Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources
Year A, Purple
|Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :|
|Intercessions from our Sunday worship|
We are told that wherever it was that Mary gave birth, it was only chosen because the first choice was not available to them. In the nativity story according to the BBC, the reason there was no room was because nobody would have the adulteress under their roof. There might be a point here. Why could Joseph not find any relatives in his own town who will give up their own room when his wife is giving birth? It is hard to imagine circumstances in which people will be so cruel. Sadly it has to be said that religion itself and cultural pride will often drive people to unbelievable depths of cruelty. Even today there are those who believe that women should be killed for sexual offences. Parents will kill their own daughters, courts will condemn women to be stoned to death - even today. So perhaps it is unsurprising that Mary and Joseph are not welcomed. We all know that it is impossible to keep a secret in Bedford a town of 160,000, keeping some juicy gossip about sexual indiscretion quiet in Bethlehem with a few thousand folks would be impossible. Mary would live with a constant stain on her character and know what it was to have people talk behind her back about her poor morality.
Opening Verse of Scripture— Luke 1:79
The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."
Collect for Christmas Eve - Before we read we pray
Almighty God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ. Grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship & Methodist Worship
Almighty God, as we prepare with joy to celebrate the gift of the Christ-child, embrace the earth with your glory and be for us a living hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect
God, faithful and true, make us eager in expectation, as we look for the fulfilment of your promise in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Collect for Christmas Night
Eternal God, who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of your one true light: bring us, who have known the revelation of that light on earth, to see the radiance of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship
Eternal God, in the stillness of this night you sent your almighty Word to pierce the world's darkness with the light of salvation: give to the earth the peace that we long for and fill our hearts with the joy of heaven through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Common Worship Shorter Collect
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Second Reading Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Gospel Reading Luke 2:1-20
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Post Communion Prayer
God our Father, in this night you have made known to us again the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him until the day dawns and Christ the Morning Star rises in our hearts. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
I wonder if this year you have had the opportunity to watch the Nativity on BBC 1 ?
It is in some ways quite refreshing to see what tries to be realistic presentation of the Christmas story. For some people it will be the first time that they have considered the Christmas story because they have seen it on the television. I am not sure what you thought of it but actually I thought that it was done well. It makes a refreshing change at Christmas to see something in the media of value which doesn’t just knock God, Jesus or the Church.
What did I like about it? Well it shows the vulnerability of the whole event. The message of Christmas is about God taking a huge risk and becoming part of the frailty of humanity. God becomes human in the form of a baby, this is an event which we struggle to get our minds around. It would have been so much easier for God just to appear in the desert a fully grown man, but instead we know that Jesus was born as a baby and grows up as a child and young man. God shares in growing up like we do and that was a huge risk.
The BBC Nativity captures the vulnerability of the first Christmas in a way which I thought was very helpful. We often think of Mary and Joseph setting off on their big adventure together with the little donkey. But it surely wasn’t a happy journey, it was dangerous hard work. We need to question why Mary would go off together with Jospeh in the first place, given that it was Joseph who had to register. Why did he not leave her in the safety of her parents at home?
The BBC Nativity tries to answer this by showing the young girl Mary, who is confused and worried and at risk in her home. She is disbelieved by her parents, stoned by the locals and has to escape with a reluctant Joseph who agrees to take her to Bethlehem for her own safety. Even then Joseph can’t bear to speak with Mary until slowly events start to convince him that what he imagined in a dream really is true and Mary is telling the truth.
In the BBC Nativity we see the Magi who also place themselves at risk because they venture into the land of King Herod. Herod is portrayed as a mad foul beast and indeed he was. When he came to power he murdered the entire Sanhedrin. Herod also murdered two of his own sons, which prompted Caesar Augustus himself to say, "It is safer to be a pig in a parent's household than to be a son in Herod's court." It is interesting to consider what it means when we are told Herod "diligently inquired" (akribao) of the Magi where the child was to be born. Did he have them waterboarded?
