Sunday (Zoom from the sanctuary) First Sunday of Christmas: Something new and fresh being shaped in us

Worship on the Lord’s Day

Music prelude


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

Opening words:

L: From you, Lord, and through You,
and to You, are all things
P: To Christ be the glory forever
L: Lift up your hearts!
P: We lift them up to the Lord!

Opening praise: This is amazing grace

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory
Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Music: Josh Farro, Phil Wickham, Jeremy Riddle
Words:© Wb Music Corp., Fbr Music, Josh’s Music,
License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission
to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE     

Call to worship:

L: Praise the Lord!
P: Praise the Lord from the heavens!
L: Praise God in the heights!
P: Praise God, all you angels!
L: Praise God, all you heavenly host!
P: Let us all praise the Lord!

Prayers of approach and confession

God of grace and glory, we praise You from the heights and from the depths; in the heavens, on earth and from the seas; in 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 to pierce the darkness. In the fragility of flesh, You are revealed to us face to face.

And so, we gather with all people in every place who have glimpsed your salvation and grace to rejoice in your love born for us. Together we worship and praise You as Creator, Son and Spirit; Source of life, Glorious light, Wisdom of the ages.

Source of all hope, You invite us to live in the light and discover the splendour of your glory. We confess we often choose to remain in the darkness instead. We allow our fears and hurts to hold us hostage. Our expectations of life prevent us from seeing new and real possibilities. You offer us unconditional love, but we expect others to earn our love. Forgive us. May the new life born in the manger awaken new life in us and allow hope to dawn in the year ahead. Now we turn to You for a few moments of silent personal prayers of confession…

Response: Glory hallelujah

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Here is 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.

Response: Be still and know

Prayers for God’s help and guidance

Dear Lord, as we pray to You for help, this too is an acknowledgement that we can’t journey the path of our lives without your help. We need your presence. We look up to You and bring the needs and challenges of so many before You. You know our needs. We realize that your presence is with those on our prayer corner, as well as friends, family, loved ones and we reach out to You in personal prayers of intercession for each of them… Now Holy Lord, in the ancient words of the scriptures, let us hear afresh your eternal message of peace, salvation and reconciliation. Send us your Spirit to open our minds and hearts to receive your truth through Christ, your Word made flesh. 

We listen for the voice of God
Children’s time                    

Song: O little town of Bethlehem    

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by:
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King, and peace to all on earth.
How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings born of heaven.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.
O holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

Words: Phillips Brooks; public domain
Music: Louis Redner; public domain

Scripture readings:

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

The Vindication and Salvation of Zion

62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Luke 2:22-40 (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeonblessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Response: O come, let us adore Him            

Message: “Something new and fresh being shaped in us”

Are you the same person you used to be? Quite often it happens that we consider the ways in which our lives have changed. So many things in our lives shift and evolve. [i]

The year that we’ve been through has certainly put us through many tests and trials. We have been pushed to the limit. Indeed it could bring us to be changed people.

God has mysterious ways to shape us. Sometimes it goes against our grain, but in the end we see that this was worth its while.

The story of the last few chapters of Isaiah is one of hope given and hope received. First we read about the announcement of salvation in chapter 61 and then it’s followed up by an announcement of the restoration of Jerusalem. The people had been longing for the return to their home and the familiar. These emotions of longing are very familiar ones for many of us as well. We long…we long for being able to visit with family that may be a little removed from us. We long to worship in the sanctuary.

Somehow the human psyche is interested in that which is familiar. Then there is also the tendency for people with lots of years ahead to focus on the longer part that’s left to live. Folks with lots of years in the past tend to look back at the longer part that’s gone by. It’s not surprising that the younger generation is able to dream dreams and the older generation finds it hard to change. When change is foisted on older folks, it is greeted with resistance. I notice it in myself.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, single mom Mary Widdicks has been cooped up at home with her three small children, three dogs, and three cats. After months of homeschooling while also working from home, she felt the days blending into each other. So in late May, Widdicks loaded the kids into her car and headed to the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-in, in Gibson City, Illinois. A long-time movie buff, Widdicks appreciated the break from cabin fever, as well as the venue’s 1950s vibe, complete with retro intermission breaks featuring a dancing hot dog.

“The first time I went to a drive-in, I was nine years old, exactly the age of my oldest now,” Widdicks says. “There was something incredibly comforting about telling my kids stories about how I’d done something exactly the same when I was their age.”

As movie theatres and other family entertainment options have closed up shop due to the coronavirus, drive-ins have enjoyed a resurgence, with makeshift versions popping up all over the show in diner and mall parking lots. For many parents and grandparents, these places let them share one of their childhood joys. But the rise of drive-ins is just one way we’ve embraced nostalgia during the pandemic.

“I believe many are turning to nostalgia, even if they do not consciously realize it, as a stabilizing force and a way to keep in mind what they cherish most, writes Nicole Johnson in the National Geographic of July 21 this year.[ii] These changes play a huge role in people’s thoughts and emotions.

