The sounds of Joy! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 13 December 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Advent 3 – Joy

Last Sunday we lit the candle of Hope, remembering the hope which comes in Christ, and we lit the candle of Peace, remembering God’s dream of a peaceful world. (Light Candles). Today we light the third candle of Advent, the candle of Joy.

In Advent, we are in a time of waiting. Like the Israelites who wandered through the Wilderness, waiting to come into the Promised Land, we wait for the coming of the Joy of Ages. We wait for the day where we can join our voices with the angels to sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” We wait for the day when everlasting joy will be on each of us.

We light this candle in Joy. (Light Candle)

On this day, we remember the Spirit who breathes joy into our lives.

Dear Jesus, help us keep focussed on you during this busy season. May we stay aware of the joy you bring into our lives. We want to find you in the everyday moments and come with hearts of gratitude to your manger on Christmas. Amen.

Song Angels from the realms of glory

(For a reflection on this carol, restart the video from the beginning)

Angels, from the realms of Glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth:
Ye, who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Come and worship,
Christ the new-born King;
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the new-born King.

Shepherds in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light.

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In his temple shall appear.

Sinners moved by true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you, breaks your chains.

James Montgomery

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever. Amen.

(New English Version – adopted by the Church of England in 1977)

Bible Reading: Luke 1:46-56

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.

He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.

He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

Song Joy to the World

Design: Elizabeth Turner
Photo: Steven Turner

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King,
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Heav’n and nature sing,
And Heav’n and nature sing,
And Heav’n, and Heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savour reigns;
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

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.

Isaac Watts

The Sounds of Joy

Joy is a visible, vocal characteristic that’s impossible to miss in another person. Love can be hidden for a time. Certainly, the casual acquaintance may miss the clues in dealing with a person who is in love or acting out of love; they do not know them very well. But joy is different; a person who is filled with joy is impossible to bypass. What’s their joyful mood about? What has happened? Do explain!

When a friend of ours recovered from the harrowing experiences of receiving a cancer diagnosis—having to face two pretty devastating operations for a woman, suffer hair loss in the course of her chemotherapy treatment and then the discomfort of radiotherapy—she threw a big party. Thankful to God, her family, friends and neighbours for all that they had done to support her through that time, she wanted them to share her joy in a celebratory ceilidh. She wanted no presents, but should anyone want to join her in participating in giving to her nominated charity, then they could do so at the party.

At a certain point in the evening, our friend addressed us all, gave her testimony and talked about the charity she wanted to support. Then the wig that she had had to wear at the height of her cancer treatment was passed around, so the donations that anyone wanted to make could be placed inside! This one-time symbol of our friend’s distress—being bald, having to wear an uncomfortable, scratchy wig—was now being used as a vessel to aid others in their distress. What a joyous occasion it was, especially to hear her addressing us all as she did that evening; it was a poignant, significant moment.

In our Bible reading today, we are listening in on a song of joy in a private moment between Mary, a young woman, and Elizabeth, her older cousin, as they each celebrate God’s intervention in their lives. Mary is right at the start of her reproductive life and Elizabeth is well past her un-reproductive life, but at the behest of God, his messenger Gabriel is despatched from his presence to bring the joyful news of two special delivery baby boys to each of the women. For Elizabeth the one who would herald the coming of God’s Saviour, for Mary that very Saviour himself. Remind yourself of their stories by reading the whole of this first chapter of Luke.

In acceptance and excitement of God’s assignment to her in birthing the long-awaited Saviour of the world, Mary goes in search of her older cousin, certainly to celebrate and to rejoice in their separate gifting’s of these special babies, but also perhaps for support and advice. ‘What if Joseph rejects me, believing I’ve been unfaithful to him? How do I cope with the knowing looks, the whispers or the pointed comments coming from around the neighbourhood? What is it like Elizabeth? What can I expect at particular stages of pregnancy?’

But before any confidences of that sort are shared, which we are not party to, the presiding state is one of great joy. That joy is evident first from Elizabeth’s ecstatic words of prophecy, and then it spills out in Mary’s song after Elizabeth’s address. It is a wonderful moment of sheer joy and adulation to God and of celebration between the two women. However, because of Luke’s thorough research (an interview with Mary no doubt) we have been given a glimpse into this very private moment. Mary is stunned but joyous that she, a mere ‘lowly servant girl’, should be selected to become universally and eternally known.

