The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 2 Samuel 7:11
Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof)
Sunday, December 20th 2020.
2 Samuel 7:1-7, 11
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.
Together gathered by God, who builds a house for us, we come to worship to reflect the light of God, to participate in the work of God building a house for our world. God doesn’t demand from us cathedrals and temples for a house. God doesn’t want to be settled, tied down, tamed. Perhaps we do. Perhaps this is what we desire and demand. Not God. If God demands something at all, it will be God’s insistence and determination to be with the people. God finds home in and with his people, wherever they are, even in every trial and tribulation, God is with us through thick and thin, God Emmanuel. The house God builds for us is a home built by God with the people of God. So as we worship this God of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, let us resist the notion of reflecting our desires onto God. Let us be shaped and be transformed to the pattern of Christ Jesus, who comes to us to make home with us and for us. For this baby in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit is Emmanuel, God with us.
The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 2 Samuel 7:11
Lighting Advent Candle – Peace (Hope, Faithful Love, Joy)
Reader One: We live on the brink every day. We stand on the threshold between this world and the next one. We live and move between the ordinary and divine, between the mundane and the mystery. Too often, we forget to look up and see the angels in our living room. We forget that the love we give and live is a sign of eternity, God with us, right now. We forget that company is coming.
Reader Two: Luke tells us that God’s favor came to a girl, an ordinary girl. It might have been you or your daughter; it might have been the girl down the street or your grandchild. But the messenger of God came and greeted her and said, “The Lord is with you.” What a gift and a promise: Emmanuel, God is with us.
Reader One: We light these candles with peace in our hearts for the promise of proximity, the nearness of God. Even when we forget to listen, to lean into that presence, God is as close as our own breath. This, in a confused and confusing world, is a peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace that knows that company is coming.
Reader Two: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Sourced from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/advent-candle-lighting-liturgy-2020
Song ‘All My Hope on God is Founded’
Welcome, Notices and Celebrations
Song Aaronic Blessing
Praying the Psalm
In this part of the service we pray a psalm together. We listen in on the story from which the psalm arises in order to pray these words for us and for the world. We will pray Psalm 126 together. Before we do, I will paint a picture for us.
These words arise from knowing what it is to mourn, what it is to be mocked and laughed at, the sorrow and bitterness to life. Yet the people behind these words know what it is like when God restores them. God has restored them before and God will do it again. So they remember. In this remembering they recall that God’s restoration is not about compensation, not about returning to what was once lost. Rather there is a great reversal, a radical transformation. When God restores God’s people, those who once mocked will proclaim in awe of the people and their God. If their circumstance was once lifeless like a field in a drought, if once they only had their tears as water for the hardened and parted ground, when God restores it will be like the rain coming down from heaven not only to rejuvenate their own turf, but they will be transformed to become a stream that gives life, to become habitation for others. God’s restoration of God’s people will make us joyous people not to merely enjoy ourselves but to become a source of joy, therefore, the psalm dares us to become dreamers.
People of God, how are you? How is our church? How is our neighbourhood? Are there places, spaces, relationships where we have once experienced joy but now in need of restoration? Can we once again anticipate joy to spring forth from the deserted ground? Will we pray to God to restore us to the joy when God arrives? Let us not forget, let us remember, let us anticipate with joy, when God arrives to us, if we thought we will be restored to what we once were, we shall be surprised that we are transformed anew. We shall rejoice not of what was but what shall be. When God comes and restores us, we will no longer be historians of nostalgia but we shall be dreamers of a new home, home of peace, coming together of heaven and earth, God and humanity, that we see in the arrival of baby Jesus from the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray the psalm together.
Please respond with the words in bold.
Psalm 126 (NIV)
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying their harvest.
Prayer for others
[We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:
Offering and Dedication Prayer
Song ‘Give me Joy in my Heart’
Scripture Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection video: Hey Mary by Malcolm Gordon
At Christmas, as Christians we talk a lot about Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. It’s good that we do. It’s really nice. You know how some people say it’s not good to dwell on the negative things but the positive things. But the reality is that in life these are far in between for most people.
