No Charge

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Christmas 1      31 December 2023      10:00 am
(Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalists: Peter & Cheryl Sheridan
Elder: Iris Routledge

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: Praise the Lord!
P: Praise the Lord from the heavens!
L: Praise God in the heights and the depths!
P: Praise God, all creatures of earth and sky!
L: Praise God, young and old, together!
P: Let us praise the Lord and worship God’s holy name!

Opening praise: Holy id the Lord

Prayers of approach and confession

God of grace and glory, we praise you from the heights and from the depths; from the courts of power and from the sidewalks of our lives.

Your splendour shines from a manger, where the Light of the World was born for us.

In fragile flesh, you are revealed to us face to face reaching out to claim our love.

And so we gather with those who have glimpsed that love to rejoice that you have claimed us in Christ.

We offer you our praise, Creator, Son, and Spirit; Source of life, Glorious light, and Wisdom of the ages.

God of our lives, we know you are with us through thick and thin, in times of great joy and at moments of disappointment.

Yet we can feel let down when the joy of Christmas Day has passed.

Our hope gets folded away with the gift wrap, our energy for the future feels a bit tattered.

Forgive us when our faithfulness flickers like a candle burning down. Amen.

Response: I waited, I waited on you, Lord

Assurance of God’s love

Hear the good news of the Gospel: Jesus Christ is our light and our salvation. In him we are made new. Let us give thanks to God, and be at peace with ourselves and with one another.

Musical Offering: Warren G, Jack B, Peter S and Cheryl S

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Response: Resus loves me


When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13 (NIV)

I’m sure that most of you have read the story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” If you haven’t read the story, perhaps you have seen the movie. If so, you will remember how everyone in Who-ville loved Christmas. Everyone, that is, except the Grinch. The Grinch hated Christmas and made up a plan to spoil the joy of Christmas in Who-ville. His plan was to dress up as Santa Claus and go into Who-ville and steal all of their Christmas presents, all of their Christmas trees, and even the food for their Christmas dinner.

What a terrible thing to do! Do you know why the Grinch hated Christmas so much? Well, according to the story, it was because his heart was too small! He was so selfish that he hated to see anyone else who was happy and enjoying themselves. But, as you know, the Grinch’s plan did not work. Why? Because the people in Who-ville knew that the real joy of Christmas does not come from the presents, decorations, and food — it comes from a heart filled with love.

I want to tell you a story of another “Grinch” who tried to steal Christmas. In fact, he tried to steal the very first Christmas. This “Grinch” was a king by the name of Herod.

After baby Jesus was born, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked where they could find the child who had been born to be the king of the Jews. “We have seen his star in the sky and want to worship him” they said. When Herod heard about this, he told the men that when they found the child, they should come back and tell him where the child was so that he could worship him too. The truth is, Herod didn’t really want to worship Jesus, he wanted to kill him. Why? Perhaps his heart was too small! Herod was so selfish that he was afraid Jesus would become more popular than he was and perhaps even take over his kingdom.

Well, Herod’s plan to kill Jesus didn’t work. After the wise men found Jesus and gave him gifts, an angel told them about Herod’s plan and they went back home without telling Herod where they had found Jesus. An angel also appeared to Joseph and warned him of Herod’s plan and told him to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt where they would be safe.

And so, we see that since the very first Christmas, Grinches have been trying to steal the joy of Christmas. There may be some “Grinches” that are trying to steal your Christmas joy. It will never work — unless your heart is too small. Make sure that your heart is big enough to share the love and joy of Christmas with everyone you meet — not just at Christmas — but all year long.


Dear Father, we thank you for the joy that Jesus brings. Help us to share that joy with everyone we meet.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song:  See amid the winter’s snow (168: 1, 4, 5)

Today’s Message

Scripture reading: Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

Response: O come let us adore him

Message: No Charge (Galatians 2:1-21)

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Paul Opposes Cephas

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)

Two well-dressed Jewish fathers came to their rabbi.  “Rabbi, I do not understand my son,” said the first father.  “I spent $25,000 on his bar mitzvah. I sent him to the finest Hebrew school.  Just last week he tells me he is a Christian.” “Funny you should ask,” said the second father.  “I am here for the same reason.  Rabbi what can you tell us?” “Funny you should ask,” said the Rabbi.  “I, a Rabbi, and my own son came to me and said he became a Christian.” “What did you do?” asked the two men. “I talked to God,” said the Rabbi. “And, what did God say?” God, he said to me, “Funny you should ask!”

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, he seemed to have just the opposite kind of problem. For Paul, Jesus Christ set all people free from the intricate rules of the Hebrew tradition. And yet wherever he went he was forced to confront disbelief. Though Jesus Christ himself claimed to offer freedom from the law, many of his follower who had grown up under strict guidelines had enormous difficulty letting go and this meant also that they had great difficulty accepting the freedom and grace that they had been gifted with.

