Material for Worship on the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Recently Nerys came across this photo of a sign outside a Dundee church. It is intended to bring a smile to the faces of passers by but it also expresses a truth which, in these difficult times, is both comforting and challenging.

Throughout the Bible, we see God at work, from the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis telling the story of God’s work in Creation to the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. God is particularly active in working with people as today’s Psalm reminds us. ‘You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways’ (Psalm 139.1-6, 13-18). God is the Good Shepherd, always guiding and protecting his flock, a gardener, an artist, a potter, a parent, a builder.

In today’s Gospel passage, John 1.43-51, read here by Martin, we see God at work through Jesus.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks several times about being sent to complete his Father’s work. Here the work consists of seeking and finding those who are actively searching for him. We’re often unaware of God at work in our lives and think that it’s all down to us. This is what gives the story of the calling of Phillip and Nathaniel its wry humour. John tells us that Jesus goes to Galilee to find Philip and invite him to be his follower. But listen to Philip’s triumphant words to his friend, Nathanael, ‘We’ve found him about whom Moses and the law and the prophets wrote!’ Philip thinks it is he who has found Jesus, the Messiah, not realizing that it is always God who takes the first step. The longing deep in Philip’s heart, which had led him to study the scriptures – the same longing that had driven Nathanael to sit and pray under the fig tree – was the work of God. As St Augustine said, we could not even have begun to seek for God unless he had already found us.

In the New Testament, we see that it is the same deep and sincere desire for relationship with God that had caused Saul to become a Pharisee and such a zealous persecutor of the followers of Jesus. His passion was misplaced, just like Nathanael’s initial incredulity borne out of prejudice, that anything of any value could come from the town of Nazareth. God’s work is transforming work and it doesn’t stop at our initial calling. God works in us for the rest of our lives, guiding us in the right direction, widening our understanding, deepening our compassion, helping us to deal with those things that diminish us and distance us from His love.

God also works through us, as he did with Philip, who didn’t argue with his friend but invited him to ‘come and see’. In our Old Testament passage today, 1 Samuel 3.1-20, read here by June, we see God at work through an old, blind priest and a courageous young boy.

God who is love has made it his job to know each one of us intimately. He has given me and you a special message to deliver, a special song to sing for others, a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak my message, or sing my song, or offer my act of love. These are entrusted only to me by a God who knows me personally. ‘Where did you come to know me?’ asks Nathanael as his distain turns to amazement. You’ve seen nothing yet, is Jesus’ response. In responding to God’s unique calling and allowing him to work through us, whatever stage of life we are at, we discover what we were born for and that brings with it a profound sense of rightness and peace.

You are invited to follow the words of a hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith, which speaks of Christ’s work in and through our lives. You may wish to sing along to the tune ‘Love Unknown’ played here by David.

Christ is the One who calls,
the One who loved and came,
to whom by right it falls
to bear the highest name:
and still today
our hearts are stirred
to hear his word
and walk his way.

Christ is the One who seeks,
to whom our souls are known.
The word of love he speaks
can wake a heart of stone;
for at that sound
the blind can see,
the slave is free,
the lost are found.

Christ is the One who died,
forsaken and betrayed;
who, mocked and crucified,
the price of pardon paid.
Our dying Lord,
what grief and loss,
what bitter cross,
our souls restored!

Christ is the One who rose
in glory from the grave,
to share his life with those
whom once he died to save.
He drew death’s sting
and broke its chains,
who lives and reigns,
our risen King.

Christ is the One who sends,
his story to declare;
who calls his servants friends
and gives them news to share.
His truth proclaim
in all the earth,
his matchless worth
and saving name.

Let us pray to our God who is at work in us and through us, knowing that he is listening to us. (With thanks to John for putting together the intercessions that follow.)

To him who alone is God let us make our requests with thanksgiving, through the one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.

I ask your prayers for peace in the life of the world, in dangerous places, in disaster areas, in more stable areas and in all our dreams.
Uphold all those promoting the democratic outcome of the presidential election in the
United States. Support the Uighur people suffering from violent persecution in Western China. Give hope to the civilians in North East Nigeria suffering from very long running terror attacks.
Pray for God’s peace.

I ask your prayers for all who suffer injury, sickness and loss.
Pray for all who are afflicted.

I ask your prayers for all who wield authority and influence, through God’s call.
Remind them that they have been entrusted by all those that they represent, to serve to the best of their abilities. Inspire President elect Joe Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris in their new presidency. Give strength to Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon as they lead our governments and are continuously asked questions which cannot be answered. Enrichen charities such as Christian Aid and Tearfund who respond to disasters and provide ongoing support, directly to local agencies, that support thousands of people.
Pray for all who exercise power.

I ask your prayers for all whom we have wronged and all whom we disagree with.
Lead us to respect all who are different from us. Help us understand that our own red lines may be seen as offensive to others. Make space for people, with different views to talk to each other. Enable us all to listen.
Pray for all who hate us.

I ask your prayers for our bishops as they field questions about our churches being closed and for all whom Christ has appointed to his service, as they nurture our faith.
Help cast the burdens off our Ministry team after a long year. Guide the technical team who have been streaming St Mary’s worship. Flood all your disciples with your Holy Spirit.
Pray for God’s people.

O God, whose will it is that all should find salvation and come to know the truth: receive
the prayers and petitions which we offer in faith and love; through him who gave proof of your purpose, and who sacrificed himself to win freedom for all mankind, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Video Reflection on the Epiphany

This week, instead of the usual written Materials for Worship based on the morning Service of the Word, a video version of what would have been tonight’s reflection on the Epiphany is offered. Many thanks to Ruth Burgess who planned and intended to lead the service with Nerys, to Alastair Christmas, Peter Holmes and Davie for taking part and to David Jamieson for putting the video together.

