Sunday, December 20, 2009

Carols’ Service & Grace Family Lunch

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The theme of the service was

What Are We Waiting For?

Several people were involved in leading the singing and doing the readings, giving me a holiday:

(Led by Roshini)

For hundreds of years the Jews waited for their Messiah. When Black people were abused for generations, they sang of the Saviour who would come one day to deliver them from their bondage and misery. What are we waiting for? Do we even wait, or are we unaware of how time is running out for us?

Congregational singing

O come, O come Emmanuel
The First Noel
Angels we have heard on high

For many of us, sadly, the spirit of Christmas is "hurry". And yet, eventually, the hour comes when the rushing ends and the race against the calendar mercifully comes to a close. It is only now perhaps that we truly recognize the spirit of Christmas. It is not a matter of days or weeks, but of centuries-nearly twenty of them now since that holy night in Bethlehem. Regarded in this manner, the pre-Christmas rush may do us greater service than we realize. With all its temporal confusion, it may just help us to see that by contrast, Christmas itself is eternal.
—Burton Hills

(Read by Riya)

Scripture Reading (from God’s Word translation)
Ps 27
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The LORD is my life's fortress. Who is there to be afraid of?...
4 I have asked one thing from the LORD. This I will seek: to remain in the LORD's house all the days of my life in order to gaze at the LORD's beauty and to search for an answer in his temple.
5 He hides me in his shelter when there is trouble. He keeps me hidden in his tent. He sets me high on a rock.
6 Now my head will be raised above my enemies who surround me. I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy in his tent. I will sing and make music to praise the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud. Have pity on me, and answer me.
8 [When you said,] "Seek my face," my heart said to you, "O LORD, I will seek your face."
9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not angrily turn me away. You have been my help. Do not leave me! Do not abandon me, O God, my savior!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will take care of me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD. Lead me on a level path because I have enemies who spy on me.
12 Do not surrender me to the will of my opponents. False witnesses have risen against me. They breathe out violence.
13I believe that I will see the goodness of the LORD in this world of the living.
14 Wait with hope for the LORD. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the LORD.

Ps 37
3 Trust the LORD, and do good things. Live in the land, and practice being faithful.
4 Be happy with the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Entrust your ways to the LORD. Trust him, and he will act [on your behalf].
6 He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun.
7 Surrender yourself to the LORD, and wait patiently for him. Do not be preoccupied with [an evildoer] who succeeds in his way when he carries out his schemes.
8 Let go of anger, and leave rage behind. Do not be preoccupied. It only leads to evil.
9 Evildoers will be cut off [from their inheritance], but those who wait with hope for the LORD will inherit the land…
23A person's steps are directed by the LORD, and the LORD delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be thrown down headfirst because the LORD holds on to his hand.
25 I have been young, and now I am old, but I have never seen a righteous person abandoned or his descendants begging for food.
26 He is always generous and lends freely. His descendants are a blessing.
27 Avoid evil, do good, and live forever.
28 The LORD loves justice, and he will not abandon his godly ones. They will be kept safe forever, but the descendants of wicked people will be cut off.
29 Righteous people will inherit the land and live there permanently…
34 Wait with hope for the LORD, and follow his path, and he will honor you by giving you the land. When wicked people are cut off, you will see it…
39 The victory for righteous people comes from the LORD. He is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and rescues them. He rescues them from wicked people. He saves them because they have taken refuge in him.

Isa. 40
28 Don't you know? Haven't you heard? The eternal God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn't grow tired or become weary. His understanding is beyond reach.
29 He gives strength to those who grow tired and increases the strength of those who are weak.
30 Even young people grow tired and become weary, and young men will stumble and fall.
31 Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the LORD will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won't become weary. They will walk and won't grow tired.

(Read by Manji Phillips)

Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of a grandchild―our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus' final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.

