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Sunday Service 24th December - Advent 4: Love

Advent 4: Love



Call to worship

Hymn 315: Once in royal David’s city


Time for all


Hymn 313: See in yonder manger low


Reading:    Isaiah 9: 2-7

Luke 1:46-55 - Elaine



Hymn 294: On Christmas night all Christians sing



Prayer of Dedication


Hymn 543: Longing for light






Welcome to our reflection for 24th December.

This is the fourth Sunday in Advent, or in children’s speak, only one more sleep until Christmas.

A time of great excitement and anticipation, but what should we be expecting? What should we be looking for?

We will reflect on that after Elaine leads us in our prayer and reading for today.


Remember that you can ask for our church to pray for you or people that you care about by contacting us at






Only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.

Children round the world will be struggling to get to sleep, full of excitement and anticipation for what will happen tomorrow.

There will be mothers, mainly mothers, who will be preparing meals for family and tense with making sure that it is just right.

There will be others full of dread at having to meet family in tense situations.

There will be so many wondering what all the fuss is about; to them it is just another day.

Then there will be many that feel isolated and depressed that they are alone and their isolation seems to be exaggerated by the expectations of the season.


I think the hardest thing to cope with at this time of year is the expectation that everything will just work out.

Every Christmas ROM-Com that hits our television just now, every Christmas comedy, they all have the same theme...everything will just work out for the best.


And do you know what makes it worse, every nativity service we see being done by Primary 1’s and 2’s has the same theme...things just work out.

What is worse we believe that these Nativity Services are based on the Bible so we think that is the message of the Bible.

That is our message of hope for the season...don’t worry, everything will just work out for the best.


We are too old...and have experienced life for too long to believe that myth.

So what hope do we have then?

What do we do, do we just pretend that we believe for the sake of others?


I would suggest that the truth of the Gospels is that we can find something better to do than live a life of pretence.


So let us start with the Nativity Play and have a bit of fun with that.

First of all, an easy one, how many WISE MEN were they?

Truth is that we don’t know, the Bible doesn’t say...there may have been three because there were three gifts, but there may only have been two, or thirty or a hundred...we just don’t know.

Secondly, what was the wise men’s mode of travel?

In the Nativity Plays they all arrive by camel, just the three of them.

We don’t know how they travelled or how big the company was; how many guards they brought along, how many slaves they had servicing them, whether they travelled by camel or horse or donkey or walked.




And don’t get me started with Joseph knocking on all the inns of Bethlehem trying to find somewhere to stay. If Joseph did that it would take exactly zero seconds for Joseph to knock on doors because Bethlehem at that time had no inns or hotels. It would take centuries for Bethlehem to have a tourist trade that justified anything like that...and ironically the only reason it developed that tourist trade was because it became famous for being the place that Jesus was born.


So let’s just forget about Nativity Plays and any weird theology that we might find from that.


If we go back to the Bible we find something else completely.

Something we forget.


And to understand this I need to ask you all a simple question.

What are you going to have for dinner in three weeks time?

In fact I will make it simple and very specific.

Monday 12th January...what are you going to have for dinner?

Don’t know?

Haven’t a clue?

Think it is a stupid question to ask because there is no way we can know what will happen to us on a random day?


And you would be right.

There is no way you could guess what will happen that far in front.

In fact you think you have a rough idea what you will do tomorrow because it is such a planned day.

But the truth is you and I haven’t the foggiest what tomorrow will bring.

My family might decide to go for a walk with the dogs in the afternoon and then one of the dogs pulls at its lead at just the wrong place and the one holding the lead falls and breaks a leg and instead of what we think would happen tomorrow we spend most of the day in accident and emergency.

One of my guests decides to go to the toilet after the meal and it is exactly at that time that the toilet decides to be completely blocked and we have water overflowing from the upstairs bathroom into the kitchen fusing the light sockets.

Christmas is about as planned as we can get, but we don’t know what will happen.


And this is what we was no different for the people in the Bible.

We get this image of a great plan of God coming to fruition.

All the chess pieces coming into place at the right time and in the right order for God’s great plan to come to pass.

