Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hope - a Baptism Service on the First Sunday in Advent

Text of the Week: Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Romans 12:12

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to Kevin and Lorraine as they bring their daughter Laura to be baptized and to everyone in their family as they share with us in this celebration. Laura’s grandmother, Vera, has been a member here for many years and was part of our church choir. It’s the first Sunday in Advent and we will be starting our preparations for Christmas. During the first part of our service our Open the Book team, who regularly take Bible stories into Oakwood School, will be telling the story of the First Christmas. We’ll also be lighting the first of our Advent Candles. On Tuesday we have a Messy Church service for Advent specially for families – 5-00 for tea then crafts and into church. On Saturday we have our Christmas café here in church from 10-00 until 1-00. Come along to enjoy coffee and home-made cakes, Christmas crafts and the Word of Mouth Singers singing carols. Hy-Speed will be organizing digital Scalextric racing.  If you can help, have a word with Jean Gregory or Felicity Cleaves. We’ll be welcoming St John’s Infants to church this Thursday and Friday at 1-30 for their Nativity Play and then Pittville School Year 7’s on Monday 11th December at 11-00. It would be great if you can make it to any of those events so that we can give the youngsters and their parents a really warm welcome from us all at Highbury! And one more event to look out for! On Wednesday, 13th December, we have our Christmas Lunch at 12-30 followed by Carol singing in church. Do sign up for what it is always a very special occasion.

Welcome and Call to Worship

286 Tell out my soul

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Laura’s Baptism

It’s great to welcome Kevin and Lorraine as they bring Laura to be baptized. It’s Kevin’s Mum and Dad, Vera and David   who for many years have belonged to the church here at Highbury. Vera in the choir and a regular member of our evening congregation. We miss David with his wonderful smile! So it’s lovely that Vera is able to  join us – and it’s great to meet Lorraine’s family for the first time today as well – and all the family and friends who have come specially for our service.

As Kevin and Lorraine bring Laura to be baptised we all share in the Church’s Sacrament of Baptism. It is a time for all of us to be reminded of the free gift of God’s love which is poured out on us before ever we know anything about it ... and it is a time for us to rejoice in the difference that love can make to us all as we make it our own in faith.

Reading: Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Jesus showed that the love of God has no limits as he went to the cross and on the third day rose again from the dead. It was then that he challenged his disciples to take the Good News all over the world, making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that he had commanded you.

The disciples bided their time until with the outpouring of the Spirit of God they were empowered by God to go out into the streets with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Peter was the first to preach the message. When the people in Jerusalem heard what he had to say they wanted to know what they could do.
Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children and for all who are far away - everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him. (Acts 2:38-39)

From that day on Baptism became the sign of the change that God’s love in Jesus Christ can make in our lives. Those coming to believe in Jesus Christ were baptised and their families too. From the time of the early church, Christian parents have brought their children to be baptised as a sign of the love God pours on them all ... a love to which, it is their prayer, their children will respond in faith as they grow older.

Baptism Today

So it is that Kevin and Lorraine bring Laura to be baptised today.

In Baptism, God our Father welcomes us into a covenant relationship with him, declaring that we are his children through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and that our future lies with him through the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is a powerful sign that God’s grace is not dependent on anything we do - but is poured out quite freely on each of us. This grace of God in Christ Jesus has the power to change our lives enabling us to die to the world and to rise again to newness of life in Christ Jesus our Lord. But grace can only make a difference to us as we make it our own, responding to the love of God in Christ Jesus simply by turning and trusting ourselves to him in faith.
It is our prayer today that at each stage of her development Larua will make the promise of salvation her own until in adulthood she is able to make a full commitment entering into membership of the Church by declaring her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour.

God’s grace is at work through Jesus Christ and through his Spirit working in the lives of the parents, the family and the church. In presenting this child for baptism we therefore acknowledge a threefold responsibility - of the parents, the family and of the church - to care for her faith and character and to see that she is brought up in the Christian way of life, in the nurture and admonition of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and in the fellowship of the Church.

It is for the god-parents to play their part together with parents, family and church in fulfilling these responsibilities.

The Baptism

Kevin and Laura, as you believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, do you promise, depending on the grace of God, to teach Laura the truths and duties of the Christian faith; and by prayer and example to bring him/her up in the life and worship of the Church so that she can enjoy the security of love and the heritage of faith?
We do.

I ask those Kevin and Lorraine have invited to be God Parents to answer we do to the question I ask:

Do you promise to give your encouragement and support to Lorraine and Kevin as they fulfil their promise to give Laura a loving home where the love of God in Christ is shared?

We do

I will ask everyone who has come specially for the Baptism as friends and family to stand as you are able and to say we do to the question I ask.

Do you promise to give your encouragement and support to Lorraine and Kevin as they fulfil their promise to give Laura a loving home where the love of God in  Christ is shared?

We do.

And then I will ask everyone who belongs to the church family here at Highbury and any who have joined us for the first time this morning to stand as you are able and say we do to the question I ask.

Do you promise to give Laura and all little ones a welcome in this church family where they can grow up knowing the love of God and the teaching of Jesus Christ for themselves?

We do.

Laura Truda  , I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

The Baptism Prayer

I am going to invite Kevin and Lorraine to light the first of our Advent Candles, a candle that reminds us of hope –

The First Advent Candle

“Rejoice in Hope, be patient when things don’t go well, and persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12 for Jesus said,

I am the light of the world; those who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Hymn Your Promises are Coming True – verse 1 and chorus

Your promises are coming true –
Our waiting hopes fulfilled.
Your light has burst upon our world –
The new dawn that you willed.
Your coming gives us hope to live,
And strength, with you, to build.