Pastoral Prayer:

Scripture: Luke 2: 1-15 (Read by Rev J T Raja)

One response was given by the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph wanted to find a room where the Child could be born. The innkeeper was not hostile; he was not opposed to them, but his inn was crowded; his hands were full; his mind was preoccupied. This is the answer that millions are giving today. Like a Bethlehem innkeeper, they cannot find room for Christ. All the accommodations in their hearts are already taken up by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism. It is not defiance. It is preoccupation and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity.
—Billy Graham

Congregational singing (led by Stanley Khan)

Joy to the world There’s a Song in the air

(Read by Martha Khan)

At the heart of the nativity narratives in both Matthew and Luke, is a simple fact: amid the struggle of a people who had longed for 500 years for God to act in the world in new ways, God came to be with them in a way that totally identified himself with us, as human beings. Amid the most unlikely of circumstances, to the most unlikely of people, God became man for the salvation of all people.
—Dennis Bratcher

Scripture: Rev 2:1-7; 3: 14-22 (Read by Prabha Prakash)
Congregational singing: Angels from the realms of glory (led by Martha Khan)

(Read by Martha Khan) How extraordinary to find the common bond of love expressed in a shared poverty. On this basis He could speak to us of shared values, of a vision and a mission we could make our own. From the manger this Child of the virgin Mary could speak to us of our destiny, our dignity, our ability, in His Name, to change not only ourselves but the world. Here we hear of our God-given rights and of our responsibilities as God's adopted children. This Child will come to represent everything that is inspiring in terms of mercy, of compassion, of love, of justice and of peace. Christmas is a time to renew one's spirit in the message and in the challenge of the Christ Child, a time to determine to become more credible witnesses to Him.
—Seán Kearney

Congregational singing led by Martha and Roshini

What Child is this? Thou didst leave Thy throne

(Read by Smita Sarwan)

Prepare Your Heart
"In my Father's house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14: 2
People are already making preparations for Christmas. Stores have Christmas items for sale, and people are purchasing Christmas Gifts. [People have decorated their homes, baked their cakes and got their new clothes].

We need to prepare our hearts for Jesus. First of all, we need to give Him a place to live in our hearts. If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour, I urge you to open your heart to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you and save you.

The greatest gift we can give Jesus on His Birthday is to spend time with Him. We spend countless hours in the kitchen cooking delicious meals. We clean the house thoroughly because our family and friends are coming for Christmas. Yet, sad to say, we don't give Jesus even two hours a day during our preparations for Christmas. Without Jesus, there would be no Christmas!

Have you thought about what you can give Jesus for His Birthday? You can give Him your time, and you can be kinder to your family, loved ones, and friends. You can pick up the phone and call someone who is hurting and alone.

Many people commit suicide during the holidays because they are so lonely, and feel that nobody cares about them. Let's get back to the real purpose of Christmas, spreading the Love of Jesus to a hurting world.
―Joanne Lowe

Congregational singing (led by Roshini)

Love came down
Good Christian folks rejoice

(Read by Shobha Massey) The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.
―Stuart Briscoe

Congregational singing (led by Roshini)

Hark! the herald angels sing

(Read by Malini Revis)

Keeping Christmas
There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day,
And that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people,
And to remember what other people have done for you;

To ignore what the world owes you,
And to think what you owe the world;

To put your rights in the background, And your duties in the middle distance,
And your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;

To see that men and women are just as real as you are,
And try to look behind their faces to their hearts, Hungry for joy;

To own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence
Is not what you are going to get out of life, But what you are going to give to life;

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe,
And look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness

Are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
To remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
To stop asking how much your friends love you,
And ask yourself whether you love them enough;

To bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
To try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want,
Without waiting for them to tell you;

To trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke,
And to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;

To make a grave for your ugly thoughts,
And a garden for your kindly feelings with the gate open

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe
That love is the strongest thing in the world
Stronger than hate, stronger than evil, Stronger than death
And that the blessed life Which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago
Is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you can keep it for a day,
Why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.
—Henry Van Dyke

Congregational singing (led by Roshini)

As with gladness men of old

(Read by Tabitha Lugun)

I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.

I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, in towns both large and small.

I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.

I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand; whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.

I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:

I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother's arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth, who looked at persons and made them see what God's love saw in them, who by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.

I confess my ever-lasting need of God: The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed, the need of new life for empty souls, the need of love for hearts grown cold.

I believe in God who gives us the best of himself. I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God, born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world.

Congregational singing: O Little Town of Bethlehem (led by Roshini)

According to custom, we followed the service with our Church Family lunch, and we had a surprise Santa Claus, because I asked Tricia, Riya’s American friend to do the role.

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