The waiting is over (Christmas message)

Preached on: Sunday 25th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:22-32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– A long wait
– Wait for salvation, revelation, hope
– Recognise and celebrate that the wait is over

I wonder what you’ve been waiting for today. I wonder if your waiting has come true and I wonder if there’s anything you’ve ever waited a really long time for. You might have been thinking ‘Oh, Christmas is a really long wait!’ I wonder if there’s anything else you’ve waited a really long time for. Why don’t I give you 20 or 30 seconds just in a moment to turn to your neighbor and say what is the longest you’ve waited for something and what was that something the longest you’re waiting for something and what was that thing you waited for. Over to you just now.

Well, sounds like there’s some interesting stories to share there. And so, what was the longest someone waited for something and what was that something. Anybody willing to share. Fiona? Having Alexanthemos, and what a gift to wait for. Yeah, well great to wait for and good to have him here. What else people? Harris? What was the ….. your birthday every year. Having to wait a whole other year till we get to that point. Anyone else? What’s the longest you’ve waited for something? Rachel? 12 years and still waiting for sleep, definitely! Can anybody beat that? Cara? 10 years to get a dog oh you’re getting pretty close there. But yeah, no definitely. Hope? Waiting for Christmas each year. Leonie? Another dog, as well. Yeah, yeah. six years of asking you eventually wore down your dad. He caved to last. Us softies, we give in eventually.

Well, I’ve been waiting four years to be at a Christmas Day service in person. Yes! I’m here! And I bet some of you were waging ‘Is he gonna make it this year?’ Particularly if you heard the Manse family had to dodge a vomiting bug during the week. it was this close. But, basically we ostracized Hope for a day. She is the best little girl in looking out for her dad and little brother. So, she is a star, So, well done little one, you put up with a lot to help us as a family. But we’re here.

But none of our waiting is really quite as long as Simeon’s waiting. We don’t exactly sure how long he waited but it was probably quite a while, boys and girls, and certainly that’s the idea we get in the passage. And if you read on in the passage you come to Anna and she’s 84 at this point, and she’s been waiting a really long time. But for Simeon we read that he had been waiting for the ‘consolation of Israel’ and I think there’s a lot in that phrase. I think probably it’s he’s looking for freedom for his country because they’re oppressed but I think he’s also waiting for God’s Kingdom to come and to bring the good that God had promised in the Old Testament. And God had painted many pictures in the Old Testament of what it would be like when His Kingdom came and he was waiting for that consolation but maybe waiting also to be proven true that this God, this revelation of God, this faith that they were clinging to, was true. This was the true God and they wanted that to be known. So, now it comes true because he goes on to say ‘Sovereign Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace for my eyes have you seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel.’ Jesus was the promise Simeon had been waiting for and He would be the way of salvation, He would be light to see God more clearly so that we could see God’s heart and His ways, and Jesus would prove that the faith and promises of the Old Testament were true and that any who had faith in Him would share in God’s future Kingdom.

Boys and girls, I know that we’ve all been waiting for a really big day today. Waiting for presents and now we begin to wait for that lovely food that I’m sure is coming later today. Waiting to spend time with family and I bet there’s a few of us in the room and at home that are waiting for a rest. But let’s remember what we have in Jesus. Salvation, a revelation of God, and a very sure hope that the waiting is over and the real celebration can begin.

But let’s notice something else from our passage, that no one around Jesus and the family, other than Simeon or Anna, knew what was going on. No one else was expecting God to show up in that way, as a baby, and so, I’m not going to ask you to share but I wonder what was your least glamorous present this year, the one that you’re like ‘Oh, that’s lovely.’ secretly thinking ‘Hmm.’

But, you know, maybe, maybe what is overlooked more often than not, what we think is not that needed, is more needed than we ever knew. It’s more important than we’ve ever realized. That the flashy stuff is here today and then put in a cupboard and gone tomorrow. And so, when I say the waiting is over, Jesus is the salvation and revelation that we need, it can be tempting to go ‘Okay.’ it can be tempting to put on a nice smile, ‘Lovely lovely. Yes good service Scott.’ and we kind of just gloss over this because it’s old news. It’s old news to many of us. We’ve heard it for years upon years. But let’s not be a people who do that to Jesus. Let’s not be a people who just gloss over Him. Let’s be a people who are joyful, who are delighted that this is Jesus. That He is our salvation, He is a revelation of God’s heart for you and for this world, and He is very truly God come in human form. And let’s take that into the new year, to be a people who don’t gloss over Jesus and celebrate what we have in Him and through Him. I hope you have a really excellent day together with whoever you spend it with and enjoy the rest of the Christmas break as well.

