Sunday Sermon 3rd January - Light in darkness.
The chosen hymns for this week, Thou Whose Almighty Word and Fill your hearts with joy and gladness can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Hello, and I would also like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.
Now I invite all of you who are listening or watching this, to start this new year by coming before God in prayer. Let us all pray:
Almighty Father, we are glad that we have this opportunity, at the beginning of this New Year, to worship you. You have created everything; you have given us life itself, and you have allowed us to develop the ability to try to gain an understanding of the world that you have given us. There are many problems and difficulties in this world, but too often we focus on all the things that seem to be wrong, and we forget about all the wonderful things that you provide for us. You love us so much that you sent Jesus into our world, to be with us; to be our light in this world of darkness, and to bring us hope. By his teaching and example Jesus showed us that you are loving, caring, compassionate and forgiving, and by his death on the cross he showed that there is no limit to your love.
Gracious God, we thank you for your continuing love and care for us. We thank you for all that you do for us, and for all that you give us, and especially for all the people that you have put into our lives. Our recent experiences have shown us how much we depend upon the efforts of others.
In particular, we thank you for all the people whom you have inspired to work in many different capacities to combat Covid-19 and its consequences. We thank you also for the researchers, the medical teams, and the volunteers who have been developing and testing vaccines. Their dedication, hard work and courage, have brought us hope that we may soon be able to be protected against the current pandemic. Be with all these people, and may they feel your love and support.
Merciful Father, we confess with shame that our faith is weak, and that we have not always put our trust in you. When we have faced problems or found ourselves in difficulty, we have failed to look to you for guidance, and instead we have tried to do things in our own way. Jesus came to show us by his example, and by his teaching, how we should live our lives, but we are easily distracted and we continually fail in our attempts to follow him.
Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for all the times that we have not followed in your ways, and we pray that in this new year, you will let us have a fresh start, and that you will guide us to step out of the darkness and to walk in your light. Give us the opportunity, as well as the strength, courage, and perseverance, to do our part, to further your kingdom, and to make this world a better place.
God of Compassion, the future is unknown to us, and many people are apprehensive about what this new year may bring. There are many who, for a variety of reasons, will find this new year difficult, and we ask that your Spirit will be with them, to bring them peace and comfort, so that they may be able face this new year with hope and confidence. Help us all to remember, that no matter what we face in 2021, you are present with us, and that you have promised that you will never leave us.
Lord, hear our prayer in Jesus’ name.
Now I invite you to join in the prayer that Jesus gave us.
Our Father, which 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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.
Our reading is from John’s Gospel, Chapter 1, and verses 1 to 18.
This was written by the Apostle John, who is sometimes referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Some theologians think that John wrote his gospel to supplement the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, while others think that John wrote his gospel independently. However, I don’t think this matters, because John himself clearly tells us his reason for writing. Later in his gospel, in Chapter 20, he writes, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So let us read John, Chapter 1 and verses 1 to 18.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not uderstood it.
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.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
16 Out of his fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is at the father’s side, has made him known.
Amen, and may God help us to open our minds to a better understanding of His Word.
In the beginning…
Don’t you find those words spine-tingling? What a way to start a story! It’s full of anticipation, expectancy.
It’s a hold-your-breath kind of start. What comes next? Where is the story going to take us? It’s a promise of something new and perhaps unexpected.
And it’s a great way to start the first Sunday of a New Year.
The New Year is always a great time for a fresh start, for a new beginning.
It is a great time to reflect and a great time to hope.
We reflect on the year that has passed us and we hope for the coming year to be a better one than the one we just finished.
And it is hopeful because the beginning of the year seems to offer us a time to begin again,
to start fresh, to begin with a clean slate.
Whether you are a Christian or not, no matter where you are in life, the New Year seems to offer a New Beginning.
For those who have put on a few extra pounds, we are offered a new beginning for that diet and those 10 pounds (ok, 20 pounds) that we have been wanting to lose.
It’s a chance for us to take up that exercise we have promised ourselves and become more physically active.
For those who have made some mistakes this past year, The New Year offers a time to turn over that new leaf in our lifestyle and ideas.
We have put the old calendar away with all its past mistakes, and we have opened up a new calendar with the year holding a clean slate to live our life.
The problem seems to be that we start with good intentions, but by February 1st, many of us can find ourselves back in the same old ruts of the life we were living last year.
Not doing our homework, eating what we shouldn’t, living in the same way that brought regret last year.
And life goes on until we come to another new year vowing to make the same changes again.
It all seems rather futile – the same old things happening time and time again.
It would be easy enough for us today to feel that despondency and despair as we look around our world at the start of this New Year –
The continuing threat from the coronavirus, the uncertainty of Brexit; civil unrest in countries far away; the continuing plight of refugees; so many issues in our country desperately needing addressed – homelessness, threatening unemployment increasing poverty to name a few.
And we wonder when it will all end.
All is not lost.
The story of God’s people throughout the ages is a story of hope dawning when it seemed there was no future. God has always turned up in the seemingly God forsaken places.
The story begins in the first chapter of Genesis. And this passage mimics its beginning, reminding us of the beginning of creation.
It gives us hope.
There is a Creator. Humans have a Maker.
In the beginning, when all was dark and quiet, God created a formless, chaotic earth and brought light to it.
Into that beauty of creation, God placed men and women
The majestic unfolding of God’s creation was stage by stage, from chaos to cosmos, brought about by God’s powerful creative word.
Cosmic and comprehensive, it climaxes with the creation of humanity.
All was good, and the creation of men and women was very good.
As the Bible story develops we learn that there was a brief age of innocence
And then human beings discovered power and used their knowledge to corrupt all that was good.
But the God of love never forgot that love in which human beings were created.
Although they turned from God, always there was forgiveness and the possibility of a way back.
Time and time again, God gives us another chance.
If the advent of the Christ child that we have just celebrated is to mean anything to us, then it must bring us hope.
God sent his son into the most unlikely place, into the midst of the most unlikely circumstances into the lives of folk who had given up hope.
God’s son was the Word, who was with God from the beginning, and brought light to the world. God’s son is the light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The story of God’s people throughout the ages is a story of light dawning when it seemed there was no future.
And this gives us hope.
Even with the threat of coronavirus we have hope.
We have hope in the way people have responded to the coronavirus – the help and care shown by many people to us.
We have hope in the roll-out of a vaccine.
We have hope that we will be able to pursue a more normal life in the future.
And of course, we have the Holy Spirit working among us, inspiring us, making a difference to us and to our world.
Our response to that, in time, is to serve. To serve with the same extravagance that God shares with us - an extravagance that won’t be held back, that won’t be beaten down.
An extravagance that has the courage to hope.
At the beginning of this New Year let us remember that God designed the universe with the world at its heart.
God honoured the ingenuity and creativity of men and women and entrusted them with care of all creation.
And, when darkness threatened to overwhelm the earth, God sent the Son to bring light.
Jesus, the Son still offers us light in our darkness and a way back to the Father.
At this time of new beginnings, remember you are a beloved chid of God.
Today is all about new beginnings.
What new beginning do you want from God this year?
And What new beginning does God want from you this year?