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4th Sunday of Advent

What follows is a worship service which, I pray, you can participate in at a time(s) that are convenient to you. This 'service' will take about forty five (45) minutes.

I pray that you will feel called to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this service.

The text that is in regular typeface (that is what you are reading at the moment) is to be read quietly, while the text that is in
bold face (like you are reading right now) is meant to be read aloud.

Opening Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we commence our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A Call To Worship:

We meet in the name of God,

Creator of the universe,

source of true humanity,

mother and father of all. Amen.

An Assurance of Forgiveness:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

The Absolution
00:00 / 00:18

The Sentence For Today (let us say aloud):

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

The Special Prayer For Today (let us pray aloud):

God of all hope and joy,
open our hearts in welcome,
that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming
may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our first reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
00:00 / 02:14

Our second reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Romans 16:25-27
00:00 / 00:44

Gradual Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we raise out voices in praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A reading from the holy gospel according to Saint Luke.

Luke 1:26-38
00:00 / 01:58

Listen to David speak to this gospel

Nothing is impossible!
00:00 / 12:02

or, if you prefer, you can read the sermon, below:

Sermon "Advent 4", 24th Dec 2023

MAY the words of my mouth and the meditations in our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. <Amen>

Are you tired of hearing messages about Advent and the coming Christ-child - - - after all you hear them year after year! I mean, come on, be honest, how many times can a speaker really breathe life and vitality into Advent and Christmas messages?

Even most non-Christians know the basics of the story. So, speaking to, and listening to, to the birth of Jesus can easily become just another part of the routine of being Christian!

DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! Do we become so familiar with the birth narrative of Jesus that maybe we now fail to recall its importance in the life of Christ and the life that Christ gives? <PAUSE>

Do we abdicate Advent because we are too familiar with the Sunday terms - Hope, Peace, Joy, Love? Do we muddle the message with a half-hearted attitude? We need to revitalise Advent and Christmas … so … sit up !! Pay attention!!

The gospel passage we have just shared, “The Annunciation to Mary” IS A TRULY REMARKABLE TEXT … it’s the story of “The Impossible Possibility of Our God” !! <PAUSE>

This story of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is surrounded by the seemingly impossible.

The angel’s confession that “nothing is impossible for God” must have truly stunned Mary and then she goes on to finds its deepest meaning in that a barren, elderly woman is pregnant, and that she, Mary, a young teenage girl from a ‘nothing’ town is “favoured” by God.

Once again, our imaginations - limited by our human-ness - are turned upside down. These things just don’t happen .… or do they ?

Do you get this? Do you grasp the enormity of what is being said and what is about to take place?

One of the greatest challenges of speaking to this gospel is somehow to create the movement from impossible to possible, to let God’s possibility ring anew and true and whole when all we know in OUR world, in OUR experiences, in OUR understanding, in OUR lives, it’s beyond or initial grasp.

I’ve actually sat in Christian meetings and listened to some of my beloved sisters unable to accept the Virgin birth! They state that, from their human training and understanding, it’s just impossible. Our frail humanity at work. As always, I say, “Don’t worry … it’s perfectly okay for us to believe in something that we don’t understand.”
Mary herself acknowledges the impossible possibility of God with her first response to Gabriel. She is utterly perplexed. She ponders, debates with herself, about the angel’s greeting when the only thing Gabriel has said so far is, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” Mary’s initial response - this pondering (read : significant pause) - is a reflection of how stunned she is; and yet, the angel has barely said a thing!

Why is Mary bewildered? I’m calling attention to Mary’s response to the angel’s first words to emphasise to what extent Mary cannot believe this impossible possibility. Me? Who am I? Why am I favoured? How can the Lord be with me? She knows her place. She knows who she is. This should not be happening!

Gabriel then tells her the big news that she’s going to be pregnant with a son, but not just any son, the Son of the Most High, no less, from the lineage of David, with a never-ending kingdom. OK. What? Yeah … right …. “How can this be?”

Can you hear the disbelief and total incredulity in Mary’s voice? Or, do you just sit there and think, “I’ve heard this story before - no big deal!” <PAUSE>

if you do - that relegates Mary’s true astonishment to “nothingness” and misses the grace and majesty of our God who’s love is beyond our understanding! Nothing is impossible for our God and in His love He is sending His only begotten Son to US to be

Conceived by the Holy Spirt, and born of a virgin called Mary.

The Impossible Possibility of God !!!

This is real knock-yer-sock-off stuff. <PAUSE>

Oh we often frail humans … because, honestly, how can we ever grow tired of hearing of the glory of our God who makes all things possible? Who transforms a virgin to a mother; a peasant girl to the mother of God?

How can we ever fail to recognise that these events of Annunciation and Incarnation changed the world AND took a wretch like me from denial to discipleship.

