Sunday, December 27

Welcome and Announcements


Thank you for joining us on this Sunday after Christmas. We continue to pray that God keeps us safe through this very strange time of COVID 19 pandemic. No matter how many times we say it, we have never seen anything like this when the entire world was told to stay home and celebrate Christmas only within small units of families. It is our prayer that you are well.

Please do not forget to pray for those among us who are in hospitals and their loved ones. Please pray for Carol and those who care for her that her recovery will come and God will be with them all through her recovery. We thank God that doctors and nurses were able to perform the surgery at this very difficult time.

We also pray for Moyra Thompson who returned to the hospital. Keep her in your prayers.

Please do not forget to pray for everyone in these lock-down days. Many will be suffering due to isolation. Remember to keep them in prayer and be in contact with them. For some, phone calls are the only life-line they have.

Pray also for essential and frontline workers everywhere. Unlike us they face daily the danger of contracting the virus, yet, they are called upon to serve for the sake of everyone else’s well being. Do not forget them.

Please continue to pray for our elders and all those who help to carry out ministry through us. We will continue to do our ministry of helping the poor and those who are in need throughout the lockdown period. We will continue to make Take-out lunches available on Saturdays starting this coming Saturday.

Hymn of Preparation: Emmanuel His Name



Call to Worship:


The church lives to praise God. We have no higher calling than to offer the worship that belongs to God day by day, Sunday by Sunday. Come to God and worship in times of sorrows and griefs as well as happiness and joy! Let us worship God!

Opening Hymn: Angels From the Realms



Prayer:


In this time of abundant joy, as we continue to celebrate your Son’s birth, we come to praise you. Yet, because we cannot gather as one in your house, we come as individuals scattered in our own homes deprived of communion that sustains and nourishes us. On this day as we worship staying apart, may we be made one in Christ Jesus our Lord as one community of faith. Help us to stay in faith that in Christ being together as one through communion is the blessing we receive in this worship. Join us in you and make us one.

Receive this worship, O God. Collapse distances that separate us in you, O Christ, in ways that you will hear our hymns of praise and prayers as one voice in your ear. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Offering: (Anthem: On Christmas Night)



Offering prayer:


Your grace is beyond our imagining. As we remember your Son’s birth, remember once again your unlimited grace and mercy. Now we come bringing these offerings as signs of our love for you. Though insignificant in amount, they are our commitment to you to love and serve you as well as our promise to love and serve our neighbours. Bless us in ways that we participate in your Son’s ministry with joyful and grateful hearts. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:67-80


Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
 &nbsp for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
   in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
   and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
   to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
   before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Sermon: God’s Good News


I remember a time a group of us became quite good at emulating visiting preachers’ tones in their prayers. As they prayed, some put emphasis on the first syllable as they called on Jesus. Some always began strong at the beginning of each sentence and trailed off towards the end of the sentence. For some, prayers were particularly hard to hear because they said them so softly. Some thundered on calling God’s judgments on those unrepentant sinners.

Now that I have been in the pulpit for over thirty years, I wonder how my prayers reveal to others about me. After all, public prayers reveal to God and others lot more about those who pray or lead public prayer. If you wonder why so many eloquent, faithful or thoughtful Christians are reluctant to pray publicly, it is not because they lack faith, have no confidence, are shy, or need more training but because they realize how much of themselves they reveal to hearers of their prayers. That is why when we hear some of our people lead prayers, we not only know who they are with our eyes closed, but also what and how they will say. This is not unlike children who have varying degrees of show-offness. You know. Some kids ham it up. Some disappear. Some love to surprise visitors by revealing too much about the family secrets. In prayer we bring our total selves before God and reveal before God who we truly are. This total openness makes us feel very vulnerable and fragile.

Prayer is also one of those things that comes in many forms. We are familiar most with prayers that use words. Psalms are good examples of this type of prayer. We sometimes hear prayers as poems that are to be sung. Often prophets pray this way. There are prayers which are not said or sung but carried in faithful actions. Again prophets and the faithful people used this type of prayer. One example of this prayer of action was Hannah’s prayer in the temple. Though she was saying, much of her prayer was in tears.

Today we are looking at the middle one: one that is written as a poem and is best to be sung. Zechariah breaks into a prophecy after a long silence when his son John was born and named. It is certainly a prophecy pointing to what will happen in the future of this child. It is also a prayer of a father for her son’s life that is to come. In it, Zechariah lays out a future for John not only as a hope, but also as John’s revealed reality. In a way much of our prayers are patterned on this prayer. After all prayer is all about the faithful of God requesting God’s presence with us or we be allowed to be in God’s presence for ever. This is why all our prayer ends with, “Come, Lord Jesus!” just like the second last sentence of the New Testament.

