Worship for Sunday 18th December 2022, by Deacon Pru Cahill

In this week’ we read of Jesus’ impending arrival from the perspective of Joseph. Just as Mary accepted the will of God concerning this baby, Joseph was called to undertake responsibility too.

We sense this wasn’t easy for Joseph to do. Nevertheless, God honoured his faithfulness.

Prayer of Approach

We approach again the mystery and the miracle.
God born in human form, God with us.
There are angels and dreams, a special star,
wise men and an evil king;
and yet, at the heart, there is a girl,
near her time and far from home,
and her betrothed, choosing to care for her,
though the child is not his.

The human story is also miraculous;
a couple, learning to love and trust each other and God.

We come before the God who embraced
the mystery of humanity,
the God who is with us. Amen.

Hymn: HP 252 All Hail the Power of Jesu’s Name


All hail the power of Jesu’s name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!

Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
Who from his alter call;
Extol the Stem-of-Jesse’s Rod
And crown him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball,
To him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.

O that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all!

Edward Perronet (1726-92)

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

We thank you, O God, for your presence with us,
for the gift of your Son to our world,
for this advent season –
pregnant with hope,
expecting joy,
looking to your coming.

We praise you that Jesus was shown,
by his resurrection and ascension,
to be your Son,
the fulfilment of all your promises.
In his name we pray.


Lord, we confess
that we do not always accept your will for our lives.
We turn aside from your ways;
we forget that we belong to Jesus,
and that he has priority over everything.

May we take heart from Joseph’s response to your prompting.

Restore us, O God, shine on us,
and save us.
May we find our redemption in you.
May you cleanse our hearts
and give us courage and strength to live for you.

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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: StF 272  From Heaven You Came

From heaven, you came helpless babe
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King

There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours’, he said.

This is our God, the Servant King…
Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.

This is our God, the Servant King…
So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer
for it is Christ we’re serving.

This is our God, the Servant King…

Graham Kendrick (b 1950)

Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
    shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
    come and save us.

Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

How long, Lord God Almighty,
    will your anger smoulder
    against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
    you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision[b] to our neighbours,
    and our enemies mock us.

Restore us, God Almighty;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
    the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
    revive us, and we will call on your name.

19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

Matthew 1: 18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.


This is a passage in which all three persons of the trinity are present.

Having set down Jesus’ ancestry, Matthew gives the historical setting for the birth of Jesus. The Holy Spirit has conceived a baby in Mary’s womb and now an angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a dream to reassure and to instruct what he must do next. After centuries of waiting, hoping, earnestly seeking, God’s promised Son is on his way!

I wonder, is there one of the persons of the trinity you more easily connect with. Why is that do you think?

This is a passage in which three names are used for the new arrival, all of which carry history and power

  • The Greek name Jesus (v21) is the same as the Hebrew Joshua which means “God Saves”. Through Jesus, God will save his people from their sins.
  • He is named Messiah (v18). This name is rich with power to transform. The Greek name, Christ, is the same as the Hebrew name, Messiah, the anointed one. Jesus is anointed to lead God’s people.
  • In this passage he is also given the name Immanuel (v23) which Matthew explains means God with us. God born among us to be one with us, prophesied by Isaiah.

I wonder, which name comes most easily when you think of Jesus, one of these or another?

This is a passage which contains three elements of discernment: pondering scripture, coming to a decision, resting with it.

We read in this passage that Joseph wanted to do the right thing. A number of legal options were available to him (Deuteronomy 22), specifically as a man whose wife-to-be was carrying a child that wasn’t his. But he loved Mary and didn’t want to expose her to public shame. Having resolved that a quiet divorce was the best option, he slept on this decision, perhaps allowing himself one more night before facing Mary with his news. An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him what he is to do.

I’ve been reading a book these last few months about discernment and which uses the phrase holy apathy – not indifferent to what happens, but being open to God’s possibilities rather than our own narrow agenda. It has been helpful to think about this as I go through the stationing process and wait to hear news of my next move in ministry.

The Circuit Meeting was held earlier this month and before us on the agenda for consideration were important matters including finance, buildings, the worshipping life of our churches, and governance. On a number of items, we deferred a final decision pending more consultation, information and time. Because I’d been thinking about this passage, I wondered how well we would find it to revisit a matter we’d decided on if God showed us something new. Perhaps we do this all the time because of circumstances, coincidences or God-incidences.

I wonder, how do you arrive at an important decision? Have you ever reversed a decision because you felt God was saying something new?

Let us pray in thanksgiving for Joseph, whom we barely know,
but who, with Mary, bore the astonishing events of Christ’s birth,
in obedience and with a generous heart.

When our lives are overturned by the unexpected,
and you reach out to us in dreams,
grant us the love and courage of Joseph,
that we may be open to your prompting
and witness, with him,
to your loving purposes for all people and all creation. Amen.

Hymn: StF 222  Who would think that what was Needed

Who would think that what was needed

to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army,

proud in purpose, proved in worth?
Who would think, despite derision,

that a child should lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven,

coming here on Christmas Day.

Shepherds watch and wise men wonder; monarchs scorn and angels sing;
such a place as none would reckon

hosts a holy helpless thing.
Stable beasts and by-passed strangers

watch a baby laid in hay;
God surprises earth with heaven,

coming here on Christmas Day.

Centuries of skill and science

span the past from which we move,
yet experience questions whether,

with such progress, we improve.
While the human lot we ponder,

lest our hopes and humour fray,
God surprises earth with heaven,

coming here on Christmas Day.

John Bell (b1949) and Graham Maule (1958 – 2019)


O God, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate
your coming to us as flesh – Emmanuel, Saviour – we ask that you would heal and guide our wounded world.

We pray for areas where choices need to be made, and for those who make these decisions.
Where the wrong path has been taken,
or new circumstances arisen,
may minds and hearts be changed.

We pray that your light would puncture the darkness and bring hope and peace.
We pray that you would give us eyes to see where we can offer help –
where we can give joy and hope to others,
in the coming season and beyond.

Where there is confusion, give counsel, O wise counsellor;
where there is conflict, bring resolution, O prince of peace;
where there are difficult circumstances, move to change them, mighty God.
Everlasting Father, transform our lives and our world.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Hymn: HP 236 Hark what a Sound

Hark what a sound, and too divine for hearing,

Stirs on the earth and trembles in the air!

Is it the thunder of the Lord’s appearing?

Is it the music of his people’s prayer?


Surely he cometh, and a thousand voices

Shout to the saints, and to the deaf are dumb;

Surely he cometh, and the earth rejoices,

Glad in his coming who hath sworn: I come!


This hath he done, and shall we not adore him?

This shall he do, and can we still despair?

Come, let us quickly fling ourselves before him,

cast at his feet the burden of our care.


Through life and death, through sorrow and through sinning,

he shall suffice me, for he hath sufficed:

Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,

Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.

 Frederic W.H. Myers (1843-1901)



May the God who knows where we come from and where are going, lead and walk with us.

May the God who knows our hopes and dreams, bless us.

May the God who was with Joseph and Mary in all that they faced, be known to us as Immanuel – God with usAmen.