Pointing the Way (13 Dec 2020)

13 Dec 2020 by Rev Paul Bartlett in: Worship Services: 2020



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 Isaiah 61:1, 3 “The spirit of the Lord is upon 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, 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 and they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord”.


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 third candle

Three candles in the Advent circle are lit.

1st voice:

We light the third candle of Advent

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

where Jesus came to live with us. Silence

2nd voice:

We light the third candle of Advent

to celebrate John the Baptist, and all who point the way

to the coming Christ. Silence

3rd voice:

We light the third candle of Advent for ourselves,

for we, too, are called to prepare the way

for his coming. Silence




HYMN Cloth for the Cradle (Iona) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w20IX24sSak


Cloth for the cradle, cradle for the child, the child for every joy and sorrow:

Find him a shawl that’s woven by us all, to welcome the Lord of each tomorrow.


Darkness and light and all that’s known by sight

Silence and echo fading

Weave into one a welcome for the Son

Set earth its own maker serenading.


Hungry and poor, the sick and the unsure

Wealthy whose needs are stranger

Weave into one a welcome for the Son

Leave excess and want beneath the manger.


Claimant and queen, wage earners in between

Trader and travelling preacher

Weave into one a welcome for the Son

Whose word brings new life to every creature.


Wrinkled or fair, carefree or full of care

Searchers of all the ages

Weave into one a welcome for the Son

The Saviour of shepherds and of sages.


OT Reading: Isaiah 61:8 – 11 (NRSV)            

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. 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. 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. 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.



Merciful God, though we are holding on in hope for a better world, we confess that there are many times when we lose heart. We see injustice everywhere, often dismissed as a ‘politically expedient reality.’ When we see the suffering of innocent ones, or the plight of homeless or addicted people, or watch on as reports of great violence are presented in the media, we cry out to you Lord. When we lose sight of your providential care and goodness, or feel like giving up and hiding away in our own sanctuaries of individual faith, come to us, renew and restore our faith in you. For there is always more room in the Inn of our daily lives, for you Lord.

Though the plight of the world seems ever greater, your goodness does prevail.

For you come in grace and mercy, to strengthen, to renew, to declare justice and restore hope.

Though we may not always perceive your hand at work, we know of your kindness

and therefore we will sing of your greatness.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE The Word of God is faithful and true.

To those who repent, forgiveness is assured. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God!

John 1:6 - 8, 19 – 27 (NRSV)              

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!


MESSAGE                                            “Pointing the Way”

When I purchased my 1st car in 1974 one of the first things I needed was to buy a Melways Street Directory for Melbourne. I could then travel with confidence knowing that I would be able to find my way to where-ever I was going. I also remember on moving to Sydney, buying a UBD Street Directory, and also picking up NRMA strip maps for country travel. I recently threw out my last Directory as Google Maps now rules supreme with my choice of a voice to guide me on my way.


I wonder if some of how we found Jesus in the past is a bit like using an old Street Directory?

We learnt the songs in Sunday School, went through Confirmation classes where, if you were like me you were asked to personally confess: that Christ Jesus is my Saviour and Lord.

And that was that! You were now part of the Church.

Today, many more people will begin the engagement that can lead to faith through their being the recipient of some practical support from their local church, through what they may find on the Internet, through their participation in a faith based overseas aid program, or perhaps through the pastoral care they received following a death in the family or a baptism or wedding. These forms of engagement can point to the reason or the One behind why the support was initially given.


But back to todays’ Gospel Reading. We know that both Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptiser had disciples and that their ministries overlapped. While we only have the Gospel accounts of how their ministries intersected we can be pretty sure that it wasn’t as clear cut at the time especially amongst John’s disciples, that Jesus of Nazareth was ‘the One’.

If today’s Gospel reading has the questioners all at sea, trying to pin on John just ‘who are you?’ You don’t quite fit what we were expecting!! We also know from other passages of Scripture that John’s disciples, more than once, came to Jesus and his disciples asking their questions too.


Most scholars now believe that John came out of the desert Essene community at Qumran preaching a message of repentance through water purification.

It’s also clear that John began his ministry first so the clear pointer to Jesus which we see in the Gospels, would have grown and developed as his own ministry also unfolded in & around 28-30AD

And boy what temptations John is faced with when questioned ‘Who are you?”

I am not the Messiah…

I am not Elijah…

I am not one of the other prophets…

I am the voice of the one crying in the wilderness…prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3)

It has been a long time since those words were last uttered by one of God’s people…

It may have been tempting for John to say yes I am all of these you mention. I will meet your need!


At the time of Christ there was much expectation and deep longing for a ‘Son of David’, to come and rid Israel of Rome’s heavy hand since they’d arrived 100 years earlier. And even after our Lord’s life and ministry and following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD others came claiming to be the Messiah. The most notable being ‘Simon Bar Kokhba’ in 132-135AD after which rebellion all Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and its name changed to Aelia Capitolina until 324AD.


