Second Sunday of Christmas

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Opening Hymn

Reading Ephesians 1:3-14 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Sermon by Colin Udall

A man’s car stalled in the heavy traffic as the light turned green. All his efforts to start the engine
failed, and a chorus of honking behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car and
walked back to the first driver and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll
go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and blow your horn for you.”

There is also the old Jewish story of a man talking to God. “God is it true that a sack of gold is like
a penny to you and that a thousand years is like a minute to you?” God replies, “Yes, son, it is
true”.
The man says “God, can you give me a penny?”
God says, “In a minute.”

If we look at a picture in a gallery, we have to stand back. Perhaps, like me, you have been doing
jigsaws over Christmas. Certainly I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of friends who have proudly
finished their puzzles. When you are working on a jigsaw, you only see the portion of the puzzle
you are working on. You keep in mind other colours and lines that you might need elsewhere, but
you are focussed on the piece in your hand and where it might fit. It is only when you have
finished that you may stand back and look at the whole picture and reflect on the ease (or
otherwise) with which it came together.

If you look at a painting of a family picnic where dogs and children are playing whilst the adults are
sitting on the blanket by the picnic basket, you can see different things as you focus on parts of the
painting. If you do this, you see a painting of children playing or a dog worrying at a stick. You
might see a picture of a couple romantically having a picnic in the park or you may see a painting
of a tree with a canopy of blue sky. It is only when you stand back that you see the whole picture
of the family, not several pictures on one canvas. But these several portions make a whole
painting.

Our Bible can be similar to this. We can read a story of Joseph and his multi-coloured coat. We
can read another story of an old man called Abraham who finally has a miracle baby with his old
wife, Sarah. We can read another story about a great king called David, who started as a
shepherd boy, had a very troubled and conflicting relationship with God and people around him,
yet it was from his descendants that God promised a great one who would change the world. And
then we can read of this Son of God who did indeed, change the world.

These stories are all contained in one book. But these stories didn’t all take place at once.
Imagine Abraham having to wait 25 years between the promise God made of him having a child
with Sarah and that promise coming true. There was 1000 years between King David and Jesus.
We have to stand back and look at the whole picture, the whole Bible and see where the pieces,
these separate stories fit into the whole story of God and His people.

The disciple Peter in his letters seems to get impatient with God because Jesus said that he would
come again, and some 30 years after Peter has witnessed the resurrection and Jesus’ promises in
person, his second coming hasn’t happened. He has to remind himself and others who are
impatient too, that God keeps his promises, but they don’t all happen immediately. God’s minute,
we are reminded in the earlier story, can be 1000 years. The gap between David and Jesus was
only a minute to God. God was being patient with His promises and He expects us to be patient,
too.

As we start a new year, I am currently back on furlough because the tier 4 restrictions mean that
people should not be leaving home and so fewer people are visiting the place where I work. Tier 4
restrictions mean that St. Paul’s PCC have taken decisions about closing the church to encourage
people to stay at home. Our neighbouring church at Astley have taken the decision to close until
the vaccine programme takes affect. Each of these things impacts us as individuals, but we have to step back and see the wider picture of where we as individuals and as a Christian community sit
in the wider world of coronavirus, infection rates and Government rules. Just because we can
open our church doesn’t mean that we should.

As we start a new year, we see the headlines about a vaccine for the Coronavirus and our
expectations are set for an early return to normality, whatever a new normality might be for us after
such a catastrophic world-wide pandemic. Things may change over time to a new way of living.
Those of us that fly to our holidays think nothing of the normality of having our bags screened and
searched, of having to take off shoes and belts, of not taking drinks onto the planes and so on. But
only a few years ago, this new normal at airports and flight protocol wasn’t heard of. It took the
catastrophic events of 9/11 to change that. So, things may change; some of them quickly, others
may take time. We should be patient. The vaccine may take a long time to get to some of us. My
dad had his first jab yesterday. I may not get mine for the foreseeable future. My sons may have
to wait a long time. Whatever the promises of getting 2 million vaccines a week by spring, there
are many logistics that have to be put into place and there are variations of the vaccine that may
come into play.

