Call to worship
All creation holds its breath.
The time is almost here.
The heavenly choir of angels waits for its cue to sing.
Excitement is all around us.
Prepare your hearts–The grace of God takes on human form.
Good news! Emmanuel, God-with-Us, comes to us.
We gather to make ready our hearts
for the coming of Christ, our hope.
Let us pray
In this Advent season we await the coming of Christ.
Light of the World, come,
Come to the oppressed and exploited,
Come to the despised and rejected,
Come to all in whom the divine image is distorted.
We wait in joyful expectation.
Come not as a man of power, but in love and compassion,
Come to the outcast – like the shepherds in the fields,
Come to foreigners – like Magi watching from afar,
Come to rich and poor, young and old, male and female,
We wait in hopeful anticipation.
Come to bless all creation with your love,
Come to bring salvation on the earth,
Come to rule with justice and in peace.
Come Light of the World, illuminate our path.
We wait with all the peoples of the earth,
Light of the World, we welcome your coming.
The Lord’s Prayer
Still almost 2 weeks to go until Christmas but this is our last Sunday morning Service before then. So I think it’s time to sing some Christmas Carols.
Our first carol this morning is Infant holy, infant lowly.
First of all we’re going to hear it in its original language – Polish
And now we can sing along to the English translation – the words will appear in the video
What’s your favourite Christmas film?
I love lots of Christmas films.
I love adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
I’ve always had a soft spot for A Miracle on 34th Street (either version) with its theme about belief
I always watch White Christmas while I’m wrapping the Christmas presents – the scene at the end when the snow starts falling always gets me.
Then there’s It’s A Wonderful Life with it’s heartwarming story of the impact a humble man’s life has had on his community.
And Love Actually of course.
The list goes on.
But until last year there was one Christmas classic that I’d never seen. Elf. We watched it for Film Club last year. I have to say I wasn’t sure about it, although in last week’s Sunday Times it was number one in the all-time list of Christmas films.
But this year one of the people I met on the training course, Adrian Wyatt, has been doing a series of Advent reflections based on the film and they’ve been eye-opening.
So today – in between the singing I want us to look at a few short clips from Elf and have a think about what they might have to say about the Christmas story. With many thanks to Adrian for the inspiration.
You’ll need access to the Film Elf to make the most of today’s reflection. The timings of the clips to look at are given at the appropriate point
Clip 1 3:36 – 5:00.
Here we have a baby – an orphan in fact. And the nun looking after him saying with love “Perhaps by next Christmas you will have a home”
And then along comes Santa. Santa very busy, coming down the chimney (of course) distracted by the tree with its decorations, the need to give presents and the good things to eat – the cookie (that’s biscuit in English). So distracted in fact that he doesn’t notice something important happening.
A baby is going to come into his life. It’s crawled into his sack and it’s going to end up back at the North Pole with him. In the film this baby is going to stand out at the North Pole. He’s going to grow up as an Elf – but he’s very different from all the other elves. No doubt Santa is now off to fly round the rest of the world delivering the rest of the presents and eating lots more cookies.
I wonder how much we get distracted in the same way each Christmas? As we hurry around buying and wrapping, eating and drinking, seeing friends and (dare I mention it) attending Christmas parties do we fail to notice the baby in the manger entering our life at Christmas? The baby that’s a lot like us in so many ways, but is also so very different.
Time for some more music
Let’s sing Silent Night
Our second clip – a very brief one this time
Clip 2 5:10 – 5:29.
Santa has just got back to the North Pole after his hard work on Christmas Eve. And what does he tell the elves?
– it’s time to start preparing for next Christmas!
Do we have the feeling that we are encouraged each year to start the Christmas preparations earlier and earlier? Perhaps not as much as a year in advance, but how soon do the Christmas displays go up in the shops? Christmas TV film channels arrive before December has arrived and we are persuaded to plan earlier and earlier for Christmas.