Come, Jesus, and be with us now,
Be with us now
Come, Jesus, and be with us now!

The First Christmas – Open the Book

A Hy-Spirit Song

Activities for all over 3

Reading: Isaiah 60:1-3 and 19-22

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
   and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
   and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
   and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

The sun shall no longer be
   your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
   give light to you by night;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
   and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
   or your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
   and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous;
   they shall possess the land for ever.
They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands,
   so that I might be glorified.
The least of them shall become a clan,
   and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
   in its time I will accomplish it quickly.

543 Longing for light

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.    
Christ, be our light!    

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Christ, be our light!

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
Christ, be our light!

Bernadette Farrell (b.1957)

Things to Look Forward to

It was great that first time I met little Laura. I had been visiting Vera in Windsor Street and was about to go when Kevin appeared in the doorway, ready to take Vera down as the family had arrived. Laura was only a couple of weeks old and it was great going down with Vera in the lift and then meeting up with Laura and Elaine. That’s something wonderful about a new born baby – and specially wonderful seeing Laura cradled by Vera – a new arrival in the family.

Every time I see a tiny little baby I am just amazed at the miracle of life – for me, I feel the wonder of God’s creation.

And with a new arrival in the family come so many hopes and expectations. Those fingernails so perfectly formed, already some hair? Who does she look like? Who will she take after? What football team will she support – that’s already been decided! You could go so far as to say today’s the day when there will be a new baby bird in the Robin’s Nest!

When a new arrival comes in a family we can’t help but think back and remember those who have gone before us – as we do of David now. But with the arrival of a little one there are all sorts of hopes for the future ahead. A new born baby brings hope into our hearts.

But it feels as if it’s a scary world that Laura is born into. It’s a time  of so much uncertainty. There are fears for the future as well. What will the future hold for little Laura? It’s such a fragile world, a world of all sorts of complexities, all sorts of uncertainties. What will this world be that she will grow up into? What will become of her?

With all those hopes come all those fears as well.

And all too often the fears seem to get the better of the hopes.

Seeing a little one makes me feel the wonder, the miracle of life – and makes me feel the wonder of God’s creation. I cannot help but feel that there must be something more than I can see that makes.

There’s something very appropriate about sharing in a baptism service on the first Sunday of Advent just as we are beginning that build up to Christmas.

At the heart of my faith as a Christian is not just some general idea about God – beyond all things and in all things, the God of creation, the God of the enormity of the universe, the God of the tiny little baby.

At the heart of my faith as a Christian is a God who comes into the mess of the world, shares with us not only in the wonder of life, but in the awfulness of the mess of the world.

So it is that this God comes into our world as a baby born into a cruel world filled with uncertainty and fear. It’s a brutal regime that forces the birth to happen not in the comfort o fa home but the squalor of a stable. It’s a brutal regime that forces the young family to flee as refugees across Sinai to Egypt. It’s against the backdrop of a brutal regime and a cruel world that the baby grows into a man who sets out a way of life to follow based on care and concern for others that extends loving your neighbour into loving your enemies too. It’s a way of life that brings healing where people are hurting. And the brutality of that world leads to the God-forsaken loneliness of death by the most cruel form of execution.
It’s as if in this Jesus, God comes alongside us in the cruelty of a cruel world – but the brutality of that cruel world does not have the last word. It is in resurrection victory that Jesus shows that God has the last word – and that is a resurrection victory we too can share.

And it’s all there in microcosm in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.

One of the carols we shall be singing is O Little Town of Bethlehem

1          O little town of Bethlehem,
            how still we see thee lie!
            above thy deep and dreamless sleep
            the silent stars go by.
            Yet in thy dark streets shineth
            the everlasting light;
            the hopes and fears of all the years
            are met in thee to-night.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

I take that story and it brings me back to the world of today. Yes, a world of fears. But it’s always been like that – each generation has fears of its own – for us who were born into the height of the cold war, a previous generation born into the uncertainties and fears of the war, a previous generation, the depression and another war.

The Christian message is one for the real world – it offers a way of life to follow that’s worth passing on, and I for one would love to pass that on to Laura. It’s more than a way of life to follow. It’s a way of making sense of the world – that sees the preciousness of life and sees that for all the uncertainties and fears the world hurls at us, there is something more, beyond what we can see - God has the last word. The victory is ours to share.

What’s this God like? All sorts of things come to mind he is the light that breaks into the darkness. – among them as Christmas approaches is that God is like the littlest of babies.

Maybe we need to see God not in the awesome majesty of incredible power, but in the vulnerability of the tiny little baby.

Judi has shared with me a poem she came across by Lisa Debney that invites us to do just that. She thought we could use it over Christmas – it’s a great moment to share it as we think of Laura and share in her baptism on this the first Sunday of Advent.

It’s title is Shepherd and the poem imagines a shepherd seeing the Christ child in the manger that first Christmas night.


Until tonight,
I could not fit the size of God
into my head.
I thought he was a God
for prophets and kings,
men of words and wisdom.
But tonight I am looking at God made small,
small enough for me,
small enough to pick up
and hold like a lamb.
I could not talk to a God in the clouds;
but tonight when I look and smile
and talk nonsense to this
tiny thing, I know that I am
talking to God.
And it is God who smiles
back at me and waves his
perfect hands in delight.
And tonight in your smallness, God,
you seem bigger and more powerful
to me than you ever did before.
I can hold you now,
hold you in my head
and hold you in my arms,
and know that you are holding me in yours.

Lisa Debney in
Burgess, R. (2005) Hay and Stardust: Resources for Christmas to Candlemas. Glasgow, Wild Goose Publications.

519 Love divine

Prayers of Concern

167 Guide me

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

Music: Alan Berry / Hy-Spirit

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