Dec 27th Service

Due to the increase in virus spread in our area, services for Sunday will be  by Zoom Only .

                    St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

Sunday Worship Service Recording, Bulletin  & Sermon

To View The Recording Click Here

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 27th, 2020  10:00 a.m. Worship Service

First  Sunday After Christmas 

Worship Leaders:
Bob Williams, Worship Leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Elder , Jean DeGrooth Liturgist

PRELUDE                                                  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”                           Robin Dinda
CALL TO WORSHIP   (responsively)                                                                                                                                
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise God, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
For God’s name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. 
Praise the LORD!
* HYMN 134                                                   “Joy to the World”                                             ANTIOCH
 Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.
 While Isaac Watts did not write this text strictly for Christmas use, he did purposely cast his paraphrase of Psalm
98:4-9 in Christian terms, titling it “The Messiah’s coming and kingdom.” So “the Lord here is Jesus Christ, rather
than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Source of all hope, you invite us to live in the light and discover the splendor of your glory. We confess we often choose to remain in the darkness instead.   We allow our fears and hurts to hold us hostage. Our expectations of life prevent us from seeing new and real possibilities. You offer us unconditional love, but we expect others to earn our love. Forgive us. May the new life born in the manger awaken new life in us and allow hope to dawn in the year ahead.  Amen.
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING                                                                                                                   Isaiah 61:10-62:3
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.  For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.  The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.  You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
SECOND READING                                                                                                             Matthew 25:31-46
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
                                                                                                         PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION 

                                             “What Do You See?”

There’s a story about an old Jewish man who would get up at the break of dawn and go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem (also called “the Wailing Wall”), and he would pray fervently from morning to evening. One day, a journalist from the London Times, who’d observed him do this day after day, asked him: “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done this and what are you praying for?”
The old man replied, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. I pray for peace and reconciliation among the people of this land who are so divided by hate and conflict.”
The journalist was amazed. “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things when so much conflict remains?” she asked.
The old man looked at her sadly. “Like I’m talking to a wall.”
That sounds a little like a modern version of the story we read this morning.  An average day for a faithful man named Simeon.  We don’t know much about Simeon except that he was a righteous man waiting for the Messiah.  We can assume that he was an older man…he had been promised by the Spirit that he would not die until he had seen Israel’s redemption.  Given that both he and Anna, the prophet and aged widow, figure importantly in this story, I am inclined to think that they were both older people for whom showing up and worshipping at the temple was part of their routine.  They must have been people of great faith.  For, you will remember that by this time God had been silent for four centuries.  They had little reason to imagine that today would be any different from any other.  Up into the arrival of the child Jesus, it had been just an ordinary day in Roman dominated Jerusalem.
An ordinary day…what was an average day like in Roman Judea?  This was, after all, a country under foreign domination.  Everyone had received a stark reminder of that when Caesar decreed that they be registered for taxation purposes.  And it’s likely that both Simeon and Anna had to pass Roman soldiers that were the city’s police force on their way to the temple that morning.  Things were tense.  There had been sporadic uprisings by various groups opposed to Roman rule.  The soldiers were there to quash any disturbance; so that things didn’t get out of hand.
You see, King Herod, who ruled over the region, had become increasingly paranoid in the waning years of his reign, and with good reason.  Early on he had married into a priestly family, hoping this would make his governance more palatable to the Jews.  But this had failed.  Within the country he was accepted neither by the strictly religious Pharisees and Sadducees, who sought to restore the nation through spiritual purity nor by the zealots, who sought to do so by violence.  And so Herod the Great, Herod the builder, who had even rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, unable to gain acceptance, had taken to ruling by fear.  People who he thought did not support him could have their property seized, making Herod at once richer and more despised.  Paranoid, he had killed one of his wives and three of his sons, under suspicion of treason.  And the Gospel Mark tells us that, hearing from the magi of the birth of a new king, he had boy children around the region of Bethlehem put to death.
This was the world into which the child, Jesus, was born.  And this was the world in which Simeon had walked to the temple that morning…a world of tension and no little danger.  It was a difficult and dark world…but for Simeon, it was probably just an ordinary day…
Until..there they were….
Stop and imagine for a second what the scene might have looked like.    I have two images in my mind, both of them by the great painter Rembrandt, but done 38 years apart.  I will not take offense if you pull them up to look at them both…they can be found together if you search for Two Simeons – one Rembrandt. 
The first one I came across while doing my initial research.  It is a beautiful, intricate painting. But when I first saw it I thought, “It’s all wrong.”  Mary is dressed in a fine blue dress trimmed with lace; looking more like a european courtier than a poor, middle-eastern girl.  Simeon, staring into heaven, is dressed in ornate, flowing gowns.  The baby Jesus looks out, with a soft halo of light around his head.  The prophetess Anna stands before them in priestly garb, her hands lifted in blessing.  These figures are bathed in heavenly light, while in the shadows there are, a bare-footed Joseph, high-hatted clerics and various curious onlookers all around the steps of the temple.  
Gorgeous! Intricate! The kind of painting that you could stare at for hours and keep finding new details….but I couldn’t help but think it looked all wrong. It looks more like the dedication of the heir of one of the great european houses than that of a poor family who had travelled half a day’s journey to fulfill their religious obligations.  Gorgeous as the painting is, somehow it misses the point of just how ordinary this scene probably was.  After all, this was just a poor young family.  Maybe they had set off early to get to the temple at a reasonable hour, they had with them the silver they needed to pay to the tax so that, Jeshua – as common a name in their day as John might be today – would not be obligated to serve in the temple.  And, of course they had brought some extra money to buy the two turtle doves that the law required for a sacrifice. Apart from Simeon’s and Anna’s  words, there is nothing to suggest that Jesus’s dedication appeared to be anything other than common and ordinary.
It was quite some time before I discovered, quite by accident, the other image, the one Rembrandt painted some 38 years later.  It is not as intricate a painting.  In fact it was incomplete at Remembrandt’s death, portraying only 2 characters: Simeon and the child Jesus.  Many think that the woman in the background, Mary or perhaps Anna, was painted in by someone else.  Gone are the royal garments, the priestly garb, the onlookers and even any indication of the location.  Gone is the halo and the light streaming from above.  It is just a picture of an ordinary old man holding his hands in a gesture of prayer, while he cradles an ordinary baby in his arms. The images are softly lit with a yellow light of an oil lamp. Around them there is only darkness.  It seems very still, very peaceful.  And in my mind I hear the old man praying”
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Three figures, in dim light, surrounded by nothing but darkness…and in that very dark, very ordinary scene, lay the hope of the world.  This is my preferred image, as much for what is not there as for what is.  In its sparseness, it draws us into the warmth of the moment and invites us into what is at once Simeon’s private joy and the joy of all humanity.    What is there seems realistic and the surrounding darkness speaks to the reality in which Jesus was born.  
2020 has been, for most of us, a year in which we have become increasingly more aware of the darkness that is in the world, darkness that is as present today as it was in Jesus’s day.  Noone can deny the personal loss that many have experienced from the Covid Epidemic: the loss of life, the loss of livelihood, the isolation, the sense that there is no more solid ground to stand upon.  Noone can deny the division that we as a nation have experienced: political division, social division….  And let us not ignore the disasters natural or manmade experienced this year: the fires in Australia and the US west coast, the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms; the wars between countries and the riots within them..
I don’t think you need me to go on.  It is clear that there is much darkness.  And while there may be glimmers of hope: a vaccine for the Coronavirus, the chance of aid for those who suffer in this economic crisis, glimmers of political and social change that may bring more justice and equity to all.  All of these are good, and they may bring some change.  But even with these, there is no denying that the darkness seems to have a firm grip; the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Our lives are not the way they’re supposed to be. 
The good news this Christmas season and at this, the end of 2020, is that God has something else in mind.    It was on God’s mind in the beginning when he went about creating the world and everything in it. A vision for…shalom… yes that’s the word. It’s Hebrew and it gets translated as “peace,” but it means so much more than what we tend to think. So much more…  It means wholeness, thriving, interconnectedness of all things. It means right relationship with God, right relationship with others, right relationships throughout all of creation.
Shalom, that is God’s plan.  But sin has made a mess of things.  Try as we might, we, as sinful people, ourselves, cannot fix our broken world through our own efforts.  But God refuses to leave the world a mess, fractured and broken.  God’s intent is to pull the world back together, break down the walls, establish his shalom.   So God enters into the mess, the darkness, the brokenness. Coming as a child. And in that child is our hope.
So, as we leave 2020 and enter into the new year, let’s hope for change.  Let us hope for vaccines and economic recovery.  Let’s look forward to the days in which we do not need to wear masks or maintain social distance.  Let us hope for political change and social equity and let’s do everything we can to work for them.  But even as we work and hope for these things,  let’s not put our hope IN these things.  For there will be progress, but there will also be setbacks.  While there will be joy, there will also be sorrow.  There may be times that we hear the voice of the spirit speaking mightily, there will also be times, when God may seem remote or even absent.  Like Simeon and Anna, who were faithful to God who had been silent for 4 centuries, we need  to be faithful.  And like Simeon on that morning, we need to see not just a child, not a political hero, not even a king,  but Emmanuel, God with us: the light that shone in a stable, the light that shines through all creation, the light that lights up even the deepest darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.


