APC Sunday 13th Dec 2020 (Online) “The Light of Joy”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday Morning worship. Today is the Third Sunday of Advent.
Advent means “Coming”. It’s the season when we remember how Jesus God’s Son came to earth to redeem us and how He will come again to set up His new perfect Kingdom. So far we have lit the first two purple candles symbolizing ‘Hope’ and ‘Love’. Today we’ll be lighting our pink candle and reflecting on how God in Christ can give us great ‘Joy’ in life.
In a moment I’m going to lead us in prayer but first as is traditional at this time of year, the Quinton family are going to read the joyful news the angel brought to the Shepherds and light our second candle, the ‘Light of Joy.’ After that Sharon and Elaine will lead us in our opening Carol, Peace is only a starry night…
(END PART 1)
Video The Quinton family read and light the Advent Candle
Virtual Choir Peace is only a Starry Night Sharon/Elaine
Thank you so much Quinton Family and to Sharon and Elaine. Let’s pray…
Opening Prayer + Lord’s Prayer
Loving God, you have told us to look forward to a time when your Kingdom will come and your will be done a time when there will be an end to sin and evil suffering and sorrow when all your people will live together in peace and harmony when Christ will come again in glory.
Living God, Come to us now we pray.
Loving God, forgive us that so often we have lost our sense of expectation, content simply to get by, settling for the way things are, failing to believe you can change our lives or transform the world.
Living God, Come to us now we pray.
Forgive us that we have been too full of our own expectations, believing we know all there is to know, pushing you into little boxes we have made for you, presuming your thoughts and your ways are the same as ours.
Living God, Come to us now we pray.
Forgive us that our expectations have been small and limited, tied down by our own limited vision, restricted to our own narrow horizons, shaped by looking at life from an immediate rather than an eternal perspective.
Living God, Come to us now we pray.
Loving God, help us through all this season of Advent, to gain a new sense of expectation and new confidence in the future. Help us to be open to all you would do among us and to gladly respond. Help us to catch sight of the wonder of your coming in Christ and so may we be ready to greet Him with joy when He comes again.
Living God, Come to us now we pray.
The Lord’s Prayer (All say together, on screen)
Our Father, which 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.
If you haven’t already got your children beside you then I’d like to give you a moment to pause the service and to invite them to join you as we show them our second and third advent animations as we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem…
Introduce the Kid’s Animation (“At Home for Christmas” Series)
It’s great to see you boys and girls.
Today is the third Sunday in this special season of Advent. Advent means ‘coming’. It’s the time of year we remember God’s Son, Jesus coming to earth. So far we have lit our first 2 purple candles which symbolise ‘Hope’ and ‘Love’. Today we light the Pink candle which reminds us of the ‘Joy’ that God can bring to our lives when we trust in His Son Jesus. Each Sunday between now and Christmas I want to show you a short animation. Each week we will follow the journey made by people in the Christmas story. You know, this Christmas will be a little different for all of us because of Covid. Like us, for most of the people in the bible that first Christmas was a very different time for them too. In fact we will discover that all of the people in the story were not at home for Christmas that year. Why did they have to leave their homes? Where did they have to go in such a hurry? And what amazing gift did they find when they got to where they were going? Well that’s what the animations will tell you. But before I press play, I have a confession to make- last week I showed you the wrong video! I showed you the shepherds travelling to Bethlehem when I was supposed to begin with Mary and Joseph! So today I’m going to show you a short little animation which explains how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. So sit back and watch to find out why Mary and Joseph were not at home for Christmas…
(End Part 2)
Kid’s Animation ‘Mary and Joseph’
(PCI Website under At Home for Christmas, ‘Resources’)
I hope you enjoyed the animation boys and girls. To help you follow the journeys of all the characters in the Christmas story each week there will be something online for you to cut out and colour in and stick together. You can find the link to these things on our Facebook page and Website or on the PCI Website under the heading at Home for Christmas, teaching resources. So far I hope you have made your advent wreath out of card. Once you’ve done that you can cut out and colour in different things to remind you of all the different people who journeyed to Bethlehem. Today I want you to cut out the stable where Mary and Joseph stayed for the birth of Jesus. Colour it in then stick it on your wreath. Last week you could cut out a sheep to remind us of the shepherds who came to visit Jesus. There’s also a Map you can print off and trace the journeys made by Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds. Next week we’ll watch an animation about the Wise Men and there’ll be something else to cut out, colour and stick on your wreath. I really hope you enjoy following the story of the birth of Jesus that first Christmas and you enjoy making your wreath to remind you of the story. Thanks so much for tuning in. Have a great week in school. Bye for now!
Bible Reading Romans 8 v 28-39
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reflection ‘The Light of Joy’
Being in a good mood is really great, and most languages have many words to describe the experience Eg. Happy, cheerful, joyful etc. The same goes for the languages of the bible. In Ancient biblical Hebrew there are a variety of words like- Simca, Sason, Giel.
In the Greek New Testament there are words like- Cara, Euphorsume, Agalliasis.