Rector’s Letter – 6th January 2021

Dear friends,

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, marking the coming of the Wise Men to the Christ-child following the star. You may wish to take some time today to read the Gospel passage from the second chapter of Matthew and to join with many Christians across the world in the ritual of chalking your front door and praying a blessing on your home and all those who will enter it during the year ahead. Here is a sheet you can download containing more information and a prayer.

You will have heard, no doubt, that churches are now closed for public worship and private prayer until the end of January. Our all-age Epiphany Celebration at 4 p.m. today has moved on-line. If you wish to join the nine families with children who intend to attend on Zoom at 4 p.m., please email Liz Owen on events@stmarysdunblane.org for the link. This Sunday, our ‘Poems and Prayers for Epiphany’, a reflective introduction to the new season, will be sent to you as a video and as written Materials for Worship.

During the weeks ahead, I will be celebrating the eucharist in the church every Sunday at 10.30 a.m. You are invited to join me at home in prayer and worship using the materials which will be sent out to you. The Provincial Eucharist will be broadcast at 11 a.m. every Sunday. A link can be found at www.scotland.anglican.org/broadcast-sunday-worship/ With the help of the Ministry Team, I am also hoping to put together videos of reflective services for Candlemas and Ash Wednesday.

In order to keep us in touch with each other, the congregational newsletter will resume next week. Feel free to send contributions to me at rector @ stmarysdunblane.org. Please don’t hesitate to phone me on 824225 if you are in need of support or prayer during this difficult time. I am never too busy for a chat! If I’m not able to answer, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I intend to be at the Rectory every day except Mondays.

During Advent, I discovered the art of Virginia Wieringa and have enjoyed meditating on her series of Advent banners, many of which were commissioned by churches in the States. She explains on her website Virginia Wieringa Fine Art that her work often reflects the mysteries she perceives in the world and that the Advent series was inspired by words by the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Don’t search for answers now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Like the Wise Men, we as individuals and as a church are on an uncertain journey depending on God’s guidance. I invite you to join me in praying the Collect for today for ourselves, our country and our world:

Eternal God, who by a star led wise men to the worship of your Son, guide by your light the nations of the earth, that the whole world may know your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

with love to you all,
Nerys

Material for Worship on the Second Sunday after Christmas

The Ven. Peter Potter has prepared a reflection and prayers for the second Sunday of the season of Christmas.

A happy and blessed New Year to you all. I’m sure we’re all hoping it will be better than the last one. Even though many people will have removed their tree and decorations, we are still in the Christmas season until Wednesday, the arrival of the Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany.

We don’t often get two Sundays in the in-between days from Christmas to Epiphany and it’s even more unusual to have a reading from the book called Ecclesiasticus, which was written in the period between the Old and New Testaments. Today’s reading, Ecclesiasticus 1.1-12, is significant though, as it features the figure of Wisdom (Sophia), who is also found in Proverbs and has much in common with John’s concept of the Word in today’s Gospel, John 1:1-18

Listen to the passage from Ecclesiasticus read by Mary Birch.

The Gospel passage is read by Anthony Birch.

The Gospel according to St John is a masterpiece in its own right. It is written in simple, direct language – “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What could be more simple? But what depths lie beneath. Like a Russian doll, as you lift off one layer, you find another. Especially here, in this wonderful Prologue, these simple words introduce a mystery. But it is a mystery that reveals, not covers up, its meaning.

“In the beginning…” Yes, all four Gospels begin at the beginning. But they all begin at a different place. For John, the beginning is not in Bethlehem, with shepherds and angels; no donkey, no manger, not even Mary. Echoing the first verse of the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning” means just that. For John, the story of Jesus is the story of the whole cosmos. But yet, as we shall see shortly, it is also the story of particular events at a particular time. And yet again, a story that continues down to our own time, and beyond. Such is the artistry of the Fourth Gospel.

Unlike the shepherds and angels, the Word is not something you could put a costume on for the Nativity Play. But it is there in the Bible; in Ps 33, we find “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made”. It was also found in contemporary Greek philosophers, so the term Logos, Word would also be familiar to educated Gentiles. The Word, then, is God’s creative, dynamic force: “God said ‘Let there be light. And there was light’”. But this Logos is no ordinary word. When we speak, we make words with our lips and throat muscles, whereas this Word was with God. It was part of God’s being from all eternity. In Greek, the tense used is past continuous, that is, the Word was, always has been and still is part of the divine being and activity.

John is able to develop this insight, referring next to light, the first item on God’s list for the creation of the cosmos, a light that is not solely a physical phenomenon but also moral and spiritual, that is to say, truly life-giving. The Word spoken to create light brings with it the gift of life, for without it, creation is merely lifeless matter. This light, enlightening and life-giving, manifests itself at many times and in many places, in particular in the person of John the Baptist whose rôle is to prepare people to receive the true light, which had already been shining but had gone unrecognised.

Like the opening of some film epic which begins with a broad panorama and then gradually zooms in on a particular character, John is now ready for the climax of his prologue. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He identifies the Word with Jesus Christ and the whole history and future of the cosmos is now centred on one person. This is the whole Nativity Story condensed into one simple sentence but a sentence so profound that we can no longer read Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts as pretty stories about an important person. Nor – crucially – can we view the earthly life of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, as God’s afterthought or Plan B, which is what some of today’s popular explanations seem to imply. John has carefully prepared us for this verse, which reveals the eternal purpose of God and the whole meaning of the universe.

This verse actually uses the Russian-doll technique, for it conveys further levels of interpretation. The word that we translate as “dwelt” or “lived” (or perhaps “stayed”, in the Scottish sense of the word, would be an even better translation) is in Greek “pitched his tent” or, more literally “set up his tabernacle”. Pitching a tent has overtones of mobility, not being tied to a particular place. It reminds us of how God travelled with the Israelites up to the time when King Solomon built the temple and it also hints at the earthly life of one who would “have nowhere to lay his head”. To the Old Testament prophets, “tabernacle” was the place where God would dwell in the midst of his people for ever. Wherever we are, whatever is happening, God stays with us.