There is something very important about Zechariah’s prayer for his son. It has to do with John going before the Lord and preparing his ways, giving knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. In a way it is also a prayer for all of us who are waiting for the Lord to return. Our tasks are exactly the same as John’s. We as Christians are now doing these very things, preparing the ways of our Lord Jesus and giving the Good News of salvation to the world.

However, as the Easter People, we have an added burden that is often forgotten. We are reminded of this at Christmas. Christians are to be more than simply preparing Christ’s ways and sharing the good news by telling others about the forgiveness of sins. Because of the death and resurrection of our Lord, we are also compelled to be the body of Christ here and now as much as we look to the future in the same way John the Baptist was. We are called the body of Christ no less. We are the living embodiment of Jesus here now until his return. This means that we are to live as God’s people or as citizens under God’s reign. This is the part we forget to remember at Christmas time.

As Christians we live in a peculiar time space. Our God is here, now. We believe in Emmanuel, God-with-us. Our faith is alive because we trust, set our heart on, and rely on the living God who died, yet rose from the dead. Christmas is a constant reminder of God who is with us because that very same God was with us in person through a very human birth. But this Christ is also the coming one. We await his return. That is, he is always coming to us even when he was and is with us. In this sense, our understanding of time as past, present and future is very peculiar when past, present and future are collapsed into the presence of Christ.

Thankfully, Christmas is the constant yearly reminder that Christ is God-with-us. As we explored last Sunday, God’s presence with humanity in history is revealed in the baby born to Mary. By birth God-with-us became life experiences for humanity. Philosophers, theologians and scientists may debate whether the concept of God becoming a human being is possible. For us believers, this God-with-us was revealed as being full of grace, mercy and compassion. Love became more than thoughts and emotions. Love became the very basis of life by which we believers were called into being. As God is love, we are the bearers of this love that lays down our lives even for enemies as Christ did. The world comes to experience this love through--guess who?--Christ’s people, us.

Christmas is, therefore, our yearly living confession and testimony that God is with us fully and that this ever living presence is in the midst of humanity. Emmanuel, God-with-us, reveals his presence by bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming the release to captives, recovering the sights to the blind, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. Humanity is able to witness the wolf living with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together. Wherever God-with-us is, the proud in the thoughts of their hearts are being scattered, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent away empty, and God’s mercy is remembered.

By the way we witness and live out God’s reign here and now, the world will come to see why salvation through our Lord is so different than simply following the ways of the world. That is, we are to remember these two main tasks at Christmas: to be preparing the ways of our Christ by sharing the good news where the crucial focus is on the forgiveness of sins, and to be living as glimpses of life under God’s reign here and now.

Pastoral Prayer


O God, you are our God who knows and meets our needs at all times. Your presence guides and guards us through challenges and difficulties. You always bestow upon us abundant grace so that we may share life full of your love.

On this day we bring those among us who are facing death. Some are in hospitals. Others are at home. Some are suffering because of COVID 19 virus. Some are afflicted with various cancers and ailments. Be with them all. Be their strength and hope as they wrestle with the powers of darkness. Be with their loved ones, care-givers, doctors and nurses as they try to strengthen and give hope to those who are suffering.

We remember before you all those who are doing their best to make sure our world continues through the pandemic lockdowns. There are so many who are essential and are working hard. Their faces are often hidden from us, yet, without their services we cannot function as a society. Be with all. There are too many for us to name. Give them your gentle presence. Soothe them from their personal struggles as they serve others.

We pray for our leaders. These leaders have been doing as best as they can since the start of this pandemic. They are trying their best. Give them your wisdom. May they continue to put compassion and mercy before popularity and partisanship. We pray that in you they will continue to work together to serve their people doing their best.

We bring to you our leaders. As elders and leaders of this faith community, they go about serving your people through prayers, phone calls, visits and other means. Keep them in your care. Continue to fill them with the Holy Spirit so that they may serve your people as your hand. Guard and protect them from all ills.

We also bring our own personal prayers in silence. Hear these prayers from our own hearts. Strengthen each of us with faith, hope and love. Help us to stay strong in faith.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Go Tell It On the Mountain



Benediction