United Benefice of

St Mildred’s, Whippingham

and

St James’, East Cowes

13th December 2020 : 3rd Sunday of Advent

WORSHIP IN THE ADVENT SEASON

It has been good to see so many of you back in church as we travel through Advent together. If you are as yet unable to rejoin us, please remember that the diocesan website www.portsmouth.anglican.org still has a direct link to parishes that are streaming live worship, while for those unable to access such resources this pewsheet continues to contain material for offering a “spiritual communion” at home. You must do whatever feels right and safe for you – though of course our church safety procedures are still firmly in place.

ONLINE WORSHIP

Services at Whippingham are now being shown on YouTube: you can catch recent worship via the following link:

Church Service – 2nd Sunday in Advent – YouTube

Alternatively, search on Youtube for St Mildred’s Church and find all previous services.

FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:

Give thanks for: the ministry of John the Baptist; preachers of good news

Pray for: the homeless; all in debt; the unemployed

PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:

Please pray for: Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Beryl; Ena Young; Brenda; Stuart; Andrew; Maureen & Gordon; Joy and Dave; Rosie and family; Barbara Blacklock; Hilda Bell; Paul & family; Emily; Lilly; Jenny and Mike Abbott; Gary; Oliver; Jenny; Ruth’s family; Gemma and her family; baby Ada

Give thanks for: all working at Food Banks and other relief agencies

PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:

All who have died alone

COLLECT FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

God for whom we watch and wait,

you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:

give us courage to speak the truth,

to hunger for justice,

and to suffer for the cause of right,

with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

READINGS

OLD TESTAMENT READING Isaiah 61 : 1-4, 8-end

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

8 For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 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.
11 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.

GOSPEL READING John 1 : 6-8, 19-28

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,

as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26John answered them, ‘I baptise with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.

ADDRESS

I have deliberately put a picture on the pew sheet this week of a very wild and rough-looking man in ragged clothing. If he had modern day clothes, you would give him a wide berth if you saw him in a shop doorway in town. In the picture he is looking up, as if he is addressing someone standing somewhere on the hillside above him, out of the picture, or he just might be shouting up to heaven itself. Whatever you make of his appearance, he certainly isn’t someone you would forget in a hurry.

Of course, he is meant to be John the Baptist. We know that from the countless stereotypes we have got of him from the descriptions in the other gospels. But there is nothing to describe him physically in John’s gospel. John the evangelist cuts straight to the chase: this is not a man to be described physically, not someone he wants known as an individual at all. And John himself is not particularly quick to tell anyone who he is: his opening words say quite categorically what he is not. Not the Messiah. Not Elijah. Not a prophet. Not a person at all, in fact, as far as importance is concerned: John is a voice. It’s what he does rather than what he is that matters. And what John does is very simple: he prepares people’s hearts and minds for the arrival of Jesus. The baptism he offers is purely symbolic: if you want to be ready for the Messiah, turn away from the things that will block his path. Make a public display of your repentance. Change yourselves inside, from the heart.

If you read Luke’s gospel, John is quite specific in how this sort of change should happen. If you have got two shirts, give one to somebody who needs it. Do the same with food. Don’t cheat in collecting taxes. If you’re a soldier, don’t be a bully. Don’t extort money. Interestingly, all the things Luke cites are to do with community life, not to do with religious devotion at all. The things that prevent people from drawing near to Jesus are those everyday behaviours and acts of selfishness that so often don’t get noticed at all. Recognising sinfulness and consciously choosing a different way of behaving are the first steps on a spiritual journey. They are the equivalent of clearing the way – or, as John would say, making straight the way of the Lord. But he has even more to say.

Among those very people who are coming to him to be washed clean of their sins is someone they do not know at all. Now on the one hand, that is simply unlikely: a lot of people would have been aware of Jesus growing up in the area, and families will have known each other at very least by sight. But they did not know Jesus in the sense of having any idea of his spiritual depth. In a crowd, he passed as unnoticed. So often we think that Jesus must have had some sort of distinctive appearance: if you were playing the picture game of “Where’s Wally?“ and looking for the Jesus figure instead of the red and white stripey jumper, you would probably look for the pale skinned male, wearing white, with a beard and a holier-than-thou expression on his face. But that’s because our culture has done that to him. Jesus looked like anyone else of Asian ethnicity. And, rather like John the Baptist, his actions defined him more than his physical appearance. It’s no coincidence that the first time he stood up in the Temple in Nazareth to read from one of the scrolls, he was given the scroll of Isaiah and read those self-same words that we heard this morning in our other reading:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…

We are preparing for a fresh start in our local and national churches, at a time when Christians need very much to be a prophetic voice. And since our institution is clogged up with things that make us laughable to the outside world, it is more necessary than ever that our actions speak louder than words. We are clogged up by archaic mechanisms that help nobody but the lawyers, for instance – structures that will require the national church to take action. We are clogged up by hang-ups over sexuality. We are clogged up by a culture of bullying in parishes which the institutional church has failed to respond to for decades. And that’s without mentioning the safeguarding problems that are so difficult to lay to rest. Locally, we can do little to ease those problems.