All this and more is contained in these 18 short verses. The mystery of God’s will and purpose in bringing the cosmos into being has been made known in the Word, now revealed in the incarnate Son of God. In his time, John the Baptist testified to him and now it is our turn to speak the words, to do the deeds, so that the Word that has become flesh is made known in our time and place.

Prayers for the New Year

Lord Jesus, you are the one who stands at the gate of the year. Give us a light that we may tread safely into the unknown. As we go into this new year, we place our hand into yours, for that is better than any earthly light and safer than a known way! Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
(based on a poem by Minnie Haskins, 1875-1957)

Lord, you make all things new . In these dark days we pray for all who suffer – through illness, uncertainty, family breakups, war, starvation. Bring hope alive in their hearts and cause their spirits to be born again. In this new year kindle in the hearts of all a mighty flame so that in our time, many will see your wonders and live to praise your name. Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.

Lord Jesus, come and ‘first-foot ’for us. May we welcome you into our home and we invite your blessing, for us, for our families and neighbours. May your love be a light to guide us through this new year. Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.

Almighty and eternal God, we pray for your Church, for Christian people throughout the world, especially this congregation. Draw our hearts to you, guide our minds, fill our imaginations, control our wills, so that we may be wholly yours, dedicated and committed to you; and then use us, we pray, as you desire, and always to your glory and the wellbeing of your people. Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.

Lord, accept these prayers through our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Amen.

Material for Worship on the First Sunday of Christmas

The Ven. Peter Potter has prepared a reflection and prayers for the first Sunday of the season of Christmas which is also the last Sunday of the year.

Here we are almost at the end of the year, looking forward to a new – and hopefully better – one in a few days, a situation neatly personified in the scene described in today’s reading, Luke 2.22-40. It is a meeting that one of the people present had long been waiting and longing for.

You are invited to listen to Ruth Burgess reading the first part of the passage and then to follow the words of a hymn based on Simeon’s prayer as David Sawyer plays the tune before listening to the rest of the reading.

Faithful vigil ended,
watching, waiting cease;
Master, grant your servant
his discharge in peace.

All the Spirit promised,
all the Father willed,
now these eyes behold it
perfectly fulfilled.

This your great deliverance
sets your people free;
Christ their light uplifted
all the nations see.
Christ, your people’s glory!
Watching, doubting cease:
grant to us your servants
our discharge in peace.
Timothy Dudley-Smith

Here we have two old people, Simeon and Anna, almost at the end of their lives, and a baby at the threshold of his life. And Mary, full of joy and pride at having given birth, but also full of anxiety and uncertainty about the responsibilities of caring for this tiny child. She too is on the threshold – from girl to mother. No doubt Joseph shares some of these feelings, for his previously settled life (as we suppose) has been turned upside down by this birth.

It is a turning point for them all – and for us too, as a disturbing light enters the familiar, almost cloyingly comfortable, Nativity story. Simeon’s words must have discomforted Mary: “A sword will pierce your own soul”. It is what every parent has to face as they realise their child will grow up and grow away from them. Growing up, making your own way in the world, is not easy and it is hard for parents as they watch their child do so. But somehow the whole thing is necessary. Jesus could not stay a baby for ever. It would have been a pretty story but, if he had, he could not have saved us. Our children cannot stay dependent for ever, wrapped up in cotton wool.

“Mankind has come of age” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a telling phrase. The cross is a powerful symbol of what humanity does to its heavenly Father in the process of growing up. The experience of Mary at the foot of the cross, her soul pierced by a sword, is an experience shared by many a parent. It is also God’s experience as he contemplates the children he has created and loved growing up and coming of age. As children are growing up, a parent’s rôle (whether it is an earthly or a heavenly parent) changes to standing behind our children as a support, not in front as a screen. Mary at the foot of the cross is our example here. Being there is what matters. Or the father of the Prodigal Son. The loving thing was not to stop the son going away but to be there when he came back. But in the meantime it hurts, because love hurts.

This scene in the Temple is a story about transitions, crossing a threshold: from baby to child; from the carefree life of a teenager to the cares and responsibilities of a wife and mother; from one generation as it hands over to the next. Growing up, coming of age is not just about being independent and doing your own thing. It means becoming responsible, taking on commitments, giving back in return for the love we have received from our parents, the Church and God, the pain-bearer and the rock at our back.

Prayers of Intercession

Father, when your Son was born, there was no room at the inn.
Protect with your love those who have no home
and all who live in poverty.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Mary, in the pain of labour,
brought your Son to birth.
Hold in your hand [… and] all who are in pain or distress.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Father, her Son and yours, came as a light shining in the darkness.
Bring comfort to […and] all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

In the Temple, Simeon sang, a song for peace.
Strengthen those who work for peace and justice
in [… and in] all the world.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

When she saw the holy Child, Anna praised you and began to speak about him.
Give us grace to preach the gospel of Christ’s redemption.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Father, your Son shared an earthly home in Nazareth,
Bless our homes and all whom we love.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

In that holy birth, heaven is come down to earth,
and earth is raised to heaven.
Hold in your hand [… and] all those who have passed through death
in the hope of your coming kingdom.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Father, whose Son our Saviour
was born in human flesh.
Renew your Church as the Body of Christ.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

As Christians the world over celebrate Christ’s birth.
Open our hearts that he may be born in us today and every day.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer. Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of worship by reading or singing along to ‘What Child is this?’ as David plays the tune.

