Led by Rachel Blainey
If you would like to join this service of worship using just the videos playing one after another, you can visit our playlist on YouTube by following the link below:
Hello and welcome to this service of worship. I’m Rachel Blainey and I’m a local preacher in the Oxford Methodist Circuit in the UK. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from and why ever you are watching this, welcome! We’re glad that you are able to join in worship with us. Our service today begins with our Advent liturgy, led this week by the Arnold Family from Wesley Memorial.
A candle burns
the sign of your love.
God of Mary, come to us again this Advent.
May the light of your love be born anew in us.
Song: Light a candle in a darkened place STF 174, vv 1 & 5
Let us pray:
We recall at this joyful season how, through her willingness to hear your word and commit herself to your service you were able to use Mary to fulfil your purpose, entering our world, inaugurating your kingdom and bringing closer that day when sorrow and suffering, darkness and death will be no more.
Help us then as we follow this service of worship to hear your word, and to respond with similar obedience, prepared to be used as you see fit.
Through our discipleship, weak feeble though it might be may your grace be revealed.
You are greater than our hearts can fathom, higher than our highest thoughts, sovereign over all worthy of praise and honour. You are the one who threw stars into space, who set out the great laws of physics, who brought order out of chaos. And yet we remember this Advent that you humbled yourself, being born to a woman of no power in a town of no importance, so that you could live with us, sharing our human frailness and suffering, so that you could more perfectly love us and more perfectly redeem us. It is impossible to find words for all that you have done for us.
Forgive us that sometimes however, we lose our sense of awe and wonder, we grow oblivious to your greatness and forgetful of your goodness. Instead of seeking to understand your ways and working to fulfil your plans for the Kingdom we focus instead on our own way of doing things, our own plans for our lives. We seek to help ourselves rather than those who truly need our help. We are careless and unthinking with those around us. We ignore problems that seem to hard for us to fix. Forgive us today and show us a new way to be.
Speak to us as you spoke to Mary and help us to catch a new sense of who you are, of all you have done and of all you will yet do in our lives. Thanks to your love and your forgiveness, we can magnify again your name, sing your praises and tell of your greatness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Reading: Luke 1:26-38
Read by Simon Blainey
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[b] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Song: The Angel Gabriel from heaven came H&P 87, STF 187
Reading: Luke 1:46-55
Read by Jenny Arnold
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Song: Behold the servant of the Lord, H&P 788, STF 546
We respond to God’s word in prayer. Let us pray.
Lord of all love,
We are reminded today that you know every one of your children, that you look after each of them and have a special task for them each to do. But we know also that many of your children as well and we bring them before you now.
We pray for those in positions of authority, who are not called lowly or hidden in small towns, but instead live in the spotlight, their every thought and decision questioned. We pray that you will guide them in those thoughts and decisions, steering them towards actions which benefit the poor and the weak rather than the rich and the powerful. We pray too that you will support them as they experience the consequences of those decisions, whether good or bad and give them the strength to keep working to make better decisions each day.
We pray for those who feel that they are unnoticed and unloved, for those living on our streets as the winter draws in, for those trapped in their own homes due to ill health, and all of us who miss the company of friends and family this Christmas time. We pray that you will help us all to reach out in new ways and that you will help us to connect even through our social distance, and that you will keep your promised that when just two or three are gathered, you too are there.
We pray for those who feel lowly and poor, for those who have not succeeded in society’s measures of wealth, fame, or achievement. For those who are ashamed of their status and who worry about what the future holds. We pray that you will show them how to have hope in the future once again and that you will remind us all of those kingdom values which are more important than worldy accolades and teach us to appreciate them in others and live them out in our own lives.
We pray for all those who are suffering at this time, whether in body, mind or soul. For those affected by Covid-19 and for all those who work in our caring professions. We pray that this Christmas we may all celebrate the gift of your great love, given to us in the baby Jesus, and fulfilled in his death on the cross. May we remember that you suffer with us and know the depths of despair as we have done. We pray that as we remember too your resurrection we may celebrate the promise of new life and hope in the future and that we may bring that joy to all those places that need it this year.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
And we bring all our prayers together with the words of 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 we trespass against us,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,
Forever and ever.
Song: Tell out my soul H&P 86, STF 186
And so our service concludes with some words of Blessing:
Whoever we are, whatever we think we can or cannot do, let us start by sharing the Great Good News. Let us ponder in our hearts and share with our friends the Greatness of our Lord. Let us remember and live out the wonder of the greatness of his might, and Trust in his firm promise and his sure mercy, going out with his blessing.Today, tomorrow and forever more.
Jonathan Bunney plays the William Drake organ of St Giles-in-the-Fields, London: the Poets’ Church