But John only claimed to be pointing to the One who is to follow him. That takes courage and a confident sense of self under God, for many voices seek to label you as best suits their needs.

Each one of us too are pointers to Christ, in everything we think and say and do.

We are not made in our own image but in God’s.

Traditionally it was the Priest who represented Christ, in the world. The one who could turn ordinary bread and wine into the very body and blood of our Saviour. Too often it has been the Priest or Minister who became active in their local community and through that activity, some would start attending their church. But when they moved on, often that personal link was broken and many of those who had started attending stopped doing so.

Ministry that really sticks is where the members of the congregation initiate and sustain those links beyond the congregation, after all they are the ones who stay on after people like me have come and gone. Our life as a faith community can survive such dislocations of Ministers coming and going every few years but only if the ministry of the whole people of God is able to nurture those who attend and offer justice, acceptance and care for those who live in the community.

This is at the heart of Engadine’s new Engagement Coordinator.


And sometimes we as individuals are the only ‘witness/example’ someone else will have as to who is this Jesus and his claim upon our lives. Our engagement with OOSH, with those who hire our halls, our street neighbours and those within hearing and sight of our church buildings, those we ‘witness to’ engage in conversation with, at a local street stall, as we stand in the queue at Coles or as we buy our skinny flat white & those who walk or drive past our building and its banners. Rev Ian Robinson back in the 1990’s called this ‘gossiping the Gospel’ in every-day language.

Let me give you an example from earlier this week:

The Body Corporate where we live needed a fence replaced and we hired a local tradesman.

He started on the work but a family emergency has meant he’s had to take time out. As he shared some of that with me, and you could hear the anguish in his voice, I mentioned the journey I’m having with my folks this year and then added my involvement at Engadine UC. He was deeply touched by my concern and empathy. I said I would keep his family in my thoughts and prayers.


And for those who surf the Internet we have Loraine to thank for our church Home Page and Susan to thank for all that is put up on Facebook. All these too can be pointers to Christ.

Yes, look at what we may say and what we do, but it is ONLY Jesus whom we point to, not to ourselves. To quote Kath & Kim it is never “look at me, look at me” but rather look through me to the One who enables frail and vulnerable me to point through my actions to the One who can make people whole. When people look at you and your life. What do they see?


Does the way you live your life point to Jesus? Or is your life just a reflection on how the world lives its life with its focus primarily on self and on your family? To His name be praise and glory!




A          Among the poor and among the proud

B          among the persecuted and among the privileged

ALL      Christ is coming, he is coming to make all things new.


A          In our homes and in shopping centres

B          at wedding feasts and in the judgment halls

ALL      Christ is coming, he is coming to make all things new.


A          With a gentle touch, with an angry word

B          with a clear conscience, with burning love

ALL      Christ is coming, he is coming to make all things new.


A          That the kingdom might come, that the world might believe

B          that the powerful might stumble and the humble be raised

ALL      Christ is coming, he is coming to make all things new.


A          Within us, without us, among us

B          Before us, in this place and in every place

A          For this time

B          For all time

ALL      Christ is coming, he is coming to make all things new.


Let us Pray: Jesus of Advent, you remain a sacred mystery to us.

You have brough Good News for all the people and we will not be afraid, for you are here.

We are hungry for your love, for this bread and wine, which surpasses all understanding.

We are thirsty for your Spirit that never runs dry. In this meal nourish us, feed us and quench our deepest longings and forgive all that causes you and others pain and despair, that we may glorify you always, fed by your Word, fed by your body and blood, fed by your community. Amen



Loving God, through your goodness, we have this bread and wine to offer

Which earth has given and human hands have made.

May we know your presence in the breaking of and in the sharing of this bread

So that we may know your touch in all bread, in all matter.

May we know your presence in poured wine and in its sharing

So that we may know your abundant gift freely given as at the wedding in Cana.


We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared among his community

Through the centuries, and shares with us now.

Made one in Christ by Him and one with each other through Him

We offer these gifts and with them our very lives.

A single, holy and living sacrifice. Amen.




HYMN – TIS 414 ‘There’s a spirit in the air’ vs 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7



There’s a spirit in the air

Telling Christians everywhere:

‘Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.’


Lose your shyness, find your tongue

Tell the world what God has done:

God in Christ has come to stay

Live tomorrow’s life today.


Still the Spirit gives us light

Seeing wrong and setting right:

God in Christ has come to stay.

Live tomorrow’s life today.


May the Spirit fill our praise

Guide our thoughts and change our ways:

God in Christ has come to stay.

Live tomorrow’s life today.


There’s a Spirit in the air

calling people everywhere:

‘Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.’                                     Brian Arthur Wren 1936




Prayers for and with our community of faith and beyond…