God of hope and light, your good news has been emblazoned across the skies, the great starry night of Jesus’ birth, sung by the angels, celebrated by shepherds, witnessed by animals. You have given us a new chance, a reminder of your continual love for us. Be with us in this worship. Guide our thoughts, our lives, and our spirits. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

HYMN : In the Bleak Mid Winter

PRAYER OF ADORATION AND CONFESSION

Gracious God,

We gather in the afterglow of Christmas and on the last Sunday of the year,

We want to praise you for your faithfulness at Christmas, that your promise came to pass,

That a son was born, a son given, and his name is Emmanuel, God is with us.

Thank you for your faithfulness in a year like no other,

In good times and bad, through ordinary days and special occasions.

You give us good moments.

Forgive us, if over the Christmas season, we have lost the spirit of Christmas,

Forgive us, if stress or financial pressure or over indulgence

have meant that we have not always shown love and goodwill to all.

Forgive us, if during the past year we have forgotten those that need us the most,

We bless you that the baby was born and was called Jesus, and he came to save us from our sins.

We claim that promise now, that we may walk in your light and glory, to do your will.

Help us at the end of this year, we never forget that in Christ you have become one of us.

Help us to take Christ with us in to the year ahead, and to live for your praise and glory.

We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ name as we say the Lord’s Prayer –

Amen.

BIBLE READINGS : PSALM 148

Praise the Lord,

Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above,

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him,

all you shining stars. praise him, you highest heavens

and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created,

and he established them for ever and ever —

he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depth,

lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,

you mountains and all hill, fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,

kings of the earth and all nations, you prince and all rules on earth,

young men and women, old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for this name alone is exalted;

his splendour is above the earth and the heavens,

and he raised up for hi people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants,

of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

MATTHEW CHAPTER 2 VERSES 13 – 23

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up” he said,

“take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is

going to search for the child to kill him

Do he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed

until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet;

“Out of Egypt I called my son”.

When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave

orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years and under, in

accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the

prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled;

A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.

After Herod died, and angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

“Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying

to take the child’s life are dead.

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel, but when he heard

that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

Havin been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived

in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would

be called a Nazarene.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD, THANKS, BE TO GOD.

HYMN — Child in a Manger

ADDRESS

Having been to Bethlehem and visited the cave which Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus,

sometimes I still struggle to understand what happened that first Christmas night.

We are told that Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem because it was the home town of Joseph and the Romans were conducting a census. So off they trekked across the desert from Nazareth. When they arrived Mary was about to give birth to the baby Jesus.

Just image, if you were in Joseph’s position, your wife is about to give birth and all you would want is to go to the home of your family or best friend, but Mary and Joseph were nowhere available, no room at the inn. So Jesus was born in an undesirable place and placed in a feeding trough. A Mother would only do that out of necessity.

In Matthew, we read that Herod had a fit of rage and ordered all the male infants in Bethlehem under 2yrs of age to be killed. Joseph trusted God’s messenger’s instruction and trusting these orders required Joseph to lead his family beyond the boundaries of God’s promised land and from his country of ¬†residence, they will have to flee to another country to seek asylum from the brutal reign of Herod, much like the people of Israel. Even when the holy family returned, they returned to a different town.

This move was to a tiny town that probably afforded some concealment from other potential political despots. Though Mary and Joseph were obviously very happy about their new arrival, in the infant Jesus, their optimism and joy were put to the test as they journeyed.

In what way can we be obedient to God, to persevere through the trials and tribulations that replace the ribbons and decorations. Sometimes, our journeys seem to have detours.

During Advent we took a journey carrying with us, Hope, Love Peace and Joy and at Christmas, we

celebrated Love’s birth among us. Yet despite, all this, there is still hurt and injustice in the world and

with the worry and anxiety of this Pandemic, in times beyond our control, we continue as Christians to keep telling again and again the stories of God’s faithfulness and sing, when we can, his praises as we share God’s love and hope.

LET US PRAY

Father God,

We must not forget that the Christmas Story did not end in the stable but continued as Jesus grew into

a man, almost unnoticed by the world, apart from his appearance in the Temple– his spiritual home.

As we close the pages of one year and begin the next chapter, may we each grow in faith and wisdom

and closer to you today and everyday to your praise and glory Amen.

HYMN :  Unto us a Child is Born

OFFERING PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

In this time of giving, we are grateful for what we have received from you,

In this time of sharing, we are challenged to share what we have with others,

Receive our gifts with thanks,

As we dedicate them to the on going work of your kingdom,

Amen.

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION

We thank, that in this season of Christmas, this great gift of hope is ours,

and is meant for sharing with all who will receive it.

Today, we give thanks for your generosity towards us

and the generosity it inspires within us,

We thank you for all who give of their time and talents.

We thank those, during this Pandemic year for giving so much

and asking for no thanks.

Hear our prayers today and everyday for those whose needs are greatest,

The families and individuals who are living with anxiety, worry and stress

and all who feel cut off and distanced from Christ’s love.

For all who are far from home who cannot be with family at this time,

and for those whose work keep them away from their loved ones,

For those in hospital, we ask you Lord to be with them,

God Bless all the nations of the world.

God Bless our Queen, and those whose calling is to serve their country

through the institutions and organisations that shape the fabric of our

society, in politics, education, health and welfare.

We pray for your church, may her message be one of welcome, inclusion

and love.

Accept our prayers through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

HYMN: O Holy Night / Love Came Down at Christmas.

 

BENEDICTION

 

May the God of Light, Love and Mercy be in your hearts and spirits this day.

Go in peace and God’s peace will go with you

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship

of the Holy Spirt go with you this day and forever. Amen.