Isaiah 35: 1-10
God’s promise to restore God’s people, creating a land of peace and prosperity for them, and providing a safe and sure way for them to return home, guaranteeing their arrival in God’s Zion where they will find gladness, joy and an end to their suffering.
Psalm 146: 5-10
A celebration of the God who helps those in need – the poor, the blind, the prisoner, the bent over, the widow, the orphan – and who trips the wicked up.
Luke 1:46b-55
Mary’s song of praise to the God who has chosen her, even though she is lowly, and who helps and sustains the weak and needy, while opposing and bringing down the rich and powerful.
James 5: 7-10
James encourages the believers to be patient as they wait for God’s coming, even as the farmer waits for rain, and as the prophets of old faithfully endured their suffering with patience.
Matthew 11: 2-11
John the Baptist sends his disciples to question whether Jesus is the One or if he should wait for another, and Jesus assures him with the example of his ministry of liberation, healing and proclaiming the Good News. Then he teaches about John’s role, explaining that, as great as he was, those who embrace God’s reign are greater still.
(Bible reading summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Pilgrim COCU3A.Readings.2019

By the Well (A preacher’s guide to the lectionary)
Singing from the Lectionary
Church of Scotland Weekly worship
ALTERnativity: A Pregnant Pause
The One
(would work well read in two voices)
Are you? Is it true? Has the time
arrived? Held, bound, John reaches
for the one to truly hold him, to whom
his heart is ever bound. Friends,
has he become what we hoped, has
God sent the promised Messiah?

Are you? Is it true? What time
has now arrived? Loose, free, are we
adrift from joy and wonder? Friends,
will he become in us what God
hoped he would, the light of Sacred love?

Go tell. What do you see? Good news
feeding hungry people, starving
no longer, my friend. Death to life,
blindness to sight, walking, talking,
standing tall and clean and home.

Go – tell. What do we see? Good
news quenching thirst and famine?
Friends, is death renewed, are silent
voices heard? Where is there dancing
in the streets with joy and reconciliation?

Look, see, the comfortable hide away.
Prophets are found in the wild, visible,
vulnerable, exposed. John is the one
promised, preparing: look, see, that he
is great, no greater than the least of these.

Look, see the privileged who close their ears?
Prophets will be heard, will not be kept silent:
listen and stand there by their side. I am
the one, Jesus replies, says to you
you are greater with me.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Matthew 11.1
Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don’t know they are asking,
they are asking.
“Are you the one?”
Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope,
to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
There may be people of color who see a white person
and assume racism, until they see otherwise.
There may be a non-conforming person
who assumes you will judge them
unless you clearly don’t.
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world
dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them
you will be the one.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Call to worship
Friends, I am here to tell you that we have received a request to prepare a place for the Christ-child to be born.
This request is not from Church Council, or even from Presbytery, Synod or Assembly, it appears to come from much higher.
And it will either alarm or relieve you
to know that we do not have to establish
a special Birthing Committee to do the planning!
The request, however, is couched in humble terms.
It asks us to simply create space and time
and to watch and wait for signs that the time has come.
It asks that each member, between now and Christmas Day, set aside a few minutes every day to reflect and pray,
and ready themselves for the moment.
It also asks that, as a congregation, we take care
not to over-clutter our days with frantic preparation, and to focus on renewing our spirits.
Needless to say it is a great honour,
and a task we should well be able to accomplish,
but it will require courage to let go of over-busyness.
May God be with us today
as we continue to celebrate Advent
and set our faces towards a Christmas birth.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

We have wilderness and dry land
at the heart of Australia.
We may not venture into it very often but we know it is there,
it has its place on our maps.
More familiar to us, however,
is the wilderness in our own hearts, the empty spaces in our own lives, the desert of longings
that engulf us at Christmas.
Wilderness is a hard place,
but also a place of beauty and grace, revealed by its sunsets and sunrises, the glow of ancient rocks,
the moon shining on the sand.
Do not be afraid
of the desert places in your life, for it is here
that the Good News
may be heard most profoundly.
May it be so.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

Prayers of petition
Preceded by the reading of James 5: 7-10
God, help us to be patient,
when we feel disappointed or frustrated about our lives.
You call us beloved,
and remind us to wait
as farmers wait for crops to grow.
Strengthen our hearts,
through the presence of Your Spirit, and help us to wait and to hold on.
Save us from grumbling
about each other’s faults and failings, and help us to be compassionate.
May we who read
the letter of James,
find its words full of encouragement. Amen.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

Statement of faith
(May be used following the reading, or sermon)
Luke 1: 46-55
Our souls magnify the Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour,
for God looks with favour upon us
and sees our unrealized potential.
In the tradition of Mary,
and all who have said “yes” to God, we stand here today,
to add our assent to theirs.
Like Mary, we feel overwhelmed;
we wonder if we are worthy,
or capable, of following the calling. Like Mary, we have our questions
and we will not be afraid to ask them. Like Mary, we will hear and ponder
the assurance that God will empower us. Like Mary we will strive to say –
“Let it be with us according to your will.”
To whatever God is inviting of us at this time in our lives,
and relying on God’s grace,
we say “yes.”
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

Reflection on Mary
Things don’t have to be factual to be true. I don’t really know what in fact happened or what in faith happened around the birth of Jesus. Stepping into the story with a sense of mystery and wonder, I stumble across truths that take me deeper into my own story and the common story we live together.
I think of Mary who was probably 13-14 years-old. She was told of a mystery beyond comprehension that she was to birth Love into the world. The Law would have demanded an unwed pregnant teenage girl be stoned to death. Mary would have known that. Yet, Mary said, “Yes, let it be.” I can’t even fathom the courage, grace and grit of this young woman who became the mother of Jesus.
There’s another story where Jesus stood between a group of self-righteous men with stones in their hands ready to stone to death a woman accused of adultery. Was Jesus thinking about his mother remembering her courage and grace? Jesus would have understood in ways most men didn’t, and still don’t, the oppression women faced. Jesus chose to stand with the woman, affirm her worth and liberate her from the oppression she was experiencing at the hands of self-righteous men. Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the male religious leaders knowing it could cost him his life. In the face of such fierce love, each man dropped their stones and walked away.
I wonder if Jesus was thinking about his mother and found courage in her courage. I wonder if Jesus found his “Yes” in Mary’s “Yes.”
I think of Mary’s courage and remember those, especially women, who show us what courage and fierce love looks like saying “Yes,” bringing forth life in a world that constantly deals in death.
I can’t prove the facts of either story and, to me, that’s not important. What’s important is that I am confronted with a deep truth in these stories that invites me to say “Yes” to myself, to others, to God.
Where is Love waiting for you to say, “Yes!”?
(Source: Rev Steve Koski, Facebook post, December 2019)

In the tender mercy of our God, 
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. 
The peace of the Lord be always with you. 
And also with you. 


O Come O Come Emmanuel (Susan Wickham)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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