– Covenant Sunday


Hymn: 205 – It came upon the midnight clear

  1  It came upon the midnight clear,
  that glorious song of old,
  from angels bending near the earth
  to touch their harps of gold:
  ‘Peace on the earth, good will to men,
  from heaven’s all-gracious King!’
  The world in solemn stillness lay
  to hear the angels sing.

  2  Still through the cloven skies they come,
  with peaceful wings unfurled;
  and still their heavenly music floats
  o’er all the weary world;
  above its sad and lowly plains
  they bend on hovering wing;
  and ever o’er its Babel sounds
  the blessèd angels sing.

  3  Yet with the woes of sin and strife
  the world has suffered long;
  beneath the angel strain have rolled
  two thousand years of wrong;
  and man, at war with man, hears not
  the love-song which they bring.
  O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
  and hear the angels sing!

  4  For lo, the days are hastening on,
  to prophets shown of old,
  when with the ever-circling years
  shall come the time foretold,
  when the new heaven and earth shall own
  the Prince of Peace their King,
  and all the world repeat the song
  which now the angels sing.

Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810–1876)

Prayer of Adoration

God of Love, you created us;

you continually preserve and sustain us;
you love us with an everlasting love
you give us the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Glory to you, Lord Jesus,
You were rich, but became poor for our sake,
you were tempted as we are, yet without sin,
you preached the good news of the kingdom and were obedient to death, even death on a cross. You were raised from death and are alive forever.
You sit at God’s right hand in glory and will come again to judge us.

Glory to you, Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life.
By you we are born into the family of God
and made members of the body of Christ.
Your witness confirms us; your wisdom teaches us; your power enables us.
You will do for us more than we can ask or think.

The Collect
God of grace,
through the mediation of your Son,
you call us into a new Covenant.
Help us to draw near with faith and join ourselves in a perpetual covenant with you.

Prayers for others

We pray, Lord, in this moment, for those known to us about whom we are concerned, and for strangers alike, knowing that you hold us all in your hands and know our every need.

We pray for those for whom 2021 was a difficult year, for many varied reasons.

We especially give thanks for the scientists and healthcare workers who have dedicated themselves to protecting us from Coronavirus, often at great cost to themselves.  And we pray for those whose lives have been affected, for businesses closed or struggling to survive, for families who have lost loved ones, and for those living with the effects of the virus. 

We remember all those who have gone before us in the last year, giving thanks for their lives and their influence upon ours.

As we stand at the gate of the year, we look forward with hope and a sense of anticipation for what 2022 will have in store for us.  Whatever that may be, we do so in the knowledge that you will be with us in the midst of it all, for you dwell with us, full of grace and truth.  Help us to see you in all that we do, to share our joys with you, and to look for your help in times of trouble.

We give thanks for all that you have given us in the past year, and as we rededicate ourselves to your service in this Covenant service, help us to offer all that we have and all that we are to you.

Bless our offerings of money this morning, and may they be used wisely in the work you call us to.  Amen

As we begin a New Year, our readings this morning remind us that God dwells with us, in whatever we face, we do so with God beside us.

From the book of Sirach, from the Apocrypha, we read of Wisdom, which has been placed by the Creator God amongst the people of Israel, and from John’s gospel, we are again reminded of Jesus, the Word made flesh, which dwells among us.



Sirach 24: 1-12 - The Praise of Wisdom

24Wisdom praises herself,
 and tells of her glory in the midst of her people. 
2 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
 and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory: 
3 ‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
 and covered the earth like a mist. 
4 I dwelt in the highest heavens,
 and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. 
5 Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
 and traversed the depths of the abyss. 
6 Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
 and over every people and nation I have held sway. 
7 Among all these I sought a resting-place;
 in whose territory should I abide? 

8 ‘Then the Creator of all things gave me a command,
 and my Creator chose the place for my tent.
He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob,
 and in Israel receive your inheritance.” 
9 Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me,
 and for all the ages I shall not cease to be. 
10 In the holy tent I ministered before him,
 and so I was established in Zion. 
11 Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting-place,
 and in Jerusalem was my domain. 
12 I took root in an honoured people,
 in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.


John 1: 10-18

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.


One of the joys of the Christmas traditions is the giving and receiving of cards and gifts, often from friends and family, but perhaps especially poignant when received from an unexpected source.  Receiving is worth much more than the value of the item itself, but importantly reveals that we have been thought about, the love taken in choosing an appropriate gift, in its wrapping and giving.  “It’s the thought that counts” is a phrase which is so true.

Our readings this morning also talk about gifts being given by God, and by their nature, reveals God’s love for us.

