Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship Christmas Day 25 December 2020


Marsden Road Uniting Church 


Did You Find What You Were

Looking For?

Sunday 25th December 2020

Christmas Day year of Mark 8.30 am 

Gathering God’s People 

Acknowledgement of First Peoples 

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land. 

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)       

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Let the seas roar and the mountains quake.

Christ was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvellous things.

What has come into being in him was life, and that life was the light of all people.

Let heaven and earth break forth into joyous song, singing praises to our God.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Christ, our light, shines forth in glory. Christ, our life, brings us grace and truth. Alleluia! 

Hymn TIS 268: Joy to the world (tune – Antioch) 

1.  Joy to The World! The Lord Is Come

Let Earth Receive Her King!

Let Every Heart Prepare His Room

And Heaven and Nature Sing

And Heaven and Nature Sing

And Heaven, And Heaven and Nature Sing


2.  Joy to The World! The Savior Reigns

Let Men Their Songs Employ

While Fields and Floods

Rocks, Hills and Plains

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Repeat, Repeat the Sound Joy


3.  He Rules the World with Truth and Grace

And Makes the Nations Prove

The Glories of His Righteousness

And Wonders of His Love

And Wonders of Is Love

And Wonders and Wonders of His Love 

Author: Isaac Watts (1719)
Tune: Antioch 

     Lighting of The Christmas Candle - Unity 

     We are people who have walked in darkness, and who have sometimes walked alongside those for whom darkness is a way of life, whether by choice or through the violence of injustice or conflict.

Now we rejoice in a great light. A child has been born for us all, and we enter the promise of peace.

     Come, let us worship and adore the God who is born among us.

     God is present with us and to us!

            (Christmas Candle-lighting)

     God is in our midst as the Christ candle sits at the       centre of our prayers and longing, expressed as we have gathered over the past weeks.

     In the lighting of this candle, we stand in the miracle of Jesus’    birth. We pray that the fragility of this new dawn will reveal again the mystery and wonder of God’s love.

     It is time to cry out in joy and to proclaim the cause of those who seek justice. It is time to take the light of the Gospel of love to every corner of our lives. Glory to God, in the highest heaven.

     And on earth, peace to all people. And so, trust grows between all people and we become one. 

     Opening prayer 

God of life and light, as you came on that Christmas morning so many years ago, come to us today. Gather us into your light and love and fill us with the brightness of your glory. Shine the light of your love into the recesses of our lives, that we may walk in darkness no longer. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession 

God of love and light, you have blessed us with a priceless gift— the gift of your very self in the person of Jesus.

Forgive us, Holy One, when we deny your gift or neglect your promise in our lives. Forgive us, Mighty God, when we fail to acknowledge Christ as the reflection of your glory and majesty.

Purify our hearts, purge our sins, and make us your beloved children, that we may be full of your righteousness, grace, and love. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

Christ judges us with righteousness and equity and loves us with grace and mercy. Through the gracious gift of God, and the gift of Christ, we are forgiven!

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be with you. Share this gift of peace with all whom you see and greet.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)

A Word with the Children/Young People 

Theme: Don't mistake all the tinsel and lights for the real  

            meaning of Christmas.

Object: Some Christmas decorations, a gift, Christmas

            cookies, etc.

It's here! It's finally here! Christmas is finally here! I just love Christmas, don't you? What do you like best about Christmas? Is it the Christmas tree with its blinking lights? Maybe it's the beautiful music or the delicious Christmas goodies. Perhaps it's Christmas dinner with turkey and dressing and all of the trimmings. For some it might be all of the parties or visiting with family and friends. For many people the best thing about Christmas is the presents — both the ones we give and the ones we receive. Especially the ones we receive!

Hmm. . . Can you think of anything I have left out? Oh yes! It's someone's birthday, isn't it? Whose birthday is it? That's right! It is Jesus' birthday. You know, sometimes we get so caught up in all of the decorations, lights, parties, and presents that we miss the real Christmas.

That reminds me of a story I heard about a little boy who had always wanted to go to a circus. One day he was walking down the street when he saw a poster in a store window. The poster said that a circus was coming to town and that a ticket to the circus cost one dollar. The boy ran home and asked his father if he would give him a dollar to go to the circus on Saturday.

His father told him that if he would work hard and get all of his chores done, he would give him a dollar to go to the circus. Saturday morning came and the boy got up early and did all of his chores.

"I have all of my chores done," the boy told his dad.

The boy's father gave him a dollar and the boy headed into town filled with excitement about seeing wild animals, trapeze artists, and all of the things that come with a circus. Since he arrived in town so early, he was on the front row when the circus parade started down the main street of town. The boy was thrilled when the animals and other circus acts paraded by.

At the end of the parade came the clowns and following the clowns was the ringmaster. When the ringmaster passed by where he was standing, the boy ran out into the street, took his folded dollar bill from his pocket, and handed it to the ringmaster.

