Online Service 20th December 2020

Welcome to the Service for the 4th Sunday of Advent: Also available via YouTube

Online Service 20th December 2020

Morning Prayer Fourth Sunday of Advent


Click here for YouTube Service


O Lord, open our lips

All   and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Reveal among us the light of your presence

All   that we may behold your power and glory.

Advent Hymn:

Longing for light, we wait in darkness

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

2 Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow'r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

3 Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.

4 Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stones.

5 Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Opening prayer

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;

let us pray with one heart and mind.

Silence is kept.

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,

so may the light of your presence, O God,

set our hearts on fire with love for you;

now and for ever.

All   Amen.


Advent Wreath Liturgy (fourth candle is lit)

God our Father,

the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary

that she was to be the mother of your Son.

Though Mary was afraid,

she responded to your call with joy.

Help us, whom you call to serve you,

to share like her in your great work

of bringing to our world your love and healing.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,

the light who is coming into the world.


The Word of God

A reading from Psalm 89 verses 1-8

Response; I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
    with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
    your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever,
    and build your throne for all generations.’”

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
    your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
    great and awesome above all that are around him?
Lord God of hosts,
    who is as mighty as you, O Lord?

Response; I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever


Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke 1:26-38 26 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 forever, 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.


O, Lord open my lips and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise

There is a programme on television at present called “The Repair Shop”. The shop is set in idyllic countryside, and inside are skilled craftsmen and women. Each week the programme features 4 or 5 objects of sentimental value that require repairing. These items are brought to the repair shop and their owners recount very moving stories of what the items mean to them and why they want them repaired. The craftsmen and women go to great lengths to repair the treasured things and they are briming over with generosity and care. After a week or two of hard work the objects are handed back to their owners in a better sturdier condition and yet their original condition is always respected, it is not airbrushed out, rather it is incorporated into the repair. The owners are usually deeply moved and grateful, often there is not a dry eye in the shop. If you’ve not seen it, it is well worth a watch! The Japanese have an art form they call Kintsukuroi. This is the tremendously careful art and skill of mending broken china with gold. When a piece of china breaks it is taken to the craft workshop where gold is painstakingly crafted into the cracks to make the china whole again. The point of the gold is that the broken china becomes something more beautiful than it was before and very much more durable furthermore it is considered more valuable. The break is what makes it open to repair.

Mary the little girl who was betrothed to Joseph…... We do not really know much about her except that. She was broken…and open to being repaired. She was a little girl into who’s mouth was put the most beautiful words and ways to utter “Yes to God” which we have heard today. We don’t need to know the accuracy of what is conveyed what we need to know is the feeling that those words convey and the generosity of action that they demonstrated. Feelings of deep generous Love and Acts of Trust, Obedience and Faith in God. Before the angel Gabriel came, Mary as far as we can gather was “whole” not broken. Her life must have seemed to her pretty ordinary, and held a certain security. She was following the expected pattern of women of her time, betrothal and then marriage a fairly straight road in life’s plans.

The Angel Gabriel breaks violently into this. He shatters her life as she knew it.

Picture a straight road and Mary walking along it…. then picture an image of an angel a beam of light. Picture that intersecting Mary and the road. You have the image of the cross…at the time of the annunciation of a birth. This immensely frightening visual occurrence meets in the heart of Mary. Right there in that moment we have the birth life and death of Jesus. This is a spiritual experience a charging with the Holy Spirit

What is it that defines a spiritual experience…and it’s not going all doughy eyed and walking around as if in a trance and might break if challenged…?

As we learn in this gospel reading the “spiritual experience” Mary was blessed with was awe-some and fearful and it broke her in order to make her rougher tougher and stronger. This little girl will go on to flee armies, give birth in a cattle stall, bring up the Son of God and then…witness as her son the Son of her God, no small event, was killed in the most brutal and desperately evil of circumstances and then surviving all that this little girl, now a grown woman, and I expect once again broken, must know that the baby, she bore redeemed humankind in his death and subsequent resurrection and so she must surely become charged once again with the Holy Spirit.

This gospel teaches us that there are 4 elements to a spiritual experience, and spiritual experiences keep happening, are Awe-some and have lasting effects. And why do we need to know that? Well, each of the elements of the experience not only break, change and transform Mary those elements offer something for sharing and renewal of society. They are for breaking, changing and transforming society. The elements also happen to every man woman or child. Not as utterly wonderful as the birth of the messiah but the opportunities are there every day. A spiritual experience in the terms I shall describe is not otherworldly or just for Nazareth. When you hear Nazareth hear Burnham too. A spiritual experience if we can be open, faithful and generous enough is an everyday occurrence, to someone, somewhere.

The first element of the spiritual experience is disturbance to the point of fear. There will have been times in the ordinariness of all our lives when we will have experienced that and maybe even are experiencing that now. That fear is the call to a new life, a new way of being. And the new way of being that is for the spiritual enrichment of others. It’s not a running away from the old, it is not just making ourselves better people. Mary did not run away, but God guided her away with Joseph…her past came with her it was part of her strength. She gave birth to Jesus, who made things better for all us all.

The next stage of the spiritual experience was a “reasonable questioning” Mary asks the Angel Gabriel” how can this be?” And that is how Saint Ignatius recommended to his brothers that they test ideas. Does this spiritual experience increase my faith in God, ability to offer hope to others and purify my love of others? If it does then it is of God it is a spiritual experience. This is very important because it tests the experience and thus helps us sift out the flights of fancy. Is it really a spiritual experience or is it just that we would like to do something and it is a jolly good wheeze to say “God told me to do it”?