The Judaizers’ were a group of Jewish Christians who taught that to become a Christian one must first continue to follow all of the Old Testament codes. They insisted on circumcision, that all of the Jewish calendar be followed, and holidays be observed. They insisted that Christians must be Jewish first and followers of Jesus second. Where Jesus had spoken of the Greatest Commandment and the fulfillment of the Law, the Judaizers spoke of dietary laws and cleansing rituals. They said who you could eat with and who you could not. They told you when and where men were allowed to speak with women. They wanted genders separated during worship. They said who you could talk to at all and who you could not. They said who you could help and who you could not and who you could tell the gospel to and who you could not. They wanted people to follow the whole law of Moses… but also additional laws that they had added to the Bible as well (as if the Bible wasn’t big enough already). Although Christ had offered freedom from the Law, they could not accept this. And … whenever Paul went to start a new church, the Judaizers would swoop in just after he left and start changing all his teachings and making demands of their own.

Nothing could have made Paul angrier. And with that in my mind, this is where we get some of the most interesting sections in the entire Bible. Most people after all don’t generally think of the bible as being something that contains debates or insults. But case in point … In 2 Corinthians Paul sarcastically refers to the Judaizers as, “Super-Apostles” as a joke. But he also calls them “false teachers”, worst yet, “mutilators of the flesh” and with his usual tongue in check way about him, Paul even tells them that that if they insist on circumcising people that he hopes they cut off more than they bargain for.

But Paul is not only at odds with the Judaizers. He seems to find their influence wherever he goes. He seems to find people that are unwilling to accept the free gift of forgiveness and instead finds people who are attempting to work themselves into a relationship with God.

This is no more apparent than in the book of Galatians read from here today. In Galatians tells us that while he was meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem he saw the Judaizers influence there as well, and so he spoke with the apostles about what he saw. In defense of his faith and in anger at the influence of the Judaizers Paul even attacks the Apostles in Jerusalem themselves. He says of the apostles their, “those who seemed to be important” and more sarcastically yet (as if he were laughing while he said it, as, “those who are said to be pillars of the faith” (2:6, 9). And perhaps even more insulting than this in the reading just prior to what was read here today, Paul says (And I have to say, I really love to picture this – because it is so interesting) “11But when (A)Cephas (The Apostle Peter) came to (B)Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from (C)James, he used to (D)eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, (E)fearing the party of the circumcision. 13The rest of the them, then joined him in that hypocrisy, with the result that even (F)Barnabas (one of Paul’s best friends who helped establish some of these churches) was carried away by their hypocrisy.  14But when I saw that they (G)were not straightforward about (H)the truth of the gospel, I said to (I)the Apostle Peter in the presence of all, ” Peter, you are a Jew, but you live like a Gentile. So how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul standing in front of everyone (without argument, the most important people the church has ever known outside of Jesus Christ himself), he tells us that he “opposed [the Apostle Peter] to his face”. I can’t help but get this picture in my head of Paul standing nose to nose with Peter (all of the other apostles standing in awe with their jaws on the floor) while Paul is saying, “You’re not fooling anybody! I’ve seen how you live”.

What’s sad about this incident is that Peter had begun to put aside his bias’ and accept people who were not born Jews. He had begun to eat with us. He had begun to worship alongside us; to treat us as equals. And now because of the Judaizers he has started reverting back to his old ways.

Peter knows the free gift of grace from God perhaps better than anyone else on earth and yet he simply can’t believe it. Paul wants to know, Why are you letting yourselves be influenced by these people? Why do you want to subjugate yourselves to these rules? Why do you want to revert back to a system that excludes people and piles guidelines upon guidelines when the law is already fulfilled? Why would these men demand that people become “slaves to the law” when as Paul says, “there is freedom in Christ”?

Now don’t get me wrong, Paul does not see the laws of the Old Testament as useless. He says, in 1 Tim. 1:8 “The law is good, if one uses the law lawfully! The problem he has with the Judaizers is that Christ himself said that he came to fulfill the law. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill the law.”

Now I’m going to explain the entire Bible to you in one paragraph:

In the opening chapters of the bible we see all of creation in perfect harmony with God. And then sin destroys that harmony separating God’s people from Him. In order to be made acceptable to God again; to be allowed back into His presence, a person had to be forgiven of his/her sins. Animals were used in this way as sacrifices by people who believed in God’s grace (that he would accept true repentance). These were innocent creatures that were thought to take the blame of the offending sinner. By the time of the prophets however God began to reveal to his people that there was to come a perfect sacrifice “a lamb of God”. He himself (the most innocent) would suffer the punishment on all of our behalves and serve as the final sacrifice for all time for all who believed. These restrictions of who could know God, these dividing peopling into the categories of Jew and Gentile, Slave or Free, Male or Female – that they would all be washed away. And Christ fulfilled that law.

