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               St Clement Church Community Sunday Service

 

Good morning to you all as we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

We will be holding a Eucharist in our church building, this service is if you are unable to attend with us and will be worshipping at home.

Much love and prayers and may Christ’s love sustain you always. 

God bless you all.                                                                                                                                             Love Rev Di and family                                                                                                                                     xx                           

 

We have passed the half-way stage in the Advent season, during which we hope, pray and prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom.

From now on our attention is increasingly focused on Jesus Christ whose birth at Bethlehem was the sign that God’s rule was near.

Today we remember John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the way for Christ.

 

 

Hymn: Come thou long expected Jesus

 

 

Our prayers of Penitence

John the Baptist exposed the complacency of his day, and called people to repent. Let us confess our sins to the Lord:

 

When our deeds do not match our fine words.

Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy

When we let evil go unchallenged, and are afraid to speak the truth.

Christ have mercy.  Christ have mercy

 

When we are preoccupied with ourselves, and give little attention to others.

Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy

 

When we trust in earthly treasures more than in God’s unfailing care.

Christ have mercy.  Christ have mercy

 

May our Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and forgiveness of all our sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Let us pray our Collect for today

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

 

                                                                                           

Readings:

Zephaniah 3. 14-end

Philippians 4. 4-7

 

 

Hymn; ‘Hark the Glad Sound’
 

Gospel Luke 3. 7-18

(Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.) 

Response: ‘Glory to you O Lord.’

 

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 

Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

 

(This is the Gospel of the Lord.  Response: ‘Praise to you, O, Christ’)

 

Reflection

Long before there were blonde jokes and Essex jokes, there were “Good News/Bad News” jokes. Remember those? Here’s an example:

On a long sea voyage a ship’s captain says to his crew; “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that today we get to change underwear. The bad news is that I’m changing with Bert, and Derek is changing with Charlie.”

And; a doctor says to his patient; “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there are beautiful golf courses in heaven. The bad news is that you tee off Tuesday morning.”

And now on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, the gospel lesson tells us of John the Baptist bringing good news to the people of first century Israel that sounds like it might have some bad news in it as well.

 

 

He told them in no uncertain terms;

‘You brood of vipers!  (I just love that!) Who warned you of the anger that’s coming? And when he comes he’ll clear the decks. Good folk will join him in his barn, but the sinful will be sent to hell!’ Gosh!

And then Luke closes this section with these words;

‘So, with many other exhortations,

he proclaimed the good news to the people.’

Good news! What good news? Is it good news that people who have many possessions, or those whose jobs just happen to be tax collectors or soldiers, will have to stand before a king and face his anger?

What John the Baptist should have done is told the people a joke. “I’ve good some news and some bad news; the good news is that the Messiah is coming, and the bad news is that he’s not going to like what he finds!”

I once saw that theology printed on a colleague’s T-shirt. The front read ‘Jesus is coming soon…’ the back said; ‘And boy, is he upset!’

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the first of the New.

He was speaking to an audience who lived with the image of an angry God who demanded righteous living or else there’d be trouble. And these people had to offer sacrifices like doves, lambs or money, in order to keep in good standing with such a God. Forgiveness was not a first-century Jewish concept. So of course John the Baptist’s message was a rigid one; walk the straight and narrow in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. What he didn’t know was that Jesus would not only come as judge, but also as Saviour. What John couldn’t say yet is: ‘I bring you good news, and bad news, and then even better good news.”

It was indeed good news for the long-awaited Messiah to come.

It was bad news to hear that he would have the authority to point out the sinfulness of every person.

But it was wonderful news to know that he would judge all “not guilty.” It was amazing news that he’d offer grace as an unmerited free gift, and that everyone who believed this promise would live forever.

That’s the ultimate Good News of Christ’s coming.

But what’s often lost in all of John’s fire and brimstone is the sincerity of the people who heard his message and wanted to change their ways.

‘What then should we do?’ they asked.

Advent is the season in which we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  It conjures up images of angels and wise men, shepherds and a heavenly chorus. 

The Lord’s coming is portrayed in the angelic face of the Virgin Mary, the radiance of a star in the East, the fulfilment of prophecy, the promise of peace on earth, goodwill to all. 

So, what’s then the deal with John the Baptist out in the wilderness mouthing words of judgment calling us to repentance? Where does he fit in?  In our westernized celebration of Christmas we’ve virtually written John out of the Christmas story.  For example, how many Christmas plays have you ever attended in which John the Baptist was a central character? 

How many Christmas cards have you ever seen depicting John the Baptist prophesying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”?

Just imagine it!  A beautiful Hallmark card with a stack of Christmas trees on the front piled up in a big bonfire, and inside, the message reads:

“Season’s greetings! 
Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees.
Every tree therefore that doesn't bear good fruit
is cut down, and thrown into the fire.
From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!”

Perhaps Angela could put a wild looking John the Baptist action figure in our nativity scene, with sticky locusts for food, and a little sand and a few hills to represent the Judean wilderness. 

 OK, so I’m stretching things a bit, but all the gospels agree: John heralded the coming of the Messiah.  He’s a central character in the Christmas story whether we like it or not, he told the people Jesus was coming in judgment and they asked, “What shall we do?” 

He doesn’t mince his words in his answer, where other prophets are philosophical and vague, John is concrete and pragmatic: Get your act together!  He has no time for emotions, only ethics.  There’s no sense wallowing in guilt and shame, just do what needs to be done!

Then, as now, John would have us know it’s not only what we say, but what we do that proves our faithfulness to Jesus Christ. 

One of my favourite questions is: If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?  In other words, is the way we live our life day by day decidedly different from an atheist or an agnostic? 

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. 

John’s listeners got it right.  They didn’t ask, “What shall we say?” or “What shall we think?” or what shall we believe?” They asked, “What shall we do?”