Worth the wait (Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Inconvenient faith
– Waiting for it to pass
– worth the wait

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Our Holy God, we come before you this Holy Night as our hymn has just said, we come with awe and joy, with faith and love. But Father, we likely also come with our doubts and even our sorrows. Maybe sorrows that are very raw, maybe very new and so we would ask, our God, to meet with You this night, to meet with You and to hear from You. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I was trying to switch off from work and so decided to watch a little TV on one of the various apps that I can turn to on my phone and in the adverts, and before and during, there was a comedian popped up and he said this line which probably made me chuckle; I probably shouldn’t ‘I love Christmas but by the end of it I hate everyone near me.’

And, I don’t know if you can sympathize with that at all. I’m not saying that I do, but, just in case my wife’s watching from home, but there are bits of Christmas that seem, at times, a little inconvenient. I wonder if you find any parts of Christmas inconvenient. Because something can be inconvenient if it’s bothersome. Maybe you find the stress of buying presents a little bothersome and thinking ‘Oh, what did I get them this year?’ Maybe the stress of preparing this special meal with all the anticipation and how many courses or parts of potatoes should there be, is it mashed and roast and boiled or croquettes, or all four. Some thinking can be inconvenient if it’s disruptive, it’s Christmas, disrupts our routine. Maybe you really like your job and the idea of taking a holiday just feels disruptive or maybe the prospect of being woken before seven o’clock tomorrow morning. And I’ve already warned my daughter, if the clock says anything beyond or before zero six, she’s not to come to through. Something can be inconvenient if it’s vexing some of us. Haven’t seen our family or friends in maybe a wee while and maybe there’s good reason for that because some of those family and friends can be somewhat vexing. In all these ways, and more besides, it may be possible to see Christmas as somewhat inconvenient.

And I have to wonder that very first Christmas did Mary find some of Christmas inconvenient just a little. After all, here’s a girl, a young girl ridiculed, likely ostracized for being pregnant before the wedding day, and everyone’s a little bit unsure if it’s really Joseph’s or not. Here’s a young girl then at eight months pregnant because of the whim of an emperor thousands of miles away, she has to travel three to four days on the back of a donkey, to cover about 90 miles, all just so that she can have her name, and probably not even her name, written on a bit of paper. This young girl then arriving in said town of Bethlehem and finding nowhere to stay, forced to give birth in a stable as a measure of last resort.

With all these very, very clear inconveniences I have to wonder was Mary just waiting for Christmas to pass to get it done, get to the other side?

Well, knowing a little of Mary’s character I’m not sure she was that kind of individual. You see, nine months earlier in a passage that we’ve looked at earlier in our Advent series she said, in response to the angel ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’ I think those words marked out Mary’s path because they marked out her character as well. Here is a woman of faith whose maturity of faith, even at such a young age, let’s remember she would be in her somewhere in her teens, her maturity of faith knew that faith had to be combined with action and with actions, that at times, can be very inconvenient. If that’s her character then why did she do it and why did she persevere all the way? Why was she not simply waiting for Christmas to pass?

Well, I think Mary knew that this inconvenient faith was worth it. It was worth it because she also knew whom she carried in her body. God. Who’d taken on human form and come very, very close.

It’s a startling thought to think that the God of all creation would become human, would humble himself so incredibly.

But that is what we remember and celebrate this night and although the joy is not maybe as effusive as we had at the family service, it’s a joy marked with a measure of awe, with awestruckness, and maybe that was what Mary also carried a little off, because, I think, more than her having a blind or a duty bound faith, I think Mary had faith in a God who had come close, who is part of humanity now, and who had come to change the world.

For Mary could also recall these words of the Angel before she had replied the angel had said to her ‘He (this child) will be great and the son of the most high, His kingdom will never end.’ Mary knew that God had come to change things. He’d come to bring hope and, in giving herself through inconvenient faith, Mary got to partner with God and His purposes and it transformed our life.

