Sunday 20th December 2020
Welcome to Elmwood Congregation Sunday worship. Fourth Sunday of Advent
This morning Mr Nigel Malka will give the message in church and also on WhatsApp. We thank Nigel, who has worked twice as hard to produce our services. Thanks also to Elmwood Team who will read the bible and pray in church and on whatsapp.
Call to Worship Claudette
Hymn 988 How deep the Father’s love for us
Opening prayer Cel
The Lord’s Prayer Cel
Hymn Born in the night, Mary’s child
Bible Reading - Matthew 1:18-25 Basha
Bible Readings - Various - Nigel
Hymn 211 Hark the Herald angels sing
Talk: Christmas Priority
When we are found breaking the rules in a game we are first given a warning
Do it again and we can be excluded and have nothing more to do with the game.
It is our choice what we do, some aim to win at all costs, including cheating
Being created with freewill, we have the ability to decide just what we do in life
We need to assess how we live, what’s our priorities, is it ours, others, or God’s.
How committed are we to live as God wants us to?
Take Christmas, what are our priorities in its celebration
Before Christianity, the New Year pagan festival was when lighter days started again
People had week long parties, games, sung songs, with lots of food and drink,
When the early Christian church wanted people to convert to Christianity
They change the celebration to remember Jesus, the most important man ever born
Christmas in our modern western world has reverted to partying
Times to eat too much, drink too much, and spend too much
For some it’s a time to review lives, change things and make New Year resolutions
As Christians we remember God sending his Son, to teach us his ways
And give us the opportunity to become part of God’s family.
The Christmas story is told in John in one line
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’
Jesus gave us the task like his disciples to go and witness that he is God’s Son,
Paul writes; Through him we receive grace and apostleship, to call all people
Giving us the purpose to have the obedience that comes from faith,
At Christmas we have the perfect opportunity to witness for Jesus,
To demonstrate our faith, in what we are seen to do and say by those who know us
When asked what we have done over Christmas, We could say
‘Met up with friends in church and celebrated the birth of God’s Son,’
Maybe add, ‘After all Jesus gives life a purpose and a reason for what we do.’
If asked, the best way to explain how we know Jesus and why we love him
Is simply to give our very own personal reasons as to why we follow him.
God created us, loves us and wants us to follow his ways for they bring joy and peace
Lets look at priorities of some of the people involved in the Christmas story
Mary, a young woman maybe about 18
Loved God, loved by Joseph her fiancée and about to be married
She would have had high hopes about the future, new home new family,
Then Gabriel appears and turns her world upside down
Yet she accepts the task given her, facing rejection by Joseph and society
Total disgrace as seen in the eyes of the world, without any means of support
Nowhere to live and maybe it was this that drove her to run away to Elizabeth
Her priority in life was to God, not to society, family, Joseph or herself.
Mary then had to tell Joseph that she was going to have God’s child
Joseph didn’t believe her, and decided the only opinion was to divorce her
What would Joseph have thought about the situation?
The girl he loved had been unfaithful for it’s unbelievable to have a child by God,
If true maybe he might have wanted to have a rant at God. Maybe say…
Lord God, I honoured you, I worshiped you, you who created all things
You who made us your promised people, Gave us your commands.
How could you give my wife a child, it’s against your own laws
Why her, why would you do this thing and why not ask me first I’m her husband!
Oh we know the Messiah’s due and from a virgin, but why Mary?
We’ve been told for years the prophet from David’s line, my line would come
But not this way, I cannot believe you would chose me to be involved in this
Mary said she had seen an angel and agreed willingly to do this,
And she’s proud to be pregnant, expects me to go along with it
Who’s the father? Josiah that freedom fighter, he’s always had girls around him
Did a Roman solider rape her and now she’s blackmail me into an early marriage?
I love you God and you wouldn’t do this to me, so let her be stoned to death, no!
Let her go to Elizabeth’s it’s her disgrace, yet she’ll be shunned by Law abiding people
Joseph would think Mary lied, after all pregnancy happens because of intercourse
She didn’t scream rape; she still wanted the child so must think him gullible
Maybe he considered his own reputation, for people would think he was the father
Then he would be to blame in not able to control his urges before the wedding
The Torah told him what to do for the idea God would be the Father was nonsense
You see to a Jew, God is incorporeal, that is, he has no body, he is non-physical
God is known as Yahweh and is neither male nor female, He’s The Creator, a spirit
So how then could God be the Father, It’s no wonder he rejected her
Joseph was a good Jew, obedient to God, and he would have known the scriptures
Knew that God did search out those to serve him and told them what to do
So when he was told to marry Mary and look after the child, he did so
When told to take Mary and the child into exile, he became a refugee in Egypt
He did what he was asked, because doing what God wanted was like Mary his priority
What of our priorities, How much do we put ourselves out for God.
Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind soul and strength,
Do we love one another, do we work at knowing what Jesus taught
Do we even try to carry out his final command to go and make disciples of all nations?
We have the privilege of being chosen by God and the responsibility is enormous
To carry out his wishes, yet by being chosen we must be capable to doing that task
And the how is to live every aspect of our lives honouring God
In life and in how we approach death shows others not only that we love God
But that we acknowledge that God loves us.
So we witness our faith, our love for Jesus and his Heavenly Father
When the opportunity arises to talk about Christmas then we should include Jesus
Not how he came, but why he came, how our own lives have been affected
Why we hold the beliefs that we do, be prepared to stand up when challenged.
As Christians we are expected to have an opinion so let’s not disappoint anyone
Had a good Christmas? Yes I did celebrate it and really enjoyed the peace and worship
Get much this Christmas? Lot’s but Christmas is more than presents and partying
People agree Christmas is too commercial giving opportunities to witness its purpose
The object is to throw out seeds of thought, and so prompt for more questions
Not to preach, but rather to bring home why Loving God is important to us.
Yet in all the answers we can give the most important seed is why was Jesus born?
At that time in that place the human race was given the chance to know God
Because they had drifted from God’s ways towards thinking they knew better
We are in the same position for many now no longer think they need God
Rejecting his ways and putting themselves first
What was important to Mary and Joseph was to do what God asked them to do
Jesus came to bring us the opportunity to know God and live to his ways
To choose him as our Lord and Saviour, he would not deny who he was, God’s Son
Our priority is not to deny him or his ways but to witness that we know and love him
Jesus was born so each of us can know him and in knowing him to know God’s Word
He was hung on a cross for witnessing who he was, God’s Son, Witnessing The Truth
When we accept Jesus as our Lord, Know The truth, Know God’s Ways, his Word
Then we have the responsibility to live by it and tell others about it
Hymn 493 O Come, O come Emmanuel
Prayers of Intercession Cel
Hymn 491 O come all ye faithful