Service for Sunday 20th December 2020, – Rev Louis van Laar

Servicing the Bald Hills and nearby Communities

Service for Sunday 20th December 2020, – Rev Louis van Laar


As we gather, let us be mindful of those at home,

as well as we who are gathered here…

Come, we worship God in community… …

Liturgy for the 4th Sunday in Advent:

Narrator: Today we light the candle of Love.[1]

[Light the candle of Hope, the candle of Peace, the candle of Joy,

and then the candle of Love.]

  A reading from Luke chapter 1 verses 76 to 79:

Zechariah continued, “You, John, will be called a prophet of the Most High God.  You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his road for him, to tell his People that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven.  Our God is merciful and tender.  He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us and to shine from Heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death, to guide our steps into the path of peace.”

  Zechariah’s song celebrates God’s initiative in bringing salvation to Israel, not only to the Nation but to individuals, for God will forgive each person’s sins.  John will prepare the way of the Lord by assuring God’s People that forgiveness of their sins is at hand.  Incorporated in Zechariah’s words is an image of divine mercy for His People, mercy that flows from God’s innermost being.  (John Carroll in Luke p61) 

  The appeal to God’s tender mercy mirrors the idea of the deliverance of God as an act of His covenantal faithfulness to His People, rooted in such verses as Psalm 130: 7

“Israel, trust in the lord, because His love is constant”,

and Isaiah 54: 8

Israel, .. I will show you my love forever.  So says the Lord who saves you.” (G Beale and D Carson Commentary on the New Testament p265) 

  At no other place or Time, except in first century Palestine, has God broken into History with the full message of salvation.  People may seek enlightenment or fulfillment or spiritual cleansing through alternative religions or by their own efforts, but unless they acquaint themselves with the events at Bethlehem and at Calvary, they are strangers to the good news of God’s love for the World.  (Michael Wilcock in Luke p40) 

‘A Christmas Prayer’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

  Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.  Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the World.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.  May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen! (from The Gift of Love p55) 

Leader: Let us continue on the theme of Love as we sing: TiS 317


We Pray[2]

God of the cosmos and all therein,

we come to worship you,

to be in awe of you,

not because of your power and might,

rather we come overwhelmed because of your love,

your love which brought us into being,

which sustains us,

and which we offer back to you

through this worship

and our lives as a living sacrifice,

that loving you we may learn to love our neighbour.

Bless us to be a people who, recognising you to be Immanuel,

that is, God with us,

a people who might therefore work with you,

and not against you,

in your desire to inaugurate your Kingdom…

as we pray

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and forever. Amen










PSALM 89 (a responsive reading)

1I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever;
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;

3 You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to my servant David:

5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
7 a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
8 O Lord God of hosts,
    who is as mighty as you, O Lord?

13You have a mighty arm;
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
16 they exult in your name all day long,
    and extol your righteousness.

Hear this, the Word of God


LUKE  1. 26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 

29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 

34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 

38 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.

LUKE 1:47-55 (some months later when Mary visited Elizabeth)

46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my saviour.
48 He has looked with favour on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favoured
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honours him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Hear this, the Gospel of our Lord


Prayer Of Confession

We gather as your people, O LORD

so busy at this time of the year,

that we fail to recognise, let alone acknowledge,

that our living takes place within the bubble of your love!

Grant us moments of enforced calm

that we might take stock of whose we truly are…

Lord have mercy  LORD HAVE MERCY

We gather as your people, O LORD

so busy at this time of the year,

that we fail to recognise, let alone acknowledge,

the significance of the name Jesus,

for he shall free his people from their sin

Grant us moments of carefree joy

that we might know that love casts out the need for fear

Christ have mercy CHRIST HAVE MERCY

We gather as your people, O LORD

so busy at this time of the year,

that we fail to recognise, let alone acknowledge,

that the peace yearned for, the community desperately sought

are offered through you, Immanuel, God with us

as Spirit companion…

Grant us moments of serendipitous encounters

that we might see afresh your presence in others and around us…

Spirit have mercy SPIRIT HAVE MERCY

Declaration of Reconciliation

We read:

the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

 ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 

21 She will give birth to a son,

and you are to give him the name Jesus,

because he will save his people from their sins.