A mother tells this story about her young son. She says: My little boy came into the kitchen one evening while I was fixing supper and he handed me a piece of paper he’d been writing on.  After wiping my hands on my apron, I read it, and this is what it said:

For mowing the grass, $5.     For making my own bed this week, $1.     For going to the store when I didn’t want to $.50.     For playing with baby brother $10.00     For taking out the trash, $1.     For helping in the yard, $2.

The mother looked down at her beautiful son, standing there expectantly, and a thousand memories flashed through her mind. She calmly picked up the paper he had given me, and turning it over, and on the back she wrote:

For the nine months I carried you, growing inside me.       No ChargeFor the nights I sat up with you, doctored you back to health and prayed endlessly for you to get better.      No Charge. For the time and the tears, and all the bills I’ve struggled to make.      No ChargeFor the nights filled with dread, and the worries that will never stop.       No Charge.For the advice I will give, whether you take it or not.     No Charge.      For the toys, clothes and the food, and for wiping your nose and changing your diapers.     No Charge.For anything you ever need.      No Charge.

This is what Paul is telling the Galatians. This is why he is angry with Peter and why the Judaizers anger him so much. After everything they have seen and done… after everything Christ had done for them – they still could not believe the free gift of salvation He offered them. They were still trying to earn their way into heaven with just one more ritual or just one more good deed.

Paul stood up in anger and said, “What is wrong with you?” He said “We were born Jews, We should already know this”. He says “Why do you want to return to the rules and confinement of a system that has already been fulfilled?” He said, “I have died to the Law so that I might live for God”. “I have been crucified with Christ” and so “Christ lives in me”. The Law has been fulfilled. It has already happened – We are already Free! And then like a spear to the chest he says “if righteousness comes from following the law and not by grace then Christ’s death means nothing”. If we can earn our way into God’s good graces then the death of Christ did nothing.

And that is where the readings for today come in:

15″We are (K)Jews by nature and not (L)like those from among the Gentiles; 16nevertheless knowing that (M)a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by (N)faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since (O)by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” (vs17-18 Omitted) 19″For through the Law I (S)died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  20″I have been (T)crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but (U)Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in (V)the Son of God, who (W)loved me and (X)gave Himself up for me.  21″I do not nullify the grace of God, for (Y)if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

But this is what makes Christianity unique. It says that you cannot earn your way into Gods favor. It says, God simply forgives by His own grace; by His own works, by His own sacrifice and His own son.

For everything you ever do in life… for the free gift of salvation for all who believe our Father in heaven declares to you this day, No Charge.

Song: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic (409)

We respond to serve God: Our time of giving

Reflection on giving: Christmas isn’t over for us! We celebrate God’s gift in Christ Jesus again and again. Grateful for all we have received, we express our love for God in our gifts this day and affirm our commitment to share God’s love with others in the year ahead.

Prayer of Dedication

Good and gracious God, your love overflows in the goodness we have met even in challenging times. As one year closes and another begins, help us trust your goodness. Bless these gifts so that they may provide others with the hope we know in Christ Jesus and the love you share with the world through him.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of love, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Saviour, we are filled with thanks that he has shared human life, and knows well both our joys and heartaches.

We bring our prayers for the world you love, grateful that Jesus walks ahead of us into the year ahead.

We pray for all children for they embody our future.

Protect them from danger, strengthen their characters, and give them joy.

Help them look to the future with hope and trust.

God of the ages,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for the most aged among us, those whom Simeon and Anna bring to mind.

Protect them in these days of rising costs and rising tensions, and reassure them of their value to you and to the whole community.

God of the ages,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for those whose hearts are filled with pain and fear and for those whose Christmas has been touched with loss or grief.

Surround each one with your comforting embrace.

God of the ages,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who cannot afford enough to eat, and for those who lack adequate shelter here and in desperate corners of the world.

We pray for those who fear violence in their daily lives here and in so many regions of conflict.

And we pray for those whose are anxious about the year ahead for whatever reason,

Grant each one the courage and strength to face the days ahead.

God of the ages,

Hear our prayer.

As this year draws to a close, we surrender to you, O God, the challenges it has held for us so that they will not remain as burdens.

Remind us of the good things that have offered us encouragement and pleasure.

Give us wisdom to navigate whatever the coming year brings.

God of the ages,

Hear our prayer.

In the new year, grant our leaders the wisdom and generosity of spirit to collaborate on decisions they face for the wellbeing of society and of the earth itself.

Inspire us all with the hope, joy and peace we find through trusting you,

Song: Standing at the portal (811)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Rejoice this day that Christ is born for us, lived as one of us, died for our sake, and is risen to walk beside us through whatever the future holds.

So may the tenderness of God enfold you, the promise of the Christ uphold you, and the strength of the Spirit lead you on, to greet the year ahead, filled with grace and truth. Amen.

Response: Auld lang syne

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.