Each of these words has its own nuance but they all basically refer to the feelings of joy and happiness.
Now, what makes these biblical ‘joy’ words interesting is noticing the context in which they are used, seeing the kinds of things that are said to bring happiness and also seeing how joy is a key theme that runs through the whole story of the bible. Let’s start with sources of joy-
On page 1 of the bible, God says that this world is very good and so naturally the bible describes people finding joy in the beautiful and good things of life like-raising animals and seeing an abundant harvest on the hills. The writer of Psalm 104 says a good bottle of wine is God’s gift to bring joy to people’s hearts. People find joy at a wedding or in their children. There is even a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose with the joy a good friend brings to your heart….Proverbs 23 v 24 and 25.
So God is no kill joy! He has arranged so much of life just to give us joy – whether it’s the smell of a rose, the song of a bird, the exhilaration of surfing a wave, the pleasure of a good book or even the satisfaction of solving a quadratic equation. We also experience joy when we use the talents that God has given us and very often in using them God brings joy to others – just think of how our virtual choir have blessed us during these Covid days.
Another proven way of experiencing deep happiness is by deliberately making time every day to stop and say ‘thank you’ to God for specific things. That sounds really easy but I know from personal experience that it is possible to be so busy in a day or be so caught up in its difficulties and frustrations that we can fail to see and say thank you for the gifts of God in our day. So let me encourage you to do something – Buy a notebook and before you go to bed at night, open it and write down 3 things that were positive about your day. Then before you close your eyes deliberately take a moment and say to God – ‘Thank you!’
Despite all that God gives us to enjoy, human history isn’t just one big joy-fest. The biblical story and the story of our own lives, shows us how we live in a world that’s been corrupted by our own selfishness and that is marked by suffering and death and loss. (That’s why Christmas is a time of year that people will really look forward to and others will find deeply difficult). This period of Covid has been anything but joyful.
And this is where biblical faith offers a unique perspective on joy. You see Christian joy is an attitude God’s people adopt not because of their happy circumstances but because of their hope in God’s love and promises.
Let me give you an example- when the Israelites were suffering from slavery in Egypt, God raised up Moses to lead them across the Red Sea. Even though they were in the middle of the desert, they were vulnerable and the Promised Land was still far away, the first thing that they did was to sing for joy because they had been delivered from their slavery.
Later, biblical poets looked back on this story and they remembered how God called His people to leave Egypt with joy – His chosen ones with shouts of joy (Psalm 105 v 43). This joy in the wilderness was a defining moment, a way of saying that the joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny – a promised land.
This redemptive hope of a promised land, and a better future also appears later in Israel’s story when the nation suffered under the oppression of foreign Empires. At that time the prophet Isaiah looked forward to a day when God would raise up a new deliverer like Moses. That’s when “those who are redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, with eternal joy crowning their heads, happiness and joy will overtake them.” (Isaiah 51 v 11)
And while the Israelites waited, they chose joy to anticipate their future redemption.
This is why it was so significant that when Jesus of Nazareth was born it was announced as “good news which brings great joy”.
You see Jesus is God’s final and perfect Redeemer or Rescuer. He would bring the world great joy by setting them free. Looking back thousands of years later we now understand that when Jesus died on the cross, His sorrow was to bring us great joy. Because when He died He took the punishment that we deserve for all the wrong things we will ever say or think or do! That means that if we believe in that and if we are sorry for our sins, God will forgive us completely and will never punish us as we deserve. That is the greatest news you’ll ever hear! It’s the greatest way of overcoming our feelings of guilt. If we stop long enough in the busyness of life to think about it, it’s a truth that can bring us great joy.
But even that’s not the icing on the cake! You see after His resurrection, Jesus commissioned his followers to go out and announce the good news that he was the risen King of the world. And as they did so the early Christian communities were known for being full of joy even when they were being persecuted. For example, when the apostle Paul was sitting in a dirty Roman prison he could say that he had chosen joy. Even if he was to be executed. He called this ‘the joy of faith’ or ‘joy in the Lord’. He believed it was the gift of God’s spirit – a sign that Jesus’ presence is with you inspiring hope in the midst of hardship.
It's the same for us. Like those early disciples knowing that Jesus is not dead but alive can bring us great joy! Now that we have put our faith in Him, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. Isn’t that amazing! The Spirit of the living Christ is inside us! He will guide us. He will comfort us. He will give us wisdom and strength and help for every circumstance! He Himself is our joy!
Like Paul, when you and I believe that Jesus’ love has overcome death itself, joy becomes a reality for us even in the darkest of circumstances, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Now of course, none of this means that we should ignore or supress our sorrow, that’s not healthy, nor is it necessary. It doesn’t mean that as a Christian it is wrong to grieve or to experience depression. It is very common for Christians to suffer depression, after an operation or a traumatic event or because their brain chemistry isn’t functioning effectively or because they have inherited a melancholic personality. If you or a friend goes through something like this, please do not feel guilty. Go to your GP and talk to someone you trust. Through medication, counselling and prayer, depression can be healed or managed. Eventually the darkness of depression will give way to the sunshine of joy.
