13th December 2020 Canvey Methodist Church Worship Services

Service for Canvey 13 December 2020.   Advent 3

1)WELCOME
Call to Worship. Psalm 126; 1,4-6: When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage
It seemed like a dream. Lord, deliver us from our bondage so that those who sow in tears will come back full of song carrying their sheaves.


2)HYMN 169 Come thou long expected Jesus

https://youtu.be/GspGM7Pfizo

 

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 own sufficient merit

Raise us to thy glorious throne

 

Come Thou long-expected Jesus

Bring your light again we pray.

From addiction and darkness free us,

Shine the light of glorious day.

Through your Church, Lord, bring your gospel

To the schemes of this dear Land,

So that all might see your glory

And sing praises to the Lamb.

Charles Wesley
 

3) PRAYER: Praise to you Lord and giver of life, Father, Son and Spirit.
We know you. We worship you, we love you, we serve you, all because there was a time when Jesus came and stood among us.
In flesh and blood, as one of us, He came.  In mercy and compassion He lived, loved and died in our midst.
Before that you called and gave power to John the Baptist to be a voice crying in the wilderness, calling people to prepare, to repent, to be ready to receive the One who was to come. You came with blessings for all humankind, like a light shining in the darkness. The Light went unheeded, unreceived. Now, still You come standing in our midst, calling to us to recognise you in friend and stranger. Forgive us when we too pass you by.  Help us understand that you, Lord are our only hope. Give us eyes to see and hearts to embrace, to love and to serve. Amen


4) Isaiah 61; 1-4.   The Year of the Lord’s Favor

61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

    because the Lord has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

    and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

    a planting of the Lord

    for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

    that have been devastated for generations.

 

Footnotes:

a Isaiah 61:1 Hebrew; Septuagint the blind


 

5) John 1; 6-8, 19-28

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[a] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[b]

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with[c] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

Footnotes

a John 1:19 The Greek term traditionally translated the Jews (hoi Ioudaioi) refers here and elsewhere in John’s Gospel to those Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus; also in 5:10, 15, 16; 7:1, 11, 13; 9:22; 18:14, 28, 36; 19:7, 12, 31, 38; 20:19.

b John 1:23 Isaiah 40:3

c John 1:26 Or in; also in verses 31 and 33 (twice)


6) Hymn 264 Make way, make way

https://youtu.be/tK6XuYhL7JI

 

Make way, make way, for Christ the King

In splendour arrives. 

Fling wide the gates and welcome him

Into your lives.

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

For the King of kings!

(For the King of kings!)

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

And let his kingdom in!

 

He comes the broken hearts to heal,

The prisoners to free.

The deaf shall hear, the lame shall dance,

The blind shall see.

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

For the King of kings!

(For the King of kings!)

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

And let his kingdom in!

 

And those who mourn with heavy hearts,

Who weep and sigh;

With laughter, joy and royal crown

He'll beautify.

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

For the King of kings!

(For the King of kings!)

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

And let his kingdom in!

 

We call you now to worship him

As Lord of all.

To have no other gods but him:

Their thrones must fall!

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

For the King of kings!

(For the King of kings!)

Make way! (Make way!)

Make way! (Make way!)

And let his kingdom in!

Graham Kendrick
 

7) Sermon

INTRODUCTION: MAKE WAY, MAKE WAY; Just now it is our country calling us to Make Way for the new vaccine. We are glad for all the relief from misery that it promises. But many are not convinced. They question, Is it safe? Can it be trusted? Will it do the job without leaving something nasty? Is this the real thing to save us from Covid19? Is it the real McCoy? I think questions like this must have been in the minds of people as they heard John the Baptist preach his message in the desert. Who are you, they asked, to think you can baptise us? Some will have known him as the son of a priest, expected to follow his father and take his turn to officiate in the Temple. Preaching in the desert was NOT the place for a priest. John, the Gospel writer, tells US John the Baptist was sent from God. This would only give rise to suspicion and incredulity from the religious authorities. So when word reached Jerusalem, they sent spies to watch him and question him. Do you think you are the Messiah? Elijah? A prophet? Who are you? John ‘told it to them’ straight. I am nothing, nobody. I am simply a voice crying out in the desert, “Get yourselves ready,  Messiah is coming. All I can do is baptise you with water but the One who is coming will baptise with the Holy Spirit” HE is the real McCoy. There is a very deep difference nearly always between what people want us to believe about them and what we perceive they really are. The reality rarely lives up to the words. To that, John gives us a lesson about humility. Because like him we are nobodies.  All we can do is to point to the One who IS. Sometimes that is hard. Just think how often you have looked at someone and so wished you yourself could take away their pain or set right the terrible shadow that has darkened their life.

Remember Isaiah. He so wanted to bind up the broken-hearted, release the prisoners, take away their desperate mourning and despair. Yet he found that all that he could do in the end was to preach the good news and point to the One who would clothe his people with the garments of salvation if they would only rebuild the ancient ruins of their faith and commitment.  Now, John the Baptist was seeing himself in that role all over again. God was about to give his people another chance. The Messiah himself was here and John was His herald.

 

1. Is that not our role still today? We can’t give people what they want and we mustn’t pretend to. We do feel sad to see how the world has let the desire for God and his gifts of grace to fade away under pressure of greed and the pursuit of more and more material things and ambitions. Very few have  discovered that the things they strive for are not the things that will satisfy the yearnings of the spirit. Some churches have tried to be all things to all people . So we hear promises like “if you are good and generous in giving to your church, God will be generous to you” The prosperity gospel. Or “If you have enough faith, come and see how God’s healing miracles could work for you ; watch us on television”. Others, looking for political advantages, have even gone so far as to claim President Trump as the new messiah. But that is to too quickly forget Jesus’ responses to the devil in the desert over his temptations! So remember John: I am nothing. I can only offer water. He is the One who will give the Spirit.

