On Sunday December 28th I led worship at Trinity Chapel. As a call to worship we read the psalm 148 the psalm of praise responsively. We then sang, ‘Christians awake, salute the happy morn, whereon the Saviour of the world was born,’ before I led the opening prayers.
I asked the children if it seemed a long time to wait before they could open their presents as it certainly did for me as a child. We had Christmas stockings with chocolates, small presents and a coin and a Satsuma but we had to wait till after lunch and the Queen’s speech before we opened family presents. I can remember when we had the whole family there; it was very special.
I told a story about a six year old boy who went missing on Christmas morning with his prized present of a wheelbarrow. His distraught mother came to the priest for help as she had not noticed the boy’s absence at first with all the Christmas preparations. The priest decided to go and pray in the church before going to the police. As they came into church they heard a noise and to their surprise saw the boy wheeling the baby Jesus from the crib scene, who was settled comfortably on some straw, in his wheelbarrow round the church. He had been spending the last couple of hours giving Jesus a ride. Apparently when he and his mum had had a prayer next to the crib, the boy had asked Jesus to put in a word with Santa to bring him a wheelbarrow on Christmas day and he had promised that if he got one he would take Jesus for a ride to say thank you! He kept his promise. I asked the children and the adults if they could keep their promises to Jesus and grow closer to him in the New Year.
We sang ‘Come and join the celebration’ before the children left for their groups. I then read the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 61v10-62v3 and took part in the dramatised reading based on Luke 2v22-40. We then sang, ‘Born in the night, Mary’s child’ before I preached.
Mary and Joseph came to the temple in Jerusalem as it was the time for Mary’s purification after the birth of her first born son. She had come to buy her son back from God in gratitude for the gift of her son. It was to fulfil the law so she bought 2 turtle doves as the sacrifice for a sin offering; it was the offering for a poor family. It reminds us that Jesus was born into an ordinary home and experienced all the struggles and insecurities common to such a poor family. Joseph was not mentioned but he would have an essential role supporting Mary in the background.
When they arrived at the temple an old man Simeon was there to greet them. He was a pious Jew who had the faith and patience to wait for the fulfilment of the hope of Israel. The Holy Spirit had told him to go to the temple on that day and when he saw the baby Jesus, he took him in his arms and he gave thanks to God as he recognised him as the expected king and he was now felt ready to die. Simeon told Mary that her baby son would be the light to lighten the gentiles, but that although he would bring joy to many he would also bring her sorrow. The Jews would be judged by their acceptance or rejection of the coming King. Jesus would face much opposition by those who rejected his message and suffer and his mother’s heart would be pierced by sorrow.
An elderly widow Anna was another quiet devoted worshipper who was watchful in prayer and expectation and confirmed Simeon’s message. Although she had been widowed after only 7 years of marriage she had not become bitter but instead devoted her life to prayer, fasting and worship in the temple. We are never too old to be open to what new message our Lord might bring us, if we like Simeon and Anna spend time waiting prayerfully in expectation for God. We may not have a high profile role in the church but like Joseph we can quietly serve and support others. May we be encouraging to those quiet stalwarts of the church and be welcoming to any visitors in the coming year. May we continue to be watchful and expectant each day in the New Year, so the Holy Spirit can anoint us afresh and help us to grow closer to Jesus.
We then sang, ‘Longing for light we wait in darkness’ before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Hark the Herald angels sing.’