"Thanks," mister, said the boy, "that was a great circus." Then he turned around and walked home. He never knew what he had missed. He thought he had been to the circus, but he had only been to the parade.

If we are not careful, we can be like that little boy. We can get so caught up in the celebration, the decorations, and the gifts that we miss the real Christmas -- the birthday of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Offering Prayer 

God of infinite chances, there is no length you will not go to offer us the possibility of new life and the opportunity for redemption. As we gather in gratitude for the gift of your Son, receive our thanks and humble appreciation for all that we receive, which makes us what we are. Bless these gifts and offerings, that they may bring light and life to God's people. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 304: O come all ye faithful verses 1,5,6,7

                       (tune – Adeste Fideles) 

1 O come, all ye faithful,

joyful and triumphant,

come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

come and behold him

born the king of angels:


O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

Christ the Lord!


5 Child, for us sinners

poor and in the manger,

fain we embrace thee with love and awe;

who would not love thee,

loving us so dearly?


O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

Christ the Lord!


6 Sing, choirs of angels,

sing in exultation,

sing all ye citizens of heaven above,

'Glory to God,

glory in the highest':


O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

Christ the Lord!


7 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,

born this happy morning,

Jesus, to thee be glory given;

Word of the Father

now in flesh appearing:


O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

Christ the Lord! 

Author (Attributed To):    John Francis Wade, C. 1711-1786

Translator:  Frederick Oakeley, 1802-80 Translator (V3-5):      William Thomas Brooke, 1848-1917

Tune: Adeste Fideles Composer (Attributed To): John Francis Wade, C. 1711-1786                                                     

The Service of the Word                               

The First Reading:            Isaiah 62.2-7

Gospel Reading:               Luke 2:8-20                         


Isaiah 62.6-12 

6 Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, 7 and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have laboured; 9 but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it      in my holy courts. 10 Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. 11 The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, ‘See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ 12 They shall be called, ‘The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord ’; and you shall be called, ‘Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.’ 

Luke 2.8-20 

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,      and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Preaching of the Word - Did You Find What You Were Looking For? 

“Did you find what you were looking for?” You have likely heard this phrase uttered many times over these past few weeks during Christmas shopping forays. It’s rather ubiquitous, isn’t it? “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Most of the time, you likely answered, “Yes, thank you,” or perhaps you inquired about something you had not been able to find. And in the context of purchasing something, you probably didn’t give your answer much thought beyond the immediate transaction.

But today, on this Christmas Day, let’s consider the question again: “Did you find what you were looking for?”

On this day we once again hear the old familiar story of an unwed teenage mother-to-be named Mary and her fiancé Joseph making the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem under orders to be enrolled from their Roman overlords. The birth of Mary’s son happens, and we hear that a messenger from God appears to shepherds who get the initial report of the birth of the Messiah. The messenger gives them a sign by which they will find the baby, and a great number of the heavenly host appear to glorify God. The shepherds decide to go check this out, and they find things just as the angel had reported to them. They found what they were looking for!

We know this story, don’t we? Even if all we know of it is hearing Linus deliver its strains in King James English as a monologue in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” we know this story. We know the shepherds found what they were looking for: the baby Messiah, the Anointed One. What they perhaps did not know and could not fully comprehend in that moment over 2,000 years ago is what this child would mean for them – and for us.

While Luke tells us the events of Christ’s birth, in essence, answering the “What happened?” question, we are left with another question: “Why did it happen?” Why did God choose to come to us and live as one of us?

Part of the answer is found in the three short verses from today’s reading from the Letter to Titus:

“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy … so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

This passage is paraphrased to clarify the point of the author: The birth of Christ happened to save us.

It happened precisely because we could not save ourselves from the mess of living life on our own terms. If we could have done so, we would have, right? But human history has proved that we can’t do it in and of ourselves. So God took the initiative and set about this saving work, not because we earned it in any way, but solely because of God’s grace.

What a radical idea this is – especially in light of our capitalistic meritocracy-based culture. We did not earn this salvation – it was freely given to us by God’s grace. Grace is that unmerited, unearned love that God has for all of creation. The letter goes on to say that this grace “justifies” us, which means it makes our relationship with God right and balanced. God initiates making the relationship with us right. Make no mistake, we have the obligation to respond to this invitation and participate in a right relationship; however, we are not the initiators of that action – God is.

And the reason God makes this relationship right is so that we might become heirs, children of God, with a hope of eternal life. Eternal life is an often-misunderstood concept and often posited as “going to heaven when you die,” which turns it into some kind of celestial evacuation plan. But that isn’t what the scriptures mean by the term eternal life. Eternal life is living fully and freely in the present now, loving God and each other. This lifetime of loving presence happens right here and now and continues forever.

So, when we think about the birth of Christ beyond the story of what happened and consider why it happened, it leads us back to the question, “Did you find what you were looking for?” Perhaps you haven’t considered that question in this context but do so for just a moment.