But we forget that for the people involved they didn’t know what was going to happen.




Think of poor Mary.

And angel comes to her to tell her she is pregnant and her son will be the Saviour.

Well that’s great, everything is planned, everything is organised.

Until Joseph takes the huff that she is pregnant and decides to break off the engagement.


Think of poor Joseph, a simple carpenter that is minding his own business and just wants a bit of peace and happiness...and then his fiancée tells him that he will have the reasonability of bringing up the saviour of the world. That’s not part of his plans.


Then when they get it all sorted out between them and accepted that what will be will be...then some emperor that they probably have never heard of decides to have a census and at just at the wrong time they are travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

How does that fit in with God’s plan?

Couldn’t God arrange for them to have the baby in Nazareth, why would it really matter where the saviour of the world is born, surely what mattered was that the baby arrived safely, and the safest place for the baby to be born would be Nazareth.


Well they get to Bethlehem and have the baby and hope...that everything settles and turns out all right in the end...only it didn’t.

Now they have some psychopathic king trying to kill their baby and they have to become refugees; travelling with a wee one over a dessert into a foreign land;

stuck there in this foreign land for an indefinite period of time.


We don’t know what is ahead of us.

They didn’t know what was ahead of them.


The message of Christmas is not that we shouldn’t worry because it will all work out in the end.

The message of Christmas is that we can’t tell what is ahead of us, and what is ahead of us may be even worse that we could imagine....but...

there is a God that loves us so much that he will be with us in every step of that unknown journey.


When Mary felt isolated and alone, deserted by Joseph...God was there with her.

When Joseph was trying to work out everything in his head and none of it made any sense...God was there with him.

When they were walking to Bethlehem and hoping that they could get there before Mary went into labour, hoping beyond hope that she wouldn’t give birth on the road there...God was there with them.

When panic hit them that their baby was in danger and they had to flee to somewhere they had never been before, unsure whether they might be running away from one danger and maybe heading towards a greater danger in Egypt...God was there with them.



Whatever they faced, no matter how uncertain their future was, God was there with them.


That is the Gospel message of hope that this Christmas message gives us.

It is a message that takes whatever reality we face, and brings hope into it.


I could wish you a merry Christmas, but it would only be a wish.

I can’t guarantee what your tomorrow will bring.

I can’t protect you from slipping in the bath and breaking an arm.

I can’t prevent you from catching noro-virus and spending New Year feeling miserable.

I wish that you could be happy and at peace with yourself and others, but I can’t do that either.

So any promises along those lines would be false and bring no real hope.


But a real hope I can give, a real promise that is true, that I can the one from Scripture....

There is a God who loves you, and no matter what you face, He will face it with you.


Let us pray



























Heavenly Father,

They were just an ordinary couple.

Facing extraordinary times.

And they could do that because they saw that you were with them.

It was your strength that got them through, your courage that helped them, but more importantly, knowing that you loved them gave them the trust to follow your lead and not give up.

May we seek that promise for ourselves...

May we seek to believe in your love for us, that that love gives us the trust that no matter what we face, that your presence will help us get through it.

So in our silence now we give you what ails us, what is bringing us down, what is causing us concern...


May we seek the promise of your presence for those around us..

How many are struggling, and their struggles are multiplied by the belief that they are facing them alone, that they truly believe that there is no one out there for them.

May they feel that hope of your presence,

and if it is through us and our presence in their lives bringing into their lives your presence, then may we be quick to be there for them...

So in our silence we give their lives into your care...


May we seek the promise of your presence throughout the world...

How many families will face this Christmas in a place of conflict,

how many will face this Christmas threatened by extreme weather because of global warming, how many will face this Christmas, how many will face this Christmas face with government aggression because, in the eyes of those in power, they have been born the wrong colour, or sexuality, or religion, or they are not normal enough..however normal is defined.

So in our silence we give you the lives of those unknown to us, but not unknown to you...


Our eternal hope, the one thing we can trust in, is your love for us, and your continual presence in our lives because of that love.

May the assurance of your love, truly be our hope, removing the fear with us and giving us the peace of mind to reach out to others with that love.




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