The people in the story according to Isaiah had circumstances that changed as they returned to the land of the promise. However, upon their return, they confront the disappointment of unmet expectations and the surprise that not only had they changed, but so had the condition of their homeland. Have you ever received just what you asked for only to find it deeply disappointing?

As I speak now, we are experiencing the first vaccinations against COVID-19. For many, it has been an emotional experience to witness what we may hope to be the beginning of the end of this pandemic unfold before us. Health experts, however, warn us not to put two and two together and think that a vaccine is an immediate cure. They caution us that we will still have to maintain the same safety protocols in order to overcome the pandemic in the coming months. Masking and physical distancing continue to be necessary acts of compassion and self-preservation. Yet, we have a hope born from the astonishing achievement of vaccine development and distribution in such a short period of time.

The returned exiles settling into Jerusalem also had a hope that existed alongside their disappointment, and hope is worth celebrating.

Throughout our reading we’re focussing on, there is imagery. It invites to look at a marriage that is going to happen. It is a symbolic act which is affirming a covenant between two people. So often, in scripture we hear how the wedding metaphor is used to describe the relationship between the Holy One and the people of God. The marriage is such a familiar event, that we can all ‘get’ the image. Our reading from Isaiah refers to the bride and her groom getting ready by adorning themselves with garments and accessories which identify them as the two participating in this new union.

Covenants in the Bible point towards a simple promise that God will be with the people of the covenant. God will be present and at work. God will still be God no matter the change in circumstance or situation. When we go through a pandemic, God will also still be God.

When God is with us and at work, the results show clearly. It’s not a private thing happening. Part of the demonstration of God working in God’s children includes a new name. Names are about identity.

There is a social significance of renaming in Israelite culture, as T. David Andersen puts it.[iii] Renaming could also be used to mark and remember an important event in the life of the people. Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel. Jerusalem becomes Zion, who is the bride at this royal wedding. Zion points us to the place that reminds us that God’s promises are honoured and we are assured of God’s presence.

As Cheryl Lindsay concludes, “in this first Sunday after Christmas, Zion calls us to look toward her light as a beacon that cuts through the uncertainty and anxiety of the night as a homing signal. We too have a hope worthy of both our celebration and our participation. … The intimate relationship painted by the prophet Isaiah is not of parent and child, it is of mutual, if unequal partners. God does the work, but has chosen to do it through people. We have a role to play in our own redemption and are called to reaffirm a covenant that is not imposed upon us but that we are invited to enter. The good news is that our (not-silent) Partner is with us, shares our burdens, loves us abundantly and will give us rest. Even as we wait in expectation, that is a hope worth celebrating.[iv]

Let’s allow God to work with and through us during these trying times, and into 2021. Amen

Song: Where shepherds lately knelt    

Where shepherds lately knelt
and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half belief,
a pilgrim strangely stirred,
but there is room and welcome there for me,
but there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place
I find him as they said:
sweet newborn babe, how frail!
and in a manger bed,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known
Isaiah would be there,
his prophecies fulfilled?
With pounding heart I stare:
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget
how love was born, and burned
its way into my heart
unasked, unforced, unearned,
to die, to live, and not alone for me,
to die, to live, and not alone for me?

Words: Jaroslav Vajda; © Jaroslav Vajda 1987
Music: Carl Schalk © GIA publications 1987
License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

We respond to serve God

Prayer of gratitude

Response: Come, they told me

Reflection on giving

Song: See amid the winter’s snow   

See amid the winter’s snow,
born for us on earth below;
see, the Lamb of God appears,
promised from eternal years.

Hail, O everblessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, with in a manger lies
he who built the starry skies,
and who, throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim. (Refrain)

Say, now holy shepherds, say,
tell your joyful news today;
tell us why you left your sheep
on the lonely mountain steep. (Refrain)

‘As we watched at dead of night,
lo, we saw a wondrous sight,
angels, singing peace on earth,
told us of the Saviour’s birth?’ (Refrain)

Sacred infant, all divine,
of God’s tender love the sign,
for you came from highest bliss,
down to such a world as this! (Refrain)

Words: Edward Caswell; © The Presbyterian
Church in Canada 1997
Music: John Gross; public domain
License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

Sending out with God’s blessing

Response: Gloria in excelsis Deo

Music postlude

(Zoom breakout rooms)

[i] Lindsay, C. (2020, December 26). Reaffirm, redeem, rename. United Church of Christ.
[ii] Johnson, N. (2020, December 26) The surprising way nostalgia can help us cope with the pandemic. National Geographic.
[iii] Andersen, T. David. (1986). Renaming and wedding imagery in Isaiah 62. Biblica 67(1), 75-80.
[iv] Lindsay, C. (2020, December 26). Reaffirm, redeem, rename. United Church of Christ.

1st Sunday of Christmas

10:00 am December 27, 2020

led by Rev. Heinrich Grosskopf

Elder: Jan Ray Moncada

children’s time: Lynn Vaughan

vocalist: Linda Farrah-Basford

Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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Posted in Recent Sermons.