From the book of Sirach, wisdom is personified as a woman, and is given by the Creator God to the people of Israel.  And from John’s gospel, we hear of the Word, now in human form, given by God to the whole world.  What unites these passages is that the gift, Wisdom and Word, was not only given by God in love for the people, but that this gift dwelt amongst the people to whom it was given.

Not all gifts are universally accepted, and this is also true of Jesus.  John reminds us that “his own people did not accept him”.  It is a damning indictment even now.  But for those who did believe, “he gave power to become children of God”.

As the decorations go back into the box and into the loft for another 12 months, we too have the option to pack Jesus away and not to think about him again for most of 2022.  But if we allow Jesus into our hearts, he promises to dwell amongst us, “full of grace and truth”.

Dwelling amongst us means throughout our joys as well as our sorrows, in our laughter and in our pain.  As we share in our Covenant prayer in a moment, we are reminded of the challenge that we accept as followers of Christ, and the conflicts that that sometimes brings to our lives.  We must recognise that sometimes we have to put God’s will before our own preferences.  But we do so, in the knowledge that he is dwelling alongside us as we set off along paths we might prefer not to walk upon.

In the last years, Covid has had a significant impact upon our congregations.  Whilst particularly vulnerable people are still cautious about returning, there are some people who have gotten out of the habit of attending.  Churches seem to have lost that sense of identity which previously bound the congregation together.

As we begin a new year, and as we share in this Covenant service, it is good to be reminded that we share in a tradition which has been passed down through many generations - the gift of Jesus is still to be celebrated and accepted, and that God still dwells amongst us.

Perhaps this year, we need to feel able to lay down the things we used to do, and allow God to dwell with us and in us.  And to find the time to “be” with him.  Amen

Hymn – 197 tune ii – Cradled in a manger meanly

  1  Cradled in a manger, meanly
  laid the Son of Man his head;
  sleeping his first earthly slumber
  where the oxen had been fed.
  Happy were those shepherds listening
  to the holy angel’s word;
  happy they within that stable,
  worshipping their infant Lord.

  2  Happy all who hear the message
  of his coming from above;
  happier still who hail his coming,
  and with praises greet his love.
  Blessèd Saviour, Christ most holy,
  in a manger thou didst rest;
  canst thou stoop again, yet lower,
  and abide within my breast?

  3  Evil things are there before thee;
  in the heart, where they have fed,
  wilt thou pitifully enter,
  Son of Man, and lay thy head?
  Enter, then, O Christ most holy;
  make a Christmas in my heart;
  make a heaven of my manger:
  it is heaven where thou art.

  4  And to those who never listened
  to the message of thy birth,
  who have winter, but no Christmas
  bringing them thy peace on earth,
  send to these the joyful tidings;
  by all people, in each home,
  be there heard the Christmas anthem:
  praise to God, the Christ has come!

George Stringer Rowe (1830–1913)

And so, we offer ourselves, and our gifts, again to God’s service, as we make our Covenant promise together.


God made a covenant with the people of Israel, calling them to be a holy nation and to obey his laws.

Our Lord Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has made a new covenant with all who trust in him.

In this covenant God promises us new life in Christ.  For our part we promise to live no longer for ourselves but for God.

We meet today, as generations before us have done, to renew the covenant which bound them and binds us to God.

Let us, then, humbly seek forgiveness for the sin by which we have denied God’s claim on us.

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy, hear us as we confess our sins.

You showed us how to live in the life of Jesus.  We confess that we have been slow to learn from him, failed to follow him and showed our reluctance to carry the cross.

Lord have mercy.
Lord forgive.

We confess the poverty of our worship, our neglect of fellowship and the means of grace, our evasion of responsibilities in your service and our imperfect stewardship of your gifts.

Lord have mercy.
Lord forgive.

Have mercy upon us, O God, through your constant love.  In the fulness of your mercy, blot out our offences.  Wash away all our guilt and cleanse us from our sin.

Create in us a new heart and renew a right spirit within us.

If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Therefore to all who truly repent this is his gracious word:
“Your sins are forgiven.”


Hymn – 218 – Unto us a boy is born

  1  Unto us a boy is born!
  King of all creation,
  came he to a world forlorn,
  the Lord of every nation.

  2  Cradled in a stall was he
  with sleepy cows and asses;
  but the very beasts could see
  that he all folk surpasses.

  3  Herod then with fear was filled:
  ‘A prince,’ he said, ‘in Jewry!’
  All the little boys he killed
  at Bethlem in his fury.

  4  Now may Mary’s son, who came
  so long ago to love us,
  lead us all with hearts aflame
  unto the joys above us.

  5  Omega and Alpha he!
  Let the organ thunder,
  while the choir with peals of glee
  now rends the air asunder.

Percy Dearmer (1867–1936)

The Promise

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

let us again accept our place within this covenant which God has made with us and with all who are called to be Christ’s disciples.