You are here, worshipping, on Christmas. Why did you come? You didn’t have to come, you know. Oh, sure, some here will give a nod to attending worship on Christmas being part of your family tradition, or maybe it was to appease parents or grandparents, and some of you are accustomed to regularly attending church. But regardless of why you think you are here, ponder in your heart for a moment what you are really seeking, because perhaps something deeper brought you here. What are you really looking for?

If we are honest, we all have a deep longing – a sense of something missing in our lives. Some call this the “hole in our soul.” It is the nagging feeling that we are incomplete and lacking. We humans are consciously aware of our fragility, our finitude, our faults and our failings. It is a fearful thing to acknowledge this truth. Most of us spend our lives running away from this stark reality by attempting to fill this hole in our soul with anything that promises to fulfill or fix us.

But try as we might, we cannot fill this hole ourselves because it was placed there by God when we were breathed into existence. It was placed there for a purpose: to draw us to say “yes” to God’s free gift of love in Christ.

Christmas is the proclamation that God spoke an eternal “yes” to us by slipping through the back door of history as a helpless baby, to grow up and live with us, die for us, and be raised from the dead to prove once and for all that our fragility, finitude, faults and failings are not the last word.

Christ is still renewing, redeeming and giving life to us – all of us, no exceptions.

No matter what your life circumstances are this day, God called you here to speak a word of eternal life and love to you: a love that you didn’t have to earn or prove yourself worthy to receive. God’s movement is toward us and for us in the birth of Jesus Christ.

This love is mystical, and it is the only enduring and life-giving way to fill the hole in your soul. It comes to us through Word and Sacrament and is present through this community.

So, come. Come to this worship. Come as you are. Come here today and you will find what you are looking for. 

Hymn TIS 307: The Virgin Mary had a baby boy

                        (tune – Virgin Mary)                

1 The virgin Mary had a baby boy,

the virgin Mary had a baby boy,

the virgin Mary had a baby boy,

and they say that his name was Jesus.


He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

Oh, yes! believer!

Oh, yes! believer!

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.


2 The angels sang when the baby born,

the angels sang when the baby born,

the angels sang when the baby born,

and they say that his name was Jesus.


He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

Oh, yes! believer!

Oh, yes! believer!

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.


3 The wise men saw where the baby born,

the wise men saw where the baby born,

the wise men went where the baby born,

and they say that his name was Jesus.


He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom.

Oh, yes! believer!

Oh, yes! believer!

He come from the glory,

he come from the glorious kingdom. 

Tune: [The virgin Mary had a baby boy] 

Intercessory Prayers 

Let us rejoice for our God has done marvellous things; let us give thanks for our God has come to dwell with us.

God of heaven, we give you thanks and praise for glad tidings of a Saviour's birth. We pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ as we celebrate again your coming to us. We pray for those who are persecuted for their faith; for those who have never heard your name. May we, like the shepherds, hurry to greet you, and make known to others what has come to pass.

God of heaven, dwelling among us, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks and praise for glad tidings of peace to a warring world. We pray for our sisters and brothers with whom we share this earth. We pray for those who experience no peace, no justice, no dignity or hope, for all victims of prejudice, hatred violence and greed. May we, like the angelic host, spread abroad your message of peace and good will. God of heaven, dwelling among us, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks and praise for glad tidings of love to your lost and lonely ones. We pray for those for whom Christmas is a time of sadness or distress. We pray for the unwanted and the unloved, for the hungry and homeless, and those afraid for the future. May we, like Mary, be bearers of your love to the world. God of heaven, dwelling among us, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks and praise for glad tidings of healing to your wounded people. We pray for all broken in body, mind or spirit. We pray for all who mourn the absence of loved ones; for the sick and the dying and all who minister to them. May we, like the Christ child, bring your tender compassion to all in need. God of heaven, dwelling among us, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks and praise for glad tidings of everlasting life to your faithful servants of every age. We give thanks for Mary, for Joseph and for all your holy people who have welcomed the Christ child to their hearts and homes. Lead us, with them, to where you may be found, that with your people on earth and with your saints in highest heaven we may behold your glory and worship you. God of heaven, dwelling among us, in your mercy, hear our prayer.    


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. 

        Hymn Carol of the Birds: Orana

                          (tune – Carol of the Birds)                  

              Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like war horses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Down where the tree ferns grow by the river
There where the waters sparkle and quiver
Deep in the gullies bellbirds are chiming
Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Friar birds sip the nectar of flowers
Currawongs chant in the wattle tree bowers
In the blue ranges lorikeets calling
Carols of bush birds rising and falling
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Author: William Garnet James & John Wheeler
Tune: Carol of the Birds 


         Go forth with happiness and with good works.

        This is what God has called us to do.

        Find satisfaction in all your toil.

        This is the gift of God.

        In everything you do, praise the Lord!

        And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen. 

        Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.
                       (Tune – Aubrey)


May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.

May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you Home. 

        Robyn Mann (1949 -)          Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)


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