3rd Sunday of Advent – 13th December 2020

Video of full service...


       Grace, mercy and peace
       from God our Father
       and the Lord Jesus Christ
       be with you
      and also with you

Lighting of the 3rd Advent Candle     

Magnificat! Magnificat!
Gathered here today, from many places,
we are together on this joyful Sunday of Advent
to celebrate the light that we light,
to mark that hope is always present among us,
even when we do not see it.
Let us find hope and strength in this company of friends,
lifting up our voices together in a great song of praise
to the one who is always with us.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020. 
Reproduced with permission.



Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of your kingdom:

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness:

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You will come in glory with salvation for your people:

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


May the God of love
bring us back to himself,
forgive us our sins,
and assure us of his eternal love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect – The prayer for today

God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.



There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[c] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[d]

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with[e] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John 1
6-8, 19-28

As we move forward in this period of Advent we are still preparing the way – we are still hearing stories of those that come before Jesus. Last week we heard from Marks Gospel about how John the Baptist came preaching that people should confess and  repent  , just as Isaiah had prophecised that he would (Isaiah 40 v3 – “A voice of one calling : ‘In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God’”.

  And we heard how John had preached that someone was coming who’s sandals he was not worthy to untie.  Someone who could baptise with more than the mere water that John used. And we heard in that passage as Jesus was baptised that this clearly was the fulfilling of the ancient prophecies Mark reports that the spirit came on to Jesus and Gods voice was heard. 

This week we are hearing again about John but from a slightly different angle. Last week we found out from Mark that John was, well,  a bit odd really – a bit alternative, a man who wore fur and ate locusts in the wild– certainly not a good fit with the religious types who were about at that time – the pharises who were well dressed, well respected and cosy with the occupying Romans.

In this weeks 2 part passage John (the Gospel writer) doesn’t waste any time talking about the physical appearance of John the Baptist.  Instead he makes sure we know that John (the Baptist) was sent by God to tell people about someone else who was coming –  The gospel writer says “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” So we are left in no doubt that John the Baptist is the messenger – another prophet who, as we found out before was also fulfilling an earlier prophecy in Isaiah.

Our split passage jumps on to John  19 and this is where the jarring of John with his rustic image and the posh self centred pharises comes.  The religious types have come out from their places in town to the country side to see what the fuss is all about.  Have they come because they are afraid someone is musceling in on their patch?  Have they come because the message is quite unlike anything they have ever preached? Have they come because John is simply  taking their punters away? What we do know is that the Jewish Leaders in Jerusalem sent them to find out who this guy was.  John the Baptist was obviously starting to get noticed – and was clearly stiring things up enough that the religious leaders wanted to check him out.

I cant imagine these guys were asking out of politeness – one article I read calls them the church’s private investigators –  sent out in a hurry to check out what’s going on .  that same article tells me there are 3 facets or parts to the question “Who are you”?

First theres is the obvious one – “Whats you name”

Secondly there is the “Who are you really” ie what are you like, what kind of person are you

And thirdly there’s the  “Who are you to talk like this? By what authority do you speak?”

I imagine the scene as though John the Baptist has been cornered by journalists all shouting basic questions at him like “Who are you” but all the time knowing they have an ulterior motive. 

John of course tells them what he has told everyone else – “I’m not the messiah”  So they ask him if he is Elijah, another ancient prophet who lived simply and ate whatever was around – No, he’s not Elijah ether.  So Is he the prophet – No not that either. 

“Well what on earth are you then” 

These guys have been sent from the town by their bosses to get an answer and they are in danger of not getting one – they plead with John “Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

And John finally opens up – with a line of scripture they would know well which must have shaken them.  I can’t help thinking that these guys that had been sent to check out John thought it would be a quick case of checking he was a nutter and then home in time for a nice lunch. Instead John himself tells them that he is a prophet fulfilling another prophecy – that of Isaiah.  I suppose the natural extension from that is that if one prophecy was coming true then is there any reason why the one about a messiah might not come true too?!  Lunch is suddenly looking a long way off for these investigators.

I I might be doing these guys a disservice – maybe knowing the scriptures they got  excited and maybe some of them went  running back to their bosses in a state of excitement to give them the good news but given what we know of the religious leaders at the time and the way they are almost universally portrayed  I doubt it.

Again in my mind I see them almost reluctantly asking the last question – “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or a prophet?”  They are starting now to get tense – they need answers and maybe things are starting to sound serious

And does what John say next frighten them? –  John doesn’t bother to try and explain why he is baptizing (after all the mere word “baptize” and what he has been doing speak for themselves) instead his reply is designed to just be the truth and what a shocking truth it must be – “I baptize you with water but among you stands one you do not know – He is the one that comes after me who’s sandals I am not worthy to untie”  John tells them in this simple sentence that he is just an ordinary man “I baptize with water” , that someone far greater than he is coming “who’s sandals I am not worthy to untie” but also that Jesus is already here “among you stands one you do not know” John even manages to make it plain that they don’t get it – he’s here among you now and you don’t even know him.

