The Son of the Most High (click here)
Welcome to worship at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Salmon Arm. We are delighted that you have joined us online.
You are invited to join us for a virtual Christmas Eve Service. We invite you to come with a plate of cookies or other sweet Christmas treat, and warm beverages (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mulled cider or wine, ) for the Agape Feast during the service.
On New Year's Eve we invite you to join us for a virtual prayer meeting, as we lament for what 2020 has brought and pray with hope for 2021.
- Do not forget December's Loonie Offering to the SAFE House and the PWS&D Christmas Card project. To find out more check the "Recent Posts" to the right of your screen.
- Thank you Rev. Ena for leading us in worship today and may God bless us all with understanding and wisdom as we hear the Word this day.
Please have an advent wreath or a candle handy to light as a part of the call to worship.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Fourth Sunday in Advent: LOVE
Reader: In this season of Advent, we celebrate God’s love.
All: Soon we will welcome the beautiful and radical love of God as Jesus Christ comes to live among us.
Reader: We embrace our identity as God’s beloved children and let this truth guide our decisions and relationships.
All: In our homes and in our church, we offer hospitality, welcoming those we don’t know, those who are in need, and those who are different from us.
Reader: We demonstrate our care for creation in real and tangible ways through the products we buy, the food we eat, and the way we live every day.
All: Together, we are a sign of God’s love for the world.
The candle of love is lit.
Unison Prayer: God of extravagant generosity, in Jesus we discover the depth of your care and the lengths you will go to save us. Forgive us when we ignore those in need, trample your creation and refuse to share all that we receive from you. Teach us to love our neighbours, caring for each other in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hymn Come thou long expected Jesus (click the blue text for YouTube music, sorry there may be advertising)
PRAYER OF INVOCATION (responsive)
We will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
Our souls magnify the Lord;
With our mouths we proclaim God’s faithfulness to all generations
Our spirits rejoice in God our saviour.
We declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
His mercy is to those who fear him
from generation to generation.
Your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
He has filled he hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
You are our God and the Rock of our salvation.
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O Holy God of Promise,
we so often place our trust in the things we can see,
and touch, and easily believe.
But you did not ask us to believe what is easy,
you have asked us to believe what is true!
Forgive us, Holy One, when we doubt the ways you work.
Forgive us when we find it hard to believe an ancient story.
Forgive us we question how you chose to enter the world,
born as one of us.
Forgive our lack of faith and belief
in ways which seem so impossible to believe.
Help us to look in faith, open our belief, and set aside our doubts
that you sent your Son, born of a virgin –
the one who has come to set us all free.
We offer these prayers in the name of your Son,
Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
May starlight guide your steps towards this place of wonder
May angels sing their news as you travel to the manger
May promise fill these days as we watch at the edge of birth
and may faith tell you, Emmanuel will be with us soon,
People of God, believe the good news
Jesus who has come to be present with us here below
Fills your heart with his mercy and his love
He was born to be our salvation
And that is who is he and what he does
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Glory be to God. Amen
PASSING THE PEACE
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.
Share a sign of peace with those nearby, or ask the Spirit to bring his peace to another you may know, or to a world situation.
Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]
19 Once you spoke in a vision,
to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
I have raised up a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn[a] will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’ (NIV)
Luke 1: 26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (NIV)
SERMON The Son of the Most High (click the title to view)
The prophecies about the Son of the Most High, had been echoing among the people for generations. The longing of every heart was for the day when the promise would be fulfilled. Every prayer expressed the hope that the Son of the Most High would come, and everything would be restored.
The problem was, that not everyone had the same faith that the Son of Man would come. Those who didn’t believe wanted to take another route to restoration that led to self-rule.
Additionally, among those who did believe the coming restoration had differing meanings.
The most likely meaning that the people understood, was that the Son of the Most High, would be a son in the line of David. As such he would be the legitimate heir to the throne, who would come and secure the throne and whose line would rule forever.
Did that involve an insurrection?
Would he raise an army and call the people to a war?
Would it be a peaceful transition?
How would God intervene in this process?
An angel army?
Great displays of power?
Or would God subtly put things into place behind the scenes?
As you can imagine the expectations for what the Son of the Most High would do, were very high.
Today we read the account of the angel coming to stand before Mary and announce that she is favoured of God, and about to give birth to the Son of the Most High.
Imagine taking in that information.
The Son of the Most High who would:
Rid the country of the occupying Romans
Remove Herod from the throne
Reclaim the throne himself
Reunite all the people of Israel
Revive the faith of the people
Restore the land
and Establish the throne forever in the line of David
Phew, that was a lot of expectation.
Imagine how Mary felt when told that she would have that baby.
How do you even begin to contemplate taking on such an enormous task?
After generations of prophetic announcements, how do you tell the people that a young unmarried girl is going to give birth to the Messiah, the Son of the Most High? Do you dare to share the news?
Who would believe it? Surely this king should be born in a palace, and be trained to take on the role that was expected of him. Surely this king should be raised among princes, and surrounded by the best teachers, and taught the arts of diplomacy and warfare.
How can a young single mother from a humble village be expected to properly raise the Messiah?
Isn’t that the point of God’s revelation?
Surely the Scriptural accounts of God interacting with his people would have taught us that God has never done what has been expected of him. In fact, God seems to delight in bringing forth the most unexpected people to fulfill his grand plans.