In Christ all is forgiven us, so we say with joy in our hearts,  


Passing The Peace..

as we raise our hands in blessing to those unseen…
The peace of the Risen Lord be with you all 


We Sing:   TiS 151 The Love of God is greater far  3vv

Contemporary Word

(Those accessing this through the email version or our website,

you may want to look at this)

The song echoes the sentiment within a wise saying

an older woman will give a young girl swooning over

a suave, handsome looking young man…

handsome is, as handsome does!

Actions speak louder than words, is another similar sentiment.

Mary sums up God’s active mercy towards God’s people

in terms of what God has done and especially what God will do!

“He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honours him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever

She began that list of praise with an exclamation

of what God was doing with her,

He has looked with favour on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favoured
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.

The Psalm also informs us that God’s love and faithfulness

mercy and righteousness/justice,

will be demonstrated in God’s actions…

including the establishment of a throne of David

for all generations…

We of the twenty first century take the understanding of love

to be an emotion… an inner feeling…

rather than acts of care and a shared life.

Last week we had the thought that Rejoice always

could be a learned act of praise, a thanksgiving in all circumstances,

through the disciplined task

of thinking of something to be thankful for each day.

Golde suggests that sharing a life of care towards each other

generated the love she is now able to profess…

a love Tyve is also yearning for…

Many a commentator when writing about ‘agape’ love

makes the comment that it is not to be confused

with what today we term emotional love,

agape love rather is an act of the will.

This makes it somewhat easier, if we were so inclined,

to love others, especially our enemies,

as God loves us… and them…

We can refrain from doing harm to anyone,

whilst stewing over the perceived, or even real,

injustices or slights received at the hands of others…

and pretend this way, through our own inaction,

that we love them…

whilst we inwardly hope Karma, or God even,

will give them their just deserts…

To work at understanding them, or empathy, even caring…

let alone offering them the sort of love God showed us,

anything more than active inaction,

is so very difficult, but so necessary, as Brian Doyle shares

in this self examination:[3]

Love thy neighbour as thyself . . .

Aw, it’s easy to love Mr. C.,

as he’s the guy who cheerfully lends his tools to everyone on the street and gives away hatfuls of fresh redolent summer-savory tomatoes.

He’s the kind of guy who has an extra set of tire chains in his garage

for when you suddenly have to drive over the mountain

to retrieve a sick kid from college,

and he says: ah keep ’em until spring, son—it’s not like I need them.

It’s easy to love that guy.

It’s not as easy to love Mrs. M.,

who is a ferocious bitter snide supercilious gossip

and loves to intimate darkly that easy drugs and easier sex are rife among the teenagers in the neighbourhood.

But it can be done, if you just smile and grind your teeth,

and consider that at least she is not heavily armed,

or the governor, or in charge of the national Twitter feed.

And it’s just stone-cold not easy to love the guy down the street

who parks all his huge vehicles in front of everyone else’s house

and was caught once dumping motor oil in the creek,

and who more than once has spent the night passed out cold

in the moonscape of his garden.

But you endure him, you say “hey!’’  when you pass him in the street, and you talk a little sports,

on the general theory that any flash of humanity might cool him out

and maybe make him stop parking his Starfleet

in front of tiny Mrs. H.’s cottage.

But what about arrogant thugs like Mr. Osama bin Laden[4]

What about a neighbour like that?

Because he was my neighbour…

as much as I wish he was resident on Venus.

That man roasted children on the airplanes.

He fomented the murder of many thousands of his fellow Muslims.

He’s responsible for thousands of innocent people being blown apart

and living their lives without limbs

and dads and moms and brothers and sisters and daughters and sons.

How can I love … that guy?

Brian Doyle continues:

Because if I cannot even try, then I am a liar when I say I hear Christ. Because if I cannot find it in me to believe,

reluctantly and furiously and disgruntled and raging against it all the way, that there was some shard of holiness

even in that slime,

some flash of I Am Who Am,

some breath of the Unimaginable One,

then to say I am Christian is a foul and whopping lie.