Despite his eternal joy, Paul often expressed his grief about missing loved ones or losing friends or his own freedom. He called it ‘being full of sorrow and yet rejoicing’. As he acknowledged his pain he also made a choice to trust Jesus that His loss wouldn’t be the final word. Jesus wept at the graveside of his good friend Lazarus and he asked His Heavenly Father to give him a way out of having to go to the cross. Despite this suffering he was still able to keep on keeping on and to set his face to the task that God had given him. This is very different from the trite advice to ‘turn that frown upside down’.
Christian joy is a deep and profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ own life and love. It is something that we can only experience through the help and power of the Holy Spirit and it doesn’t make us immune from pain. It is fuelled by the assurance that everything in life whether good or bad can ultimately be used by God to shape and mould us to be more like His Son Jesus. It is the hope that whatever happens to us, nothing can separate us from God’s love and one day we will live with Him forever in a perfect new universe where there will no longer be any tears or pain or suffering. And that is what biblical joy is all about…
Christian joy is a great mystery. The twists and turns of the invisible hand of God and the circumstances of life will mean that we often will experience feelings of great sorrow and deep joy at one and the same time. That is not something that is easily explained.
But what we do know is that God is real. God is love. And that one day Christ will come to earth to restore this universe to its former glory. On that day, all our tears will be wiped away, my glasses and my inhalers will be thrown away. The lion and the lamb will lie down together and we will live together in the beautiful new heaven and earth for ever and ever. And that is why every day, and especially when the days are dark and difficult we can pray with joy…. “Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!”
Prayer for others
Heavenly Father we thank you for all the things that are sources of joy in our lives. Thank you for the beauty of our surroundings and all the lovely forest and beach walks that we can enjoy. We thank you for the talents that you have given us and how using those brings us such satisfaction. Thank you that through our talents we can also bring happiness to other people. Thank you for the great news that the vaccination programs have begun and for the hope that soon we will be able to get Covid under control and return to normal living. Thank you for the good news in Jesus and that through Him we can experience much joy in our lives. Thank you that through Christ we can know that you accept us and that our sins are forgiven. Thank you that you have given us your Holy Spirit and for all the help and joy He brings us. Thank you for the assurance that for all that is painful and difficult about life, it is not the end of the story. Thank you that one day Christ will return to make everything perfect. Thank you that nothing, not even death, can separate us from your love and from the promise of a future that is without suffering or sorrow. Yet Lord we are conscious that for many people in this world life is currently full of much pain and hardship. So we remember all who are poor, all who still find it difficult just to have the basics of food, fresh water, a roof over their head, the chance of education or access to good medical care. Lord, help us never to forget that much of our world still struggles to enjoy these things. Help us never to forget that much of our world lives in situations of great conflict. Father, help us to live in ways that are generous and sensitive to the needs of others. Give us wisdom to know how we can make a difference even in the daily choices that we make.
Take a moment now to bring your own prayers for one or two people to God…
All these prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, the joy of all the earth, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. Do tune in again this Wednesday as we continue with our new Midweek series called, “Mind your head.”
Next Sunday we are having a beautiful service of 9 Lessons and Carols. On Christmas Morning we will be having two services to facilitate as many people who wish to attend – one at 9.30am and one at 10.45. This will allow for deep cleaning in between the services. Then there will be a Sunday service on the 27th December led by Aleida. If you haven’t already done so, please let us know as soon as possible if you hope to attend a service on Christmas morning and if you have friends or family members who will be joining you. Once everyone has got back to us we will be able to allocate everyone a time and space so that we are all socially distanced. Don’t forget as always, once church services do start up again, they will be at our normal time of 10am and you need to book your place by Friday evening at the latest.
Arklow Presbyterian Church has a longstanding relationship with Springboard. This year because of Covid restrictions Springboard are unable to receive and deliver the Christmas hampers that we provide for struggling families. But we would still like to support them as a church by giving them a donation. I know there are many good causes that we have been announcing in recent weeks. Please don’t feel guilty or pressurized that you have to support all of these. But if you have supported Springboard in the past and would like to do so again, then you can transfer a donation directly into the church bank account using the details on our website. Simply mark it for the “Springboard Appeal”. Alternatively you can contact our treasurer Aleida van der Flier to arrange a payment mechanism that is more suitable for you.
At the end of the service you will be able to enjoy Holly Prestage as she sings the beautiful Carol The First Noelle. But first let me lead you in a Benediction after which I will invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Be people of joy.
Let joy live in your heart and share the joy of Christ with all you meet.
Share joy by seeing the good in each other.
Share joy by remembering good times and hoping for good times to come.
Share joy by praying for our world.
In this Advent season, we need to see, feel, and share joy.
As you go out into the wonder of God’s creations, share joy, peace, and hope with those you meet. Amen.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Virtual Choir Piece The First Noelle Holly Prestage
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.