24th December 2023 10.30am – 4th Sunday of Advent – Eucharist

24th December 2023: 

Watch this week's service on YouTube

Download the order of service here: 23 12 24 4th Sunday of Advent Eucharist

Read this week's Church News




The Readings

2 Samuel 7. 1 - 11, 16 

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies.
Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever. .    


Luke 1. 26 - 38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By David, Reader at St Mary's.

Our Gospel this morning has several different titles. One is “The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary”. Another is “The Birth of Jesus Foretold”. These two different titles highlight differing views about Mary within Christianity. One where she is venerated above all others, and another where she doesn’t appear at all. It’s probably wise to chart a middle path between these two extremes. Maybe our passage today can help us with this?
The apostles and saints mentioned in scripture were very human, it’s easy to forget this. But traces of who they were can be seen. Peter was a passionate fisherman, John was fiery, Thomas doubted, Paul was a zealot and a tentmaker. But who was Mary? And why does it matter? Mary is often described as, and praised for being obedient and submissive. She is held up as role model for women – sinless, placid, ethereal, an extra holy saint, all of which can make her difficult to relate to.

The visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary was his second appearance in six months. Previously, while Zechariah was serving in the temple, Gabriel had revealed that Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth would have a child, John the Baptist. There are some stark contrasts between these two appearances.

Zechariah was a priest and serving in the sanctuary of the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem. He had high status in society and was engaged in important work. Mary was in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. We aren’t told what she’s doing. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are described as “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.” Mary is not described as living a righteous life before the angels visit. To quote  Luke Timothy Johnson, “Mary is among the most powerless people in her society: she is young in a world that values age; female in a world ruled by men; and poor in a stratified economy.
“Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you!” These are Gabriel’s first worlds to her. A favoured one of God is not privileged or powerful or preserved from sin. God’s favour doesn’t depend on any of these. She has been chosen and gifted what she needs for her life ahead.

What does it mean to us to be favoured?

Many of us, young and old, will be judged, bullied or belittled for how we look, our level of education, the way we speak or any number of other things. To be favoured by God is to be affirmed for who we are. We are affirmed as God affirmed Mary in her vocation as Jesus’ mother.

Mary is understandably perplexed by the angels words. There is much to ponder. She doesn’t have all the answers. She has questions and worries, like anyone discovering they will be a parent. She is not unthinkingly obedient. Then she says yes to God because she wants to, not because she has to. Saying yes to God doesn’t make us less ourselves, but more so. In saying yes to God, we become the people we were always intended to be.

In saying yes to God Mary becomes the first to believe the good news of Jesus, the first disciple – the first faithful voice. Later on in Luke chapter 2 she bursts into song with the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, itself a powerful hymn of God’s promise. Her response echoes those of other faithful women and men in scripture. In the Old Testament Miriam sings as Israel is freed from Egypt and Hannah sings as she hands her son, Samuel, to Eli. Later in Luke’s Gospel Simon and Anna will sing about Jesus at his Presentation in the temple.

On the window ledges around church you may have noticed a number of different nativity scenes. These are part of a private collection, on loan for Christmas from one of the congregation. They are beautiful in many different ways. They showcase the breadth of human skill and crafts in different mediums, wood, glass, wool, clay and others. They show the diversity of human culture and the worldwide reach of Christianity. But more than this, they show us that Mary’s experience and song of faith transcends the boundaries of time and place and can resonate with each of us.

But it can sometimes be hard to sing the song of faith. When life is difficult and the world seems a desolate place, we can lose sight of the hope of God’s promise to us. When that happens we should remember that we are not alone. The song of faith is communal.

In these times of difficulty if we listen attentively, we may be lifted up by the song of countless Mary’s around the world, of faithful women and men in scripture, and others known more personally to us. When we can’t sing - they take up the song.

The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine.

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for your Church throughout the world
And especially the churches in the Holy Land and other areas of conflict.
We pray for local churches up and down our country
celebrating your birth with many visitors
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for all continents and countries
remembering especially those places struggling with war, famine, poverty and
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for all who are ill, bereaved or lonely at this time
thinking of....[and] others known to us.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember all those we love and see no longer.
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with Mary, Mark, John and all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Merciful Father:
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council