The third element is that the spiritual experience lay deeply in Mary’s insufficiency. …. A baby! and she was not living with her betrothed a baby! and she just an inexperienced child herself.

The spiritual experience used the raw materials of insufficiency and transformed them a bit like the Repair Shop or the Japanese pot mender. The experience somehow plugs the gaps in Mary’s insufficiency, not with gold but with something much, much more precious… Heavenly Grace. In other words, the specific gifts she needed to become the mother of God.

Obedience underpins all the other elements of a spiritual experience. Obedience means to listen and follow up what we have heard with the required response. Mary said “Here am I the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word”. The perfect response and charged with deep meanings of the promises in the Old Testament. Mary we might surmise at this point is having a dawning of realisation. Which makes her response even the more remarkable.

And a spiritual experience is as clearly defined as that. But it was infinitely challenging for Mary, and it is for us. We can though see in this Gospel reading that Mary’s brokenness is repaired and the strength of her replies grows and grows in faith, hope and love.

When our prayers call us to deeper commitment then we hold onto our faith as we step forward and follow the example of Mary the Christ bearer. We walk in the hope of the call and we offer generous love. Spiritual experiences are here and now …they are glimpses of the call of the divine to us…by making them rarefied or refusing to recognise them, we give ourself the excuse not to engage…Mary recognised, engaged with and fulfilled her calling. She stepped out in Faith, Hope and Love. Hers is an example to learn from and follow.

L et us pray

O come, in any way you want,
In morning sunlight fooling in the leaves
Or in thick bouts of rain that soak my head…

Give us courage and Grace to answer your calls to us Loving God…that we too may become Christ bearers… Amen.


(Prayer adapted from a Kevin Hart poem)


Thank you for listening.”







The angel Gabriel from heaven came

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
'All hail', said he, 'thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady.'

2 'For known a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy son shall be Immanuel, by seers foretold;
most highly favoured lady.'

3 Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
'To me be as it pleaseth God', she said,
'My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name':
most highly favoured lady.

4 Of her, Immanuel, the Christ was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say,
'Most highly favoured lady.'


Intercessions are offered O God of Elizabeth and Mary you visited your servants with news of the world's redemption in the coming of the Saviour. Make our hearts leap with joy and fill our mouths with songs of praise that we may announce glad tidings of peace,

and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.


Let us pray to our Father in heaven that his will may be done on earth, the good news of his kingdom proclaimed throughout the world and that all people will be led into his glory.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our Prayer

Father, we pray for the unity of your church. We pray that we, and all who worship you, will remain faithful and true to your word brought to life in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our Prayer


Let us pray for all who are in any kind of need at this time;
That the holiness of this time of Advent may fill them with renewed Hope in the Lord’s presence.
Lord in your mercy

Hear our Prayer


Let us pray for ourselves: that in the pressure of the preparations
we may find time for reflection on the true meaning of Christmas
Lord in your mercy

Hear our Prayer


We pray for those whose lives have been broken by sadness and sorrows. That they may be given your Love and Peace through the actions of others. Lord in your mercy

Hear our Prayer


Merciful Father, accept these prayers,

For the sake of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen




God our redeemer,

who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary

to be the mother of your Son:

grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,

so we may be ready to greet him

when he comes again as our judge;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


The Lord’s Prayer is said – please join in

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

All Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

The Conclusion

The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil,
and keep us in eternal life.
All: Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God

People, look east

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 People, look east. The time is near 
of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.


2 Furrows, be glad. Though the earth is bare,
one more seed is planted there:
give up your strength the seed to nourish,
that in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.


3 Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
he for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.


4 Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
one more light the bowl shall brim,
shining beyond the frosty weather,
bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.


5 Angels, announce to man and beast

him who cometh from the East.
Set every peak and valley humming
with the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Before you go

We offer our prayers for Nicky Henning 27/7/39 to 14/12/20. Who designed, made and guided us in building our splendid stable. We give thanks to God for her many other gifts of time and love which she generously shared with St. Andrew’s Church. May she rest in Peace and rise again in Glory.

(Photos of Nicky follow by Kind permission of M. Henning)


Sing Christingle!


The Christingle is made with an orange,

Telling us of the world God made,

By the fruits of the earth in their seasons,

We can see the love of God displayed.


Sing Christingle, Sing Christingle!

Sing Christingle, it’s the light of Christ.

Sing Christingle, Sing Christingle!

Sing Christingle, light of Christ.


God of love, we give thanks now for Jesus,

We remember his birth again,

But the red ribbon round the Christingle,

Tells the story of his cross and pain.




To complete the Christingle: a candle,

Shining out in the darkest night,

Jesus promised to lead us and guide us,

Come and celebrate the world’s true light!





Let us thank all who contributed to the online version of this Morning Prayer.

Music from A.C.N.Y.

The Advent, hymns were recorded by St Martin’s Voices, directed by Andrew Earis, with organist Ben Giddens. Music for Crib and Christingle services was recorded by Westbury-on-Trym Parish Church Choir. Organ accompaniment music was recorded by Ben Giddens.

Readers and Leaders of Prayers

Sybil Jones & Mike and Barbara Flaxman.


Creative Commons & Hayward

CCLI 798995


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