Worship for Sunday 12th December 2021, by Deacon Pru Cahill

John the Baptist challenged people to change their lives to be in line with God’s values and God’s priorities. His was not a comfortable message for those who heard it, but held out the promise of a place in God’s kingdom.

Saint John Preaching in the Wilderness

Pier Francesco Mola (1612-1666)

Prayer of Approach

We come to you, gracious God:
with our lives open – show us how to live your way;
with our hands open – show us how to truly give;
with our hearts open – cleanse us,
and teach us the way of truth and integrity.


Hymn: StF 182 On Jordan’s Banks                  

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

announces that the Lord is nigh.

Awake and harken, for he brings

glad tidings of the King of kings!


Then cleansed be every life from sin:

make straight the way for God within,

and let us all our hearts prepare

for Christ to come and enter there.


For you are our salvation, Lord,

our refuge and our great reward.

without your grace we waste away

like flowers that wither and decay.

To God the Son all glory be

whose advent sets his people free,

whom with the Father we adore,

and Holy Spirit, evermore.

John Chandler (1806-1876)


Prayer of Adoration

Advent God,
you prepared your people for your coming,
you gave your Word to us through prophets and priests,
through stories told and retold,
through the history of time,
through the written word,
through the spoken word,
but always your word.
As Christmas lights begin to dazzle us,
we know that your glory is way beyond their transfixing power.

Advent God, we adore you, and we bring ourselves before you just as we are. 

 In doing this, we confess that our lives are not what you would want them to be.
If we are honest, they are not what we would want them to be either.
In so many ways, through what we say, what we think, and what we do,
we fail to live out the reflection of your Son, Jesus Christ.
And for this we are sorry.
We have no excuses, we have no reason,
we don’t even know why we are the way we are,
but we recognise that it is not as you would have us be.
Please forgive us.
We do not want our lives to be ruined because of our sinfulness.
We do not want to be forever weighed down by guilt,
forever nagged by inadequacy.

Renew us today by your Spirit,
and remove the poor shadows of yesterday
with the brightness of your presence.
Cleanse our souls, refresh our hearts, and purify our minds.
May we, today, experience the reality of your resurrection promise.
May we today be born again into the likeness of your Son.
As we look to the future, we see the shadows of yesterday looming before us, ready to overwhelm us once again.
Based on past experience, we recognise that we will once again invite darkness into our hearts.

Loving and forgiving God, keep us ever aware of the shadows that creep over us. Deliver us from self-deception, and may we be ever willing to come before you for rebirth, renewal and forgiveness.
All because of your Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer

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. Amen.

 The two short psalms contained in Isaiah 12 are songs of praise and trust in the Lord. They follow on from the vision in chapter 11 of the coming peaceful kingdom, and the promise of a saved remnant of Israel. In the midst of the political and social strife of his own day, Isaiah points to the day when the Lord will be exalted in all the earth and the people of God are restored to their land.

Isaiah 12

In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.
    Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
    and you have comforted me.

2 Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence;
    he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
    from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done,
    and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
    let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Hymn: StF 343 All My Days I will Sing this Song of Gladness

All my days I will sing this song of gladness,
Give my praise to the Fountain of delights;
For in my helplessness You heard my cry,
And waves of mercy poured down on my life.

I will trust in the cross of my Redeemer,
I will sing of the blood that never fails;
Of sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed,
Of death defeated and life without end.

Beautiful Saviour, Wonderful Counsellor,
Clothed in majesty, Lord of history,
You’re the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Star of the Morning, glorious in holiness,
You’re the Risen One, heaven’s Champion
And You reign, You reign over all.

I long to be where the praise is never-ending,
Yearn to dwell where the glory never fades;
Where countless worshippers will share one song,
And cries of ‘worthy’ will honour the Lamb!

Luke 3: 7-18

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

 Hymn: StF 255 The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy 

The kingdom of God is justice and joy;

for Jesus restores what sin would destroy;

God’s power and glory in Jesus we know;

and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.


The kingdom of God is mercy and grace;

the prisoners are freed, the sinners find place,

the outcast are welcomed God’s banquet to share;

and hope is awakened in place of despair.


The kingdom of God is challenge and choice:

believe the good news, repent and rejoice!

His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross:

our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.


God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal,

in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole;

the heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call;

and all things cry “Glory!” to God all in all.

Bryn Rees (1911-1983)



This account has echoes for me of the day of Pentecost when, having heard Peter speak, the crowd asked, what should we do? The answer that day was repent and be baptised.

In the gospel passage for today, John the Baptist too makes clear that baptism and repentance go hand-in-hand.

John challenges those requesting to be baptised that they are to demonstrate a changed life in outward signs. He tells those listening that to confuse being a descendent of Abraham with righteousness in God’s kingdom is wrong and not the way to a personal relationship with God.

When the crowd asks, What should we do? John replies saying, Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.

To the tax collectors, John says, Don’t collect any more than you are required to.

To the soldiers, Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely; be content with your pay.

I love the direct manner of this engagement and am heartened that it is because of John’s direct message (and not in spite of it) that people responded.

This should give us confidence if we feel the message of the gospel is too harsh for those who are seeking to follow Jesus. 

John Wesley, commenting on this passage said, “… trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay”.

As we seek to grow closer to Jesus this advent and as we wait for his return I wonder, what in your life of discipleship requires a change of heart?

Prayer of Intercession

We are waiting, Jesus;

Come and live with us soon.


Jesus, we are waiting because we know who you are;

the Creator of the world,

the God who took on human form,

the son of Mary,

We are waiting, Jesus;

Come and live with us soon.


Jesus, we are waiting because we have faith in you.

We know that we can trust you.

We remember that you are good to us and we thank you for all the good things you give us.

We are waiting, Jesus;

Come and live with us soon.


Jesus, we are waiting here,

here In Manchester, here in the suburbs,

waiting for you to come into our houses, our streets, our shops, our offices, our schools, to fill them with your light and peace.

We are waiting, Jesus;

Come and live with us soon.


Jesus, we are waiting for you to come and change things:

To bring health,

to welcome refugees,

to comfort those who mourn;

and to turn us around so that we can be your hands and feet, your eyes and ears in this world that needs you so much.

We are waiting, Jesus;

Come and live with us soon. Amen


Hymn: StF 171  Hark the Glad Sound

Hark, the glad sound! The Saviour comes,
the Saviour promised long;
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song.

He comes, the prisoners to release,
in Satan’s bondage held;
the gates of brass before him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure,
and with the treasures of his grace
to bless the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
thy welcome shall proclaim,
and Heaven’s eternal arches ring
with thy belovèd Name.

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)



Lord, help us to go into the world in peace;
to be of good courage;
to hold fast to that which is good;
to strengthen the fainthearted;
to support the weak;
to honour everyone;
and to love and serve the Lord.
Be within us and among us,
and remain with us always.