That’s a challenging thought to everyone who was present-  the much prophecised saviour of the world is among them – NOW. John has thrown back the challenging questions from these religious investigators and where they have demanded certainty (preferably that he was a fruit cake!) John offers them some head spinning confusion.

What the priests wanted from John was that they could categorise him – they could put a label on him to explain away his antics.  He might have been misguided, or a fruitcake, or some cult or something else to explain why he didn’t represent their official view of religion.  But as we know, time and again the religious people didn’t know Jesus was among them  – they obviously came to know a guy called Jesus was around making waves but they didn’t know him, they didn’t know who he really was and of course we know they tried everything they could to make him go away.

In this time of Advent, when we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus what John says still holds true of our world today.  We do not know who Jesus is, we have not seen the light and yet we must, our world must come to know who Jesus really is.  And of course as John says  – Jesus is among us, and yet do we really know and see him? Do we see that he is already here?  Or is it more convenient to carry on and ignore that fact?  More up to date question:  Does how we do advent and Christmas proclaim our Christian faith or that we are just part of the same normal Christmas that non Christians have?

As Christians hopefully we should have got some of those things sorted but the world has not, perhaps as Advent continues we are all called to be a little like John the Baptist – no, you don’t have to wear a fur and eat locusts but you do have to be different  – Different in a world that is desperate for good news.  Here now, especially in Advent and on towards Christmas , lets make sure we spread a little of that light.  Let us be the voice crying in the wilderness that more people might know what Christmas really means



Statement of Faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

All   We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.

We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.



A Prayer for All Ages

God of joy,
as we celebrate this ‘Rose Sunday’ of Advent,
with three candles lit and December progressing,
we lift up our hands in gratitude for all that we have.
We turn towards each other – friends, family, community;

young and old – gladly thanking you for the gifts that are all around us already.


 © ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020. 
 Reproduced with permission. 

Prayers of Intercession

We pray today for all who are downtrodden, all who are oppressed, all who know the heavy hand of marginalisation on them. God, we turn to you, remembering the words of Mary, praying that you will lift up the lowly, you will raise the voice of justice, and you will scatter oppression. May all who are oppressed be set free.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

We pray that we might find rhythms of life that sustain us here. Rhythms for cultivating and renewing the earth; human community; jus-tice; and creativity.
We ask this, in joy and gratitude.
In your name we pray.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020. 
Reproduced with permission.

Eucharistic Prayer

The Lord be with you
All   and also with you.


The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
All   We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All   It is right to give thanks and praise.

Almighty God, good Father to us all,
your face is turned towards your world.
In love you gave us Jesus your Son
to rescue us from sin and death.
Your Word goes out to call us home
to the city where angels sing your praise.
We join with them in heaven’s song:

All Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Father of all, we give you thanks for every gift that comes from heaven.

To the darkness Jesus came as your light.
With signs of faith and words of hope
he touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean.

This is his story.
All This is our song:
Hosanna in the highest.

The crowds came out to see your Son,
yet at the end they turned on him.
On the night he was betrayed
he came to table with his friends
to celebrate the freedom of your people.

This is his story.
All This is our song:
Hosanna in the highest.

Jesus blessed you, Father, for the food;
he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said:
This is my body, given for you all.
Jesus then gave thanks for the wine;
he took the cup, gave it and said:
This is my blood, shed for you all
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in remembrance of me.

This is our story.
All This is our song:
Hosanna in the highest.

Therefore, Father, with this bread and this cup
we celebrate the cross
on which he died to set us free.
Defying death he rose again
and is alive with you to plead for us and all the world.

This is our story.
All This is our song:
Hosanna in the highest.

Send your Spirit on us now
that by these gifts we may feed on Christ
with opened eyes and hearts on fire.

May we and all who share this food
offer ourselves to live for you
and be welcomed at your feast in heaven
where all creation worships you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

All Blessing and honour and glory and power
be yours for ever and ever.

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray

All Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Breaking of the Bread

The president breaks the consecrated bread.

We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.

All Though we are many, we are one body,
because we all share in one bread.

Giving of Communion

God’s holy gifts
for God’s holy people.

All Jesus Christ is holy,
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer after Communion


We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts;

kindle in us the fire of your Spirit

that when your Christ comes again

we may shine as lights before his face;

who is alive and reigns now and for ever.




The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Blessing and Dismissal

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. 


As we await our coming Saviour, 
Go in the peace of Christ

Thanks be to God


If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church

There are also the sermons available from the Bishop’s senior staff here: https://www.sheffield.anglican.org/video-sermons.