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?
this, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds worship and angels sing:
haste, haste, to bring Him praise,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate,
where ox and ass are feeding?
come, have no fear, God’s Son is here
his love all loves exceeding:
nails, spear, shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you:
hail, hail, the Saviour comes,
the babe, the son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
all tongues and peoples own him,
the King of Kings salvation brings,
let every heart enthrone him:
raise, raise your song on high
while Mary sings a lullaby,
joy, joy, for Christ is born,
the babe, the son of Mary.
William Chatterton Dix

St Mary’s Young Church Nativity

St Mary’s Young Church have made a Christmas Nativity video – click below to view it on our YouTube channel:

Material for Worship on the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Lord Jesus, light of the world,

blessed is Gabriel, who brought good news;

blessed is Mary, your mother and ours.

Bless your Church preparing for Christmas;

and bless us your children, who long for your coming.

Amen.

Today Nerys reflects on our Gospel reading, Luke 1.26-56 read here by Mary and Anthony Birch.

One of the things I particularly like about the story of the First Christmas in Luke’s Gospel is that it is full of the impossible possibility of God. This is something which gives me great hope for myself, for our church and for our world today.

The account of Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is surrounded by the story of her cousin Elizabeth who finds herself facing the impossible possibility that she might be pregnant in her old age. Elizabeth’s wondrous words, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me’, echo the angel’s greeting to Mary, demanding that we see her story as equally impossible. For the Gospel’s first audience though, it probably wasn’t the fact that Mary was to fall pregnant without knowing a man that was most surprising, but that she would have been singled out to be favoured by God.

Down the centuries, some have tried to explain this by arguing that Mary had special qualities but the Gospel makes clear that the only extraordinary thing about Mary is her ordinariness. Mary herself cannot believe this impossible possibility. We are told that she is perplexed and troubled by the angel’s words of greeting. It’s not hard to imagine what was going through her mind. Who, me? Why am I favoured by God? How can the Lord be with me? She knows who she is, a young, poor, unmarried peasant girl, living in a remote village in an occupied country. It would be impossible for someone like her to be chosen to do God’s work, wouldn’t it?

Gabriel then tells her that she’s going to be pregnant with a son, but not just any son, the Son of the Most High who will be placed on David’s throne, with a kingdom that will go on for ever. Her response to this astonishing news is naturally one of disbelief. What? Is this for real? How can this be? A natural reaction when faced with an impossible possibility. And yet her question is a faith-filled one. It’s more information she’s after, not proof. She is curious, not as to whether it will happen, but how God’s going to achieve it. And when God’s messenger provides her with an explanation, Mary doesn’t bargain or suggest alternatives or ask if she can swap with someone else. She accepts that the impossible is possible with God and makes her choice.

She must have been afraid. But there again she was used to experiencing fear and powerlessness. She was young, female and poor and she belonged to a conquered, oppressed nation. For her, it would have been all too easy to go on living under the shadow of fear. But she chooses instead to live under the shadow of the power of God.

She wouldn’t have been able to imagine then the joy and anguish that her choice would bring her in future years, but she would have been immediately aware of the scandal and disgrace that she would face. She had plans for her future with Joseph and could easily have chosen to stick to those rather than risk the impossible possibility that was being offered to her.

I wonder what convinced Mary to participate in God’s plan? I wonder what it took for her to name herself ‘the servant of the Lord’? She couldn’t have comprehended the full meaning of Gabriel’s message, but she clearly didn’t submit unthinkingly to her vocation. She responds actively, a willing partner in the new impossible thing that God would do with her and within her.

Mary’s song suggests that she had already knew and trusted God. It expresses her deep joy and delight in God and a sense that her prayers have been answered. It is full of echoes of the Scriptures that she would have known from childhood, In particular the joyful song of Hannah celebrating the birth of Samuel and all that God was going to do through him. Her song places Mary at the end of a line of worshipful women who played key roles in the lives of ancient Israel and Judah. Through it she expresses not only her own hopes but those of all her people and everyone throughout the world who see themselves as lowly and hungry and are oppressed by those who misuse their power and authority. She expresses the impossible possibility that there is another way of organising the world. She shares the ancient dream of the people Israel, that one day all the prophets had said would come true. One day God would do what he had promised to their ancestors. All nations would be blessed through the descendants of Abraham.

Mary, living in the dark days of Herod the Great, was all too familiar with the grip that the power of violence and inequality had on her world. She knew of the poverty, hunger and misery they caused. But she also knew of God’s faithful love and God’s desire to break through the status quo. She breaks out in joyful song at the realisation that God’s revolution had started and that her ‘Yes’ was the first step.

As our Advent journey comes to an end, God is now waiting for our ‘Yes’. In the words of St Augustine, ‘God without us will not; we without God cannot’. Like Mary, we are called to participate in the new impossible thing that God would do with us and within us which will bring to an end this era of violence, injustice and oppression.
I don’t know how it came to be that our church was dedicated to Mary but I think that we need to see it as a challenge for us as a congregation. My prayer for this Christmas and the year ahead is that we would not only share in Mary’s joy in the midst of difficulty and danger but that we would also emulate her and together become bearers of the Good News which brings the impossible possibility of peace and hope to the world.

You may wish use these prayers from the Spill the Beans resource as a framework for your own.

Loving God, in your unending love you sent an angel to Mary, telling her that she is blessed and highly favoured; as you were with her, we know today that you are with us and we give thanks. Knowing your presence and rejoicing in the surety of your love we pray today for your blessing and your guidance.

On this winter’s day we remember the gift of your creation, given to us for sustenance and shelter, for us to enjoy and to protect, yet we have squandered this gift, and put the lives of future generations in jeopardy, We ask for the strength to make changes now to protect and renew our planet before it is too late.

In this time of uncertain futures, we pray for your church, both world-wide and our community of believers gathered before you today, grant us the wisdom to create and support
new growth both spiritually and numerically, as we dedicate ourselves once more to your great commission.

At this time of plenty, we give thanks for all that we have, for the joy that this season brings
and the time we set aside to celebrate, but we also remember those among us and those around us with little, who struggle and go hungry, help us to be more generous and more
loving this year.

