On Angel's Wings... (20 Dec 2020)

20 Dec 2020 by Service Jan C, reflection Rev Paul Bartlett in: Worship Services: 2020

WELCOME TO WORSHIP    Good Morning how is everyone today?  What sort of week have you had? Let’s leave all worry, concerns, shopping, etc behind and listen to what God is saying to us on this 4th Sunday of Advent, which means it’s nearly the big day for celebrating and rejoicing with the very special gift promised to us all by God.    



Advent is a season of deep memory, a time when we are called to hear again the ancient stories of the God who has journeyed with us from the beginning, and who, in the fullness of time, took on flesh, and came to walk in this world with us. 

Aboriginal Dreaming also tells ancient stories of God; how to care for creation and how to live in right relationship with each other. We who live on Dharawal land, acknowledge their Dreaming and intimate relationship with the Creator and acknowledge their elders past and present for their stewardship of and lifelong connection with God’s Creation.


One deep Biblical memory is found in Luke 1:46-47 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on me his lowly servant.”


ADVENT HYMN -  TIS 286 ‘Light one candle’



Light one candle for hope, one bright candle for hope.

He brings hope to every heart. He comes! He comes!


Light one candle for peace, one bright candle for peace.

He brings peace to every heart. He comes! He comes!


Light one candle for joy, one bright candle for joy.

Every nation will find salvation in Bethlehem’s baby boy.


Light one candle for love, one bright candle for love.

He brings love to every heart. He comes! He comes!


The fourth candle

Four candles in the Advent circle are lit.

1st voice:

We light the fourth candle of Advent

in the circle of God’s eternity, a circle green as the earth

where Jesus came to live with us.


2nd voice:

We light the fourth candle of Advent

to celebrate the Christ who comes as a babe at Bethlehem,

and in power and great glory at the end of time.


3rd voice:

We light the fourth candle of Advent for ourselves,

for we are called to be Christ’s body

and to live in this time and place.


SONG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeTzQCpf0Fo

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Saviour, Glorious Lord

Emmanuel, God is with us
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Saviour, Glorious Lord

Emmanuel, God is with us
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word


‘Mary and the angel’ (Iona) inspired by Luke 1:26 – 38

Narrator: This is the story of what happened in the days before Jesus was born. In the town of Nazareth, there was a young woman whose name was Mary. 


Mary: I was washing the dishes at the time.

I was bending over the sink, with my back turned away from the kitchen door –Not that he necessarily opened it. I just remember hearing my name being called.


Gabriel: Mary.

Mary: That’s me…

But who are you? And what are you doing in my kitchen?

Gabriel: It’s alright. I’m called Gabriel.

Mary: But I don’t know any men called Gabriel.

Gabriel: I’m not a man. I’m an angel.

Mary: You don’t look much like an angel to me. 

Gabriel: Have you seen an angel before?

Mary: No. But they always have wings. Where are your wings?

Gabriel: I don’t need them when I’m not flying.

Mary: So, what are you doing in my kitchen?

Gabriel: I’ve come to bring you a message.

Mary: You’re having me on!

Gabriel: No. I’m not. 

I’ve come to tell you that God has chosen you to enable the Incarnation to take place.

Mary: To enable the what?

Gabriel: The Incarnation…the word becoming flesh.

Mary: What are you on about?

Gabriel: You’re going to become pregnant.

Mary: Not with you, I’m not. And not in here. What do you think I am?

Gabriel: Mary…. It’s all right. God has chosen you to become the mother of his son.

Mary: Me? …… I’m not even married.

Gabriel: (speaking excitedly) The Holy Spirit will descend on you, and you will conceive a child, and you will call him (Jeshua) Jesus it means ‘saviour’. 

Out of all women in history, God has chosen you.

Out of all the minutes in history, this is the one in which God needs a woman

Not to give God her body, but to give God, her yes.

Mary: (almost speechless) ….. but what will my parents say?

Gabriel: They’ll be alright.

Mary: And what will Joseph, my betrothed say?

Gabriel: Don’t worry. I’ll have a word with him too.


‘The Magnificat’ (Iona) from Luke 1: 46 – 55        

My heart praises the Lord; my soul is glad because God my saviour for God has remembered me God’s lowly servant. From now on all people will call me happy because of the great things the mighty One has done for me.