He continues:[5]

We say we believe that all living things are holy.

We say we believe that there is the Christ in every heart—

Christ in us, as St. Paul says.

We say we believe that he is not dead

but resident in each and every person born of woman

in this bruised and blessed world—a miracle.

But if the mysterious Word is alive in every heart,

then he was in some chamber of even bin Laden’s heart,

and Hitler’s, and Mao’s, and Stalin’s, and Pol Pot’s—

the endless parade of thugs that fill our newspapers

and smartphones and history with their shrill crowing lies.

What? Criminals! Murderers!   …

But if you and I cannot believe that God made even them,

breathed his love into their hearts as infants,

gave them their chance to sing and share the Gift,

then we are shameful liars.

That is what Christianity demands.

It is about love, period.

It is not about easy love.

That is the revolution of it,

the incredible illogical unreasonable genius of it.

It is about loving those you hate

and would happily imprison or execute.

It is about knowing that they are your brothers

and you are not at all unlike them,

with murderous splinters in your own heart.

It is about being honest, or at least trying to be.

Listen: it is terribly, daily, hourly, immensely difficult for me to believe that there was a shred of decency in the tyrants of this world,

the mass killers.. .

It is close to impossible—and some days it is impossible for me.

But I am damn well going to try,

because I don’t think Mr. Jesus Christ was a liar,

and I think what he said is the only thing that can save the world,

and us, and my beloved children, and yours.

Whilst Love is as Love does, to purloin the ancient saying,

we would be amiss to pretend

there is nothing more to love than caring actions.

As Tyve and Golde discovered:

Tevye: Then you love me?   Golde: I suppose I do.

Tevye: And I suppose I love you, too.

Together: It doesn’t change a thing, but even so,

After twenty-five years, it’s nice to know

There is a story about a woman[6]

who took her aging mother into her home.

The mother had a stroke and she needed time to recover.

The daughter was very solicitous and painstakingly attentive

to her mother’s every need.

Nevertheless, a terrible fight broke out-over a hard-boiled egg.

In the middle of the war of words,

the mother stopped short and asked,

‘why are you doing all this for me anyway’?

It was the question of ‘from what place’ is all this care coming from.

The daughter began to list reasons, she listed:

I was afraid for her, I want her to get well,

I felt maybe I’d ignored her when I was younger;

I needed to show her I was strong,

I needed to  get her ready for going home alone, old age,

and so on and on

I could have gone on giving reasons all night.

Even mother was impressed… she reported;

but then, Junk!, mother said when I was done…

Junk!!! I yelled,  

Like boy! 

she’d made a real mistake with her remark, I could really get her…

Yes junk, she said again, but a little more quietly.

And that little more quiet tone got to me.

And she went on: you don’t have to have all those reasons.

We love each other, that’s enough.

The daughter confessed:

I felt like a child again, having your parents show you something

that’s true, but you don’t feel put down…

you feel better, because it is true, and you know it…

Oh I said, you’re really right. I’m sorry…

She said, don’t be sorry, junk is fine.

It’s what we don’t need anymore.

I love you…

The daughter’s actions were coming from every possible place inside her, except from the one place

that her mother needed to have them come from-

the place of love.

This ‘place of love’ is the spiritual source of action.[7]

This must not be confused with motivation,

which belongs to the region of the mind… 

The mother suggests a place so far beyond motive

that it makes all reasons look like junk.

The spiritual place of action

is a capacity in people made possible

by their contact with divine largesse…

a peculiar quality of God: abundance, magnanimity-

This recalls what Kralik wrote in his book 365 Thank Yous;

that which we learned last week,

about rejoicing always,

praying without ceasing

and giving thanks in all circumstances…

Through the process of writing thank-you notes,

I had developed a notion of being blessed with grace.