We believe in God, the creator and giver of life, who brought all creation to birth, who mothers us and fathers us, protecting, nurturing, and cherishing us.
We believe in Jesus Christ: God born among us as a fragile baby, embodying both love and the need for love, and calling us to rest in God as trustingly as a tiny child.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, breathed into us at our birth, always drawing us on to be born again, encouraging, exhorting, comforting, nourishing our growth and inspiring our living.
We believe in the reconciliation of the world to God, through Christ. Hunted at birth and humiliated at death, Christ entered our fearful darkness so that we might enter his glorious light and share the life of his resurrection.
And we believe that each new child is a glimpse of the face of God, a sign of the life to come, and a call to live in peace and celebrate, saying together those words sung by the angels so long ago: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Amen.
    HYMN                                           “O Come, All Ye Faithful”                            ADESTES FIDELES
 O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
born the king of angels.

O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

 True God from true God,
Light from light eternal,
born of a virgin, a mortal he comes;
very God, begotten, not created! [Refrain]

 Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
“Glory to God, all glory in the highest!” [Refrain]

 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. [Refrain]

  From its Roman Catholic origins, this 18th-century hymn has spread to worldwide use by many denominations in both Latin and vernacular versions.  Once popular with a wide range of hymn texts, this tune is now firmly associated with this Christmas text from which it is named. 

 (We invite you to make your offering online. Thank you to everyone for your generous support!) 
Good and gracious God, your love overflows in the goodness we have met even in this challenging year. As one year closes and another begins, help us trust your goodness. Bless the gifts we bring to you so that they may provide others with the hope we know in Christ Jesus and the love you share with the world through him.
                                                                                     SENDING     WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION 

We have been given the Great Light, which has come into the world. This light of peace and hope, joy and love, shines on us, in us, and through us, to all whom we meet. Go now in peace and let the light of God’s great love go with you. AMEN.

POSTLUDE                                             ” Swiss Noel ”                                   Louis Claude D’Aquin