’d Phillips Brooks (1835-1903). Performed by the choir and congregation of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge.
Silent Night- Joseph Mohr. Performed by Winchester Cathedral Choir.
Born in the night- Geoffrey Ainger. Words © 1964 Stainer & Bell (admin. Hope Publishing Company). Performed by the choir of the First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Come and join the celebration- Valerie Collison. © Hye-Fye Music Ltd. Sung by the children of Scampton Parish Church.
See him lying on a bed of straw- Michael Perry (1942 - 1996). © Mrs B Perry/Jubilate Hymns. Taken from BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Joy to the world­- Isaac Watts. George Fox University Orchestra and Choir.
 
Thanks to
Karen Campbell. Gordon Smith, Andy Braunston and Dan Morrell for reading various spoken parts of the service.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 23rd December 2020

Wed, 23/12/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 23rd December 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 23rd December - The Cherry Tree Carol

Other than he was an honourable man who encountered the Divine in his dreams, we know little of Joseph.  This lack of knowledge inspired people over the years to wonder how he really felt when learning that Mary was with child.  The Cherry Tree Carol is one such attempt.

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;[b] and he named him Jesus.

The Cherry Tree Carol
Traditional

you can hear this carol here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYaFGSG_x80

When Joseph was an old man, 
an old man was he,
he married Virgin Mary, 
the Queen of Galilee.
He married Virgin Mary, 
the Queen of Galilee.

Joseph and Mary 
walked through an orchard green.
There were cherries and berries, 
as thick as might be seen.
There were cherries and berries, 
as thick as might be seen.

Mary said to Joseph, 
so meek and so mild:
Joseph, gather me some cherries, 
for I am with child
Joseph, gather me some cherries, 
for I am with child

Then Joseph flew in anger,
in anger flew he;
let the father of the baby 
gather cherries for thee!
Let the father of the baby 
gather cherries for thee!

Then up spoke baby Jesus,
from in Mary's womb:
bend down the tallest branches, 
that my mother might have some.
Bend down the tallest branches, 
that my mother might have some.

And bend down the tallest branches, 
it touched Mary's hand.
Cried she: Oh look thou Joseph, 
I have cherries by command
Oh look thou Joseph, 
I have cherries by command.

Reflection

Rough-hewn hands.
  Labourers hands.
  Dry and cracked from years of working.
A carpenter.
  A joiner.
  An honest and righteous man. 
Worried about disgrace.
  Upset.
  Confused. 
Normal life turned upside down.
  Disorientated.
  Unexpected. 
God speaks.
God saves.
God’s son. 

There’s something utterly unusual and abnormal in the midst of something entirely unremarkable and unsurprising. Amid a normal man’s life comes the most extraordinary and most disrupting. Within a life that was planned and ordered, within a life that was settled and secure, comes the disorientation, the uncertainty, the doubts about the future. 

We’ve all experienced our fair share of that this year. 

And yet, into all that is going on, into the personal doubt and anguish, to one about to walk away, God speaks a word of freedom and peace. Speaks not only a word, but The Word. 

How often have we needed to hear that this year? 

Rough-hewn hands.
  Labourers hands.
  Dry and cracked from years of working.
A carpenter.
  A joiner.
  An honest and righteous man. 
Transformed by good news.
  Dreamy visions.
  An angelic voice. 
Normal life filled with uncertainty.
  Different patterns.
  A new normal. 
Uncertainty.
Expectation.
Surprise.
Delight.
God speaks.
God saves.
God’s son. 
 
Prayer

Extraordinary God,
you touch the lives of young and old alike,
in moments of surprise
with words of comfort.
Speak through our dreams and visions
that your incarnation among us
can be truly God with Us. Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Chaplaincy Coordinator, Newcastle University
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 22nd December 2020

Tue, 22/12/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 22nd December 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 22nd December - Masters in This Hall

This appears to be an ancient carol but only dates from the Victorian era when William Morris - famous for art, design, poetry and socialism, and much more - wrote it.  It tells of the poor shepherds who came to see Jesus.

St Luke 1: 46-55

And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Masters in This Hall
William Morris

you can hear this song here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX6BbFDlGLE

1. Masters in this Hall,
    Hear ye news to-day
Brought from over sea,
    And ever I you pray:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
    Nowell, sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on earth,
    Born is God's son so dear:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
    Nowell, sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk raised
    And cast a-down the proud.