Martin Copenhaver, remember? expounded on this:

The Greek charis, or “grace,”

may define an act of giving

or an act of receiving:

if giving, the word means “gift or unearned favor”;

if receiving, then the word is best translated as “gratitude.”

We see a reflection of this double meaning

in the prayers that are offered before a meal.

Some families “say grace” while others “give thanks.”

It’s the same word (charis) in both instances.

I like to think of it as the endless echo of grace.

We receive a gift in the same spirit in which it is given—it’s all grace. We can even lose track of where it begins and where it ends,

for it all seems to be of one piece[8].

Similarly we can think of God’s largesse

as being love as gift offered and love as gift received.

Here’s a question to help you sleep at night!

Why did God create the cosmos?

There is a strong argument that God did not have a ‘why’? 

God is complete in God’s self,

does not need anything,

creation is just simply the largesse of love,

its abundance and magnanimity…

God is love, scripture tells us (1John 4.8)

actually, the writer warns us:

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

In God we live, and move and have our being… Paul informs us;

Acts 17 24 The God who made the world and everything in it

is the Lord of heaven and earth

and does not live in temples built by human hands. 

25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath

and everything else… 

27 God did this so that they would seek him

and perhaps reach out for him and find him,

though he is not far from any one of us. 

28 “For in him we live and move and have our being…

Our living, whether we acknowledge it or not,

is therefore within the bubble of God’s love.

One of the realisations a young child matures into

is the awareness that, unlike first impressions,

parents are not all knowing, all seeing and all powerful.

Of course, this may take longer in affluent countries

than those within which people struggle

for daily bread, clean water and shelter…

Nevertheless, the child as he or she grows through the years

hopefully still recognises the one constant… the parents love their child!

The child, perhaps an adult child by now,

e.g. the daughter looking after mum in her house, loves the parent!

The child’s love is not dependent on those first impressions

of an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful parent!

Living in God’s bubble of love,

how do we return that love?

We examine carefully on what our love for God depends…

is our devotion to God active because of our desire

for an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful divine parent?

What a challenge God in Christ,

entering our world as a vulnerable infant,

must put before us then,

What a challenge God in Christ,

enduring the cross as a hunted,

beaten and humiliated enemy of the state,

must present to us then….

The only enduring characteristic of God which remains constant,

is the love of God…

this is what we respond to,

we love because God first loved us… (1 John 4.19)

There is no other reason for the cosmos being,

for our being, than simply that,

God loves!

At Christmas we celebrate God’s love

packaged as a tiny, vulnerable babe…

who is to be named Jesus, for he will free us from sin… (Matt 1:21)

recognised as Immanuel, which is, God with us. (Matt 1.23).



We Sing: TiS 305 Let Earth and Heaven Combine 4vv

We Bring Our Offering To God

setting aside our gifts to support the local and wider work of the church

and bless our gifts in an act of praise…

We Share Our Community Life

News and Notices

Prayers of the People:

O Lord our God,[9]

you hear our prayers before we speak,

and answer before we know our need.

Although we cannot pray as we ought,

may your Spirit pray in us,

drawing us to you and towards our neighbours.


We pray for the whole creation:

may all things work together for good,

until, by your design,

your children inherit the earth and order it wisely.

Let the whole creation praise you, Lord our God.

We pray for the Church of Jesus Christ;

that, begun, maintained and promoted by the Holy Spirit,

it may be true, engaging, glad, and active,

doing your will.

Let the Church be always faithful, Lord our God.

We pray for peace in the world.

Disarm weapons, silence guns,

and put out ancient hate that smoulders still,

or flames in sudden conflict.

Create goodwill between every race and nation.

Bring peace on earth, O God.

We pray for enemies, as Christ commanded;

for those who oppose us or scheme against us,

who are also children of your love.

May we be kept from infectious hate

or sick desire for vengeance.

Make friends of enemies, O God.

We pray for those involved in world government,

in agencies of control or compassion,

who work for the reconciling of the nations:

keep them hopeful, and work with them for peace.

Unite our broken world, O God.

We pray for those who govern us,

for those who make and administer our laws.

May this country always be a land of free people

who welcome exiles and work for justice.