We pray, today, for ourselves, your beloved children, as we seek to follow you.
As Christmas approaches, and expectations of plenty, of community, of happiness are set, we remember that not all people enjoy this time of year, that the joy of others can cause pain in some, we ask for the wisdom to care for and be sensitive to those who need our help at this time of year.
Amen.

You are invited to finish your time of worship by reading or singing along to the missionary hymn, ‘Hills of the North rejoice’ as David Sawyer plays the tune.

Hills of the North, rejoice,
river and mountain-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland, sing.
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.

Isles of the Southern seas,
sing to the listening earth,
carry on every breeze
hope of a world’s new birth:
In Christ shall all be made anew,
his word is sure, his promise true.

Lands of the East, arise,
he is your brightest morn,
greet him with joyous eyes,
praise shall his path adorn:
your seers have longed to know their Lord;
to you he comes, the final word.

Shores of the utmost West,
lands of the setting sun,
welcome the heavenly guest
in whom the dawn has come:
he brings a never-ending light
who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

Shout, as you journey home,
songs be in every mouth,
lo, from the North they come,
from East and West and South:
in Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest.

Based on the hymn by Charles E. Oakley

Material for Worship on the Third Sunday of Advent

Lord Jesus, Light of the World, we thank you that the joy that flooded the hearts of the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the hosts of heaven, and Mary and Joseph, is the joy that still has the power to overwhelm our hearts with rejoicing. Amen.

Our readings today are Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11 read by Alastair and John 1.6-8. 19-28 read by Ramanie. They have inspired the following reflection by Revd Jeanette Allan.

The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian Church is the Holy Spirit, the director of the whole enterprise. The mission of the Church we learn about in Acts consists of the things that the Spirit is doing in the world. You remember how Paul often says, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .’. In a special way what is happening is that the light that the Holy Spirit is focusing upon Jesus Christ.

This fact, which was so patently obvious to Christians in the first century, is, I fear, largely forgotten in our own time. Because that is so we have lost our nerve, and our sense of direction, and we have turned the divine initiative into human enterprise. ‘It all depends on me, or on us’ is an attitude that is bedeviling mission these days. I’ve heard it said in Vestries, ‘We have to look after ourselves, if we don’t who will?’ and yes, I sympathize, we do have to be responsible, but we also need to hear the promptings of the Spirit, leading us to the Kingdom, for that is why we are the Church, not to keep our building, beautiful as it is, wind and water-tight, not that I’m suggesting we shouldn’t do that, but it certainly isn’t our raison d’etre. The attitude, ‘It all depends on me’ is precisely what Jesus forbade at the start of it all. His followers must NOT think that mission is their sole responsibility.

While he was in their company Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem. ‘You must wait,’ he said, ‘for the promise made by my Father, about which you have heard me speak: John, as you know, baptised with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and within the next few days’ (Acts 1 :4-5) The Spirit, by taking permanent hold of the waiting disciples, as he had taken hold of Jesus, effected a kind of extension of the incarnation, bringing the disciples into everything that could be available to them in Christ. This was their ‘Christening’ by which they were made to be as Christ in the world, to be his body, filled with his very Spirit. When we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts the direct result was an outburst of praise to the Lord, of whose presence in their midst they had suddenly been made aware. The polyglot crowd who came from many nations, all speaking different languages, overhearing and miraculously understanding, asked one another, ‘What can this mean?’

As one by one men and women have their eyes opened to see the overmastering reality of Christ and put their faith in him, they are baptised in the Holy Spirit and joined to the Spirit-filled society. For the Spirit’s power, as well as its mission towards the whole world, operates always in the interactions of community rather than in the secret recesses of each individual soul. The task of the Church, then, because it is filled with the Spirit of the New Man, Jesus Christ, is to live the life of the new humanity in the middle of the old world. And, as we have discovered, there are many challenges and difficulties with that.

Our usual Eucharistic Prayer reminds us of that when it says, “He broke the bonds of evil and set your people free to be his Body in the world.” That makes the mission of the church crystal clear in one short sentence. What a sentence and what a task.

As these 1st century Christians went down under water, as they drowned to their old, pagan way of life, all the divisions that marked that way of life drowned along with them. At least they did so symbolically, for the old Adam and the old Eve are mighty good swimmers. Race, social class and sex: these were what delineated the Jewish world. Poor you, if you were a Gentile. Poor you, if you were a slave. Poor you, if you were a woman.

That kind of injustice must stop. Working for peace and justice, caring for the environment, in other words, honouring all God’s people equally and being good stewards of God’s creation; these should be the hallmarks of the church. We would certainly make an impression on the community around us if we became known as a community of people who actively supported and worked for these things.

As, during Advent we wait for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, it is also a good time to assess how we are approaching mission, working as a community to further God’s Kingdom here on earth, the things we are doing well, the things we could do better and the things we are doing badly. Time to pray about what we need to do here at St. Mary’s to become a community through which Christ’s love shines out like a beacon to the world around us.

I leave you with two question to ask yourselves. How much of the unredeemed me actually drowned when I was baptised? How do I live the freedom given me by God, to treat everyone as equals, to work for justice for all, to be compassionate at all times, to care for God’s creation and to show God’s love to the world around me?

You are invited to pray the intercessions which follow, written by Allan Boesak from South Africa based on John 10:10, Matthew 11:5, Revelation 21:4, Malachi 3:1-2, Romans 13: 11-12

We are called to proclaim the truth. And let us believe it is not true that this world and its people are doomed to die and be lost.
This is true: I have come that they might have life in all its abundance.
Father, your Kingdom come.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction.
This is true: the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are hearing the good news.
Father, your Kingdom come.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction have come to stay forever.
This is true: death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more.
Father, your Kingdom come.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world.
This is true: the Lord whom we seek will suddenly come to his Temple; and he is like a refiner’s fire.
Father, your Kingdom come.