But let’s remember that God’s plan for the redemption of the world, God’s plan for Christmas, was a plan in motion for thousands of years.
The shops use adverts, God used prophets, shops use signs, God used angels and miraculous signs.
So, the next time we bemoan how early Christmas seems to need to start our Christmas preparations, perhaps we should also give thanks for how long our Father was planning the very first one!
Let’s have a Bible reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, which is all about God’s plan for Jesus
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea
Let’s listen to someone else singing. This is Candlelight Carol by John Rutter those that came to the Just Sing choir concert last night will have heard us singing it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqDsnXn6liM start at 1:20
Clip 3: 6:30 – 6:50
This clip is about the code of the elves. Just 3 things
Firstly ‘Treat every day like Christmas,’
There’s a Christmas song with a similar theme isn’t there? Do you know which one I mean? “I wish it could be Christmas every day” by Wizard.
By the way do you know that this song is estimated to make about £200,000 in royalties every single year because of the sheer number of times it’s played. Starting in late September it sometimes seems. But even that isn’t the biggest earner. Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty McCall makes about a million pounds for the artists each year without them having to lift a finger.
Anyway what do you think of treating every day like Christmas for an idea?
Well I think if it was literally Christmas every day I’d probably weigh about 30 stone before the first year was out. Deborah might say I’m not far off that already! And my pension would soon run out.
But perhaps there is something in this. At Christmas there is a tendency for gratitude, charity, compassion. We are perhaps more likely at Christmas to feel good will towards people, to think a little more about those less fortunate than us, to be more generous in our charitable giving. It would be great if those features of Christmas could continue the year round wouldn’t it?
Secondly ‘There’s room for everyone on the nice list.’
You see that really is true where God is concerned. God’s love is there for absolutely everyone.
Paul in his letter to the Romans said this, and I believe it to be true
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love. I think that means absolutely everyone is included, including people who’ve never heard about Jesus and people who call themselves atheists.
The last item in the code is
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer;
Is singing loud for all to hear”
Shall we give it a go now as we sing together ‘It Came upon the midnight clear’
Clip 4: 7:10 – 8.30
Let’s have another reading
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
In this clip we find the innocence and childlike simplicity of Buddy as he hears that less and less people believe in Santa Claus.
For Buddy not believing makes no sense after all, how could, as some suggest, parents deliver all the presents to children in one night? And sarcastically he asks what do people think, that parents eat the cookies left for Santa as well!
The consequences of this doubt in the world is a lack of Christmas spirit and this is causing difficulty for Santa’ sleigh being able to fly.
There’s another Christmas film that deals with belief. In Miracle on 34th Street a man claiming to be the real Santa Claus is on trial. There’s a chance he might go to prison. But the people of New York pull together – there are soon signs everywhere saying ‘We Believe.’
And in the last few days we’ve read about a Marks and Spencers jumper that is proving very popular, particularly with female vicars. It just says on it ‘Believe’.
I wonder, if as adults we need to rediscover our childlike heart in order to rediscover the Spirit of Christmas? Perhaps we need to put our grown up thinking aside at Christmas. Perhaps for a while we need to suspend doubt and just believe.
To believe things will get better, to believe in other people, to believe in hope, to believe in good, to believe in wonder, to believe in miracles, to believe in the reason for Christmas.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if we were to be like children again as Matthew reports Jesus as saying, we would discover the spirit, wonder, magic and mystery and hope that is a childlike Christmas.
Well as I said before huge thanks to Adrian Wyatt for the inspiration for today. All these thoughts come from just the first 10 minutes of the film!
It just goes to show that we can learn about God in all sorts of ways. You don’t have to just read the Bible and listen to sermons. Here’s a popular non-religious film packed chock full with things that help us to think about our faith.
I’d encourage you all to keep your mind alert for things that crop up in everyday life to see where else you can encounter truth about God.
And now let’s close by singing again – Hark the Herald Angels Sing
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all