Govern those who govern us, O God.

For those in need

We pray for those who are poor, those who are hungry,

in need of employment, homes or education.

Increase in us, and in all who prosper,

concern for the disinherited.

Care for the poor, O God.

We pray for those on the margins of any society;

for those excluded by their own aggression

or by the harshness of others.

May we accept those whom our world names unacceptable,

and so show your mighty love.

Welcome the alienated, O God.

We pray for sick people who suffer pain,

or struggle with demons of the mind,

who silently cry out for healing:

may they be patient, brave, and trusting.

Heal the sick and troubled, O God.

We pray for the dying, who face the final mystery:

may they enjoy light and life intensely,

keep dignity, and greet death unafraid,

believing in your love.

Have mercy on the dying, O God.

We pray for those whose tears are not yet dry,

who listen for familiar voices and look for familiar faces:

in their loss, may they affirm all that you promise in Jesus,

who prepares a place for us within your spacious love.

Comfort those who mourn, O God.

We pray for people everywhere:

may they come into their own as children of God,

and inherit the kingdom prepared in Jesus Christ,

the Lord of all and Saviour of the world.

Hear our prayers, almighty God,

in the name of Jesus Christ,

who prays with us and for us,

to whom be praise for ever. Amen.



Words: Copyright. David Beswick, 1997  Permissions: This hymn may be freely reproduced for local use with acknowledgement,

Music: Maurice Lawton Wostenholm (1887-1959)


1.4  Light is dawning, fields and mountains

    shine the day’s first hints of gold,

    warming all our watching faces

    with earth’s beauty rich and old.

    We are worn out by our waiting:

    too much struggle, too much pain.

    Now our hearts can soar with singing

    as God’s promise comes again.

2.4  All around, creation pauses

    we can feel the eager sigh

    as the breath of God blows through us,

    lifting eyes and voices high

    to the Jesus who still calls us

    from the cross and empty grave;

    every human hurt and hunger

    shares the prayer his dying gave.

3.4 Now the light comes spilling crimson

    on the road we help to build,

    where all pilgrims can dance homeward;

    every pit and valley filled,

    every lonely climb eased for us,

    we unite in one vast choir

    to join praises for the God Child

    who is born in blood and fire.

4.4 You were here before we knew it

    and have never gone away;

    word and sacrament reveal it

    from the dawn of that first day.

    The whole cosmos joys to meet you,

    for you have made all things well:

    let your light lead us that we

    may share your name, Emmanuel!

Sending Out   Ps 89.1,2, 15,17

Go to be a people:

who sing of the Lord’s steadfast love forever,

who testify that God’s steadfast love is established for eternity;

who proclaim God’s faithfulness to all generations,

who declare that God’s faithfulness is as firm as the heavens;

who revel in God’s presence,

and who find their strength in God !


With the reconciling peace of Christ Jesus, I bless you.  Amen!

With the deep calm of the eternal God, I bless you.  Amen!

With the energising tranquillity of the Holy Spirit, I bless you.Ame

[1] The ADVENT CANDLE liturgy prepared by Geoffrey Webber.

[2] Unless otherwise indicated, what follows prepared by Rev. Louis van Laar

[3] Doyle, Brian, (2014)  “Notes on Loving Your Neighbour”, CHRISTIAN CENTURY January 13, 2014.

[4] Doyle wrote this as someone who lost three close friends in the infamous attack on New York’s twin towers…

[5] Doyle, Brian, (2014)  “Notes on Loving Your Neighbour”, CHRISTIAN CENTURY January 13, 2014.

[6] Shea, John.(1996)  Starlight- beholding the Christmas miracle all year long pp104,5 New York: Crossroad

[7] Shea, John.(1996)  Starlight- beholding the Christmas miracle all year long pp104,5 New York: Crossroad

[8] Copenhaver, Martin B. (2015 )” Learning to Give Thanks” The Christian Century October 30, 2015

[9] UNITING IN WORSHIP 2   2005  pp 281-84   Sydney: Uniting Church Press