URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th December 2020

worship for challenging times

Order of Service

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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 27th December 2020

Christmas 1 – Holy Innocents

Opening Music Carol of the Bells sung by Libera
 
Introduction
 
Hello and welcome to this special Daily Devotions service where we think of a darker part of the Christmas story.  Sometimes we don’t always get what we wished for, sometimes the thing we long for turns out not to be what we wanted or needed.  
 
In the middle of the Christmas season the church jumps to the end of the story – the horrific slaughter of the children by Herod.  Sequentially this part of the story takes place after Epiphany but this event is always marked between Christmas itself and Epiphany.  Today, then, we reflect on the darker side of the Christmas story and unite ourselves with all who suffer
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.
 
Hymn       What Child Is This?
                W C Chatterton Dix
 
What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?
 
2 Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
 
This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
 
3 So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
 
Raise, raise the Son on high.
The Virgin sings her lullabye
Joy, joy for Christ is born
The babe, the son of Mary

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Lord
 
We come to you to worship together today, 
people who have been walking in a cloud of darkness, 
looking forward to a time when your light is shining brightly once again.
Open our hearts in joy and praise
 
There are times when the flame of our faith is dim
The candle is about to go out, 
Keep us strong in your grace and allow our light to shine brightly once more
Open our eyes to the brightness of your love
 
We can often become introspective, 
Concerned only with our own problems and issues
Ignoring those who are struggling in the world around us
Open our ears to hear the call of those you love
 
When we lose our way and the path is dark
Lord, remind us that your light shines to guide us through
Help us to see that the road is not blocked 
Allow us to follow in your footsteps
 
Many of us struggle with doubts and questions
Wondering if our prayers and contemplations have been misplaced
Forgive us Lord, when we lose heart
Remind us that you are always with us 
 
When events around the world through us into confusion
When emptiness is surrounding us and
We are struggling to find your love and understanding in others
Rekindle our faith and provide our soul with peace
 
Forgive us Lord when we stumble and fall, 
Help us to get back on our feet and follow the teachings of your son,
And hear us now as we join together in the prayer he taught us saying:
 
Our Father who art in heaven…
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Lord, 
 
Open our eyes to see your message today
Open our ears and allow us to hear to your message today
Open our hearts and souls, allow us to understand your message today
Open our mouths and voices that we may spread your message to all 
 
Amen
 
St Matthew 2: 16-18
 
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
 
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
 
Meditation of Herod 
 
Could they have been right, those visitors from the East?
Were they not so misguided after all?
I laughed when they first arrived,
rambling on about a star like that –
a bunch of cranks I thought,
but we humoured them just in case.
 
They were wealthy after all,
the sort who might well show appreciation worth having.
So I called together the chief priests,
summoned the scribes,
and set them to work –
about time they did something useful.
But what did they come up with?
 
Bethlehem, that’s what!
Foretold apparently by the prophet Micah.
Bethlehem! I ask you!
That provincial backwater!
It’s in the middle of nowhere,
hardly the place for a king to be born.
 
No, it would have to be Jerusalem,
any fool could have told them that,
but it was all academic anyway,
no king had been born;
well, I’d have been the first to know, wouldn’t I?
Stands to reason.
 
Unless some usurper, some would-be Messiah,
had designs on my throne;
there’s always enough of those –
blasted troublemakers!
 
But I couldn’t see it,
not after what we did to the last imposter.
 
No, I didn’t pay much attention,
but just in case I told them to come back,
let me know when they found him
so that I could pay my respects in turn.
 
They never did, of course –
never expected them to either.
No doubt slunk off home with their tails between their legs.
Yet I’ve not been able to sleep these last few days,
not since I heard this rumour doing the rounds –
three strangers apparently,
who turned up in Bethlehem and offered gifts,
costly gifts,
gold, frankincense and myrrh,
and all for some child not yet out of his cradle.
 
There may be nothing in it, of course,
but it sounds like them, doesn’t it?
 
And if it was, then who was the child?
What did they know about him?
Why didn’t they come back?
Could there be something going on,
some plot I don’t know about,
a rival to my throne?
 
Could it be that prophet knew what he was talking about, all those years ago?
It’s unlikely, I grant you, but I’m making certain,
deadly certain –
just in case they were right.
 
Hymn       Coventry Carol
                 English Traditional
 
Lullay, lullay, my little tiny child,
Bye bye, lullay, lullay.
My little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
 
O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling of whom we do sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay?”
 
Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All children young to slay.
 
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting nor say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.”
 
Lullay, lullay, my little tiny child,
Bye bye, lullay, lullay.
My little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

St Matthew 2: 13 – 15
 
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  Then Joseph  got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,  and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
 
Meditation of a Mother in Bethlehem.
 
It was though all hell was let loose,
    the most terrible day in my life,
    as suddenly the soldiers burst in up us –
    cold,
    cruel,
    clinical –
    westing our little ones from us,
   ignoring our screams for mercy,
    their screams of terror,
    and hacking them down in cold blood before our very eyes.
 
There are simply no words to describe how we felt –
     the fear,
     the horror,
     the emptiness,
     the rage,
     and above all, the helplessness –
     unable to do anything but watch grief-stricken
     as our world fell to pieces.
 
One moment life was full of promise,
      the next, utterly bereft.
One moment we were laughing with our children,
      and the next sobbing our hearts out as we laid them to rest.
 
