A Service for Sunday 13th December

A Service for The Third Sunday of Advent, 13th December, 2020



Before beginning to read this short service, you may wish to find a space for prayer in front of a cross, a candle, or a special place.  



The Acclamation of Christ at the Dawning of the Day 


O Lord, open our lips

and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.


May Christ, the true, the only light

banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.


Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations

into the peace of your kingdom:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


You come in word and sacrament

to strengthen us in holiness:

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.


You will come in glory

with salvation for your people:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Blessed are you, creator of all,

to you be praise and glory for ever.

As your dawn renews the face of the earth

bringing light and life to all creation,

may we rejoice in this day you have made;

as we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep,

open our eyes to behold your presence

and strengthen our hands to do your will,

that the world may rejoice and give you praise.

Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Blessed be God for ever.



The Collect


Silence is kept.


O Lord Jesus Christ,

who at your first coming sent your messenger

to prepare your way before you:

grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries

may likewise so prepare and make ready your way

by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,

that at your second coming to judge the world

we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;

for you are alive and reign with the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God now and for ever.



The First Hymn

Hark, the Glad Sound:   please access Simon’s accompaniment here: 



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

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

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

4 Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace, 
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
and heaven’s eternal arches ring, 
with Thy beloved Name.


The First Reading:

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-end.


Psalm 126

Refrain: The Lord has indeed done great things for us.


1    When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,  

then were we like those who dream.

2    Then was our mouth filled with laughter  

and our tongue with songs of joy.

3    Then said they among the nations,  

‘The Lord has done great things for them.’

4    The Lord has indeed done great things for us,  

and therefore we rejoiced. [R]

5    Restore again our fortunes, O Lord,  

as the river beds of the desert.

6    Those who sow in tears  

shall reap with songs of joy.

7    Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed,  

will come back with shouts of joy,

bearing their sheaves with them.


Refrain:    The Lord has indeed done great things for us.


Lord, as you send rain and flowers

even to the wilderness,

renew us by your Holy Spirit,

help us to sow good seed in time of adversity

and to live to rejoice in your good harvest of all creation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The Second Reading:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24


Alleluia, alleluia.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.


The Gospel:

John 1: 6-8, 19-28



Both Last Sunday and this Sunday, the Gospel appointed concerns John the Baptist.  One account from Mark, one from John.  In St Mark’s Gospel, John the Baptist bursts on the scene in the very opening verses.  There is a mention of the Good News of Jesus Christ, a reference to the prophet Isaiah, then we are straight into the messenger, “[…] the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  He appeared, he preached, he baptised; then we hear of what he wore and ate.  So begins the Gospel in the words of the energetic and inspiring Mark.  John the Baptist appears as Mark understood him:- to come as a shining torch and a refining fire.

We contrast that with today, with an account by St John written probably at least thirty and may be as much as forty or more years after the youthful Mark recorded  his account of the story of the coming of the fore-runner.  

St John the Evangelist speaks of his namesake, John the Baptist, as ‘a man sent from God’.  We drift over these words with the familiarity borne of many hearings.  Then we are told that he came to witness that all might believe, and, that what he was witnessing to was not just ‘a light’, but the Light.  Those three verses from the Prologue to St John’s Gospel draw us tantalisingly close to Christmas, but then the scene changes, as we learn a little more of what a fore-runner does, what his purpose is, as we move on to verse 19, well off the end of the Christmas Gospel.

Now, John is an adult, Jesus is an adult, and, as far as there is a parallel, we are reading a corresponding passage to that from St Mark of last week.  But, what we find is that we have John the Baptist’s role experienced more passively; he is responding to questions from the religious leaders in Jerusalem: “Who are you?” “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the prophet?” again they ask “Who are you?  We need an answer?”  John answers by quoting Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  Make straight the way of the Lord”.  Before we go on to think of where the conversation goes next, let’s think a little of the impact of these more reflective questions and answers compared to the directness of Mark’s account.

What is St John the Evangelist doing for us, in making us hear John the Baptist in this way?  Let us consider that the author is an old man, as we believe he was.  He is connecting with many who will have had the time to ponder deeply on what has happened.  He seeks, himself, to understand the place of the Baptist in the prophetic line of God’s people.

I came across a phrase in a book that made me consider what John is doing here.  The author of the book was talking of a great uncle of his, who was obviously a man on much the same wavelength, as we might say today, as the writer himself, but he put it in these words, “I am reminded of my uncle Bill, whose eyes were fore-runners of my own”.  The word ‘fore-runner’ is what leapt out at me, and it then occurred to me, well, that is how John the Evangelist saw John the Baptist: one whose eyes could see what I came to see; one whose glimpse of the light came before mine; one who could see deeply, not just shout and proclaim in someone else’s words.