2. Going o'er the hills,
    Through the milk-white snow,
Heard I ewes bleat
    While the wind did blow: 

3. Shepherds many an one
    Sat among the sheep,
No man spake more word
    Than they had been asleep: 

4. Quoth I, "Fellows mine,
    Why this guise sit ye?
Making but dull cheer,
    Shepherds though ye be? 

5. "Shepherds should of right
    Leap and dance and sing,
Thus to see ye sit,
    Is a right strange thing": 

6. Quoth these fellows then,
    "To Bethlem town we go,
To see a mighty lord
    Lie in manger low": 

7. "How name ye this lord,
    Shepherds?' then said I,
"Very God," they said,
    "Come from Heaven high": 

8. Then to Bethlem town
    We went two and two,
And in a sorry place
    Heard the oxen low: 

9. Therein did we see
    A sweet and goodly may
And a fair old man,
    Upon the straw she lay: 

10. And a little child
    On her arm had she,
"Wot ye who this is?"
    Said the hinds to me: 

11. Ox and ass him know,
    Kneeling on their knee,
Wondrous joy had I
    This little babe to see: 

12. This is Christ the Lord,
    Masters be ye glad!
Christmas is come in,
    And no folk should be sad: 

Reflection

The most surprising thing about this carol is that it was written by William Morris, even as a Chaucerian pastiche.  Apart from a brief flirtation with Anglo-Catholicism in his early 20s, he was never attached to any religion, organised or otherwise.

But once you know he is the author, everything falls into place. As a child riding his pony in Epping Forest dressed in a miniature suit of armour, Morris was fascinated by the Middle Ages. As a student he came into the orbit of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with its devotion to medieval art techniques and a highly romanticised view of the labour of the common man in that era. He carried that on to his later career in the Arts and Crafts Movement where his company Morris & Co produced many church windows in the medieval style.

It is typical of Morris that the message of the Birth of Christ is carried to the masters by, one assumes, a servant informed by an even lower class of people, the shepherds. He was a tireless campaigning socialist, promoting the ideals of social equality and despairing over the widening gap between poor and rich in Victorian Society.

In the Magnificat, it is the simple village girl Mary who is chosen by God to carry the Saviour. She not only accepts the commission but understands the message, singing: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

It serves us to remember that Jesus did not rush to recruit “the Masters” of his day to lend his ministry credibility. He sought out people like us, you and me, to hear his message and carry it forward.

Prayer
 
Lord, help us to discern the extraordinary in the ordinary;
to value goodness, courage and generosity of spirit in those we encounter;
to serve those who need our assistance, rather than worship the idols of status, wealth and celebrity.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Pat Stannard is an Elder at Muswell Hill URC
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming... but so is Christmas!

Mon, 21/12/2020 - 16:15
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming... and so is Christmas!

Dear Friends,

We've got a busy old few days with lots of services coming up. At this point I'd normally tell you a variety of the hymns we've got coming up. But it's Christmas, so you can probably guess most of them! Expect carols galore, with a variety of rendition styles, Kings College Choir, Annie Lennox and Songs of Praise to name but a few. Here are the services we've got coming up between now and Sunday (inclusive):

23rd December: Carol Service led by Karen Campbell, Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries. This will begin at 7:30pm.

24th December: Midnight Communion led by the Rev'd Dr. Kirsty Thorpe. This will begin at 11:30pm. Please have bread and wine if you wish to partake in communion.

25th December: Christmas Day celebration led by the Rev'd Wilbert Sayimani. This will be released at the usual 'Sunday' time of 9:45am for a 10am start.

Sunday 27th December: Christmas 1 - Holy Innocents. This will be led in a similar style of our Advent services, with a series of meditations. This will be released at the usual Sunday time of 9:45am for a 10am start.

If you have any problems receiving these please read on for advice.

On behalf of the Daily Devotions team, I wish you a blessed Christmas,

With every blessing,

Dan


Dan Morrell
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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  

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URC Daily Devotion Monday 21st December 2020

Mon, 21/12/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 21st December 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 21st December Ave Maria

The Hail Mary prayer comes, in its first part, from today’s Scripture reading and has been sent to countless forms of music over the years.  Whilst not normally used in the Reformed tradition it does still inspire millions of Christians around the world.

