|A Call to Worship
Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 when he said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…”
Let us remember the joy we have when we know that our future is secure with God because
He has saved us and brought us into His kingdom.
The Advent Crown
The candles on the crown stand for hope, peace, joy and love. The candle in the centre is for Jesus.
Joy to the World
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
You are our wonderful counsellor. Through your Holy Spirit you guide and comfort us during good times and bad.
You are Emmanuel, God with us. You became one of us, you understand everything about us and you suffered to
save us. You are the Prince of Peace. You bring together all peoples from different cultures and backgrounds and
unite them in You. You also give us that peace which brings us into the Father’s presence and washes us clean.
Lord Jesus, we have sinned against You and against our fellow people in thought, word and deed. We love to be in
your Father’s presence but we cannot enter your kingdom by ourselves. You suffered and died to save us from our
sins so that we can have eternal live with You. Cleanse our hearts and minds so that we can freely worship You
and magnify Your holy name.
In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.
The Lord’s prayer:
Isaiah 61 v1-4 and 8-11
John 1 v 6 – 8 and 19 – 34
Michael Parkinson used to have all the most famous people on his television show. The celebrities would love to talk
about themselves and their work and have a chance to promote their careers. His show was prime viewing in the
1970s and early 80s and anyone who was loved by the general public appeared on it.
John the Baptist was one of the biggest crowd pullers in early first century Judea. He was an immense leader:
crowds went out into the desert to follow him. He taught repentance from sins and baptised people with water to
symbolise the washing away of sins. He was not afraid to speak out against people: he challenged King Herod over
his adultery and showed he was not afraid of anyone. He was sent by God and people could see it. Some people
were saying that he was Elijah, such was his impression with the crowds. You would think that he would be a great
person to be interviewed on the Parkinson show.
Well, the religious leaders of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to interview John. I can imagine television cameras
pointed at him and a microphone shoved in his face as he gets questioned. So would this be a really exciting
interview about one of the greatest personalities and leaders of the current time? No. Listen to how it went:
Interviewers: ‘You’re not the Christ are you?’
John: ‘Oh, no.’
Interviewers: ‘Are you Elijah?’
Interviewers: ‘Are you the prophet?’
With exasperation the interviewers asked him, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer we can take back to our leaders.’
John: ‘A voice.’
John: ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make the road ready for the Lord.’’
Interviewers: ‘Why do you baptise with water?’
John: ‘I baptise with water, but among you stands one who you do not know. He comes after me and I am not
good enough to untie his shoelaces.’
It was over in less than a minute. He had given his interviewers the most disappointing answers they could get.
If anyone had watched this on live television, the presenters would have had to infill with waffle and then cut quickly to
a weather report. He was not going to enjoy talking about himself. He was not going to boast about his successes or
explain his philosophies on life. He was not going to promote his preaching, not even the importance of his own
message. Instead, he diverted attention away from him and onto the one who was to come, Jesus. Even though he
appeared greater than any other leader at the time, he tells the crowd that he is pointing to someone who is so much
greater than he is.
I am reminded of a recent advert with Jeremy Clarkson. You may remember it. Jeremy Clarkson is talking about
whatever it is he is advertising but it becomes clear that he is more of the focus of the advert than the product. It ends
with Jeremy Clarkson saying, ‘Still, it’s not all about me.’ The camera then pans over to a large portrait of Clarkson
who then shrugs his shoulders and admits, ‘Actually, it is all about me!’ I cannot remember what company or product
that advert was trying to promote but all I can remember is Jeremy Clarkson. John the Baptist is the antithesis of
Clarkson in this advert. He points everything he says away from himself and on to Jesus.
John is an example for us. In our conversations, do we seek to direct people away from ourselves and onto Jesus?.
Do we want people to notice us or to notice Jesus. We long to be known and recognised and respected, just look at
the celebrity culture that exists around us. Christianity is about people being saved through Christ for them to go to
heaven. We need to point people to Christ for forgiveness. Like John, we need to be strong on what we are not about.
Are we about being kind people? Only if it points to Christ and not ourselves. Are we about being effective teachers?
Only if it points to Christ and not ourselves. Are we about being wise and good organisers? Only if it points
to Christ and not ourselves. Jesus is the focus.