It is not true: that our dreams of liberation, of human dignity, are not meant for this earth and for this history.
This is true: it is already time for us to wake from sleep. For the night is far gone and the day is at hand.
Father, your Kingdom come. Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of worship by reading or singing along to Edward Caswall’s translation of the Advent hymn, ‘Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding’, as David plays the tune.

Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding;
‘Christ is nigh’, it seems to say;
‘cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day’.
Wakened by the solemn warning
let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.
Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
comes with pardon down from heaven;
let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
one and all to be forgiven;
That when next he comes in glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with his mercy he may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.
Honour, glory, might, and blessing
to the Father and the Son,
with the everlasting spirit,
while eternal ages run.

Advent and Christmas Events and Services at St Mary’s

You are welcome to join us for our Sunday services at 10:30am or 8pm in Advent and in the season of Christmas.

We are also hoping to hold two Christingle services at 4pm on Wednesday 23rd December and on Christmas Eve.

At 8pm on Christmas Eve there will be a candle-lit reflection on the wonder and mystery of Christmas and at 10:30am on Christmas morning an all-age celebration.

We will also be celebrating the arrival of the Wise Men at 4pm on 6th January with an all-age Epiphany celebration.

In order to attend any of these services you need to book by contacting Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org

You are welcome to walk the Advent Spiral on the Rectory Lawn at 5pm or 6pm any evening between 12th December and Christmas Eve. Invite another household (total of 6 adults and any number of children under 12.) Bring your own hot drinks, snacks rugs and torches. There will be sheltered seating.

Book by contacting Liz at events @ stmarysdunblane.org

It is also possible for individuals to walk the spiral during the day without booking.

In addition to walking the spiral you can

• follow the Nativity Trail at the front of the church (you will need a phone that reads QR codes and a torch for this)

• collect your knitted angel from the porch

• place a bauble on our outdoor Christmas tree

You are also invited to consider contributing to the St Mary’s Christmas Appeal for Aberlour Childcare Trust. Please put cash or cheques into an envelope through the Rectory door or get in touch with Alastair at treasurer @ stmarysdunblane.org to get bank details to set up a transfer.

Material for Worship on the Second Sunday of Advent


Lord Jesus, light of the world,
John told the people to prepare,
for you were very near.
As Christmas grows closer day by day,
help us to be ready to welcome you now. Amen

Good morning. Those of you who are unable to be in church or follow the service online are very much part of the worshipping community of St. Mary’s and I hope that you find the material for reflection and prayers below helpful to you. Nerys

You are invited to start your time of worship today with Charles Wesley’s Advent hymn. As you read or sing along, notice the many commands in this prayer that implores Christ to be with us and also the many instances of the word ‘born’, each one revealing a different aspect of Jesus’ mission to a troubled world. Here is David playing the tune.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver;
born a child and yet a King;
born to reign in us forever;
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit,
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Both of our readings today, from the Book of Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark, are announcements of Good News in difficult times.
Imagine you live in Babylon around the year 545 BC. Forty years ago, your people were taken there by force. A generation has died in exile and been replaced. Many of your people have succumbed to this calculated attempt to destroy their culture and religion, to break their spirits and wipe out their identity. They languish under the thumb of Marduk, the Babylonian god. But some of you still regard yourselves as children of Abraham, still wonder every day when you will return to Jerusalem, praying that it may be soon. Your homeland has been laid waste, God’s temple razed to the ground but you still cling on to hope.

A new message has come from the Holy City, another prophecy. You sigh. Not more bad news! Surely you’ve lived under God’s judgement for long enough. But this message is different. Here at last is some good news. Listen to Davie reading Isaiah 40.1-11.

Imagine you live in Galilee around the year 70 AD. There’s a war on. Some radical Jews have revolted against Roman rule and Jerusalem is under siege. Reports have come to you that conditions are really bad in the city. Up and down the land, people are divided. Everyone is anxious, caught between resentment of Roman military oppression and fear of guerrilla extremism.

In your village, tensions are high. Jewish and Gentile neighbours fear one another. Even families are divided. But one small sect refuses to fight on either side. Followers of a teacher from Galilee named Jesus who was crucified about forty years ago by the Romans. The rabbis call them heretics. The Zealot rebels dismiss their founder as ineffective. The Roman loyalists suspect them of continuing his alleged insurrection. But you are intrigued by them. They claim that their leader’s execution is good news for us from God. How can that be? Someone hands you a scroll with the title scribbled on it: ‘The Beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ the Son of God’. Listen to Gudrun reading Mark 1.1-8.

Now, imagine you live in Jerusalem around the year 28 AD. Today you’ve travelled out of the city along the highway to the area where the River Jordan winds down to the Dead Sea. It’s a long way to walk in the heat of the sun but you’re not alone. Imagine being part of that vast crowd of people – city dwellers like you, mingling with villagers from all over Judea. It must have taken a lot for you to venture into this barren, hostile landscape. An unsettling, unnerving place where weird things have happened. The place where your ancestors were formed through hardship and suffering as the people of God.

As you near your destination, the noise level increases. The people are gathering as if for a festival. But there is no temple here, no ritual baths, no priests to make the sacrifices. Instead there is a muddy river and a man dressed in rough clothes. People say he is Elijah returned in his fiery chariot. His words are fiery enough, pouring hot into your ears, challenging people to change their lives, telling them how their ways must be mended.

I wonder what had drawn you out of the city to listen to him. Was it a longing for something the temple with its rituals and sacrifices couldn’t offer you? Was it hope that the prophets’ words were being realised out here in the wilderness, that God was about to fulfil his promise to his people. That the Messiah, the Christ, was on his way. It must have taken a lot for you to confess your shortcomings in front of all those people. It must have taken a lot for you, a Jew, to step into the river and be baptised. I wonder what it felt like to emerge from the water and walk back to the shore dripping and shivering? What was it like to know all your wrongdoing had been forgiven? To know that you had been given a new start?

