Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for 27 December 2020

by Andy Cokayne 27 December 2020

Welcome - A call to worship from Psalm 148 v 1-6 & 13-14

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Our first hymn is : 'God rest ye merry gentlemen'

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We turn to Our Lord in prayer
We commence with a time of quiet, considering prayerfully what our Heavenly Father has led us through this past year, remembering that "Best of all God is with us".  

Almighty God Our Heavenly Father we seek you this morning, we pray that you will reveal yourself to us, that you will speak through the hymns, the readings and through the message, that we may hear what you want to say to us. Heavenly Father above all we pray that we will meet you this morning, that through the Holy Spirit you will make yourself known to us. Father that through these strange and different times, we may worship and praise you. That we may lift our hearts and minds beyond our present and temporary difficulties, to focus on you the ever present and ever living God. Yet we come knowing that we do not deserve you meeting with us, so we come with humility, asking. 

When we consider how great and awesome you are, and the we look out ourselves, we come to you knowing we need your forgiveness for all the things we have done, and not done, said and not said that have been wrong. We know that our best efforts only seem like dirty rags, we know that we do not deserve your forgiveness, but nevertheless, we come and say sorry for all the times we have let you down and rely on your mercy. We claim that promise in your word that we know is true "That if we confess our sins you are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." On that promise we rely. Thank you Father that through Jesus, and him alone, we can know our sins forgiven and our relationship with you put right. We ask these prayers in the name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

Let us share together in the prayer that Jesus taught us,
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. And 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.

Our second hymn is : 'It came upon the midnight clear'

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Once more we turn to Our Lord in prayer  
We commence with a period of silence, considering prayerfully this past year, and what lies ahead, remembering again, that "Best of all God is with us".  

Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for our government for those involved with the pandemic, and those involved with Brexit. We pray that you will grant wisdom and clarity, particularly for those involved with the roll out of the vaccine, and for those involved with the Brexit negotiations and the measures that are required. We pray that you would bring comfort and peace to those suffering through the pandemic, whether that suffering be through, illness, loneliness, or financial hardship, and for those that fear hardship through Brexit and the transition. We pray that you will increase our faith in you, that you would enable us to bold, and we dare to pray that you will give us the opportunities to share the good news of peace through Jesus, with this anxious and troubled world. We pray that as we approach the New Year that you would grant us a renewed vision of what you will do amongst us. Revive your church we pray. May we leave our time of worship today strengthened by your presence in our lives and by your Spirit’s power, to go forth with confidence into the week and year ahead.  We ask all these prayers in the name and for the sake of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen  

On this first Sunday after Christmas, we consider the role of Mary and Joseph as they present Jesus at the Temple, the passages of scripture set for today is : Luke 2 v 21-40 Jesus Presented in the Temple

Message: A Special Child!
We always think our child is special, whether it be that they look just like us, or have certain family traits, or are particularly smart, or perhaps none of these things. But to us, as their parents, they are special. How pleasing it is when someone else echo's our very thoughts, or points out that they are just like Uncle Joe, who is also bald, short, and has wrinkles.  

The story here makes clear from the outset, just how special Jesus was, and still is. Mary and Joseph realise before he was born, that their son was very special, and as a consequence what a privilege, and what a responsibility they had in bringing Jesus up. But as true Jews they would have God at the centre of their family, and at the centre of their influence of this little person. 

The story of Jesus' presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem is one of the few stories that tell of Jesus' childhood. It is a reminder that the gospels are not written as biographies, but rather they are stories that seek to proclaim the gospel and to support and strengthen faith in Christ. It is clear that Luke's childhood stories seek to make the point that Jesus was born a Jew among Jews. He came under the law of Moses, and although he fulfilled the law in honouring his father and mother (Luke 2v51), his ultimate obedience was to his heavenly Father (Luke 2v49). 

The presentation in Jerusalem is motivated by the requirements of the law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12, a woman, 40 days after giving birth, is to bring an offering to the temple for her purification. According to Exodus 13 every first-born male "belongs" to the Lord, and needed to be redeemed, and according to Numbers the redemption involved the payment of 5 shekels. The biblical notion of redemption included the idea that the first-born son, in a special way, is dedicated to serve him. In a similar way to the story of Samuel, where his mother Hannah dedicates her son Samuel to God's service. It is clear that Mary in Luke takes the role of Hannah (Luke 1 v46-55 compare 1 Samuel 1v11 and 2v1-10), while Jesus takes the role of Samuel (Luke 2v40 & 52, compare 1 Samuel 2v26). Thus when Joseph and Mary present Jesus to the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem, they are in effect dedicating his life to God. Jesus will be "holy to the Lord" (Luke 2v23). Luke's wording reminds us of Luke 1v35 where the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son will be "holy" and will be called the "Son of God", because he will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. The story thus sets the stage for Jesus' life to be dedicated fully to his heavenly Father (Luke 2v49). But instead of being redeemed, Jesus himself, will by his death, redeem others through his sacrifice on the cross. This dedication of Jesus to God at the temple sets Jesus on the road to his work of redemption.

Simeon and Anna appear as devout Jews who are awaiting the fulfillment of God's promises of consolation and redemption for Israel. Simeon and Anna thus become the spokesman and spokeswoman for the salvation and redemption that is to come through Jesus. Simeon gets a glimpse of the salvation that one-day the whole world will see (cf:Luke 3v6); forgiveness of sins and deliverance from eternal death (Acts 13v38-39 & 46-47). That is the ultimate meaning of Christmas, the incarnation of the Son of God.

Joseph and Mary marvelled at what was said about Jesus (Luke 2v33) for three reasons.

  • First Simeon said that their son, Jesus, was a gift from God; he recognised that Jesus was special, and said that he would be a light to the entire world.
  • Second Simeon prophesied that Jesus would have a paradoxical effect on Israel. Some would fall because of him, while others would rise again. With Jesus there would be no neutral ground, people would either joyfully accept him or totally reject him. As Jesus' mother, Mary, would be grieved by the widespread rejection he would face.
  • Third both Simeon and Anna led by the Holy Spirit, recognised Jesus as the promised Messiah.

This passage also reminds us of some key challenges, as we come to the end of one year, and look forward with faith and expectation to the next.

We are reminded that with Jesus there is no middle ground. We are either for him or against him, there is no sitting on the fence, no room for "I'm not sure!" Whether we like it or not, we have made a decision about Jesus and our relationship with him, whether we want him to be significant or insignificant in our lives. Whether we have given our all to him, and asked him to take the lead, or not. I pray that we have made the choice to ask him to be in control, and if not, reconsider our approach to him and the role we want him to take in our lives.
We are also reminded of how important it is to influence children, no matter how old, in the right way. Mary and Joseph put God at the centre of their family life from the start, no matter what happened they wanted to have the right influence on their child, and that meant God had to be at the centre. As Christian's, whenever we come into contact with children, we are showing them what God is like. Are we being the example our Heavenly Father wants us to be? Are we a good example? We may be the only Bible they read, the only Christian they may come into contact with! In the face of this, may we not shrink back or make excuses, but by the power of the Holy Spirit live up to the challenge that our Father has set before us. As we look forward to this coming year, which children are we prepared to commit to regularly pray for? 

Our final hymn is : 'Joy to the World'

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the 'The UK Blessing'.

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