This service can be used at home if you are unable to get to church. As you pray and reflect, we trust you will feel part of the wider church community.
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
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 forever. Amen.
Almighty God our heavenly Father
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.
Glory to God in the highest
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly king,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you,
we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ only son of the Father
Lord God Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy upon us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most high,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
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.
Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
The Good News of Deliverance
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;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
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.
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.
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.
John 1: 6-8, 19-28
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.
The Testimony of John the Baptist
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 baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptise 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.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.
Three questions you might ask about the readings
What strikes you from the readings?
What puzzles you from the readings?
What excites you from the readings?
Are you any good at guessing games? I’m rubbish. I give up far too quickly.
There’s the one where your opponent picks someone and you can only ask yes/no questions until you think you know who they have in their head. Then there’s the classic party version where everyone gets a post-it note stuck to their forehead and you can only ask yes/no questions until you figure out who’s name is written on your post-it note.
Our passage from John feels a bit like one of those games. Except in this version, we’re lucky. We’ve been given the answer before the game starts. Instead, it’s the Jewish priests and the Levites that are struggling to figure out exactly who John is. They are using all their guesses and throwing all the names at John that they can imagine he might be
He knows exactly who he is and he finds a way to say it to the priests and Levites so that they can’t possibly get him confused with anyone else. John quotes a piece of scripture that they would have known. Scripture that they probably had memorised.
John says: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
John. Knows. Who. He. Is.
Tradition and some scripture tells us that John lived in the desert, we think he’d spent years as an ascetic, spending time honing himself for this very moment. Taking care to get to know who he is, what his role is and what God’s purpose is for him. Discerning. Listening.
John’s discernment of who he was and what his role was going to be all leads to the few key moments that we are told about. His witness here, telling those in authority that the Lord is coming and his witness as Jesus comes to be baptised. John’s role is to be that faithful witness, to make that proclamation. To be the voice that says “it’s not me, but he’s on his way, keep alert, be ready, take notice”
It is because of the work of John that we don’t need to play guessing games (praise be because like I said, I’m terrible at them!) The beginning of our gospel reading tells us exactly who John was, and then John tells us who Jesus is. Our job now is to continue that faithful witness.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father;
he will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Please include your own prayers as well
In our prayers we pray for our church, our communities and our world
Lord God, we pray for our churches, our Turton Team, our Mission Community, our Diocese and the world-wide Church in every land.
Bless the leaders, guard the people, guide us in our future;
May we share the gospel in word and deed
and bring glory to your name;
Lord bless our churches we pray
Lord God we pray for our community
We pray for our schools, the children and staff.
We pray for all who work to make our communities a better place for others
We pray for Councillors and carers;
Lord bless our community we pray
Lord God we pray for our nation
May our leaders lead with integrity and justice
Give them wisdom and direct their decisions.
We pray that ours may be a nation
where the poor and vulnerable are cared for and helped
and where all may flourish;
Lord bless our nation we pray
Lord God, we pray for our world,
for the war-torn places, we pray for peace.
We pray that all may work together to alleviate need
and to protect this world for future generations;
Lord bless our world we pray
Lord God, we pray for those who are sick, in body, mind or spirit
We pray for those we know, and those who have no one to pray for them.
We pray for those who are dying and those who grieve;
We ask that you would give healing and peace to the soul
Lord bless the sick we pray
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
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 forever. Amen.
Keep a moment of quiet as you allow God to speak to you,
as you let your spirit rest in God’s Spirit.
May the Lord
bless us and watch over us,
make his face shine upon us
and be gracious to us.
May the Lord look kindly on us
and give us peace,
and may the blessing of God Almighty,
our Creator, our Redeemer,
the one who gives us Life
be among us and with us all always. Amen.