So then, with this thought in mind, let us proceed to the end of today’s Gospel, as the messengers from the Pharisees come back to John the Baptist with a renewed question:  “Why are you baptising?”  They speak this question from the logical conclusion that he has no right to do so as he is nothing: no prophet; no Messiah; no returning Elijah.  

Now John gives us new information, which leads us onward into the coming verses of chapter 1 where Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God, but that is not part of today’s lesson.  Today we simply hear these words: “I baptise with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  John’s baptism would have been seen as a point of turning, of decision and commitment to new life; he claims no more for himself or for what he is doing, but the eyes of the fore-runner are open; and he sees that the eyes of the Pharisees are not.

John, the author of the Gospel now, rather than the object of the lesson, in choosing to describe his namesake in such terms is drawing us to see through the eyes of the fore-runner; as clearly, he has striven to do, even though he came to know Jesus far better, and stood at the foot of his Cross, and was with him at the most intimate of meetings that Jesus had.  Still he goes back in his mind to think of John, the relative of Jesus and the one destined to lose his head over his fierce declaration.  The other John, the writer and beloved disciple would have borne with Jesus in his grief over losing his cousin in this way.

These days before the Festival of the Nativity, in which we rejoice with such excitement at the birth of the Saviour, we ponder too, the love and determined service of others that could see more clearly than most, and certainly more clearly than the religious leaders, what was really taking place; may both Johns’ eyes be fore-runners of our own, that we may see clearly, know deeply, be brought consciously; through word and carol, prayer and simple pondering on the truth, to understand as well as we can, the significance of the Incarnation and the reality of God becoming one with us in our humanity.

John Mann


Second Hymn 

The Lord will Come: 



  1. The Lord will come and not be slow,
        His footsteps cannot err;
    Before Him righteousness shall go,
        His royal harbinger.

2. Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
    Shall bud and blossom then;
And justice, from her heavenly bower,
    Look down on mortal men.

3. Rise, God, judge thou the earth in might,
    This wicked earth redress;
For thou art he who shalt by right
    The nations all possess.

4. The nations all whom thou hast made
    Shall come, and all shall frame
To bow them low before thee, Lord,
    And glorify thy Name.

5. For great thou art, and wonders great
    By Thy strong hand are done:
Thou in Thy everlasting seat
    Remainest God alone.


The Peace

In the tender mercy of our God,

the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,

to give light to those who dwell in darkness

and in the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.



Almighty God, we pray for all the churches in Swanage and Studland as we plan and prepare for the celebration of Christmas this year, with the restrictions that are essential for the safety of those who are particularly vulnerable.  However we may be able to access a service, whether on line, or in person, may the birth of the Christ-child be real in our hearts and a sense of oneness with others in the fellowship of the Church be experienced by us all.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our Prayer.


Father, cause the bright light of your guidance to fall upon all discussions concerning the political changes in which the United Kingdom and the European Union are engaged.  Be with all those whose businesses, jobs or personal lives are affected deeply by nature of the agreements reached.  To the leaders of all the nations upon give wisdom and a vision of a world of justice and equality, of mutual concern and common support, especially we pray for the fair distribution of vaccines, as they become available, to all peoples on earth, no matter what their wealth of condition.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our Prayer.


Lord, we bring before you our local civic leaders and all who manage and work in the hospitals, care homes, emergency services, schools, commercial and retail operations throughout the Isle of Purbeck.  Prosper the work of those who encourage a good working environment for all, care for those at risk, especially during the days of the current pandemic, remembering those involved in community transport and all who seek to support the homeless and the unemployed. 

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


Lord Jesus Christ, bless with your healing presence those who are sick and in need of comfort in anxiety and ease in the face of pain or bad news.  Grant your peace to hearts and minds that seek relief.  We give thanks for those who have safely undergone surgery and are recovering. For those near death, may your presence be their reassurance; your life, their strength; your light, their guide upon the path before them.  Bring them to that place of eternal joy, in which they are held ever in your love.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


The Lord’s Prayer


A few moments of silence before we pray:


We give you thanks, O Lord, for your heavenly gifts;

kindle in us the fire of your Spirit

that when your Christ comes again

we may shine as lights before his face;

who is alive and reigns now and for ever.





May God the Father,

who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son,

grant us grace to prepare for life eternal.



May God the Son,

who comes to us as redeemer and judge,

reveal to us the path from darkness to light.



May God the Holy Spirit,

by whose working the Virgin Mary conceived the Christ,

help us bear the fruits of holiness.



The Lord God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

the holy and undivided Trinity,

guard us, save us,

and bring us to that heavenly city,

where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.



Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottes Sohn - J.S.Bach: https://youtu.be/5fIjbTD29LA



Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here,

is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.


If you would like to make a donation to the church in Swanage, we will be most grateful. At present this is best done by BACS of which the details are:


Nationwide Building Society

Account name: Swanage PCC

Account Number: 70585005

Sort code: 07-00-55

Please give your name as reference.