God’s name is holy; from one generation to another

God shows mercy to those who honour God. Candle lit

God has stretched out a mighty arm, and scattered the proud with all their plans. Candle lit

God has brought down mighty kings from their thrones. Candle lit

God has lifted up the lowly and honoured them. Candle lit

God has filled the hungry with good things. Candle lit

God has sent the rich and self fulfilled away with empty hands. Candle lit

God has kept the promise made to our ancestors and has come to the help of Israel. Candle lit

God has remembered to show mercy to Abraham and to all his descendants forever. Candle lit



Let us confront our failings in the presence of  God-with-us, Emmanuel.


Let us pray.

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Because our preparations for Christmas are fast becoming long on the trivial and short on the profound;

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Because we make sure that food for the body is plentiful but exist on a meagre spiritual diet, often taken while we are on the run.

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Because you come to call us to our senses, forgive our sins, and rekindle our depleted faith, hope and love;

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.


Advent Friend, you see us as we are, and you know our true needs better than we do. Please deal with us in line with our deepest needs. Rebuke or encourage, discomfort or soothe, forgive or affirm, push us hard or quietly lead us. Immerse us in the healing, saving grace of  Emmanuel, and make us both whole and holy. To your eternal praise and glory.





My friends, hear the good news: “Mary will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

 We, yes even you and I, have inherited that promise, and become a part of the ongoing story of Jesus. In him you are citizens of his new world: forgiven, healed and uplifted.

Thanks be to God.



MESSAGE On angels wings… Rev Paul Bartlett

It is helpful to remember that the role of women in the 1st C Roman (Gentile) world, which is the target audience for Luke, was one where a woman’s father had complete control and authority over their life, including who they married. While a married woman may have run the household, it was always with the authority and dignity of her husband. Independence outside of their family, unless incredibly rich or of high status within the community was unheard of.

In Luke the focus on the women who followed Jesus and who it seems provided out of their own purses for his financial and material needs as he travelled, gives an amazing insight into the revolutionary and liberating way Jesus engaged with those he met. There is little reference to any husband or family relationships that may have undergirded the involvement of these women who numbered beyond just Martha and Mary and Mary of Magdala. We know nothing else about Mary & Martha and their brother Lazarus except that they came from Bethany.

That their identity and worth to Jesus came through their own deeds and actions and not through whose daughters or wives they may have been is remarkable, transformative and challenging.

The interactions in Luke Ch 1 between Mary and the angel of the Lord, are similarly challenging.

John’s Gospel either has no knowledge of it or it isn’t important for him to describe ‘how’ Jesus came to be born just that ‘the Word became flesh’. Mark, the earliest of the Gospel writers, begins his Good News, in a hurry, from Jesus’ baptism and then straight into his ministry. 

Matthew, a contemporary of Luke’s, must have been the 1st to join Ancestry.com because he gives us the ultimate Family Tree starting with Abraham and coming down through 42 generations to Joseph. For Matthew, it’s all about Joseph. He’s the one visited by the angel, not Mary. 

So what gives?

We’ll never know, in this life; and we aren’t called to try and fit them all together seamlessly. 

Each account if you like is taken from a different angle, unique in its own insights, setting and interpretations of how the life of Jesus, of God with us, interacts with humanity. 

It is always personal and such experiences are always tested within the gathered people of God.

Each account is neither better or more accurate than the other. It just is.

Just as it is with Jesus’ resurrection. Four different accounts seeking to describe the impossible.

It’s in part because of the very nature of revelation, of God’s interactions with us, that our encounters of what for example you all heard last Sunday, will all be slightly different even though you were all here! What each of us ‘hears’ and ‘sees’ and ‘feels’ is authentic in part because it comes out of the very unique life each one of us lives and experiences.

But back to Luke. I think the Iona interaction we heard earlier in the Service, between Mary and Gabriel, sounds more real to me compared with what seems to me to be the ‘meek and mild accepted passivity’ of Mary whose response is:
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

And the Magnificat, seems to bear all the hallmarks of being written much later after this news has sunk in. In fact I’m sure Mary’s understanding of just who her son Jesus was, constantly changed and grew throughout his ministry, death and resurrection.

