Dear People of St Paul’s
Greetings in Jesus’ name on the First Sunday after Christmas.
Please find an outline of the service and text of the sermon below.
An audio version is available.
Please note: We hold services on Sunday at 7.30 and 9.15 in the church.
Service Outline 7.30 and 9.15
Introit: CP 62 O Come all ye Faithful
you wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us:
as Jesus Christ came to share our humanity,
so may we share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
1St Reading: Isaiah 62:10 – 62:3
Gradual hymn – CP 94 Hail to the Lord who comes
The Gospel – Luke 2: 22-40
4th Eucharistic Prayer
Offertory hymn – CP 360 Faithful vigil ended
Recessional hymn: CP 44 Angel’s from the realms of glory
Sermon by Revd Andrew Warmback
Good morning, I greet you in Jesus’ name.
Let us continue to be conscientious in wearing masks, social distancing and regular sanitising, as we struggle through this pandemic and try to keep others and ourselves safe. This behaviour is absolutely vital.
This is the last Sunday of the year. An ideal opportunity to look backwards and also forwards
But before we do so this let us consider the gospel reading and its message to us.
Having recorded the birth of Jesus at Christmas, Luke now gives us an insight into what Jesus will be like, what he will do with his life.
In fulfilling the prophecies of God, Jesus’ parents present him in the Temple, in accordance with the law of Moses. It has echoes of Samuel’s presentation in 1 Samuel chapter 2.
Directed by the Holy Spirit, Simeon speaks to them. Anna is also present praying and fasting, praising God and speaking to others about Jesus.
To Mary, Simeon says Jesus is destined for the “falling and rising of many” – [v34] – the humbling and exulting – he will reverse values.
Simeon indicates to Mary that Jesus’ life will be hard – that he will be opposed and also that a sword will pierce her own soul too. Jesus will widen the concept of family, including all who follow him.
Jesus and the Gentiles
The most striking thing that Simeon said while the infant Jesus is in his arms, is that Jesus would be for the Gentiles too. This is big. It would no doubt have caused a stir in this bastion of the Jewish people, the Temple.
God’s concern for everyone
This prediction of Simeon’s should not actually come as a surprise to us. God’s concern is always for everyone. God is never nationalistic. Those we call “God’s chosen people” in the Old Testament are not an exclusive group. God’s love and grace has always embraced all people – God invites everyone into a covenant relationship, a relationship of mutual commitment and faithfulness.
But Luke emphasises this point in his gospel.
The Message God has no outsiders
Some of you may be familiar with Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible into contemporary English called The Message. It’s a very idiomatic translation. In some introductory notes about Luke’s gospel Peterson writes that with God there are no outsiders: I quote –
“Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.”
This is the good news Jesus came to show us. God’s work of salvation in Jesus is for all, whoever you are, wherever you are. Knowing we are accepted enables God’s work of change in us to take place. In our society in which we are regularly confronted by judgmental attitudes and discriminatory practices may we as the church be welcoming to all, may there be a seat for everyone. Reflections, Gratitude and Plans On this last Sunday of this very difficult year, I invite you to take time this week to reflect this week. Think of the following questions: What are you not taking into the New Year, what are you letting go of, what will you leave behind? What are the things you are thankful for in this past year? Can you name 10 things?
What do you take forward with you into the New Year? What are your plans for 2021 – plans for your spiritual and personal growth, relationships, health, work and other activities, etc. Let us be specific.
May God bless you and your families as we enter the New Year. May you know God’s love
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426