So … let’s GET REAL and acknowledge the Impossible Possibilities of God !!

Let’s allow Mary’s story to move us all from who we think we are to what God has called us to be, from quiet believers to confessing apostles.

Let’s allow Mary’s story to open our hearts to the impossible possibilities of God and the never-ending love that the Christ-child brings to us this final Sunday of Advent 2023, this Christmas Eve.

This promise of love in the coming Christ-child - - - THIS is the promise of Christmas.

I runga e te Ingoa o te Atua, te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit <AMINE>

Pause and Reflect

Just take a moment now to pause. Bow your head, close your eyes.
 

Allow these words of Holy Scripture and this interpretation of them today to speak to you.

An Affirmation of Our Faith

Let us affirm our faith by saying aloud, and together, "The Apostles Creed":

apostles_creed_pic02.jpg
Image by Allef Vinicius

... and now let us pray for the Church, the World, and Ourselves, giving thanks for God's goodness.

​Let us pray aloud, and together:

Lord God, we join our prayers to those of Mary, Your faithful servant and mother of our Lord, to proclaim Your greatness, and sing in gratitude for all Your wonderful gifts bestowed on us, Your lowly servants. Lord, we pray, look down with love upon Your people around the world as day by day we struggle to be a body worthy of Jesus’ name. Be with us as we focus on the coming of Your kingdom and the gift of Your son this Christmas

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

(LONGER pause for silent, personal reflection)

In response to the call today “Lord, in Your Mercy” Our plea is, “Hear our prayer”

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Mary prayed that the mighty be cast down from their thrones, we pray that those in power would use that power wisely and compassionately so that the lowly would be lifted up, the hungry fed and greater equality be established between rich and poor.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Mary’s prayer was given to God whilst on a visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  At this time of Advent and Christmas, we pray for all who are travelling to visit relatives and friends.  We give thanks for the hospitality shown by our friends and families and for our opportunity to share with them and ask that we are always aware of your presence with us in all of our parties and festivities.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Merciful God, we pray for the nations of the world especially where human failings interfere with service to others to produce tyranny, warfare, where the divide between rich and poor is beyond imagination and where people have been hungry for so long that many have never experienced a satisfying and sustaining meal.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Father God we pray for those whose children cannot take part in Christmas celebrations because of the expense; those who put themselves seriously into debt attempting to meet expectations; those who may have to use food-banks for a Christmas meal.  Help us to do all that we can through our prayers and through our giving to the local and international charities that are helping the less fortunate.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Mary recognised Your promise of mercy; Lord we ask you to show Your mercy on all who are sick, fearful or in mourning and especially we pray for those members of our communities, families and friends who we now name before you.

We especially raise before you all those who have asked for our prayers from around the world … those we know in New Zealand, in Singapore, in Argentina, in France, in Australia, in the US, in Canada, in Austria, in Ukraine, in China and any others we now name aloud, or in the silence of our hearts, and those who are known only by you.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, You sent to earth the gift of Your son Jesus Christ that in Your power and love we might also have the gift of eternal life; bless those whom we love that have departed this life with the gifts of Your all-encompassing love and life eternal.

As we remember them and give thanks for their faithful lives, may they, all of the saints who have gone before us, now rest in peace, having risen in glory to spend eternity gazing upon the face of the Risen Christ.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Heavenly father, in a moment of silence we place before you our personal prayers for ourselves, our families, our friends, for all of those whom we love and, for our personal ministries.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of the promised saviour: fill us Your servants with Your grace, that in all things we may embrace Your holy will and with her rejoice in Your salvation; send us out to finish our Advent journey filled with hope, peace, joy and love ready to receive that promise afresh into our lives.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Forth in the peace of Christ we go; Christ to the world with joy we bring; Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips, Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

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

lord's_prayer_pic01_edited.jpg

Remembering that we are confident to pray this day, and every day, because Jesus Christ continues to teach us:
 

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.   Amen.

Let us conclude our prayers by praying together and aloud:

 

God of mercy,
you have given us grace to pray with one heart and one voice,
and have promised to hear the prayers
of two or three who agree in your name,
fulfil now, we pray,
the prayers and longings of your people
as may be best for us and for your kingdom.
Grant us in this world to know your truth,
and in the world to come to see your glory. Amen.

The Blessing

May The Risen Lord Christ turn His face towards each and every one of you.

May He cause His light to shine upon you, and

may He grant you His peace, and

 

The blessing of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be with you and all of those whom you love,

on this day and forever more.

A Closing Hymn:

Let us conclude our worship today by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we unite in another hymn our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

The Dismissal

Go now, go out into the world

to love and serve The Lord.

 

Go in peace.

AMEN, we go in the name of Christ.

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