Virtual Services

Christmas 1 – 27th December 2020

Welcome

Good morning, and welcome to All Saints Totley today.

I hope you have had a pleasant Christmas – whatever that looked like for you and yours. It certainly hasn’t been a normal Christmas period, just as it’s been an unusual year. However, I trust that you have been able to enjoy something of the usual celebrations.

As you may well have noticed, we are online only again this Sunday, because of our planning to stay COVID-19 secure. Of course, and as we’ll see in our reading today, the fact of us not being together in the church building does not mean we are any further from each other, or from God.

So as we prepare ourselves this morning – let’s begin with a prayer, before our time of worship.

Worship

God – we gather in your presence.
Father – we long for more of you.
Jesus – we place you at the centre.
Holy Spirit – come and fill our time together.
Help us to be fully present here,
to your word, to one another,
and to the world you love.
Amen.

Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore
 
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
 
Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore
 
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
 
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
Noel
n Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
 
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
 
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
 
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Word

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians
4:4-7

We’ve just had Christmas. These verses in Galatians give us a wonderful short overview of what that means – not the tinsel and the decorations and the nativity – but a look at the cosmic implication of what took place, and what that means for believers.

 

Paul here is talking to the largely Greek Galatian Church – mostly pagans before they became believers. However, Tthey had been influenced in their new faith by Judaizers – taking their focus from Christ back to the Mosaic law and the way Israel used to be, the old covenant with God. They looked to the Law of Moses for justification – but in Pauls letter he shows up the law to be that which was temporary, was prior to the coming of Christ.

 

Paul repeatedly points to justification by faith in Christ in Galatians – and then the position of believers by that faith.

 

Paul’s clear message is simple this: At the right, predetermined, time in history God sent Christ – Diety and Humanity harmoniously united. Christ came under the same principles and Law as Jews or any other, to redeem from slavery, from the bondage of the powerless principles around and to elevate believers to that state of adoption, of heirs and clothed such that we are fully acceptable to God. The Greek word for adoption here is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.

 

In the Roman society when a male youth came of age he was given a special toga which admitted him to the full rights of the family and state and indicated he was a grown-up son. The indication by Paul then is that the Galatian believers had laid aside the old garments of the Law that went before, the law that highlighted what was wrong and drew attention to it thereby making them slaves to it, preventing acceptance by God – what was being laid aside was the basic stages of religious experience – exchanged for Christ’s robe of righteousness which which grants full acceptance before God.

 

This metaphor of putting on the righteous robes of Christ is explained further in verse 6. All who believe in Christ become sons of God. The exalted position of “children of God” is explained by Paul to involve a living union with Christ brought about by being baptized into Christ. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

 

1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

 

Paul shows us that it is by the Holy Spirit we are all joined to Christ and united within the church, Christ’s body.

 

Since all believers become one with each other, human distinctions lose their significance. None is spiritually superior over another. So a believing Jew is not more privileged before God than a believing Gentile. A believing slave does not rank higher than a believing free person in Roman society, or vice versa. A believing man is not superior to a believing woman.

 

Spiritually speaking the distinctions we as people are so fond of, boxing people up into convenient labels and partitions of our lives and society – they just do not exist in the body of Christ so far as privilege and position are concerned. We are all brought near and equal, to the same table and receiving the same standing.

 

Christ’s Incarnation and ultimate death secured for us as believers the full rights of children and heirs. All the enjoyments and privileges of a mature and full member of an ancient and idealised family belong to those who have entered into the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work.

 

So as we exit 2020, however that may be – burdened and worried, stressed and struggling, joyous and celebrating – we can take comfort in the reminder of Christmas. God came to us. Broke into time from eternity in order to reach us. it is not about us and how we feel, about what we think we deserve, about how good or bad we think we are, about whether we feel close to God or adrift – these realities are secured for us by his efforts and made effective by the Holy Spirit. This morning we can remind ourselves that they are unchangeably ours.

Witness

Prayers

Almighty Father, Creator of the universe, I approach You with a grateful heart. I bless Your Holy Name and submit the honour and praise that is due unto You.

Beautiful Lord, I was created in your image, fearfully and wonderfully made to be the light in this dark world.

Father please guide me in the path of righteousness according to Your will and glory. You are the Omnipotent Potter and I am the clay.

Shape me, mould me, use me and fill me each and everyday to become more like Christ.

Community

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.

 

Reminder

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