Christmas Eve Service 2020

The chosen hymns for this service, O come all ye faithful, Silent Night and Angels from the realms of glory can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.


Welcome to our Christmas Eve service.

Very different from normal but then this has been a very different from normal year.

At the start of the year Roseanna and I were meant to be going on holiday and it got cancelled because of floods, remember the floods at the start of the year. And the firm very graciously said that it wasn’t our fault and at no cost we could rearrange the holiday at no extra cost. So we thought, we will change it to March, just after Easter because there will be no chance of floods then...then along came COVID.


So life has been very different from normal.

And so have our services.

We have to book places.

We have to sit in designated seats.

We are not allowed to sing, but here is the thing, nobody has said anything about humming, I presume if you want to hum along you can. And I can’t tell what you are doing under those masks, so if you want to mime along you can mime along.

As I said, a very different year, so enjoy a very different version of a classic carol


Hymn O come all ye faithful


Collection (although we can’t pass along a plate there is a plate as you go out and if you want to put towards it, it will be going to Strathcarron Hospice. Protect the coin from infection with a wrapping.)


Prayer:

Heavenly Father

What a year it has been.

Sometimes we have been caught in purgatory of waiting and isolation.

Other times caught in a confusion of rules and regulations of what we are allowed and what we aren’t allowed to do.

There was panic buying and food shortages, waiting in queues to get into shops, then furloughs and adapting to different finances.

Through it all the threat and fear of illness.

We have lived in a time of sustained crisis at the same time as the struggles of normal life have carried on.

Children born, people dying.

Relationships created, relationships falling apart.

And through it all the feeling at times of spiritual isolation.

The fear of living life alone, of being cut off from the support and encouragement of family and friends.


May this service be a special time for us.

In this time of quiet and reflection may we have a chance to see life differently.

Remind us that you were always in our bubble, that you were Emmanuel, God with us.

Ready to lift us up when we fell, ready to guide us when we were lost.

May we see that we have managed to get this far, maybe battered and bruised, but we have survived.

And as we move forward

we can still grow and learn from our experiences, we can become better than we were, we can have hope, we can feel joy, we can rejoice at those times we have overcome, we can mourn for those times we have been hurt.


No matter what we face, you face it with us, as you did with your own Son, at his birth, through is life, with his death and beyond death.


So may we have the courage to live a life that is worthy, a life with you beside us.

This we ask in Jesus name

Amen.



Reading Matthew 2: 1-15

Hymn Silent Night




Sermon.

It is rare that I come across a new theologian that really excites me and helps me see the Bible in a new way.

But with everything going on in 2020 I had a lot of chance to do a lot of reading and read a lot of theologians.

The theologian that really excited me however was a child genius, her name is Jessica Anna Blair. You won’t have heard of her because she I my three year old granddaughter.


She found it hard to understand lockdown and being cut off from friends and family, if we found it difficult psychologically you can imagine a three year old trying to make sense of it all.


However her greatest insights of the year came when we started to get a bit closer to normality and she started nursery school.

Her mum asked her how her first day went and she said,

‘WEEEELLLL.

I coloured in a dinosaur.

Emma and I hid under the tent. Emma hurt herself and it was funny.

Then the teacher said it wasn’t funny so it wasn't funny.

I had to make a good choice or a bad choice, and I chose cake.’

And I listened to that and my first thought was, ‘I don’t think she has truly understood the good choice/bad choice situation.’

I thought to myself that she has not seen that good choice/choice is a moral decision.

In her eyes they are just different choices.

I could imagine the teachers getting frustrated because they keep on giving her these choices and Jessica sees them as equally valid.

‘Jessica you have a choice to make a good choice or a bad choice, you could punch that wee boy in the face because he took your doll from you, or you can decide not to punch him in the face.’

And Jessica thinks to herself, ‘Well I didn’t punch him in the face the last time and I wasn’t too happy with the end results of that one, I think I will try punching him in the face this time.’

And so she punches him in the face and of course gets into trouble.

But Jessica complains about this. Why is she getting into trouble?

Well because it was the bad choice.

But you gave me the choice.

I did exactly as you told me, you asked me to make a choice and I chose the punching in the face choice.


Sure enough, some kind of conversation like this must have taken place because the next week she saw us she came running up to me and said, ‘Granddad. A bad choice is the wrong choice.’

Is it just me or did God miss a trick here.

We have the Bible and it is huge. 66 books in total.

When all God needed to do is send us a card the size of a business card that says,

‘You can make a good choice or a bad choice. But remember a bad choice is the wrong choice.’


Wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if that was what God had done.