St Luke 1: 39 - 45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Ave Maria/Hail Mary

This can be heard here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H5rusicEnc

Ave Maria, gratia plena, 
Dominus tecum, 
benedicta tu in mulieribus, 
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesu.  
(Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, 
ora pro nobis peccatoribus, 
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.  Amen)

Hail Mary, full of grace, 
the Lord is with thee. 
 Blessed art thou amongst women 
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  
(Holy Mary, Mother of God, 
pray for us sinners, 
now and at the hour of our death, Amen)

Reflection

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. 

In the United Reformed Church in which I grew up there was a retired man who came from Northern Ireland. He had a strong Presbyterian background and, while some congregants there would leave worship as we got to the Communion hymn, he was vehemently against the use of candles in worship. For him, their use was so intrinsically linked with Roman Catholicism, and to the sectarianism of his upbringing, that he couldn’t stomach their presence in church. I suspect, although I do not know, any emphasis on Mary would have provoked a similar response, highlighting yet another area in which Roman Catholicism had a monopoly. 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. 

Perhaps that’s why we don’t focus much on Mary in our Reformed tradition, perhaps just as we don’t focus too much time on other supporting characters in the story of Jesus. Of course, we don’t need to venerate Mary (or Peter or Paul for that matter), but in distancing ourselves we perhaps leave ourselves wanting. There is a missed opportunity.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. 

The Church provides a space for John the Baptist, that prophet who foretold of the coming of Christ, with the lectionary focusing on him several times (perhaps too often!) over the winter period. Yet we tend not to give such an open platform to Mary, to hear of the prophetic words echoed through Elizabeth, the glory of her Magnificat, her proclamation, her foretelling. Shouldn’t we be more open to the presence of a woman’s story in our faith? Are we frightened to focus on Mary, not because of sectarianism but because we cannot fathom what it means to see a young woman as a pillar of our devotion? Maybe our problem is that we fail institutionally to give platform to enough women in our Church? 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. 
 
Prayer

Mary’s Child,
help us to realise where we fall short
and do not hear your prophetic Word
because we disregard the messenger. 
Mary’s Child,
make us aware of the voices we do not hear
and the faces that do not fit
when we celebrate your incarnation. 
Mary’s Child,
speak to us in new ways,
through all your Prophets. 
Blessed are we in your name. Amen. 
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Chaplaincy Coordinator, Newcastle University 
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship - 20th December 2020

Sun, 20/12/2020 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship - 20th December 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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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
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
 
URC Daily Devotions Service for Sunday 20th December 2020

Advent 4 – Come thou long expected Jesus
 
Opening Music
 
I believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake
 
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth.
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire.
 
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve
 
Introduction
 
Andy Braunston: Hello, well we’re almost there.  Christmas is almost upon us, and despite the strange ways in which we’ll be marking it this year, like Greg Lake in his 1975 song we’ve just listened to, we hope that your Christmas will be without anguish, pain and sadness.  Of course the first Christmas had these things in abundance but were also lifted by the joy of new birth, the adventure of parenthood and the mystery of all that went on.
 
Lesley Thomson: Year after year during Advent we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel and Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus but do we actually mean them?  Do we really look forward to the coming of Christ and the changes that will bring?  Do we really believe that one day he will return?  These are the questions that Advent gives us; it reminds us that the season of expectation and excitement isn’t just about Christmas - fun though that is - but also about the return of Christ at the end of time.  In a few days we will, once again, be celebrating the birth of Jesus amongst us but remember also to look forward to the end of time when He will return that we might recognise Him then.
 
Call to Worship
 
We wait for the Lord and in His word we hope.
We wait for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning
 
This is no darkness in you, O Lord.
 
O people, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love.
and with God is plenteous redemption.
 
There is no darkness in you, O Lord.
 
Glory be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
There is no darkness in you, O Lord.
 
Come let us worship
 
Hymn       O Come O Come Emmanuel
                 from the Latin 12th Century
 
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
 
2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. 
 