But in terms of our actions we can and must set aside our own wellbeing and look to the wellbeing of our neighbours. Can we as a church offer, for instance, to be a vaccination centre? Can we personally do anything to alleviate the January misery that will surely come? When we hear of people in need, can we offer food, support, hope for the future? In the spirit of preparing our hearts to receive the Christ child, can we take heed of John the Baptist and turn again to love and serve the Lord? And the answer is simple: by the grace of God, yes, we can. Amen.

INTERCESSIONS(Supplied by Robert Hall)

Heavenly Father, as we await the birth of your Son, let us do what you wish us to do, supporting people in need, knowing that we do your will. We trust that Bishop Christopher, Archdeacon Peter, Rev Susan, Associate Priests Mike and Pete will guide us in your wishes. Give us the strength to do this work in your name.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we think of all the people that are troubled at this time, either in body, soul or mind. We pray that your healing hand will help them in their troubles and guide them on the path forward, so they can see light at the end of the tunnel. We also think of those in hospital or awaiting tests or treatment at hospital. We trust that your healing hand will give them patience and that their wait will soon come to an end.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, as this lockdown as passed, we trust that ALL people will react sensibly and calmly, so that everyone can enjoy the coming of Christmas. We also give thanks, that due to the people involved, a vaccine has come available. We pray that, in due course, we all are able to have the vaccine, and see this COVID-19 be kept under control.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank all the people who have looked after us in the past few months, the emergency services, the NHS Staff in hospitals, the volunteers who have delivered vital medicines and food to people who can’t go out, and neighbours and shopkeepers who have gone ‘that extra mile’ so that all the people are kept safe.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we remember all those people that have joined you in your almighty house. We see them no more but remember the good times that we all had together. We also ask you to give us strength as we remember them, also the ones that we do not personally know, but their friends remember them and, finally, the ones only you know Lord.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Finally we think of our churches in East Cowes, our community and ourselves. Keep everyone safe and well.

Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers,

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

PREPARING FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

In union, Lord, with the faithful at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the sure hope that I may always be united to you. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with all my being. Let nothing ever separate you from me. May I live and die in your love. Amen.

You might like to sit in silence for a while, then pray:

We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts;

kindle in us the fire of your Spirit

that when your Christ comes again

we may shine as lights before his face;

who is alive and reigns now and for ever.

Amen.

To conclude, simply rest quietly in God’s presence.

NOTICES

HOLY COMMUNION – NEW ARRANGEMENTS

We are now legally allowed to offer wine as well as bread at communion, provided this is done by intinction (dipping the bread into the wine, rather than drinking from the chalice). This will come into effect as soon as we can organise a safe way of managing the process! The national rules look quite complicated as yet, but doubtless the diocese will be providing clarification, so watch this space!

FOOD BANK

The boxes for Foodbank donations are in church and we invite you to drop in your donations during one of the times when the churches are open for private prayer or when you come to a service. Please be as generous as you can as the Foodbank expects a massive surge in customers this Christmas.

CAROL SERVICE

The island’s evensong choir, Cantus Vesperi, invite you to a carol service in St James’ church on TODAY at 4.00pm. Admission is by reservation only. This is, of course, due to limited space. If you have not reserved a place, we may yet be able to accommodate you, but there is no guarantee!

Cantus Vesperi are regular winners in island choral competitions, and we can expect a most enjoyable hour of music, even if we are not currently allowed to sing as a congregation. There will be a retiring collection for the work of the church.

WHIPPINGHAM CHRISTMAS TREE FESTIVAL THIS WEEK!

The Christmas Tree Festival will run from 17th – 21st December at St Mildred’s Church, as follows:

Thurs 17th, Friday 18th, Saturday 19th: 11.00 – 3.00pm

Sunday 20th: 1.00 – 3.00pm

Setting up will be scheduled on the Monday and Tuesday, with specific time slots allocated to the various groups displaying a tree. There will be a rigorous admissions system (one in, one out) at the door to ensure social distancing is observed. To register your interest in being a helper at any time during the festival, please contact Liz Wilson on padmore888 (tel: 07977 028060). We are hoping for lots of volunteers, even if you can only spare an hour! NB It’s still not too late to volunteer!

CHURCHES OPEN FOR PRIVATE PRAYER DURING THE WEEK AHEAD:

St Mildred’s – open for the Christmas Tree Festival (see advertisement)

St James’ – closed, only open for Sunday worship.

CHRISTINGLE SERVICE

We are having a socially-distanced Christingle service at St James’ church on Sunday 20th December at 4.00pm. There will be space for a maximum of 50 children with their parents. Thank you to everyone who has offered to provide the ingredients for the Christingles themselves. In the past, numbers have been nowhere near the theoretical maximum, and with travel not being permitted before 22nd, I do not anticipate a huge turnout.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Having previously said that we would assemble the Christingle packs on the day itself, this of course is not practical as they have to remain untouched for at least 72 hours beforehand. We shall therefore be assembling the individual packs at 10.30am on Wednesday 16th December in the church hall.

ADVANCE NOTICE

There will be no church worship on Sunday 27th December as the Archbishops have kindly given clergy permission to suspend worship in order to prioritise their families in the narrow window of opportunity granted by the government. This also applies to retired clergy!