Order of Service
Good Morning everybody. Welcome to our service of worship on Third Sunday of Advent. The Third Advent candle will be lit today in church to remind us of John the Baptist. We say this short prayer.
A candle burns, the sign of our faith.
God of the Baptising One,
come to us again this Advent.
May we have a faith that renews our lives.
may we live in the light of your promises. Amen.
HYMN Come thou long expected Jesus
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
And also with you.
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
When the Lord comes,
he will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness,
and will disclose the purposes of the heart.
Therefore, in the light of Christ let us confess our sins.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 61, 1-4, 8-12
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
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.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
HYMN: On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist’s cry
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John
Glory to you O Lord.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord”’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26 John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
First Sunday Communion at Ketton in the midst of Covid.
I think this year these last few weeks have had a poignant, slightly bitter sweet quality. It has seemed strange to get ready for Christmas. Walking past people singing carols on the High Street in Stamford – it felt a bit forced – as though what we normally do at Christmas was sitting uneasily on what we have all been going through. There was a bit of a miss match. And we know the ways in which Christmas is already challenging this year and may feel a bit flat because we can’t see who we would like to see or go to Christmas parties or gather with our families and friends as we would wish. And for some there will be sorrow.
And yet I think that all the people who have got their trees up earlier than usual and who have lit their houses up in a big way are doing something profound. In their own way they’re making a declaration that Christmas is going to happen – we’re going to mark it; we’re going to look forward to it; it is coming – so let’s get ready.
Today, on the third Sunday of Advent, the focus of our thoughts is on John the Baptist. And John the Baptist’s purpose and presence in the advent cycle, in the gospel story, indeed in God’s great plan for the salvation of all people – is one of preparation and getting ready.
John is the culmination of centuries of preparation. To go back to the Advent candle – the patriarchs, the great figures of the Hebrew faith, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, formed and led a people – God’s people. The prophets called the people to keep faithful to God, they told of God’s plans for his people and they foretold that one day, God would send a saviour for his people. One who would overcome injustice and reign in righteousness as we heard in those verses from Isaiah 61.
And then there’s John, who’s rooted in the Old Testament tradition – the last of the prophets, urging people to repentance, telling them to turn to God, doing what a prophet does and yet we find him in the gospels leading us into the New Testament story. John the Baptist is the bridge between the testaments, the one who prepares God’s people for what’s coming next.
That’s how we understand John. But as we heard, to the Jewish authorities of his day the big question about John was his identity. John appears, unexpectedly, in the desert, half clad and ragged, a mysterious character with a mission to plunge people into the river Jordan – the sort of guy we’d definitely think of as a bit of a weirdo. And needless to say, the elders and the priests are suspicious of him. Who are you? They ask. Are you the Messiah? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? Those were the prophesied ones the Jews hoped and longed for to rescue them from their Roman oppressors.
But John rejects all these labels. He’s not these people. These are not his identity. His identity is simply a voice, the one who cries out in the wilderness, the who makes the paths straight, the one who clears the way, the one who prepares. His message to the people is; take a look at yourselves and your lives. Repent of the places where you’ve got it wrong and receive God’s forgiveness. And the washing in the river Jordan, the baptising – is the sign of the new start that John is proclaiming and encouraging. John is getting the people ready. Getting the hearts of people ready.
Getting ready! The story of John the Baptist leaves us poised, ready to go, looking forward, anticipating, eager, searching the horizon for what’s coming next. Like a lookout seeking the first sight of land – where is it? What is it? Who is it?
And I think that’s where the world is, still under the impact of Covid, but now, because of the hope of the vaccine, poised and looking forward, looking towards the horizon, looking towards a place where we can live again. Let’s vaccinate, let’s be careful for a bit longer, let’s get ready because better days are coming.
And I think that’s where we are in these parishes, poised and looking forward, looking towards what can be. Although I have been here since March, there is still a new start to be made, much of what I thought I would be doing, building relationships, going into school, connecting with the parish has not been possible or only in a limited way. But now the light is coming over the horizon. All these months, all this time has been a time of preparation, of getting ready. This is the moment before.
And you too may have questions about identity. Who is this new vicar? What makes her tick? What does she stand for? What matters to her? You may want to ask me as the Jewish elders questioned John- who are you? And to some extent it’s only time that will reveal the answer to those questions as we get to know one another.
But we can’t leave the sermon here. We tell the story of John the Baptist, not for himself but because he points to Jesus. John was herald. John was the pointing finger. He is the equivalent of getting the decorations up early. His very presence is a proclamation. He was not the light but he came to bear witness to the light.
And John says this incredible thing to the pharisees, ‘Among you stands one whom you do not know’. John is preparing the people so that they will be able to recognise Jesus – not just to know him as someone special but to know him as the Messiah. John is pointing away from himself – towards Jesus who is so much more than John himself. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals he tells them.
John’s comment holds good for much of our society today. ‘Among you stands one whom you do not know.’ People don’t know anything about Jesus, they do not recognise him, they do not know that he can be known today and that they can find in him the Lord who loves them and forgives them and saves them. They do not know that he comforts those who mourn – that he gives a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.
It is up to us to tell them and to show them. Here and now, in 2020, we have taken on the mantle of John the Baptist, as the herald and the signpost and the witness. This is what we are getting ready for.
To reach out to others and connect with others and then point them, away from ourselves and towards Jesus and to witness to Jesus as the light which disperses the darkness. People will engage with the nativity story – can we explain to them the profound meaning behind the birth of a baby.
One way we can prepare ourselves, is to consider where we have experienced Jesus as light over the last few months. Light in the darkness of the pandemic. When have we recognised him and known him, what has your encounter been with Jesus during this tough time? Telling those stories is our witness.
I am going to end by using the prayer from Daily prayer in Advent Blessed are you Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory forever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
John the Baptist prepared people for the coming of Christ by washing away their sins and turning their hearts towards God. Lord grant that during this advent season, we may prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming, not with greed and excess but in penitence and simplicity
Lord in your mercy….
John challenged people from all walks of life to repent and change their ways. Lord we pray for Bishop Donald and Bishop John and all who hold the faith and preach the gospel. Send the Holy Spirit to inspire us as we teach, challenge and build people up in the Christian life. John pointed people to Jesus never to himself. Give us the ability and the impetus to point people to Jesus in 2020. Enable us to witnesses to the love and saving power of Christ in this generation.
Lord in your mercy
John spoke boldly against immorality and greed. We pray for our country, for our Queen and government and the leaders of the nations. We pray for our relationship with the Europe that it may be positive and beneficial to all. We pray for suffering people across the world, especially for people who are living as refugees, people who are live under the threat of violence, people who are the victims of injustice and the misuse of power. Give all who hold authority the strength to resist corruption and promote justice, peace and community.
Lord in your mercy
John knew the isolation and humiliation of prison. Be close to all those who suffer today from rejection, loneliness or ill health. We especially pray for those who have lost their jobs and who face a hard Christmas. We pray for those we know who are sick or struggling with disability. Give them strength, healing and encouragement.
Lord in your mercy
We remember those who have died, in particular Ruth Lewis and we pray from Ray and his family and all those who grieve. Comfort those who mourn. Give them a garland instead of ashes.
Grant us with all who have gone before the hope of your eternal kingdom, Merciful Father
HYMN: People look East
In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Let us hold one another in the peace of Christ in a moment of prayer.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that 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.
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and the blessing …
HYMN: How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
Thanks be to God.
Comfort, Comfort Ye My People
by Claude Goudimel (c. 1505-1572)