3 O come, the branch of Jesse’s tree,
free them from Satan’s tyranny
that trust your mighty pow’r to save
and give them victory o'er the grave. 
 
4 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
 
5 O come, Desire of Nations, bind
in one the hearts of humankind.
O bid our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession, and Forgiveness
 
Lord, 
 
We come to worship you today in expectation and excitement,
Expectation of a time when we see your face, 
Full of excitement in this season of advent praising your birth.
 
    Lord provide us with Patience
 
Amongst this time of expectation and excitement, 
we can sometimes let these feelings overrun our minds
We may use the wrong words at times, 
words that can hurt and harm others 
 
    Lord, provide us with Patience
 
Within the rush to make sure that everything is ready to celebrate your birth,
We forget to show the love and understanding of your teachings to others
We close our eyes to the lonely and the hungry, the lost and the scared.
Open our eyes that we may see all those in need around us.
 
    Lord, provide us with Patience
 
At times we want everything to happen immediately,
We have no time to wait in line, no time to talk to each other
Allow us to slow down, to remember that everything happens 
in it’s own time, In your time.
 
    Lord, provide us with Patience
 
We think of times to come, rushing towards an end goal
Without taking the time to recognise what is happening around us
Grant that we may show your love and mercy within the world today
Helping to bring your kingdom here on earth.
 
    Lord, provide us with Patience
 
In this time of Advent, allow us to show kindness to all people
No matter if they have the same religion or beliefs as ourselves
Let us share the love for others taught to us by your son Jesus 
The Patience and understanding the sharing of our beliefs with others
 
    Lord, provide us with Patience
 
Help us to keep faith in the understanding that one day we will all get to see Jesus
When the new heaven and earth are here
And until that time we ask Lord, for your patience in our lives
And hear us now as we join together in the words Jesus taught us, saying:
 
Our Father, who art in heaven…..
 
        Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Lord
 
We come to your word in expectation and excitement,
Expectation for the lessons we will learn in the readings
Allow us to listen and hear the scripture readings today. 
Excitement for the knowledge we will gain from the reflections,
Grant that we might understand and implement these teachings into our lives today.
 
Amen
 
John 1: 1-18
 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
 
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. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
 
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
 
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’)  From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
 
Meditation of John the Apostle 
 
There’s only one word for it,
one word that gets anywhere near the truth,
that sums up the wonder of it all,
and that’s ‘Jesus’.
Trust me, I know,
for I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find the right words.
Since I followed Jesus all those years ago,
since I sat with the apostles in that upper room,
since we went out teaching and preaching in the Master’s  name,
I’ve been looking for ways in which to describe my experience,
and I’ve used words,
masses of them,
more than I can begin to count . . .
When I stood and preached to the multitudes,
when I nurtured believers in their new-found faith,
when I prayed for the sick,
when I led times of worship,
when I reminisced with friends,
when I witnessed to strangers,
words, words, words.
But they’ve never been sufficient,
never begun to express what I really want to say.
And now more than ever I find that’s true,
sitting here trying to record the good news
as revealed to me.
I’ve written so much,
page after page,
my own words and his,
woven together as best I can
into a tapestry of his life.
I’ve told of the beginnings and the ends,
of his signs,
of his teaching,
of his actions.
I’ve spoken of those lesser-known characters,
the ones Matthew, Mark and Luke missed out,
and I’ve given details of those private moments,
when it was just us and Jesus together
as the end drew near.
I’ve tried,
I’ve really tried to get it across,
to tell you what Jesus meant to me and to so many others.
But there’s so much more I could still write,
so much I’ve had to leave out.
I could go on to the end of time
and still not do justice to all I want to tell you.
That’s why I say there’s only one word,
one word that says it all,
because Jesus was the fulfilment,
the embodiment,
the personification of God’s word.
The Law and the Prophets spoke of him.
The wisdom of the teachers spoke of him.
The universe in all its glory speaks of him.
And if you want to listen,
if you want to hear,
if you want to understand what life is all about,
then take my word for it,
the only way is to know him for yourself,
the word made flesh!

Hymn       Of the Father’s Love Begotten
Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
 
Of the Father's love begotten
ere the world from chaos arose,
He is Alpha, from that fountain
all that is and hath been flows
he is Omega of all things,
yet to come the mystic Close,
evermore and evermore!
 