Why did it have to happen?
What could have possessed even Herod to do such a thing?
and, most of all, how could God ever have allowed it?
I’ll never understand that, as long as I love – never!
It’s thrown a cloud over everything, even faith itself,
    for I can’t help thinking of an event not so very different,
    that moment of our nation’s deliverance,
    centuries back, from Egypt,
    when, after the death of their firstborn,
     Pharaoh at last let our people go.
 
A glorious chapter in our history, so they tell us,
    and maybe it was,
    but I can’t help thinking of all those mums
    and the agony they must have gone through,
    while we skipped away to freedom.
 
We were spared then of course –
     the blood of a lamb setting us apart –
      but not this time –
      this time we were left to face the full force of unbridle evil,
       hatred incarnate,
       humanity at its most vile –
       and all, apparently, because Herod heard some rumour
       that the Messiah had been born
       somewhere here in Bethlehem.
 
How much longer must it go on?
How much more suffering must there be,
    before God decides to do something about it?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me
    if he really loves this world as he says he does,
    then it’s about time he provided another lamb,
    another sacrifice,
    just like he provided before,
    only this time one to save not just a few of us,
    those specially chosen, set apart,
    but everyone.
 
Hymn       Unto Us Is Born a Son
                 Unknown, 15th Century

 

1. Unto us is born a son,
King of choirs supernal:
See on earth his life begun,
Of lords the Lord eternal.
 
2. Christ, from heav’n descending low,
Comes on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their Owner know
Now cradled in a manger.
 
3. This did Herod sore affray,
And did him bewilder,
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer.

4. Of his love and mercy mild
Hear the Christmas story:
O that Mary’s gentle Child
Might lead us up to glory!
 
5. O and A and A and O,
Cantemus in choro,
Voice and organ, sing we so,
Benedicamus Domino.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
Let us join together in our prayers for others, let us pray:
 
Lord, 
 
We pray today for all those who are finding their faith growing dim, for the lonely who have no one to share the joy of advent with: may they feel the care and love of Jesus in the friendship of others
 
For the hungry who are unable to feed themselves and their families
We give thanks for the help of many, for the foodbanks and charities
We pray that they receive the help and support available
 
For the homeless who are lucky if they find a doorway to shelter in 
We give thanks for the people providing support around the streets of our towns and cities
For the homeless shelters and the support of charities
 
Lord, we pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one at this time
distraught and empty, full of confusion
Help them to feel your arms around them offering support and love 
 
For those who are coping with illness and disease 
Restricted from the love and care of their families as they receive treatment
Allow them to grow stronger in the knowledge that you are with them
 
We hold all emergency workers in our thoughts and prayers,
For those who are working long hours to provide support for the most vulnerable
Provide them the strength and resources to cope with the stresses of this time
 
We pray for the leaders throughout our world, provide them with guidance and patience 
Allow them to make the best decisions for the many and not the few
Remind them that they are responsible for the care of their people
 
Today, we also hold in our hearts, 
those who are close to us but feel far away
Those who are hurting and lost to your light
Those who have lost their way and are struggling to find your path
 
We bring them to you now in this time of silence….
 
Strengthen our faith and resilience that we may help others in need
 
Enhance our hope and allow us to shine your light for all to see
 
Fill us with joy that we may share the joy of Jesus’ birth with all we meet
 
Allow our souls to be at peace, as we hold the fragile earth in our hearts today.
Until we meet again in your name we pray.  Amen
 
Offertory
 
Take our gifts, Loving God, 
our gifts of time, talent and treasurer,
and use them, and us, to make a difference in our world
that the innocent may no longer be slaughtered,
the corrupt no longer enrich themselves,
the poor no longer be hungry
and the oppressed no longer suffer,
may your Kingdom come, O Lord,
and let us be part of it.
Amen.
 
Hymn       On This Day Earth Shall Ring
                 Personet Hodie from Piae Cantiones, 1582
                 trans. Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929)
 

On this day earth shall ring
with the song children sing
to the Lord, Christ our King,
born on earth to save us;
him the Father gave us.
 
Id-e-o-o-o, id-e-o-o-o,
Id-e-o gloria in excelsis Deo!

2. God’s bright star, o’er his head,
Wise Men three to him led;
kneel they low by his bed,
lay their gifts before him,
praise him and adore him. 
 

3. On this day angels sing;
with their song earth shall ring,
praising Christ, heaven’s King,
born on earth to save us;
peace and love he gave us.



Blessing
 
Lord Jesus, may your light shine our way
As once it guided the steps of the magi
That we too maybe led into your presence and worship you
 
The child of Mary
The word of the Father
The king of nations
The saviour of mankind
To whom be glory forever. Amen
 
Closing Music Masters in the Hall – 2009 HSPVA Madrigal Choir
 
Sources
Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas (C) 2001 Nick Fawcett.  Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
 
Carol of the Bells sung by Libera
What Child Is this? – W C Chatterton Dix. Sung by The Gardiner Sisters
Coventry Carol – English Traditional. Sung by Annie Lennox
Unto Us Is Born a Son – Unknown, 15th Century. From Kleinkoor Caprice.
On This Day Earth Shall Ring– Personet Hodie from Piae Cantiones, 1582. Trans. Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929). Sung by Kings College Choir
Masters in the Hall. 2009 HSPVA Madrigal Choir.
 
Thanks to…
… Andy Braunston and Lesley Thomson
 
Thanks to Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Dan Morrell, Rachel Harvey, Anne Hewling, John Wilcox, Karen Smith, Tina Wheeler, Philip Jones, John Young and Pam Carpenter for reading spoken parts of the service.
 

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