When the angel appeared to Mary, God provided the ultimate update on God’s plan to keep His promise to bring forth the one who would be the Son of the Most High.
Given all the expectations surrounding the Son of the Most High, that title seems so misleading in the context of this story. This baby will grow to be a man who is really only and always a humble servant. Howell writes: in this birth announcement we are reminded that God is quite small, vulnerable, a God who doesn’t conquer everything, but gets defeated in the most profound embodiment of suffering love ever.
The people have been crying out to God for a saviour. Year after year, generation after generation, century after century, God promises that when the time is right he will send the Messiah to free his people.
Then, when the time was right, he appeared to an unmarried teenage girl and announced that she will give birth to the baby who would fulfill the promise.
Really is this how a powerful God does things?
When you have been praying for the Messiah for generations, surely God can come with a more powerful display of his majesty and grandeur. Or at least a great display of power.
How does God choose to answer the prayers?
Not as this thing, or that thing as the people demanded.
Not even as a recognizable answer to their prayers.
And yet this birth announcement is an answer to the prayer that none of us, then or now, is aware of having uttered. The birth of the Son of the Most High, is an answer to the plea of our broken hearts, which desire above all, to have God be with us.
The son of the most high, comes to us not to be a great God, but to live among us as one of us. That doesn’t always take the form we expect, or recognize.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among those who witnessed the execution of a young man in a concentration camp. One of the others watching challenged him to explain where his God was in this tragic event. Bonhoeffer’s answer was simple, that God was there in the death and dying of the young man, just as if he himself were being executed yet again.
When the Son of the Most High lives among us, he suffers like one of us and he dies like one of us. He is present with us, no matter what.
This is good news to us at a time when we are preparing for a COVID Christmas, full of restrictions, tinged with the grief of not being able to gather and worship and celebrate with those whom we love. This year our celebrations are turned upside down, and we may wonder, where is God at this time?
Where is God in our celebration? How do we celebrate, honour or worship God at a time like this?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi concentration camp: "I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. Since outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it [we] will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant: We are beggars, it’s true. The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth."
The son of the most high comes to live among us. Not with power and might, but in our hearts, closer than a sigh and feeding our heartbeats with his love.
We like Mary ask: How can this be?
Then we realize in our deepest heart that this can be because we open our hearts and are ready for the miracle to be completed in our lives.
Today the angel announces that God has heard the deepest desire of our hearts and he comes to dwell among us. Let us watch for his presence. Amen
Today we remember the gift of Jesus Christ given to us giving thanks to God, for the many ways in which we to our offering into the storehouse. Please check the front page of the website for ways in which you can contribute. Thank you.
As God has so richly poured gifts of love, peace, hope, and joy into our lives; let us receive the morning’s offering as tokens of our gratitude for all these blessings.
OFFERTORY PRAYER (responsive)
In this moment of worship
we embrace Your presence again, O God.
And we offer You our love.
In this moment of prayer
we proclaim again Your purpose for the world, O Saviour.
And we offer You our resources.
In this moment of giving
we hear Your call again, O Lord.
And we offer You ourselves.
Use us – all that we have and all that we are
to touch the world with the Christmas message:
God is love. God is with us. God will never leave us.
So, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
The Love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all now and forever. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (responsive)
Lord Jesus, preaching good tidings to the people,
proclaiming release to captives,
setting at liberty those who are bound:
We adore you.
Lord Jesus, friend of the outcast and the poor,
feeder of the hungry,
healer of the sick:
We adore you.
denouncing the oppressor,
exposing the hypocrite,
overcoming evil with good:
We adore you.
pattern of gentleness,
teacher of holiness,
prophet of the kingdom:
We adore you.
dying to save us from our sin,
rising to give us eternal life,
ascending to prepare our heavenly home:
We adore you.
this is the season for miracles
and we pray for one today.
Where there is sorrow,
we pray for your grace to light the darkness.
We pray for your grace for all those grieving today:
(we add our prayers)
Where is despair,
we pray for your hope to light the darkness.
Where there is hatred,
we pray for your forgiveness to light the darkness.
Where there is war,
we pray for your love to light the darkness.
We pray for all people in darkness today.
(we add our prayers)
Where there is confusion,
we pray for your peace to light the darkness.
Where there is injustice,
we pray for your courage to light the darkness.
Where there is fear
we pray for your joy to light the darkness.
We pray for all people longing for the light of your love
(we add our prayers)
We remember this day all those who labour for the benefit of this community. Drs, Nurses and all hospital staff; those who serve us in numerous ways, from grocery stores to plowing the streets. Today we also remember especially those people who volunteer in Search and Rescue, risking their lives to save others. Be the miracle they need today.
It is the season for miracles
and we pray for one today:
Come, Lord Jesus, may your light come into our world.
Hear us now, as together we pray as you have taught us, saying
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever.
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION responsive
Go forth in hope!
Dare we? Can we really hope?
From out of the darkness
we sense a dim light ahead,
the light of your coming into the world.
We so long for the time
when God is no longer hidden from us
and our deepest desire is
to trust in God’s warm voice that we I hear behind us,
guiding us along a hidden path we do not know.
May the God of Miracles Dry our tears,
May the Spirit that fills our hearts heal our wounds
As we wait for the dawning of the dim light ahead,
with a brighter vision of healing and freedom.
May Jesus Christ come among us, filling us with joy in believing. Amen
SUNG BLESSING: Emmanuel