Now It is beginning to sound like I’m advocating shoe-horning a conversation about Jesus every time you do
something good or keep handing out tracts to point people to Jesus. I am not but it is so hard to get Jesus into the
conversation. What we need to do is pray that Jesus will be our focus in our hearts and for God to give us the
opportunities to speak about Jesus. Less of me, more of you. Before anything, conversations with friends, at work,
Why does John focus so much on Jesus? In verse 29, John declares that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’. We are used
to lambs in two different forms: firstly as the soft and cute kind we see in springtime on Willy Hall’s, Ian Stevenson’s
or Jim Sutherland’s farms; and secondly with mint sauce on our dinner plates. Now you have to remember that John
the Baptist, who crunched through locusts and dressed like Stig of the Dump would not do much sentimentality or
tasty dinners. He is not trying to present Jesus as lovely. But the Lamb of God label for Jesus had a far more
unpleasant meaning. The lamb was the sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. It was the lamb that was used
at the Passover meal as a sacrifice for sin. It meant that Jesus was going to suffer and die.
John declares that the sacrifice which Jesus will make will, ‘take away the sins of the world.’ Sin is to ignore God. It is
to make up our own rules about how to live and make ourselves into our own gods: ‘I’ll do it my way!’ God has
everything we have done, good and bad, all recorded and we will have to give an account for every sin we have done.
He knows it and we know he knows it and that is why we feel guilty. Our conscience is a warning signal and the
reason we feel guilty is because we are guilty. This condition is serious and we face the punishment of eternal
separation from God and all of his goodness.
This is a terrible problem but the good news is that God provided the solution: Jesus was the sacrificial lamb of God
which John spoke about. This lamb, Jesus, was the substitute for us and our sins. We deserve to die for our sins but
he sent a substitute for us who would take the punishment for us. No lamb or animal was sufficient enough. The only
one who was able to be the substitute was Jesus, whose character was flawless and He was God. Jesus went
voluntarily, God sacrificing Himself. He suffered once and for all and declared ‘Tetelestai!’ (It is accomplished!). And
because it is over, he does not continue to suffer and we can rejoice over what He has done for us. We can thank
and praise Him for saving us knowing that He is seated beside the Father and He will come again in glory. There is
our good news and our joy: Jesus has saved us and we can be with Him forever.
So how can we put the spotlight on Jesus? We want to be less like Jeremy Clarkson in the advert and more like John
the Baptist. Less focus on us and more on Jesus. We need to put Jesus in the spotlight in our hearts through our
prayers and reading the Bible. We can ask Jesus to be in the spotlight in our relationships with our friends and
neighbours and pray for opportunities to share what Jesus has done to bring them to God.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with that joy of knowing You and help us to be ever grateful for what you have done
to save us. Fill our hearts with Your love for our friends and neighbours so that we will share the joy of knowing your
salvation with them. Help us to be like John the Baptist and be focused on pointing others to Jesus.
In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.
Once in Royal David’s City
.Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Thank you for the Christmas season and the joy of the holidays and festivities. We pray that we will all remember you in our celebrations and that Jesus came to be with us. Help us to pass the message of Jesus’s love and sacrifice on to our families, friends and neighbours. Pray for those who will be lonely or who will find Christmas
distressing because of hardship or illness. Help us to look out for those in need and to serve them according to their
needs. We bring before you now people known to us…[names of people in need of particular prayer]. You know the
needs of everyone who we have just lifted before you. Be with them, comfort them and give them the joy of knowing
Thank you for our NHS workers and emergency service workers. We thank you for their self sacrifice and dedication
to duty while under so many pressures. Protect them from both illness and fatigue and grant them the rest they need.
Thank you for the Covid 19 vaccines and all the research gone into developing treatments. We pray for governments
and pharmaceutical companies that you will give them wisdom when distributing the vaccines so that they are shared
fairly and where the need is greatest.
Thank you for the food banks and those who serve there. Help us to support those in need and be involved in their
work so that others can share in the joys of Christmas and receive the joy of knowing You.
Thank you for the Queen and her governments. Guide our local, Scottish and UK leaders to govern our lands with
wisdom and fairness. Strengthen those members of government who trust in you and help them to serve You in their
work. We pray for governments around the world that they will turn to You and acknowledge your overall sovereignty.
Help those people in other countries who are oppressed through governments, businesses and social pressures. Bring
them closer to You and protect them. We pray that through their steadfastness others, including
their oppressors with see You and turn to You.
We ask these prayers in Jesus’s name, Amen.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Help us to be people of joy.