This means that, by the help of the Holy Spirit, we accept God’s purpose for us, and the call to love and serve God in all our life and work.

Christ has many services to be done:

some are easy, others are difficult;

some bring honour, others bring reproach;

some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests,

others are contrary to both;

in some we may please Christ and please ourselves;

in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.

Therefore let us make this covenant of God our own.  Let us give ourselves to him, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.

Eternal God, in your faithful and enduring love you call us to share in your gracious covenant in Jesus Christ.

In obedience we hear and accept your commands; in love we seek to do your perfect will; with joy we offer ourselves anew to you.

We are no longer our own but yours. 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Your will, not mine, be done in all things,

wherever you may place me,

in all that I do and in all that I may endure;

when there is work for me and when there is none;

when I am troubled and when I am at peace.

Your will be done

when I am valued

and when I am disregarded;

when I find fulfilment

and when it is lacking;

when I have all things,

and when I have nothing.

I willingly offer all I have and am to serve you, as and where you choose.

Glorious and blessèd God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

May it be so for ever.

Let this covenant now made on earth

be fulfilled in heaven.  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. 

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 – 210 – Love came down at Christmas

  1  Love came down at Christmas,
  Love all lovely, Love divine;
  Love was born at Christmas,
  star and angels gave the sign.

  2  Worship we the Godhead,
  Love incarnate, Love divine;
  worship we our Jesus:
  but wherewith for sacred sign?

  3  Love shall be our token,
  love be yours and love be mine,
  love to God and all the world,
  love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894)


Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

All powerful and ever living God,
it is indeed right, it is our joy and our salvation
always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You created all things and made us in your own image.
When we had fallen into sin, you gave your only son to be our Saviour.
He shared our human nature and died on the cross.
You raised him from death and exalted him to your right hand in glory where he lives forever to pray for us.

Through him you have sent your Holy Spirit
and made us your people, a royal priesthood, to stand before you to proclaim your glory and celebrate your mighty acts.

We praise you, lord God, King of the Universe,
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take this and eat it. This is my body given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’

In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Christ has died.  Christ is risen. 

Christ will come again.

As he has commanded us we do this in remembrance of him, and we ask you to accept our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,

Grant that by the power of the Holy Spirit we who receive your gifts of bread and wine may share in the body and blood of Christ.

Bring us, with those who have done your will in every age, into the light of your presence and the joy of your kingdom.

Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

in the power of the Holy Spirit,

we worship you in songs of everlasting praise.

Blessing and honour and glory and power

be yours for ever and ever.  Amen.


The bread we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.

Though we are many, we are one body
because we all share in one loaf.

Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger and those who believe in me shall never thirst.’

Receive with faith.

Those who receive the bread and wine do so now.


Faithful God,

with these holy gifts

you have fed and strengthened us

in Jesus Christ your Son.

Guide us on our way,

that with all your faithful people

we may come to share the feast

of your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Hymn – 195 – Christians awake, salute the happy morn

  1  Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
  whereon the Saviour of the world was born;
  rise to adore the mystery of love,
  which hosts of angels chanted from above;
  with them the joyful tidings first begun
  of God incarnate and the Virgin’s Son.

  2  Then to the watchful shepherds it was told,
  who heard the angelic herald’s voice, ‘Behold,
  I bring good tidings of a Saviour’s birth
  to you and all the nations upon earth;
  this day has God fulfilled his promised word,
  this day is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord.’

  3  He spoke; and straightway the celestial choir
  in hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire.
  The praises of redeeming love they sang,
  and heaven’s whole orb with alleluias rang;
  God’s highest glory was their anthem still,
  peace on the earth, in every heart goodwill.

  4  To Bethl’em straight the enlightened shepherds ran,
  to see, unfolding, God’s eternal plan;
  then to their flocks, still praising God, return,
  and their glad hearts with holy rapture burn;
  amazed, the wondrous tidings they proclaim,
  the first apostles of his infant fame.

  5  Like Mary, let us ponder in our mind
  God’s wondrous love in saving humankind;
  trace we the Babe, who has retrieved our loss,
  from his poor manger to his bitter cross;
  treading his steps, assisted by his grace,
  till our first heavenly state again takes place.

  6  Then may we hope, the angelic hosts among,
  to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
  he who was born upon this joyful day
  around us all his glory shall display;
  saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
  eternal praise to heaven’s almighty King.

John Byrom (1692–1763)


The blessing of God,

the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

be upon you and remain with you for ever. 


Revd Martin Slocombe




CCLI Licence 354889



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