2: His Word was all created
he commanded and ‘twas done
Earth and sky and boundless ocean
Universe of Three in One
all that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
all that breathes beneath the sun
evermore and evermore!
 
3: He assumed this mortal body,
frail and feeble doomed to die
that the race from dust created
might not perish utterly
which the dreadful Law had sentenced
in the depths of Hell to lie
evermore and evermore!
 
4: O how blessed that wondrous birthday
when the Maid the curse retrieved
brought to birth our kind’s salvation
by the Holy Ghost conceived,
and the babe, the world's Redeemer,
in her loving arms received,
evermore and evermore!
 
5 Sing ye heights of heav'n, his praises;
Angels and Archangels sing:
Wheresoe’er ye be, ye faithful
let your joyous anthems ring
ev’ry tongue His name confessing
countless voices answering,
evermore and evermore!
 
2 Peter 3: 1-4
 
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts  and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’
 
Meditation of Peter
 
‘How much longer?’ they keep asking. 
    ‘When will the waiting be over and the kingdom arrive?’
Well, how should I know? 
In all honesty why should I have any more idea than the rest of them? 
But they just don’t get it. 
They think because I was with Jesus, 
    close to him for those three years, 
    that I must have some special knowledge, 
    inside information, 
    a hotline to heaven. 
If only I had! 
At least then I could shut them up and get a bit of peace. 
At least I could give some answers
    instead of telling them yet again to be patient. 
Patient!
Why should they be? 
I’m not! 
I’m consumed with frustration, 
    chafing at the bit, 
    desperate for something to happen, 
    for it’s hard, I can tell you, being a Christian today. 
There are informers everywhere, looking to make a quick penny. 
There’s the Pharisees spitting poison. 
There’s the rest of them, our own kin, intent on destroying us. 
And there’s Caesar, mad Caesar, delighting in cruelty, 
    any way of using us for sport. 
We’ve seen brothers and sisters in Christ tortured, 
    flogged, 
    stoned;
We’ve heard their screams, their groans, their sobs, 
listened to their cries for mercy, their pleas for help;
    and they want to know, who can blame them, when it will all end. 
It’s made worse by what Jesus told us – 
    all that stuff about not seeing death before he comes. 
If he hadn’t said that, not raised our hopes, it might have been easier - 
    we’d certainly have felt different – 
    so what was he thinking of making such a promise? 
Yet maybe that’s not fair, 
    for he told us after all not to speculate about the future, 
    not to imagine we can ever be certain, 
not even to concern ourselves with dates or times. 
‘Leave it to God,’ that was his advice.
‘Trust in him and get on with living.
It may be hard, 
    it may be costly,
    but you’ve a job to do, here and now.’
I’m not saying that answers everything, 
    but the more I think about it, the more it does help.
    for, of course, he has come, through his Spirit, 
    and his kingdom is here, all around us, if only we have eyes to see it. 
He will return in person too, I’ve no doubt about that;
    sometime he will finally reign supreme.
But what matters is not when that happens;
    it’s living each moment in the confidence that it will. 
And if I’m really truthful, most of the time, 
    when we’re not facing danger, 
    when we’re not running for our lives,
    I’m quite happy with that, 
    for I love this life in so many ways and am in no hurry for it to end. 
Is that wrong? I don’t know. 
All I can say is, ‘In your time, Lord.
In your own time.’
 
Hymn       Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Charles Wesley
 
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.
 
2. 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.
 
Revelation 21: 1-4
 
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
 
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
 
Meditation of John 
One day we’ll see him again.
Don’t ask me when,
don’t ask me how
but one day
when all this struggle is over -
all the pain,
all the grief,
all the fear,
all the doubt -
then he will return to establish his kingdom.
I know that’s hard to believe sometimes.
When you keep battling against the odds and nothing seems to change,
when you stand up for what is good yet evil seems to triumph,
when love is met with hatred,
gentleness with violence,
truth with falsehood -
of course you start to wonder.
When you’re faced with suffering,
sickness,
death;
when greed and corruption are rewarded with plenty
and justice is trampled underfoot;
when the poor get poorer
and the world goes by uncaring -
it’s impossible not to ask yourself, day after day,
why is it allowed to happen?
But he will come, I’m certain of it -
            not just because he promised to,
            though that’s important, of course;
            not simply because he came back before,
            cheating death of its victory,
            triumphing over the grave,
            though that’s more vital still;
            but because he has to return if anything is finally to make sense,
            if faith is to be anything more than a grand delusion.
 
