St Mary’s Sunday Service for Sunday 6th December 2020

We are truly grateful to our Interim Pastor, Revd Canon Alison Peden, who has provided us with this service to follow

There is NO service at St Mary’s this Sunday

Our AGM will be held by way of a Telephone Conference Call at 11.30

Advent 2    6th December 2020:     ‘Make His paths straight’

Preparation:  Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: the first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.   

Lord have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Collect:  Stir up our hearts, Lord, to prepare the way of your only-begotten Son: that, in his coming, we might serve you with our hearts made pure; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

Reading:  Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Go up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift up your voice, fear not;  say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’
See, the Lord God coming with power, coming to rule with his mighty arm.  He brings the reward for the people of God, the recompense for those who are saved.  God will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will hold them to his breast, and gently lead those that are with young.

Gospel:  Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” ’.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Reflection:  This Sunday is the feast day of St Nicholas of Myra, a bishop in Asia Minor in the 3rd/4th century.  We know him, of course, as ‘Santa Claus’, a jolly fellow who brings presents to children.  That tradition is based on the story that he helped a penniless father of three girls, who feared that they would have to be sold into prostitution.  St Nicholas secretly dropped three bags of gold coins through their window so that the father could give a dowry to each daughter and ensure they were safely married.

At this time of year, when we ourselves can look forward to the ‘good cheer’ of Christmas, our thoughts turn to those who are struggling with financial worries, the loss of a job, the breakdown of a relationship, homelessness.  There are so many problems and so much suffering in the world – what can we do about it?

Isaiah – and Jesus – talk about ‘preparing the way of the Lord, making his way straight’.  But Isaiah also reminds us that God is the shepherd, who will gather the lambs and protect their mothers. Our job is to make that more possible, more straightforward for God, clearing the obstacles of poverty, injustice and indifference.

St Nicholas prepared the way for God to lead the three daughters into a safe and fulfilling life through giving them money.  The saints around us whom we celebrated last month, enabled e.g. deprived schoolchildren to flourish and Masai herdsmen to have land to farm,

We do what we can, we clear the path of obstacles, and then we pray for God to shepherd his lambs into the safety and warmth of his love, so that they may grow and become all that he created them to be.

Prayers of intercession
Mighty God, your prophets called people to change the way they lived and to prepare themselves for the coming of your Son. Raise up, we pray, prophetic voices in our own time. Enable us to discern the truth which draws us closer to you, and to respond to its call.

Creator God, we pray for your world and the problems faced by so many of your children, especially those who live under the threat of war and poverty, hunger and homelessness. Help us to care and to share and to give generously whenever we can in the same way that you gave us your son Jesus Christ at the first Christmas.

Merciful God, may your blessing be upon all those who are sick, in pain, anxious or troubled. Be close to those passing through dark places, to those undergoing treatments at home or in hospital. We give thanks for all doctors, nurses, carers and scientists and pray that you will sustain and refresh them.

Loving God, give rest to those who have gone from our lives to be with you. May they now live the life eternal and rest in everlasting peace in your presence.  Strengthen the bereaved with the knowledge of your loving presence in this their time of greatest need.

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

The Great Thanksgiving
Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God,
for it is right to give our thanks and praise.
              Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
              Hosanna in the highest!

Worship and praise belong to you, God our maker. Out of nothing, you called all worlds to be, and still you draw the universe to its fulfilment. Dawn and evening celebrate your glory till time shall be no more. In Christ your Son the life of heaven and earth were joined, sealing the promise of a new creation, given, yet still to come.
Taught by your Spirit, we who bear your threefold likeness look for the City of Peace in whose light we are transfigured and the earth transformed. As children of your redeeming purpose who await with eager longing the fulfilment of all things in the coming of your Son, we offer you our praise, with angels and archangels          and the whole company of heaven singing the hymn of your unending glory:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.      
Hosanna in the highest.

Glory and thanksgiving be to you. most loving Father. In Jesus you showed us yourself. Our hope is built on him, the first, the last, the living one. Obedient, even to accepting death, he opened the gate of glory and calls us now to share the life of heaven.
Before he was given up to suffering and death, alight with the vision of a feast that heralded a kingdom yet to come, at supper with his disciples he took bread and offered you thanks. He broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying:  “Take, eat. This is my Body: it is broken for you.”
After supper, he took the cup, he offered you thanks, and gave it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my Blood of the new covenant; it is poured out for you, and for all, that sins may be forgiven. Do this in remembrance of me.”
We now obey your Son’s command. We recall his blessed Passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension; and we look for the coming of his Kingdom. Made one with him, we offer you ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice. Hear us, most merciful Father, and send your Holy Spirit upon us that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, we may be kindled with the fire of your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.
Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s Body to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets, and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be to you, Lord of all ages,
world without end. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:   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 Communion:   draw close to Christ in spirit and thanksgiving,
and be nourished by his presence with you and within you. 

Closing prayer: O God, who set before us the great hope that your Kingdom shall come on earth and taught us to pray for its coming:
give us grace to discern the signs of its dawning and to work for the perfect day when the world shall reflect your glory, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

This wonderful Advent hymn of hope and promise is sung at:

Hail to the Lord’s anointed; great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free,
To take away transgressions, and rule in equity.

He comes, with succour speedy, to those who suffer wrong:
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong:
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turned to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, were precious in His sight.

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth:
And love, joy, hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth:
Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace the herald go;
And righteousness in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

Kings shall fall down before Him, and gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him, his praise all people sing;
To Him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end.

O’er every foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious, all blessing and all-blest.
The tide of time shall never his covenant remove;
His name shall stand for ever, His changeless name of love.