But then I realised, listening to my theologian Jessica, that life was more sneaky than that.

Listen to what she said,

‘I had to make a good choice or a bad choice. And I chose cake.’


Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their world is perfect. And to keep it perfect all they had to do was not eat from the fruit of the tree of good and evil. And they look up at the tree, there is a good chose or a bad choice, and they chose apple.


Jacob, his father is dying, he is about to bless his brother and make him head of the clan, he could accept his brother being head of the clan and living his own life supported by his brother and the rest of the family, or he could lie about who he is to his father, trick his blind father into believing he is the rightful heir to the clan and tear the family apart. A good choice or a bad choice, and Jacob chose greed and lying.


Jacobs sons, 11 of them, out in the field, then the last son Joseph comes alone, the favourite of his father, the spoilt one. They could try to sort out their differences or they could maybe sell Joseph as a slave so they don’t need to see him again. A good choice or a bad choice, and they chose to sell him as a slave, which is only slightly better than the really bad choice of killing him.


King David, his life is perfect, he is at the top of the tree. He is king, he has many wives, lots of kids, his country adores him, he is a hero. He wants for nothing.

Then one day he sees someone else’s wife, he can make a good choice or a bad choice, and he chooses adultery.


And the warnings are all there. Every time they make the bad choice then it ends up being the wrong choice.

But that’s what we are like.

Deep down we take what we think is the easy choice, we choose cake.


I may be bias here. But I think my granddaughter is a genius, she has summed up the whole of the Old Testament in 19 words.

‘You can make a good choice or a bad choice. But remember a bad choice is the wrong choice.’



The thing is.

We already know this truth.

Because we have lived it.

Every single one of us could go through our life and give examples of how we made the bad choice, and how we have learnt from experience that the bad choice is the wrong choice.

The trouble is that having once taken the bad choice the cake is eaten and we are stuck with the consequences.

Adam and Eve have to leave the perfect garden and they never get back in.

Jacob tears his family apart and they never get back together again.

Joseph has to spend the rest of his life in a foreign land and never returns home.

David ends up tearing his family and, eventually, his country apart.


Which is why tonight is important.

Because there is one more lesson to be learnt.

The lesson that God wants to teach us.

‘You can make a good choice or a bad choice. A bad choice is the wrong choice.

But remember, there can be forgiveness. There can be another chance to make a good choice.’

That was why Christ came to earth.

We knew we had failed, we knew we had botched up.

But we thought that was it.

And Jesus arrives and says, ‘God says you can have another chance. Make the right choice...accept forgiveness.’


If ever there was a year when we wanted a redo then this year would be it.

But now it is gone or nearly gone...and what are we going to do?

Are we going to just give up, accept defeat and live the rest of our lives wallowing in the bad choice?

Or will we accept forgiveness, learn from our mistake, and move on to make a better choice?


Prayer

Lord,

Lord God, because you were born in a stable,

we remember the homeless; the dwellers on pavements, those in slums and shack and tents.

You are called Immanuel, God with us, be with them.


Lord God, because you were hunted by soldiers,

we remember those persecuted and harassed, those who live in fear of the bomb and the bullet and the breaking down of the door. We remember the peace breakers, and the peace makers.

You are called Immanuel, God with us, be with them.


Lord God, because you fled to Egypt for refuge,

we remember the refuges in the world today, those who seek safety from war and famine. Those that face hostility in a new land because they look different, act different. Those that are seen as a drain and competition for resources, a threat to security, when all they seek is a safe place to sleep.

You are called Immanuel, God with us, be with them.


Lord God, because your heart was filled with pity for the sick and hungry in the crowd which followed you,

we remember the poor, the starving, the sick and injured, who live in a world of riches and plenty, those who can see the waste that others create, but don't have enough themselves.

You are called Immanuel, God with us, be with them.


Lord God, because you were imprisoned and crucified, bearing the pain of isolation, feeling the physicality of the lash and the nails,

we remember those who are imprisoned, who endure torture and death, all those who mourn and are unsupported by family, friends and neighbours.

You are called Immanuel, God with us, be with them.


Lord God, because the light of your love could not be extinguished and you rose from death, remember us and lead us to life, truth, hope, trust and love. You know what we have faced, you know what we will face.

Help us to have the wisdom to see that we don’t need to face these things alone, that we can follow your path for us, that we can be led through the troubles by your hand of care.

For You are called Immanuel, God with them, God with us.

Amen.


Hymn Angels from the realms of glory

Benediction.

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Alva Parish Church

Stirling Street

Alva

FK12 5EH

alvaparishchurch@gmail.com

Scottish Charity No SC000006

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