And it is more;
            it has to be.
These goals we strive towards,
            this life revealed in Christ,
            the promises he made,
            the truths he taught,
            everything he lived and died for -
            they’re real, I know that,
            for they have turned my life around,
            sustained me through my darkest moments,
            lifted me beyond my highest thoughts,
            and given me a joy that knows no bounds.
So though now we see but do not understand,
            though faith is sometimes hard and Christ seems far away,
            we’ll hold fast to hope,
            waiting for a time when there will be an end to tears and pain and death,
            a time when God will live among his people
            in a new and beautiful kingdom;
            and we shall see him again, our Lord Jesus Christ,
            crowned in glory and splendour,
            King of kings,
            Lord of lords,
            all in all,
            yet one with us!
 
 
Hymn       Into the Darkness of This World
Maggi Dawn   
 
Into the darkness of this world
Into the shadows of the night
Into this loveless place You came
Lightened our burdens eased our pain
And made these hearts Your home
Into the darkness once again
O come Lord Jesus come
 
Come with Your love to make us whole
Come with Your light to lead us on
Driving the darkness far from our souls
O come Lord Jesus come
 
2 Into the longing of our souls
Into these heavy hearts of stone
Shine on us now Your piercing light
Order our lives and souls aright
By grace and love unknown
Until in You our hearts unite
O come Lord Jesus come
 
3 O Holy Child Emmanuel
Hope of the ages God with us
Visit again this broken place
Till all the earth declares Your praise
And Your great mercies own
Now let Your love be born in us
O come Lord Jesus come
 
(LAST CHORUS)
Come in Your glory take Your place
Jesus the Name above all names
We long to see You face to face
O come Lord Jesus come

 
Affirmation of Faith
 
It is not true that creation and the human family
are doomed to destruction and loss—
 
This is true:
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
 
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
 
This is true:
I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
 
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction rule forever—
 
This is true:
Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
his name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God,
the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
 
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil
who seek to rule the world—
 
This is true:
To me is given authority in heaven and on earth,
and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.
 
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted,
who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
 
This is true:
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions
and your old men shall have dreams.
 
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind,
of justice, of human dignity, of peace
are not meant for this earth and for this history—
 
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now,
that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
 
Intercessions
 
We join together now in our prayers for others, let us pray
 
Lord God,
 
Hear us as we pray for the patience and understanding to help all those throughout our world today,
For those who are lost and lonely at this time, without a home, bed or family to share a meal with,
Without the hope and excitement that special morning brings to so many
We remember that Jesus was born in a lowly manger, yet his light shines so brightly for all.
 
We pray for those who are struggling with health issues, 
For those in hospital, care homes and hospices, 
removed from the comfort of their own homes, missing their friends and families. 
We give thanks for those who are caring for all these people at this time.
 
Lord we pray for people throughout the world living in situations of vulnerability
In countries where the political atmosphere is unstable,
Where corrupt leadership puts the lives of the people in danger,
We pray for patience, peace and understanding to these lands
 
Hear us as we pray for those living with the threat of violence within their own homes,
Where debt, unemployment and hopelessness seems to be everywhere
When the only way out is an impossible option 
Provide those people with love Lord, and hold them within your arms 
 
We pray for the fragility of our planet, help us to  we continue to make the correct decisions
with regards to this precious garden you have provided for us,
 that we remember that we are but the custodians of the earth
Give us the time and patience to make the changes that are required to protect your world Lord.
 
Lord, we also pray for those close to us this morning, 
Those in need of a helping hand, an understanding ear and the loving patience of a friend
We hold them close to our hearts and ask that they feel your love today
And in this time of silence we say their names to you now Lord.
 
(time of silence)
 
Thank you Lord, for hearing our prayers this morning, and as we go into the week of Jesus’ birth, 
help us to carry forward his love and patience to all those we meet and spend time with.
In your loving name we pray.
 