Let me read some verses from the lesson for today we did not hear: 1 Thessalonians 5; 16-23 BE JOYFUL ALWAYS; PRAY CONTINUALY; GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST. DO NOT PUT OUT THE SPIRIT’S FIRE; DO NOT TREAT PROPHESIES WITH CONTEMPT. TEST EVERYTHING. HOLD ON TO THE GOOD. AVOID EVERY KIND OF EVIL. MAY GOD HIMSELF, THE GOD OF PEACE, SANCTIFY YOU THROUGH AND THROUGH.   So, test everything. Don’t be tempted to be what you are not. THE ONE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL DO what has to be done.

 

2. That does not mean we have no part to play. John may have said I AM NOTHING but he also said I AM THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE DESERT,  MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY FOR THE LORD. And that is a very important role. It means to bear witness. The story of the Church in every age demonstrates how Christians have committed their lives to serve God in this way. Some have composed great music, written wonderful hymns of praise, created fine works of art, icons and liturgies to lift our spirits to the very gates of heaven without seeking praise or reward for themselves. Sometimes their witness has cost them their lives. Sometimes their witness has been the cause of a tremendous growth in the number of those who have committed their lives to the Lord whose way they have prepared. That does not always happen by any means and we can easily grow dispirited, just like when John the Baptist languished in prison unable to see the wonderful works Jesus was doing. He is still doing some wonderful work today. We can’t always see it but that does not mean things have stopped. Read about the half million baptisms taking place every year in China, the growth of the Methodist Church in Cuba, the huge number of Muslims quietly showing allegiance to Christ, the Messiah prophet. Think too about ordinary Christians like ourselves finding ways to reach out in love and compassion to people all over the world facing disaster and desperate need of every kind, all in the name of the coming Lord. Sometimes we meet with success and we see it, like John did when he saw how many people he had attracted to the desert to listen to his preaching. Some responded and were baptised and that became the sign for Jesus to begin his ministry. John had done all that God called him to do. Success! But the next time we hear of him, he is languishing, depressed in prison, thinking he is a failure. Was he? What do you think?

3. CONCL: Many feel imprisoned today by the virus. We are unable to do all the things we long to do, both in our church life and in our own lives. Don’t look at it as failure. Remember God calls us not to be successful, but to be faithful to Him and to one another whatever the circumstances might be. “Well done you good and faithful servant” is the word we long to hear.


 

8) Prayers of intercession

Using, with thanks the Prayer Update from Sue Sandling on 12.12.20 and Linda Enwright. 

Please pray for little Rufus who has had to go back into hospital as he has become unwell.  He has an infection and has been admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is hoped that he will be allowed to go home on Monday. 

May our Lord lay His hands of healing on this dear little boy who, through our prayers, we have come to love.  We pray for all the family that they will have Rufus home for Christmas.

 

We continue to pray for Margaret’s husband Chris who went to see the eye specialist on Tuesday and was kept in hospital for an urgent operation the same day.  He was allowed home later that day with instructions on using his eye drops.  Chris was very thankful that he was seen so quickly and that he was given a follow up appointment next Tuesday.  May God give him the healing that he needs.

We pray also for Margaret’s daughter, Helen, who is unwell at the moment and also for Sheila Wills, a member of our Wives Club, who has asked us if we will pray for her sister Joyce.  Joyce is aged 92 and has cancer.  Sadly, she lives in  Norfolk and Sheila is unable to see her.  It means so much to her to know her sister is being prayed for.  Sheila is also in bad health and they need God's strengthening love.

 

We think of all of us  who are lonely and who live alone. May God be our constant help and companion.

 

We pray for John Bamford, for his health and continuing trouble with his eyes.  May our Lord bring John the healing he needs and peace of mind.

 

Prayers and thanks are for Colin, Cathy and Anna for all their help in bringing us through this awful year with their inspiring words of encouragement.  Anna's poems were so beautiful to hear on Sunday and gave us a much needed spiritual lift just when we needed it.

We pray these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Saviour and friend.

 

To conclude: A poem found by Linda, which tells how very special God's love is to all His creation.

FORGET-ME-NOT' by Emily Bruce Roelofson, Born 1832.

When to the flowers
so beautiful the Father gave a name,
Back came a little blue-eyed one,
(All timidly it came);
And standing at its Father's feet, and gazing in His face,
It said, in low and trembling tone,
and with a modest grace,
Dear God, the name Thou gavest me, 

alas I have forgot!
Kindly the Father looked at him and said: " Forget-me- not".

Much love to you all in Jesus' wonderful name.

God bless you and keep you safe.

 

Linda and Sue.

 

9) The Holy Communion for Advent: MWB pp123-128 using the “OR” versions at Nos. 17,22 and 23
 

10) Hymn 188 There’s a light upon the mountains

https://youtu.be/yuvbW7gVwaI

1 There's a light upon the mountains and the day is at the spring,

When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King:

Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long,

But His triumph-day is breaking and we hail it with a song.

2 In the fading of the starlight we may see the coming morn;

And the lights of men are paling in the splendours of the dawn:

For the eastern skies are glowing as with light of hidden fire,

And the hearts of men are stirring with the throbs of deep desire.

3 He is breaking down the barriers, He is casting up the way;

He is calling for His angels to build up the gates of day:

But His angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;

For the drum-beats of His army are the heart-beats of our love.

Henry Burton 

 

11) Benediction 

 

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forevermore. Amen