God shows us patience. God works in the much wider picture that we have to stand back and see.
We can be like the child in the back seat of a car, continuously asking “Are we there yet?” and we
give our appropriate response, with a smile on the first time of asking, maybe less of a smile on the
twentieth, but still imploring patience. If we ask God, maybe the conversation would go along the
lines of:
“Are we there yet?” No – you need to learn to trust My control more.
“Are we there yet?” No – you need to understand that life isn’t always smooth.
“Are we there yet?” No – you still don’t rely on My strength.
It’s all about patience … waiting well each and every day.
Are you willing to do that?

I’m not one for making New Year Resolutions, but I do resolve to be patient as God shows us the
bigger picture.
Amen

Intercessions written by St Padarn’s

Trusting in God’s care for his children,
we pray in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

For those who are sick
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36:5

We pray for those who are unwell due to the coronavirus:
in your compassion, grant them strength and healing.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For our health workers
In the day of trouble you answer us, O Lord, and you protect us;
you send us help and give us support.
Psalm 20:1-2

We pray for all who minister to the sick throughout our health service,
that they may renew their strength in you
and be channels of restoration and renewal for those who suffer.
Lord, in your mercy:

For the anxious
You are near to the broken-hearted, O Lord,
and you save the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

We pray for all who are anxious about loved ones, friends and neighbours:
enable them to trust in you and be steadfast in hope.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For the lonely and the isolated
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me.
Psalm 23:4

We pray for all those who feel isolated or alone,
that they may experience your loving presence.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For the strong and the vulnerable
Lord, you raise the poor and lift the needy.
Psalm 113:7

We pray that you would inspire those who are strong
to care for the vulnerable
and to serve them in love.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For the Church
How can we sing your song, O Lord, in these strange times?
(cf. Psalm 137:4)

We pray for your Church who longs to praise you
throughout this strange and confusing time;
through your creative Spirit
fire our imaginations to proclaim your unchanging love in new ways.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For those in authority
We cast our burden upon you, O Lord,
and you sustain us.
Psalm 55:22

We pray for all in authority who face difficult decisions
that affect the lives of many;
grant them wisdom and courage.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For those engaged in research
O Lord, you are great and abundant in power;
your understanding is beyond measure
Psalm 147:5

We pray for all engaged in research,
who are seeking to develop a vaccine and remedies for coronavirus:
grant them wisdom, understanding and effectiveness in their endeavours.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For traders and employees
Lord, you are our light and our salvation; whom shall we fear?
You are the stronghold of our life; of whom shall we be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

We pray for traders and employees who are fearful of the future,
that businesses may be secured, jobs protected and families supported.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For those who face hardship
The eyes of all look to you
and you give them their food in due season.
Psalm 145:15

We pray for all those facing financial hardship
that you would support and sustain them.
We remember also those who seek to fulfil Christ’s command to love one another
through the work of foodbanks and charities
and through acts of simple kindness.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For those in education
Lord, you give strength to your people
and you bless them with peace.
Psalm 29:11

We pray for all in education at this uncertain time:
inspire those who feel bored or directionless,
protect the vulnerable
and give fresh hope to the dismayed.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For the departed
Lord, you show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Psalm 16:11

With sadness, we remember those who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus.
Give us thankful hearts for the privilege of knowing them
and strengthen our faith in your Son who died for us
and rose again in glory
that we might share in his victorious life.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

For the grieving
O God, for you alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from you.
You alone are my rock, my salvation and my fortress.
Psalm 62:5-6

We pray for those who weep and mourn,
that they may find comfort and hope in you.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

Lord of life,
in this time of crisis for our families and communities,
our nation and our world,
we turn to you in faith,
to seek your guidance
and receive your blessing,
knowing that nothing in all creation can separate us from your love
made known to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We ask this in the name of him
who took our infirmities and bore our diseases,
who suffered the cross and rose again triumphant,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end.
Amen.


COPYRIGHT
Quotations from the Psalms are taken from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989,
1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United
States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Closing Hymn

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