Amen  
 
Offertory Introduction and Prayer
 
Let us give thanks for all that is good in our lives;
our friends and families,
the blessings we have,
the love we share
the church that holds and nourishes us
friends today worshipping separately but together,
we bring these, and the gifts we offer to God’s work
before the Lord
and pray that he transforms our fragile gifts,
our fragile lives
our fragile churches
to be instruments for God’s glory.
Amen
 
Hymn       Joy to the World
Isaac Watts
 
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
 
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
 
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
 
Blessing
In this time of expectation and excitement,
draw us together in unity, that our praise and worship
may echo throughout our lives.
 
In this time of expectation and excitement,
draw us together in mission, 
that the hope within might be the song we sing,
and the melody of our lives.
 
In this time of expectation and excitement,
draw us together in service, that the path we follow
might lead us from a stable to a glimpse of eternity.
 





References
Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas (C) 2001 Nick Fawcett.  Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
Opening Music- I believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake. Songwriters: Greg Lake / Peter John Sinfield / Serge Prokofieff. I Believe In Father Christmas lyrics © BMG Rights Management
Call to worship from The Worship Source Book
Affirmation of Faith from Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, Orbis Books, 2004.
 
O Come O Come Emmanuel- from Latin 12th Century. (Concordia Publishing House)
Of the Father’s Love Begotten- Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. Performed by St George’s Cathedral Choir, Southwark
Come thou long expected Jesus- Charles Wesley. Performed by Phil and Lythan Nevard.
Into the Darkness of This World- Maggi Dawn. © 1993 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music). Sung by Tim Jones on the album Born in the Night
Joy to the World- Isaac Watts. performed by Pentatonix from the Best of Pentatonix Christmas Album.
 
Thanks to
Andy Braunston and Lesley Thomson.
 
Marion Thomas, David Shimmin, Christine Shimmin, Carol Tubbs and Alison Jiggins for the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith
 
Anne Hewling, Ray Fraser, Carol Tubbs, John Young, John Wilcox, Tina Wheeler, James Whately for reading various other spoken parts of the service. --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Changing Christmas Plans?

Sun, 20/12/2020 - 07:55
96 Changing Christmas Plans? View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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inspiration in your inbox
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Do you have to change your church's Christmas plans?

Dear Friends,

the announcements yesterday from the various governments in these islands have made many Elderships consider if they need to change the Christmas services on offer this week. 

Many will still continue to offer live in person worship with all the social distancing and "covid secure" precautions, many others  - especially those in areas with higher restrictions - will not want to offer in-person worship.  It's a big ask to expect ministers, Elders and Lay Preachers to prepare online worship at such short notice so I am sending you all the links to the Daily Devotion audio only services in the hope they may be useful.

If you don't have any role in preparing worship please just ignore this email!  You will still receive the services as normal this week.  If you are an Elder, Lay Preacher or minister and your church is wondering how to mark Christmas following yesterday's announcements you may find these resources useful.

Each month we sent out an email containing various links for the next month's worship.  By following this link

https://mailchi.mp/b08aff47c54f/services-for-advent-and-christmas?e=[UNIQID]

you can see the email we sent out in November with all the December services.  If you scroll down it  you will find links to a Carol Service, Midnight Communion and Christmas Day morning service as well as to a service for 27th December.  If you follow this link

https://mailchi.mp/e81fa75bc937/januarys-service-material?e=[UNIQID]

you will find the January services.

For each service we offer the text in booklet format as well as large print A4, a link to the Soundcloud site which is what we suggest you point your people to in order to listen and, though it's probably too late now for Christmas services, links to enable you to download the material to burn to CD or put on a telephone service like Twilio.  Twilio allow you to set up, very cheaply, a local phone number which people can dial to hear the recorded service.  If this might be a helpful option for your church I can set this up for you on my Twilio account so when I change the recording every phone number linked to my account will have the new material.  If your church wishes to do this then please ask the minister or lead Elder to contact me.  The cost would be around £10.

As I said earlier, most of you can happily ignore this email!  If your church would like to make use of the DD services - either instead of in person worship or for those who will be staying at home to protect themselves please do feel free.

with every good wish


Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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