And while Mary has played a central part in the life of the Church, even as one to whom we could go to in prayer to intercede with before God, (tell the story of the “woman in the Cathedral” – you’ll have to be at church to hear it) it’s her passivity, in Luke that grates for me. No, wrestling with this life changing news, no fear, just acceptance. For too many years this has been the accepted role and place of women in the Church. Humble submission. And too often men of power have taken advantage of that ‘submission’. But surely there is more to her recorded response? I think there is. 

Firstly: Here am I. Yep. Not the person behind me or in the next village. It’s definitely me the angel has come to talk with. The 1st part of any discipleship story begins with Here I am!! This Call is personal and specific. It’s to Mary, a young woman of 14-16 years, engaged to Joseph of Nazareth.


Secondly: servant of the Lord

Mary knows who she is and who she serves, who is Lord of her life. 

We can find it hard to be a servant, to take a lowly place for the benefit of or at the bidding of others. The second step in her journey. God’s word is Lord of her life! Will I be taken advantage of being a servant? Quite possibly, but not where it concerns her Lord whom she trusts absolutely. 

Do we ever trust our God, completely, absolutely?

Thirdly: let it be with me according to your word

No reference to fake news here! Mary’s not the centre of the Universe, God is. No arguing, over and over, no looking for an out or a modifying sub clause. No appeal to the Courts. But acceptance. 

No resigned sigh because I’m unworthy, far from it, in fact I am the most honoured of women.

And that word which she may have never heard or understood before, that word, which we can all expect to hear at least once in our life, then and there she knows it is for her and can only ever be accepted. For Mary to reject the word is unthinkable. This is faith in action.

 In today’s story, Mary bends her knee in humble, obedient servanthood and ‘God with us’, is born!

An encounter with an ‘angel of the Lord’, with God’s word, may be rare in our lives, but when it happens it can give hope to the world and to us. I pray none of us miss hearing this word, even if at the kitchen sink in our own Nazareth’s of Galilee. 

Unbid and unsought, but nonetheless offered and embraced. 

On angels wings God’s Name be praise and glory. Amen.


HYMN** - TIS 161 ‘Tell out my soul’


Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice

Tender to me the promise of his word

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name!

Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done

His mercy sure, from age to age the same

His holy name – the Lord, the Mighty One.


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by.

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight

The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.


Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!

Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord.

To children’s children and for evermore! Tim Dudley-Smith 1956 - 



By your Spirit, most glorious Immanuel, please continue to come among us, honouring our bodies, sharpening our minds, and nurturing our spirits.

 Loving God, please do not get annoyed by our adulation of technology and its gadgets, but continue to nurse us as a mother nurses her children, that we may be led by your Spirit from illusions to truths, and from lesser truths to the ultimate truth in Christ Jesus.

Do not weary of our injustices or despise our political attempts to right wrongs. Please foster all that is good in our nation, rebuke all that is evil, and by your Spirit enable our political parties to achieve far more than they deserve.

Please do not become dejected with your inept and divided church, merciful Immanuel. In your mercy go on cherishing our small faith and enlarging our love. Let the Gospel of Christ Jesus shine out from the flawed common clay of our lives.

Do not tire of the prayers with which we bombard you. Please continue to console the sorrowful, soothe the disturbed, heal the diseased, encourage the timid, support the persecuted, guide the bewildered, feed the hungry, sustain the courageous, lift up the fallen, bind up the broken hearted, and comfort the dying.    Name those who need healing and comfort.

Loving God, give us the faith that was in Mary, the mother of our Lord, that we may offer you our very body, mind and soul, to achieve your loving purposes on planet earth. To the glory of your holy name. Amen.



Song       sung unaccompanied 

Be near us Lord Jesus we ask you to stay 

Close by us for ever and love us we pray 

Bless all the world children in your tender care

And fit us for ever to live like you now  



Never put your faith in worldly status,

and never underestimate your heavenly importance.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

Let your trust in the coming of Christ soar within you like wings of joy.

Go out into the world and serve one another as God-bearers.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Creator, through Jesus our Saviour, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit our Nurturer, be with you this day and evermore.