Didsbury URC – Reflection for 13th December 2020

A Service for Advent.

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

There 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 Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending
(Charles Wesley 1707 – 1788)

Lo! he comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
God appears, on earth to reign!

Those dear tokens of His passion,
still his dazzling body bears;
cause of endless exultation
to His ransomed worshippers,
with what rapture,
with what rapture,
with what rapture,
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory:
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly!
O come quickly!
O come quickly!
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

Reading: Luke 1: selected verses.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary. The angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Mary answered. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Then the angel left her.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Elizabeth’s story.

My name is Elizabeth and I have come to tell you my story…… But where shall I begin? By telling you that as long as I can remember the Lord seemed close to me, part of my life, my hope, my future. Like most girls I had dreams centred upon marriage and children, but the Lord always featured too, as if he was a part of everything. On marriage I discovered that Zechariah shared my faith I felt truly blest and fulfilled.
Even having no children didn’t seem too much of a burden. I remembered my mothers-in-faith, Sarah whose gift-child Isaac carried the inheritance of Abraham, the unnamed woman who bore the mysterious Samson, and Hannah with Samuel the baby of Hope. Like her I prayed for the gift of a child, but sometimes God says ‘No’ and I accepted it.

Instead I took interest in the children around. But as I watched them my heart began to ache for some of them, the girls in particular. Rebecca who was married to a man who regularly beat her, for no reason other than his bad temper. Joanna and Dinah taken to be Roman comfort women and discarded like litter when disease made them worthless. Leah raped then stoned for bearing a child out of wedlock. Judith condemned by rabbis in the light of the Sabbath day, and visited by them in dark of other nights. Others scraping a meagre existence for themselves and their children after the crucifixion of their husbands by the Roman authorities.
Each one had once been a baby I held in my arms, a child of hope, with all that potential waiting to be unleashed…. Now what were they but women destroyed by this cruel man’s world?

I longed for God to come and save them, to deliver them, set them free to become what he intended them to be.
Despite society and cultural upbringing, I knew my Lord well enough to know it was not his intention that they were forced to live this way. ‘How long, O Lord, have you quiet forgotten them?’ I would sing. ‘Look, now and answer me my God’. Then, I received a really unexpected answer!

I realised that I was pregnant, it took a while, after all I was well passed child bearing years and I didn’t tell anyone for ages. I was thoroughly confused by it all, but I was in no doubt that this was God’s work forming in my womb and I wanted to keep it secret until he was ready to show himself. What a sense of humour my Lord has! When I had prayed for a child the answer was always No! Yet when I prayed for those precious young women, God’s answer was to give me a child! This child would bring hope into world, not just hope any / every child brings to parents, to family. This child was bringing hope for the world… but I didn’t know how……….

Then Mary came. Little more than a child herself. Before she told me her news, I could see it in her eyes and strangely my baby felt it in my womb. The Lord was coming himself to rescue those poor women, to lift them up, set them free, and the mother of my Lord had come to be with me. Together, two women, the Lord’s servants, chosen as instruments of the greatest act of love world has ever known. From now on this need not be a world ruled by violent, angry men, hiding their frailty and fear beneath their arrogance. My Lord was coming to begin a rule of compassion, of justice of love for the whole world, for the whole of time. My son was to go before him, to make people aware and ready for his coming. Now there was hope, not just for Mary and me and the women I prayed for, but for you and the women of your time, whose situations are not much different to those young women I cared about. Only my Lord can make the difference, can change hearts and minds, actions and attitudes. Only my Lord can heal bodies and minds and restore what has been stolen. Only my Lord can turn your world into a place where everyone is equal and respected, where everyone has a valued place, no matter who they are. And all this has come to be because a child was born.

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness

Lord God,

We come as guest invited to join in praise and worship,
grant us this time of serenity and peace
Allow us to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of life
And Calm our minds from distracting thoughts
So that we may share in the words, prayers and praise of this service.

There have been times when we have ignored your invitation Lord,
Displaced our graciousness with contempt and ignorance
Please forgive us for these lapses in judgement and guide us in your way.
Grant us the fulfilment of joining in your praise and worship.

Forgive us Lord, for those times when we allow our faith to be hidden from view
Remind us of the work undertaken by Christ with the poor, outcast and estranged.
Provide us with the grace to follow in his footsteps as we walk in the world today

Thank you for reminding us of our journey,
open our eyes and keep us ever vigilant as we step along your pathway of love and understanding.
And hear us now as we pray together in the words Jesus taught us, saying..

The Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn… ‘There’s a light upon the mountain’. Read or sing.

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. There’s a hush of expectation, and a quiet in the air;
And the breath of God is moving in the fervent breath of prayer:
For the suffering, dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne,
And the travail of our spirits is the travail of his own.

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.

4.Hark! We hear a distant music, and it comes with fuller swell;
‘tis the triumph song of Jesus, of our King, Immanuel:
Zion, go now forth to meet him; and my soul be swift to bring
All your finest and your noblest for the triumph of our King!


Be people of peace.
Let peace live in your heart and share the peace of Christ with all you meet.
Share peace by acting out of compassion and not fear.
Share peace by listening to all sides of the story.
Share peace by praying for our world.
In this Advent season, we need to see, feel, and share peace.
As you go out into the wonder of God’s creations, share peace and hope with those you meet.