So, what about us, friends, on the cusp of this new Christmas Day? What’s God’s word for us tonight?

Well, what if friends, the invitation of God at this Watchnight Service is not simply to go through the motions of tradition or duty-bound faith, where we turn up and tick the box? What if the invitation is to see the inconvenient faith leads to life and it leads to great opportunities? What if the greatest inconvenience actually might lead to the greatest opportunity, to let God into your life tonight and in the years to come? That, if you allow Him, the King and the manger to be King in your heart, King over your life, then who knows where inconvenient faith might lead you. Who knows how inconvenient faith might transform your life beyond your imagining.

Earlier today I was on Facebook very briefly because one of my friends whom I follow and it popped up a little notification, and Marion, I met Marion well four years ago this Autumn just leading into Christmas, and four years ago Marion came to faith and she came to faith because someone said to her ‘Marion, it’s not about being a good person, it’s not about this Christianity lark, it’s about a relationship with Jesus,’

and so, bold as brass, Marion, four years later, puts on Facebook about her friendship, her relationship with Jesus and how it has transformed her life. How she has transformed from this woman who was who was struggling and doubting and in a place of real darkness at times, to a place of joy a place of confidence and wanting others to know this very same Jesus.

Friends, you can know this Jesus this year too and we’d love to help you. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by coming to church and getting involved. We all like to have Sunday to ourselves but, if you don’t turn up, you miss out. You don’t get to hear from God through His Word preached and through gathering with His people. You can put inconvenient faith into to practice by reading His Word, the Bible, and praying, giving Him some time and space amongst all the busyness. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by learning His ways and learning to walk in Him and, let’s admit, it’s all horribly inconvenient, it requires a measure of sacrifice but, maybe if like Mary, we’ll respond in faith and entrust to the one who came at Christmas then maybe, we too will find a new and fuller life through Jesus.

Now, you may be someone who’s been following Jesus for a little while you wonder ‘What’s the word to me tonight, Scott?’ Well, I was reminded this past week of Eugene Peterson who said that a mark of being a faithful disciple is someone who lives out a long obedience in the same direction, a long obedience in the same direction. So, maybe tonight, rather than on Hogmanay, maybe tonight, on the cusp of a new Christmas Day, may we make that commitment to Jesus, to keep on keeping on, to keep following, to keep a long obedience in the same direction, to keep on the journey, long though it may be, heavy though the loads may feel at times, because both our journey and the journey of Mary, well they’re just an echo, a pale reflection really of a much greater and more sacrificial journey, that of Jesus who journeyed from the glories of Heaven to earth and took up human form, and became a servant rather than being served, and he kept journeying, journeying faithful all the way to the cross that you and I might know life in all its fullness.

Waiting in hope (Early Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Why the wait?
– Waiting for hope
– Worth the wait


Waiting and loved

Preached on: Sunday 18th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-18 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references:
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– waiting to be loved
– the message of love


Waiting for King and kingdom

Preached on:
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-11 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 1:26-38 & 46-56
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints
– In the waiting you are seen
– Waiting for justice
– Waiting for King and kingdom


Waiting on God

Preached on: Sunday 4th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVALABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-04 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 1:5-25
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Waiting when God is silent
– Waiting then God speaks
– The God who waits and acts


Waiting for restoration

Preached on: Sunday 27th November 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-11-27 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:36-44
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoint:
– Waiting for restoration
– Waiting with hope
– Waiting with watchfulness


Justice: changing the norm

Preached on: Sunday 15th November 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-11-15-Message-PPT-slides-multi-page.
Bible references: Isaiah 56:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Isaiah 56:1-8
Sunday 15th November 2020
Brightons Parish Church Message
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.Eight months today was our last Sunday service here in the sanctuary at Brightons – it was the 15th of March. Numbers were already down at that stage, people were starting to stay home because of the spread of Coronavirus, and from the Sunday after we have been primarily online. Eight months of waiting. Eight months of waiting to return. Eight months of waiting to get back to some form of normal.

In our passage today, the people being addressed have been waiting. It’s not obvious straight away, but chapter 56 marks the start of a new section in the book of Isaiah. Up to chapter 40, the people were still in the land of Israel and God was calling them to change their ways and warning them what would happen if they did not. Sadly, Israel didn’t change its ways and so they were taken into exile, to Babylon, the whole nation was upheaved and marched hundreds of miles away. Chapters 40 to 55 speak into that time and share promises and hopes of what would eventually come: that the people would return to the land that God had given them and the scattered exiles would be gathered home.