And his answer wasn’t an impossible lists of do’s and don’ts, and should and should not’s, but rather practical description of how people of God ought to act in the world. If you have two good coats, give one away; and likewise, food. In Judea, the days are warm, but the nights get cold. If a person of that day had two coats, it was unthinkable that one would be hanging in the closet of his home while another person shivered in the darkness. “Give one away” John cried.

I counted my coats yesterday; I have four. What am I thinking?

John said the same goes for food. If a family had enough food in their cupboards to meet their family’s need, but their neighbours had none, “how can you not share with them?” John asked.

This time of year, our cupboards are overflowing with food, yet there are people right here in this diocese who are going hungry.

“What can we do?’ asked the tax collectors and the soldiers. Both of these groups were despised people in the Jewish culture; outcasts actually. Tax collectors took advantage of people, collecting much more than was required by Caesar, and kept the difference for themselves. Soldiers were Roman citizens with little regard for the Jewish people, and would often unfairly accuse individuals of a crime and then be bribed to forget the accusation.

So John offers an alternative, make simple changes in lifestyle and changes in attitude which gave the people hope. They didn’t need to fear the coming of the Messiah if their hearts were in the right place. “Love God and serve people.” That was John’s message.

Well, it’s been 2000 years, and it’s still a good question: “What should we do?” The problem is, few are asking it today. We lead such busy lives, especially in the run-up to Christmas, it rarely occurs to us to ask “What should we do to prepare for the coming of The Christ?”

What do we hear John calling us to do as we prepare for the coming of the Lord?  How do his words speak to us? 

In the privacy of our own hearts, perhaps we should think about what we need to change in our lives, so we are ready for Christ to come in all his glory.  ‘What shall we do?”  That’s what the people asked John so long ago.  Ultimately folks, sorry to pass the buck, but as you think about it, it’s a question only you can answer. 

In the name of the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Hymn; On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s Cry’
 

Affirmation of our faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

We believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist. 

We believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again. 

We believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world. 

This is the faith of the Church. This is our faith.

We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

 

Our Intercessions this week are written by Alison Hill

As we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ, let us remember that God is with us, here, now. Let us pray. 

Dear Lord and Father

As we ready our hearts to receive the Christ child make yourself known to us when our faith in you and in your Son is tested by the challenges of this life, that we may look beyond the things that make us doubt the violence, the selfishness and dishonesty, the commercialisation of all things, and the sickness and suffering that we see in our own country and beyond.

During this Advent season of preparation help us, Lord, and all your people to know your presence among us, and to see it in the beauty which surrounds us, in the love and the kindness in so many with whom we meet and in the love and the goodness that we can find in our own hearts and minds.

Strengthen our faith that we may love you and worship you with all our hearts, with all our minds and with all our souls and rejoice in your coming to us as a little child and living amongst us as one of us,

vulnerable and open to doubts and suffering like the rest of mankind

for our sakes, to heal the world.

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

As we join with others in the diocese to seek new ways forward in your troubled Church guide and enlighten all those who will make or influence decisions on our behalf helping us to be open to those ideas that can lead us to solutions and to have the courage to support the people and the principles we know to be truly Christian.

We pray for our Bishops and for our own hard-working and much loved vicar Di that in this busy time of Christmas they may find joy in your coming to earth and in their service to you and to all Christians.

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

We pray for the Royal Family, and especially for the Queen, that she may continue to enjoy good health, and the comfort of her family in this her first Christmas without her husband Philip.

And we pray for your spirit to move among all those in authority and especially in our government: the spirit of peace and goodwill, the spirit of honesty and integrity, the spirit of generosity and cooperation, and the spirit of compassion and care

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

We pray for all those working to limit and reduce the damage we are doing to this planet, your Creation and for those already suffering from climate change and other environmental issues:

For those whose locality is affected by increasing flooding or by rising sea levels, for those whose health is affected by pollution and for those in this country affected by the recent storms.

Help us to build a spirit of cooperation, adaptability and resilience as these severe weather events become more frequent and help those who make or influence decisions on our wider world to understand and respond to the immediacy and urgency of these problems.

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

For so many of us this Christmas season will, once again, not be a time of unalloyed joy. We have lost loved ones. We are apart from family and friends with whom we would hope to share our celebration of your Son’s birth. We are overshadowed by renewed fear of the Covid virus. We are simply dragged down and demotivated by nearly two years of changes and limitations in our lives.

Please help us dear Lord to rise above these concerns so that we may fully celebrate the coming of Christ at this time.

Help us to remember so many people for whom life is always as restricted, as depressing or even as full of fear as our lives have seemed. For the homeless, the hungry, the sick and those facing the fear and pain of Man’s violence to Man. For these your children who are suffering, we ask your blessing and the grace of your strength in adversity.

At this time we pray especially for Ken and Di, for Ollie, Max, Margaret, Brian, Daphne and Dave, and for Liz as she faces a very different Christmas without Martin.

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

We call to mind those who have died and any who are close to death.

As they meet the one true God open their hearts to receive his mercy, his forgiveness and his love.

Bless and strengthen all those facing imminent bereavement all those recently bereaved and those for whom the loss of a loved one in the past year overshadows this Christmas season.

Lord, in your mercy  Hear our prayer

 

We give you thanks, Lord and Father that none of us is forgotten, even in the darkest times and none of us is beyond your saving love.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us pray with confidence as 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.

 

Hymn; ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’

 

The Peace

May the peace of Christ sanctify us: may he so strengthen our hearts in holiness that we may be blameless before him at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints.  Amen.

 

Blessing

May God give us grace to follow his saints in faith, hope and love; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us, those whom we love, and remain with us always. Amen.

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Page last updated: 9th December 2021 4:32 PM