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                  St Clement Church 4th Sunday in Advent


Welcome to our service this morning where we remember Mary, the mother of our Lord.                                                                                                                               In six days, it will be Christmas Day and yet again we will celebrate the special event of Jesus’ birth over 2000 years ago.                                                                                                              May we all celebrate with peace and love.

With love                                                                                                                                                              Liz

Let us pray

Dear Lord, as we rise to meet each new day, please let us be filled with Your Spirit. Wherever we go, let us spread love, joy, peace, goodness, and faithfulness. Let us desire to become more like You and to worship You in all that we do. Help us to desire these things so much more than the things that so often lead us astray. Thank you for always going before us.


Hymn:    9    Lo! He comes with clouds descending

A prayer of Penitence

We are ashamed, O God, for our carelessness in worship, for wandering minds and thoughtless prayer. We are ashamed that words of praise come so swiftly to our lips but so slowly to our hearts. We are ashamed that we hear the name of Jesus but act as if He were a stranger.

Forgive us for our jealousies in the church, and for the irritations that so easily win the day. Forgive us for the times when we can see plainly what needs to be done, and complain that others do not do it.

Give us, O God, a vision of our church set as it is among people who do not know Christ as Lord, and give to us a deepened faith, an understanding love, a ready wit and the Holy Spirit’s common sense. So may we live our lives that our neighbours may want to know the source of the joy we shall have, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Let us pray the Collect for Advent 4

God our Redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.



Micah 5. 2 – 5a                                                                                                                                        Hebrews 10. 5 - 10

Hymn:  10   Long ago, prophets knew

Gospel of Luke 1. 39 - 55

(Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.                                                                                                         Response: ‘Glory to you O Lord)

Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.                                                                                                                              And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb.                                                                                                                           Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.                                                                                                                                     And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’                                                                                                        And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.                                                                                                                         Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is His name.                                                                                                                                                          His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.                                                                                                                            He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.                                                                                                                                                                                                        He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.                                                                                                                         He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

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


Today, the fourth Sunday in Advent is when we think about Mary, the mother of Jesus. At about 14 years of age, Mary has had a visit from the angel Gabriel. This visit irreversibly changes Mary’s life and understandably she decides that she needs some help sorting everything out. Let’s face it – who wouldn’t? After all it’s not every day that an angel shows up on one’s doorstep to announce not only that you’re pregnant but that the baby is somehow, some way, God’s child. It’s not every day that one has to break this kind of news to the family or, worse still, to the man to whom one is about to be married. Then come the days when Joseph wrestles with what to do. Does he believe or not? Can this be true or is the woman he is about to spend the rest of his life with, to put it mildly, a little unstable? It is a lot for anyone to go through alone, this waiting and wondering. 

So, Mary turns to the only one she can think of, someone who, so that ‘gossipy’ angel tells her, has just had a similar experience.                                                                                  More than a generation separates the two, as does some distance, but Mary knows that if she is going to make any sense of this at all she is going to have to turn to her friend and cousin Elizabeth. She is older, wiser, and may be able to help get a grasp on just exactly what is happening. 

So, Mary gets ready and hurries off to the hillside town in Judea where Zechariah and Elizabeth live. It is a moment when Mary needs some support. She needs to hear from someone older and more discerning that not only what is happening is God’s will but that Mary is up for the task. To put it simply: while Mary believes in God’s promise, she needs another human being to believe in her. She needs someone to comfort her and say, ‘Mary, you have done the right thing and because you have 0 believe it or not – you’ll be up for anything you have to face.’

Is it any wonder that down through the centuries Mary becomes the favourite among common people. She struggles to believe, just as they struggle to believe; she struggles to trust, just like they struggle to trust; she needs to be reassured in exactly the same way they do.

Aren’t we there too? Looking, struggling, seeking, yearning for some confirmation that there really is something to this business of faith; and that God is not ‘just something humans have made up to make them feel better.’

Mary goes looking for Elizabeth hoping to hear someone else tell her that what she is doing makes sense. With the discernment of decades of a righteous life, Elizabeth tells Mary that what she is doing is not only right and proper but it will be a joyous blessing for her and for generations to come.

When Elizabeth meets Mary, faith meets faith and it is to our benefit.                                            In conceiving the child, Mary is a sign that God is in this life with us, down to the smallest, most basic experience. She is the sign that this religion of ours is real; it’s about life – birth, growing, loving and dying. Mary tells us that God is a part of all that and so keeps us in touch, connected.

If Jesus is to share our human life, then He must have a mother. He needs a mother to love him, comfort Him, care for and about Him until the day He dies. Mary does that. She is His first follower, His biggest fan, and is there for Him to the end. For all this, Elizabeth says with great insight and foresight that Mary will be called blessed.                                                                                                      That the Son of God has a mother is a reminder that God’s work gets done when otherwise ordinary people hear the voice of God and decide to say, ‘yes.’ Mary is a reminder that faith means ‘following dreams – dreams that begin with God – with courage and expectation.

We live in expectation of a better life, a better world, where people like Mary and Elizabeth, like you and me, gather and where, once again, faith meets faith, to the glory of God and for the good of all God’s children.



 The Visitation by Malcolm Guite

Here is a meeting of hidden joys                                                                                                                      Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place                                                                                                                                     From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise                                                                                               And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.                                                                                           Two women on the very edge of things                                                                                                    Unnoticed and unknown to men of power                                                                                                But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings                                                                                                     And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.                                                                                          And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young,’                                                                                               Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’                                                                                         They sing today for all the great unsung                                                                                                 Women who turned eternity to time                                                                                                         Favoured of heaven, outcast on earth                                                                                                      Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.