God chooses Mary, chooses the situation of weakness and vulnerability. When God makes that decision he puts the baby at risk. There is no royal birth, no armed guard. God abandons the concept of safety and allows Jesus to become subject to the same vagaries of life that we are subjected to. Soon the Holy Family will have to leave Bethlehem because Herod will give orders for children to be killed. They will flee to Egypt as refugees. As an aside I want to say how pleased I am that this year there will be no children detained in Yarlswood over Christmas. It is a stain on our nation that we imprisoned refugee children who has committed no crime and the fact that it has ended gives me great pleasure this Christmas. Well done to all of those who fought against it, including some senior church figures.
My vision of the nativity scene is always influenced by visiting the location now preserved as the birthplace in Bethlehem. The church of the nativity was built by Constantine’s mother in the 4th century and under the church is a cave where pilgrims visit the place believed to be where Jesus was born. Alongside is another cave where Jerome translated the Bible into Latin about 400AD
We will never know for sure what or where the place was, and the story on the BBC showed a more traditional stable affair with animals around. But there are important clues in the Bible to what was going on.
She laid him in a manger. You only do this if things have gone wrong. Choosing to lie a child in an animal feeding trough is not what any parent would want to do.
There was no room. We are told that wherever it was that Mary gave birth, it was only chosen because the first choice was not available to them. In the nativity story according to the BBC, the reason there was no room was because nobody would have the adulteress under their roof. There might be a point here. Why could Joseph not find any relatives in his own town who will give up their own room when his wife is giving birth? It is hard to imagine circumstances in which people will be so cruel. Sadly it has to be said that religion itself and cultural pride will often drive people to unbelievable depths of cruelty. Even today there are those who believe that women should be killed for sexual offences. Parents will kill their own daughters, courts will condemn women to be stoned to death - even today. So perhaps it is unsurprising that Mary and Joseph are not welcomed. We all know that it is impossible to keep a secret in Bedford a town of 160,000, keeping some juicy gossip about sexual indiscretion quiet in Bethlehem with a few thousand folks would be impossible. Mary would live with a constant stain on her character and know what it was to have people talk behind her back about her poor morality.
Shepherds and foreigners came Little wonder then that the visitors are not close family, but shepherds and foreigners. As Sam reminded us last week, Shepherds were migrant workers who were looked down upon at the time. Magi were not God’s people they were foreigners. Isn’t there a remarkable irony that these two groups of people were unsuitable to be welcomed into religious worship, but they were the ones who God invited?
There is much to think about in this wonderful and compelling story. Perhaps the most poignant words which sum up so much of what was going on were the words ‘there was no room for them.’
Whatever is meant by the word ‘inn’, a guest house, a hotel, that is largely irrelevant. The point made is that the best place where the baby could have been born was not available for Mary, Joseph and the baby. They therefore had to find space wherever they could. There was no room in the hearts of extended family, friends, anyone they approached.
The good religious people were all so full of hatred, pride and prejudice that they had no room for Jesus. So this year we have to be the kinds of people who look for the people like Joseph and Mary, the rejected the poor. It is not our job as Christians to reprimand people, to cast judgement upon them, there are many around us who will do more than their fair share of that. It is our duty to make sure that we show such attitudes of love and acceptance that if Joseph had knocked on our door he would have been welcomed and Mary would not have been forced to give birth amongst the animals. Charles Royden
"In our own time, there are so many needs which demand a compassionate response from Christians. Our world is entering the new millennium burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity. How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads?" Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50
Are we random players in a blind universe where everything happens by chance ?
God rest you merry gentlemen
On Christmas night all Christians sin
O come all ye faithful
God, in the name of the one who gave bread to the hungry, we
remember all, who through our human ignorance, folly, and sin are condemned
to live in want. Show us, who have so much, what we can do to help those who
have so little; and bless the efforts of those who work to overcome poverty
and hunger, that sufficient food may be found for all; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. Church of Scotland
All-powerful God, let the splendour of your glory rise in our hearts like the dawn, that the darkness of the night may be scattered and the coming of your only Son may reveal us as children of the light. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.
Drive from me, O King of Peace, all vain and idle thoughts. Let my soul dwell on your love. Grant me peace of heart and quietness of the mind. Grant me the grace of your presence. Having begun a great work in me let it continue to the end and, in the end, that I may pass at last into the glory of your kingdom; for your own name’s sake. Amen Henry Lunn, 1859-1939