Perhaps we have a problem as Christians. Perhaps we are unrealistic in our hope, in our scope for love, in our reason for joy and in the vision of peace. Perhaps we just need to readjust our hope so that it’s realistic, so that it is practically achievable.
If I hope for love for myself only, it seems likely but as Christians we insist that the hope we have is for all, for everyone, and even for all creation. If I hope for joy for myself, for my enjoyment and appreciation for my life, that seems achievable, but as Christians we insist that the reason for our joy is for the joy of all, for the joy of coming together. If I hope for peace within myself, that sense of tranquility, that feeling of having got it all together, that seems like a reasonable goal, but as Christians we insist that the peace we hope for is for all, peace between you and I, between us and them, between enemies, bringing wholeness along every fault line that divides us.
Well, the love, joy and peace we hope for as Christians, that’s simply impossible. History teaches us this well and truly. Unfortunately history repeats itself in different degrees, and old wounds never really heal only to be laid bear raw in subsequent generations. Aren’t we merely dreaming? Aren’t we merely propagating a false hope? A vain hope?
Perhaps one of the things that may contribute to the criticism of Christian vain hope, Christian unrealistic dream, is the stories we tell ourselves. Every Christmas we repeatedly tell stories like that of Mary. Stories like Mary are stories of people who are insignificant, unnoticed and unseen, from the backstreets of the ordinary. We would pass on by nothing to see here. She could have been any of us to the extent we ask why Mary? Why is she chosen? What makes her special? What differentiates her? What has she done, who is she that she has earned God’s favour? We seek an explanation.
This is reasonable to ask, isn’t it? If we Christians want to speak of love, joy and peace not only for an individual but for all, the stories, the characters in them must reflect the magnitude of our hope, surely it needs to be a story of and about the magnificent, spectacular. At the least we need to start telling stories of people who can who can make a real difference in the world. Talk about people of position and power who can actually make things happen. Talk about the rich people who have the money to buy resources for those who lack. Or at least talk about people who are spectacular examples of sacrifice and service, those deserving and fitting the magnitude of hope that we proclaim. Because let’s face it, power belongs to the powerful, changes happen through what is impactful.
What’s more, if we insist on talking about God who comes to us to bring everlasting peace for all, then surely the God we expect got to reflect the magnitude of power that is needed to bring change to our world too. God must have more power than those people and things that lord over us. God must be greater than all that we deem to be great. Show us a God who dwells in the majesty of cathedrals, God that has a colosseum for a temple, God that has a skyscraper for a house. God who towers over us, God who can submit us to his will.
Yet we speak of a God who comes to us born a baby. We tell the story of God who declines all that is powerful and all that towers over us as a place for his dwelling. We tell stories of God who would rather choose humanity as his home. We tell the story of God who chooses a person deemed insignificant, person we write off as impossible to be the channel of a hope of a possibility of the impossible dream.
This is why we continue to tell the story of Mary. We believe in the God who would choose you and I, who delights in you and I, to dwell in us, to make home with us. To take us as cathedral, as temple. We believe in the God who challenges our status quo that doubts in the possibility of what is ordinary and mundane to be fitting, and enough for what is divine. If we once questioned “Why Mary?” God transforms us to think why not Mary?
Yes this Advent season once again we tell the story of God who comes to Mary to once again proclaim that the God who gives us hope for love, joy and peace is the God who comes to us to turn our impossibility into possibility so that there shall be a real hope for love, joy and peace that shall last.
Song ‘Lord Jesus Christ’
Song of Sending ‘Like a Rock’
Hey ____________________, there’s an angel in your house!
, have I got some news for you.
You seem to think you’re nothing much but Heaven’s coming close enough to touch!
Hey , God is coming here through you!
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Love of God
And the Communion of the Holy Spirit
Be with us now and forever, Amen