By chapter 56 the Israelites have returned, or at least a portion of them have, for many chose to stay in Babylon… and so the mass return of exiles has not been realised – the great hopes and dreams and promises shared through Isaiah and other prophets are far from complete. The people are waiting. They live in an interim time. They are waiting for a new world to dawn.

And into that waiting, God spoke. I wonder, in our waiting, has God been speaking to you? Have you been seeking to listen? What might you have wanted Him to say? It strikes me that these words from Isaiah may not have been anticipated by His people. Here they are waiting, hoping for other exiles to return and complete the promises God made, of there being a people who belong to Him, living in His kingdom and living by His values. Yet, what God says here is startling:

‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant –
to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure for ever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer…’ The Sovereign Lord declares – he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’ (v4-8)

God is going to gather ‘still others’ – others beyond the Israelite exiles – and not just any others, but eunuchs and foreigners, people who up till now have been excluded from worship in the inner places of the temple. This is unexpected! To a people who are waiting, who want to return to the glory days by having the exiles return, this is startling news. In the midst of their waiting, God directs their attention out and forward, rather than back.

Six weeks ago, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met – largely in a virtual way, with a minimal few in the Assembly Hall. At its opening, the Moderator, Martin Fair, brought this message to the church.

In our waiting, what are we waiting for? A return to normal? A return to what we were doing, life that was marked, in many cases, by catastrophic decline? Could it be possible, that in the midst of our waiting, God might come with a message that directs us to look forward and to look out?

The Lord began this section with these words:
‘…my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.’ (v1)

His people were on the cusp of something new; they were on the cusp of God bringing about His righteous purposes such that lives would be changed, transformed,… delivered, saved. But to do that, there could be no returning to the old ways and so the Lord directs His people to look forward and to look out.

Friends, in your waiting, which direction are you focussing on? Is it back, “back to normal”? It’s not easy to look forward and it’s not easy to look out when we feel vulnerable. But if our future is to be other than decline, then we can’t just look back to what was normal, we need to look forward and we need to look out.

Yet in the waiting time, the Lord also had another major point to raise with His people. Not only were they to look forward and out, they were also to evidence His kingdom through justice in the present time. He says to them:
‘Maintain justice…
and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the one who does this – the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’ (v1-2)

We see again those words, ‘mishpat’ and ‘tzadeqah’, ‘justice’ and ‘doing what is right’. It can seem confusing at first why God would string together justice, salvation and sabbath in these verses, but He has good reason. The Lord wants them to look forward and out, but He does not want them to neglect doing right in the present time either, and doing right involves, once again, seeking justice, justice for all.
Because Sabbath had to do with rest; not just for masters and Israelites, but servants and foreigners as well as for animals. To keep the Sabbath, meant, among other things, that you valued what God valued, that you cared for what He cared for. The Sabbath was not an end in itself, but a sign that you wanted your life to be lived in submission to God, such that you shared His values, including His passionate concern for justice.

In their waiting, the Lord’s people were to look forward and look out, but they were also to evidence the values of the Lord, particularly through justice. They were to be a visible sign that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world and making itself felt, and not just for those on the inside, or those with status or the right credentials – there was to be justice for all.

I wonder friends, would our local community see this in us? Are we a visible sign that the kingdom of God is breaking into this world and setting things right? That’s part of God’s righteousness, His righteous purposes – He doesn’t just correct sin, He also sets things right.

We sang earlier:
‘Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.’

Do our lives evidence this? Or are they just nice words? Who is in ‘moral proximity’ to us and are we doing anything about their needs? Because in our waiting, there is a world out there who needs to know there is a God who cares, yet His plan is for His people to show His love and concern, and to do that we must share His values.
Brothers and sisters, we are in a waiting time, but may we not simply wait for a return to normal. Instead, may we open ourselves to the Lord’s leading by His Spirit, that this time of waiting might equip us to look forward and out, and also to be a people who seek justice in the present.

I pray it may be so. Amen.


Preached on: Sunday 27th Janaury 2019
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Acts 2
Location: Brightons Parish Church