Mary’s song of joy moves from
exultant praise of God,
through awe that he should notice her (v.48),
to excitement in God’s righteousness and mercy coming to rest on generation after generation,
who reverence him (v.50).

Then there is the joy at God’s power to reverse situations of injustice those who think highly of themselves who look down on those around them (v.51b);

the ruthless titled removed and in their place the humble are positioned, ready to do God’s bidding (v.52);

those who are hungry are amply supplied, those who already have plenty, gain nothing extra (v.53);

the downtrodden and disregarded can no longer be ignored (v.54);
those who were scoffing at the notion of a Saviour must now take note: he is here (v.55).

It’s a socially and politically intoned song. Those who oppress the nation of Israel have had their day. The promise made to Abraham and his children is about to be fulfilled. What’s not to rejoice about in all of that?

What Mary was to undertake in obedience to God was both wondrous and a worry. She was very young and vulnerable, she did not know at that stage how Joseph would react, but she chose to trust God to work out his plan and in that she would be joyful. Later, the apostle Paul was to write in his letter to the Thessalonian Church:

‘Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil’

(1 Thess. 5:16-22).

These verses could well have reflected Mary’s attitude and stance when the angel appeared to her. Her confusion and disturbance seemed to centre more on the words the angel spoke rather than in his appearance! ‘Favoured woman! The Lord is with you!’ How so favoured? What did it mean for the Lord to be with me? Mary knew from the history of her people that the Lord came amongst his people at particular times for specific purposes and special tasks. What could she, a young, ordinary, Galilean girl about to marry, do for God?

Well, with a willing heart and faithful obedience she was about to find out and the essential theme of it filled her with joy. The Saviour was imminent, and the impact of his coming was to be felt throughout all generations from now and forever!

Being joyful in the Lord—even though Mary was living in a time of confusion, care and concern and that tone was to intensify through her participation in God’s plan—is the means by which Mary’s faith and trust in God is deepened. This is certainly a positive lesson that we can learn from her as we face our own troubled times and personal situations. Mary also gave herself space to reflect on God’s revealed purpose for her as she surrounded herself with good, godly, likeminded people to talk to, by going to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

On her arrival, Mary received confirmation of her state as ‘the mother of my Lord’ (v.43), yet she had only just crossed the threshold of Elizabeth’s home and called out ‘a greeting’; she had not yet told her story. But the baby in Elizabeth’s womb ‘jumped for joy’ at the sound of Mary’s voice and an understanding filled Elizabeth’s being as a result, causing her to commend her young relative for believing “that the Lord would do what he said” (v.45)—unlike her own husband Zechariah, whose unbelief meant that his voice would not resound until after their baby’s birth! (v.20)

Could the sound of our ‘greetings’ to others generate joy within our own spirit as people react positively to us?

Could the words we speak inspire others by our joyful attitude of faith, trust and thankfulness to God for the wonders he has and wants to work in and through our lives?

They surely can as we choose to follow Mary’s example in trusting God and allowing an attitude of thankfulness to fuel our joy.

Let’s be part of a movement to set the sound of joy ringing through our community by our greeting and word or song of testimony to the power of God, bringing the Saviour to reign over broken lives to bring health, healing and wholeness to them.

Song: As with gladness

As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold,.
As wish joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Ever more be led to thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him whom heav’n and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek the mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bore,
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heav’nly King.

Holy Jesus! every day
Keep us in the narrow way
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star so guide,
Where no clouds thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down;
There for ever may we sing
Hallelujahs to our King.

William Chatterton Dix

Prayer

Lord Jesus, your coming into the world brought joy to so many people, beginning with you mother Mary and her cousin Elizabeth.
As others heard you speak, they discovered the joy of a full relationship with God.
Following your death and resurrection, countless millions have experienced the joy of sins forgiven and the start of a new life.
This Advent, as you people, may we open our hearts to experience that joy for ourselves, and then go out to share it with others.
In you precious name we pray.
Amen


Song: Hark, the herald angels sing

Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

Charles Wesley
Verse 3 by Martin Madan


Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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