But John is speaking again. He’s saying that this is just the beginning. He is just clearing a path for someone else. What he is doing with water, the Coming One would do with the fire of God’s Spirit. You remember the words of Isaiah. This is Good News indeed!

So what about us? Advent is a time of refreshing and renewing, an opportunity for a new start in the midst of troubled times. Take a moment now to reflect on God’s word to you today and to respond to it.

Advent God,
through scripture your people waited,
waited to be taken to the promised land,
waited for exile to end,
waited for the Messiah to come,
and we wait too.

We think of those who are waiting
for delayed operations and tests,
for family to visit,
for help with their struggling business,
for winter to end,
for babies to arrive,
for the vaccine,
for hope,
for comfort,
for love.

Advent God,
be with them in their waiting
and be with us
as we help bring the good news of Emmanuel, God with us,
into our homes,
into our communities,
into your world.

Christ Jesus,
we thank you for our fellow travellers in Advent and beyond,
for the opportunity to worship,
for the voices in the wilderness who prepare the Way for your coming.
May we be among those voices
to bring hope,
bring comfort,
bring love.

Loving Spirit,
inspire our thoughts and deeds this week to the glory of God,
the God we know,
the God we love,
the God we long to serve.
Amen.

(Adapted from a prayer by Susan Cord)

Nativity Trail

Jesus was born in a barn

The simplest, most humble arrival possible.

His first visitors, the Shepherds, would have been outcasts in society because they never left their sheep to visit the Temple and make sacrifices. And yet God makes sure they are the first people to meet Jesus while he looks after the sheep.

God wanted them to see and know Jesus. He wanted them to have a relationship with him.

Look, Wonder, and consider what this humblest of starts means for us.

We can ALL have a relationship with Jesus. Every one of us.

Younger children will enjoy this song:
Born in a barn:

And it is always good to listen or sing along to
Away in a manger

And then you could have a dance for Joy to this song
Ding Dong (Rend)

Make sure you pick up your angel and ‘angel on the shelf’ activity from the Church Porch

Nativity Trail

Refuge(e)

Mary and Joseph travel a lot during the Christmas story

They have to get all the way to Bethlehem, and then (after an angel warned Joseph in a dream), they fled to Egypt before King Herod could stop them. Mary may have given birth to our Refuge, but in doing so became a Refugee.

Refugees need to keep family and friends at a distance, be on their own and leave familiar rituals and customs. Sound familiar?

God, through Jesus, knows what it is like to live through uncertainty, what it is to be disconnected from family and feeling lonely; the anxiety and loss. Mary didn’t know how she was going to be used by God. Neither do we know how 2020 will be used in us. We can have HOPE and TRUST that this will become clear to us.

Younger children may enjoy this song about the donkey

This song is about Jesus being a refugee

And a song for Mary

Mary did you know

Nativity Trail

Angels

play a big part in the Christmas story.

They reassure Abraham (Jesus’ great, great, great, great, great, grandfather) in the old testament that he will have many descendants.

They tell Zechariah he will have a son – John the Baptist – even when he and Elizabeth are old.

They let Mary know she has been chosen to be Jesus’s Mummy.

They reassure Joseph that he is doing the right thing, looking after Mary.

They let the Shepherds know about the birth

The angel said “Do not be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town, Your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord!”

Angels are God’s messengers and help ensure his big act of Love goes to plan. God still uses Angels and people to be messengers. Bringing messages of Joy and Love into the world. As you listen to the music, reflect on how you can bring Joy into the world.

Your family might like to dance to this song:

Joy to the World (Rend)

and / or sing along to this Carol

Rector’s Letter – December 2020

Dear friends,

In recent years, the end of November has been for me a time of tension between the necessity to ‘get busy’ with preparations for Christmas and my desire to ‘go slow’ as we enter into the season of Advent. This year, the pressure for us as a church to jump straight into the celebrations is even greater as the opportunities for Christmas cheer are so scarce for young and old alike in these troubled times. Paradoxically, though, it is precisely because we’re in such difficult days that our need to keep Advent as a season of quiet, expectant waiting on God, is more important than ever. If our Christmas at St Mary’s is to be about the real, unconquerable light of God’s love shining into the real darkness of our broken world, then we need to prepare our hearts for its coming.

I am delighted that so many have expressed an interest in using the Simply Wait Advent resource by Pamela Hawkins, and I look forward to joining some of you on Zoom during the next few weeks for our Prayer Gatherings. It isn’t too late to order an electronic version or to ask for a print copy of the first section from me by emailing rector@stmarysdunblane.org. We meet on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 7.30 p.m. but you are welcome to work through the book by yourselves or with a friend if you prefer.

Another initiative born out of the Covid crisis is our Advent Spiral, an opportunity for two households to come together on the Rectory Lawn after dark to take turns to walk a path of evergreen boughs with a large candle at its centre. Each person walks slowly and quietly into the spiral carrying a lantern which they will light from the central candle. As they return, they will place it at the edge of the path, adding to the collective light. This was originally intended as an outreach activity for families with children, but seems to have aroused the interest of others within the congregation and beyond. Anyone is welcome to get in touch with Liz Owen on events @ stmarysdunblane.org or give me a phone on 824225 to book a slot at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. any evening from 12th December to Christmas Eve.

Advent has also become for me, since my appointment as diocesan chaplain to the Mothers’ Union a few years ago, a time to focus on what is being called the Shadow Pandemic. There has been a substantial global rise in gender-based violence during the last nine months. In Scotland, Women’s Aid has reported to Government its concern that for children and women experiencing domestic abuse, lockdown can mean spending extended periods of time at home with their abuser. Calls to Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline indicate that abusers are using measures imposed to combat the pandemic as a tool in their abuse, for example increasing their control of women’s movement, keeping them isolated, threatening to expose them to the virus, or discouraging women from seeking help by telling them that services are not operating or that the police will not respond. Leaving an abusive relationship does not mean the end of the abuse. Women who have left their abuser may feel increased fear because their abuser knows that they will be spending time at home, increasing the risk of stalking. For children experiencing domestic abuse, closure of schools has removed a safe space, the opportunity for specialised support, and respite.