Affirmation of our Faith

We believe in one God                                                                                                                             Father, Son and Holy Spirit.                                                                                                                 He is the true and living God,                                                                                                                worthy to receive glory and honour and power.                                                                               He created all things,                                                                                                                                       by his will they exited and were created.                                                                                                                      We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;                                                                                                   all things came into being through him.                                                                                                               He is the image of the invisible God                                                                                                     the firstborn of all creation.                                                                                                                     In him all things in heaven and on earth were created.                                                                       He himself is before all things,                                                                                                                  and in him all things hang together.                                                                                                   Being in the form of God, he emptied himself,                                                                                     he took the form of a slave, and was born in human likeness.                                                                                     Being found in human form, he humbled himself                                                                                       he became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.                                                             Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;                                                                            he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.                               God also highly exalted Jesus:                                                                                                                       he gave him the name that is above every name.                                                                               God has put all things under his feet:                                                                                                        he made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body.                                                                     We believe that Jesus died and rose again:                                                                                              through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.                                                          As all die in Adam ,                                                                                                                                 so all will be made alive in Christ.                                                                                                         Thanks be to God                                                                                                                                         who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                                                            


Hymn:  14  The advent of our God

Intercessions by Helen Dunbar

As we share in Mary and Elizabeth’s joy at the coming of our Saviour, let us quieten and still ourselves, in the presence of God.


Dear Lord we bring our prayers and requests to you, please help us to put aside our busy rushing about, and to sense that awe and wonder which comes from an awareness that we are in your peace.  We know that you understand our worries and fears, and so we pray trusting in your willingness to share our concerns for ourselves, and others. Keep your people faithful to the revelation that they have received, to be believing, and to receive your promises.


Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer


Lord we pray for the people in parts of the world where life is precarious, whether through terrorism, disaster, poverty, disease, drought, flooding or war. We pray that the time may be hastened when there is peace on earth and goodwill between all people. Especially as we pray for our precious world and the need for every nation to aim for ways to stop the pollution of our seas and rivers, and to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.


Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer


Lord in heaven, we pray for your church today, gathering worldwide in churches, chapels and cathedrals, to praise you and to hear your holy word. Give us a sense of expectation as we enter and inspiration as we leave.


We pray for your blessing on all those who play a part in church life and we pray especially for our own clergy here in the diocese as they seek to do your will and guide us through our spiritual and worldly journey of Advent, until the day when we celebrate together the birth of your Son on Christmas Day. We pray for our own much loved Rev Diane and her family here in St Clement.


Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer


Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen and bless all members of the royal family who assist her with royal duties.


Dear Lord as we approach Christmas we so often fail to hear you; we are busy with so much that we go about the things we do as though trapped in household chores and routines, hardly giving a thought to what our lives and the season of Advent are all about.  Our spirits grow tired and you, Lord, can seem far away. Help us to hear your voice today and be with us with every gift we buy, every one we wrap and with those who receive and open them.


Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer


Loving God we thank You for the gift of life and pray for those whose lives are troubled by illness, grief, poverty or injustice. We pray that in the darkness of their suffering and pain Your Advent light will shine to bring them the assurance and hope of the coming of your son Jesus. We remember at this time those known to personally to us: Ken and Diane, Ollie, Max, Margaret, Brian, Daphne and Dave, and Roger.


We pray for all those who have died in faith, giving thanks for the shining lives of the saints, and asking that with them we may come to share in the endless joy of heaven.


Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer


Dear Lord, who sent John the Baptist to proclaim the Good News help, us as we go from this church to be true heralds of the coming of Christ and to proclaim the Gospel through all we do and say.


Rejoicing in the fellowship of St Clement and St Andrew and all the saints


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


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.


The Nativity by Susan Noyes Anderson


We all have heard the story, it’s been told and then retold                                                                about the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of old.                                                                      Yet every Christmastide the tale bears telling once again                                                             as we reflect on that sweet babe, born to redeem all men.

A decree went out from Caesar, and so it came to pass                                                                   that Joseph and sweet Mary went to David to be taxed.                                                                Though Mary journeyed wearily, for she was great with child                                                      when Joseph wept to see her pain, she looked at him and smiled:                                                     ‘Fear not for me, dear Husband, among women I am blessed,                                                             but now my time draws near, and we must find a place to rest.’

In desperate need of shelter, they pushed on to Bethlehem                                                               only to find the inns were full, no room was offered them.                                                           Still Joseph knocked on every door till one innkeeper said,                                                             ‘Seek refuge in my stable – Here’s some straw to make a bed.’                                                            And Mary gratefully sank down into that new-mown hay,                                                               and gave birth to the Saviour that first, sacred Christmas Day.

A shining star rose in the sky above that holy place                                                                         as Mary gazed upon her child and touched his radiant face.                                                          The shepherds and the wisemen came, led by that glorious star                                                   and angels sang out praises as they journeyed from afar.                                                                 They somehow knew the child was sent to bring the world His light                                                                  and their hearts were filled with wonder as they looked on Him that night.

So was our Lord and Saviour born, in humble majesty,                                                                      to save us from our earthly sins and seal our destiny.                                                                                                           On each and every Christmas Day, we thank the Lord above                                                      for sending our Redeemer to bless us with His love.




The Peace


May the God of peace make us completely holy,                                                                                  ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.                                                                          The peace of the Lord be with you.


Hymn:  3   Come, thou long expected Jesus



May there always be work for our hands to do.                                                                            May our purse always hold a coin or two.                                                                                     May the sun always shine upon our window pane.                                                                       May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.                                                                                  May the hand of a friend always be near to us and                                                                                   May God fill our heart with gladness and cheer. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.           




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