Wednesday, December 27, 2023

A Sunday preach

I have been asked to preach so little this year so I was surprised to be asked a couple of weeks ago to speak at next Sunday's service.  Dec.31st is a bridge Sunday with the celebration of the miracle of the Incarnation caught up in the beginning of a new year.  Those who practice the Christian Year know how it slows down preparation periods and then lengthens celebration. For Christmas this includes four weeks of Advent, twelve days of Christmas, and Epiphany with the Magi. Many churches, like my local church, tend to begin the Christmas event really early so that Christmas Day is almost an anticlimax before New Year activity takes over.  This runs the danger of reducing the extraordinary, heavyweight doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word made flesh to a side message, alongside a focus on children and festivity.  

What am I going to do?  I am planning the worship service with a friend who will lead communion after I have preached and led prayer.  We agree that the service will have two parts.  The first will include song, Scripture and me. I will focus on Matthew 2: 1-18. It won't be heavyweight though I shall aim to be challenging.  My friend in part two will lead communion and the congregation in saying the Covenant prayer.  This comes from the Methodist Covenant service usually held at the beginning of the year.  John Wesley adapted it from the writings of Richard Alleine in order that believers could make personal recommitments to God at the beginning of each New Year.

Its words are demanding. The modern version (below) emphasizes each disciple's surrender of will 

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

These powerful words will be anticipated in my message, though I am still in the process of preparation. Anyway, I'll keep in touch as you continue celebrations too.

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