This year the Mothers’ Union’s campaign to raise awareness of gender-based violence is centred on the unacceptable fact that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. At St Mary’s, we will follow the MU’s Global Day of Action with a special Night Service on 6th December to lift our voices in prayer and protest. I hope that many of you will join with MU members across to world in our resolve not to be silent but ‘to speak out against the abuse of power, especially in our homes; to speak up for those who have been pushed down in any way; to speak to the needs of those who are suffering at the hands of another’.

In the meantime, there are preparations afoot for our Christmas celebrations at St Mary’s. The tree which this year will stand outside the church, has been ordered. The Posada will soon be on its way. Almost 100 angels for us to pass on to others with our love and prayers, have been knitted. A congregational card which you are welcome to sign, has been made and will soon appear in the porch. More than 30 of you are preparing to take part in our virtual Carol Service which will be available on DVD for everyone in the congregation to enjoy. Two Christingle services are being planned as well as a lovely Night Service reflection on ‘The Wonder and Mystery of Christmas’ and a Christmas morning celebration. To ensure a place at any of these services, please contact Sue on services @ stmarysdunblane.org

Finally, at our AGM, our Christmas Appeal for Aberlour Childcare Trust was launched. A recent report produced by the charity, based on information gathered from the recipients of its emergency grants which have supported 3,264 Scottish children since March, reveals a level of poverty that is ‘fundamental and absolute’. Most of the families who applied for a grant from Aberlour needed it to buy basic necessities: 6 in 10 families who applied could not afford to feed their children and 1 in 2 families could not afford to heat their homes. The organisation needs our support to help prevent thousands more families from falling into poverty due to the economic impact of the pandemic. You may contribute to our appeal by putting cash or a cheque in an envelope marked ‘Aberlour’ in the church plate or through the Rectory door or by emailing Alastair Christmas at treasurer@stmarysdunblane.org , for bank transfer details.

My prayer for all of us this week is that this year, the tension between the demands of Christmas and our longing to mark the season of Advent would energise and inspire us to travel with the Light-bearer and experience His peace, joy, hope and love.

Nerys

Material for Worship on the First Sunday of Advent

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
the prophets said you would bring peace
and save your people in trouble.
Give peace in our hearts at Christmas
and show all the world God’s love. Amen.

A reflection by the Ven. Peter Potter on today’s readings: Isaiah 64.1-9 and Mark 13.24-37 read here by Peter Owen and by Liz Owen.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Church’s calendar. But, strangely, today’s reading are concerned with an immanent end of things. The reading from Mark’s Gospel comes just before Jesus’ arrest on Maundy Thursday. This ambiguity reflects the mood of Advent as we swither between waiting and looking back, hopeful anticipation and fear and trembling as we confront the four great themes of Advent: heaven and hell, death and judgement.

Perhaps we find these contrasting, jarring notes all the more keenly as we prepare to celebrate Christmas at the end of a year like no other. We shall be deprived of carol singing and Midnight Mass. In the UK alone over 56 thousand people will be missing from family gatherings. But yet, our feelings are not far removed from people in Isaiah’s day or those living in first century Palestine. The Israelites had endured decades of deprivation in Babylonian exile and the apocalyptic words of Mark 13 tell of trials and tribulations.

Isaiah 64:8 gives us a striking description of God “we are the clay and you are the potter”. (I like that, but I would, wouldn’t I?) It portrays a dynamic God whose creative energy never ceases. We can picture him working away at his potter’s wheel, creating a thing of beauty out of a shapeless lump of clay. At times when things are not going right he pushes the clay back into a lump to start again. This picture holds good at an individual level, for there is never a time when God has finished with us. It also applies in other ways. Israel, for all its faults had become like a piece of pottery on the wheel that was beginning to come apart. The potter needs to push it together and start again.

When the later chapters of Isaiah were written there were signs of this new start. Cracks were beginning to show in the Babylonian empire and a new power was rising. A new star in the east, we could say, and with it new hope was dawning.

The scene in Mark 13 was similar. The coming events of Holy Week and Easter heralded both an end and a beginning. As today’s readings and the Advent collect tell us, this will be both a time of deliverance and a time of judgement.

Today, after a year of tribulation, it seems as if there are signs of a new dawn. Talk of a vaccine has got our hopes up. But are we to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to where we were before? Or has the misshapen vessel been put back on the potter’s wheel to be reshaped into something more pleasing in the sight of God.

For now, we must wait, be alert and ready to cast off anything that obscures the light of God’s glorious majesty.

Intercessions – please add your own petitions where indicated

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.
Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for …
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with Andrew and all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
(Adapted from Common Worship, Times and Seasons)

A prayer for the Feast of St Andrew, Patron of Scotland, 30th November

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son, Jesus Christ, give us, who are called by your holy Word, the grace to follow him without delay and to be messengers of the good news of your kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by reading or singing the words of the seventh-century Advent hymn, ‘Creator of the starry height’ as David Sawyer plays the tune.

Creator of the starry height,
thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, redeemer of us all,
hear thou thy servants when they call.

Thou, sorrowing at the helpless cry
of all creation doomed to die,
didst come to save our fallen race
by healing gifts of heavenly grace.

When earth was near its evening hour,
thou didst, in love’s redeeming power,
like bridegroom from his chamber, come
forth from a virgin-mother’s womb.

At thy great name, exalted now,
all knees in lowly homage bow;
all things in heaven and earth adore,
and own thee King for evermore.

To thee, O Holy One, we pray,
our judge in that tremendous day,
ward off, while yet we dwell below,
the weapons of our crafty foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honour, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally. Amen.
(Trans. J. M. Neale)