Christmas Day Sermon by The Revd Dr Maija Priess

Maija preached the following very special sermon during our Christmas Day Service 2020.

The following is the sermon of my grandfather Rev. Jaakko Haavio (1904-1984) which he preached early on Christmas morning, 1939.  It is translated from Finnish into English and suits the actual worldwide situation well.

(Background: The Winter War was a war between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940.)

“Dear friends,

You may have noticed that when the Bible tells us about the birth of the Redeemer of the world it takes us into a dark night, but all of a sudden a powerful light starts shining.

The prophet of the old covenant already said: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in the land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” [The Hebrew verb can be translated as ‘to live, to sit, to prevail’ or ‘to walk’.]

The Gospel of today tells us: “There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” The Evangelist John says the same as follows: “The light shines in the darkness” (1:5.).

God wants to say to us through the Gospel of today: The Redeemer is born to you who are sitting in the darkness. This is the eternal message of Christmas but it suits this current Christmas and the people sitting in the darkness especially well.

The shepherds found Baby Jesus in the middle of a dark night. They started walking in the dark night, having as their guide the divine proclamation, the Gospel of Christmas. In the light of the Gospel they found the way to the Child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. In Him they found new hope.

Christmas still comes into the darkness. The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine. The deeper the darkness around us, the more wonderful to us is the holy birth of Jesus, His life, His death and His resurrection.

We can say that Jesus achieved His biggest victories by night. Jesus was courageous and dared  to go out into the night. When He had momentous decisions to make, He stayed the whole night praying alone on a mountain. He introduced  Holy Communion in the night he was betrayed. When the night around Him had deepened, He established the Last Supper of love in remembrance of the new covenant that offers us the forgiveness of sins through His blood.

Jesus dared to go out amongst His betrayers. In fact He trembled and sweated blood in Gethsemane when the cup of anguish was not taken away but he had to drink it up. To His enemies He said: “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). But in this darkness indeed the light was shining: Jesus took away the sin of the world, our sin. And when in Golgotha the sun darkened and “darkness came over all the land” (Matt 27:45) Jesus cried in loud voice: “It is finished” (John 19:30). The world was reconciled.

Starting right from this darkest moment of humanity when the Son of God died on the cross the light has shone  until now, even for us in this difficult time of our lives. The light of the cross of Jesus is the only one that can eliminate the darkness of hopelessness.

Jesus was born at night. He has loved and suffered in the night of the world. If He had not descended into the night of hell we would not have any hope.

The message of Christmas is the message of hope now when we are worried about the coming weeks and months; what is behind the non-transparent curtain separating us from the future. Is  “night [already] coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4)? Or, will the Lord still be merciful to us?

Dear friends, fear not! Jesus is with us even at night. He is full of mercy and truth, every day with us. The powers of  darkness that are opposing Him seem to hold the power sometimes  but their time is short. When the Lord moves his hand they stop: up to here, not further! And according to the holy word, the day will come when “the Lord Jesus will overthrow the lawless one that works in accordance with Satan, and destroy him with the breath of his mouth.”   (2. Thess. 2: 8, 9).

Great powers are moving. [Here I leave out description of the war at that time.]

[My addition: As Ethiopians always comfort each other, “the Lord God is there”, let us trust in our Heavenly Father who knows the way out of Corona according to His good will. Let us pray for each other, for the worldwide Church, and for all people.] “This is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith” (1. John 5:4).

Dear friends! First of all we need power to become children of God and then remain His children. The Lord gives it to us through the message of Christmas. May the message of Christmas flow among us here courageously and joyfully! Let this word: “The light shines in the darkness” make us into one big family, the family of God because of the common faith. After the night comes day. Christ will be the light of that morning.”

I wish you all a blessed Christmas

#stayconnected: Intercessions shared during Evening Prayer on 27 June

These are the intercessions we prayed during last week’s Zoom Evening Prayer:

The response to the words „Lord in your mercy“ is „Hear our Prayer“

Dear Lord,

This year, because of  Corona, we have been given the opportunity, and the time, to examine the way we live and to face up to the fact that we have not been wise in our use of the world You gave into our care. Forgive us our arrogance and selfishness and show us how we must change so that we respect the delicate balance of nature and cease to destroy people, animals and other life forms through our thoughtless and insatiable consumption. 

Help us to combat the suffering caused by climate change where this is possible.

We ask You to strengthen the church in a century when Christians are often considered to be hopelessly out of date and irrelevant. We ask Your blessing in particular on those who are persecuted for  their faith. 

Father God, we thank you for the peace and prosperity we enjoy here in Germany. Send Your Spirit  to inspire us to share generously. May we help,  with humility, to bring about  justice and prosperity in all nations. Let us cease to see those from other countries as foreigners but as Your children and our brothers and sisters. Help us to escape the prison of outlived traditions and old prejudices which make us unable to move forward along your path.

Father, have mercy on us in our fight against the Corona virus. We thank you for the work of scientists seeking a cure and  a vaccine. Grant them success Lord. Bless those suffering from Covid 19, relieve their pain and fear and save them from death. Be with  the people in those countries which are most badly affected and with all those doing their best to help.

We pray for our church of St thomas à Becket, hoping  that the outcome of this sad period of closure  will help us to live even more faithfully according to the laws of love Your Son’s life showed us. Help us to be an encouragement to those in need.     We thank You for the peace you give us to comfort and strengthen us  in difficult times. We ask for your guidance for our Bishops Robert and David, Leslie our Archdeacon ,John Newsome our Dean.and for Father Pete our locum.  We trust in You to call us a new priest in Your good time.

We are grateful for the tireless enthusiasm and hard work of our Wardens and the Church Council.  and for the chance, in this time of trial, to get  to know and appreciate each other more despite the fact that our meetings are mostly online or on the phone.Lord be with those who are very much on our minds, our families and friends, those living and those gone before us.  We bring them before You in a moment of silence.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ

#stayconnected: Intercessions shared during Evening Prayer on 13 June

These are the intercessions we prayed during last week’s Zoom Evening Prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, we ask you blessing on all those, whoever and wherever they may be, fighting to contain and conquer Covid-19. We ask you to give wisdom and a sense of responsibility to all those in authority, and to enable them to fully harness the skills of all medical and scientific staff involved.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Father, we thank you for bringing us together and we ask you blessing on our Bishops, Robert and David, Archdeacon Leslie and our Area Dean, John Newsome, and sister churches in the Diocese of Europe, but also on churches here in Hamburg that like the nearby ‘Michel’ are facing serious losses due to falls in visitor numbers.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Father, we pray that the struggle against this plague, like the one against cholera in Hamburg, may eventually bring lasting benefits for the existences and the health of your peoples around the globe, in the Eastern and Western, Southern and Northern hemispheres alike. Help those fighting to eliminate hunger that in the words of one reading this week, ‘the valleys may be so thick with corn that they laugh and sing’. Be with all those in the arts, hospitality and travel sector whose livelihoods are under such pressure.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Father, we remember all those confined in institutions, in prisons and hospitals and care homes. Keep alive in them a spirit pg hope that relief will come when it is safe.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Father, we thank you for the gifts of sight and hearing and movement, we ask you to be with all those who, for age or other reasons, are contending with problems in those areas. We thank you for the variety of quite recent inventions to alleviate the problems, and also for all the equipment that
can bring worship, music and drama and news right into our homes.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Father, we thank you for bringing us together this evening and we give thanks for Fr Pete and all those making our Friday and Sunday gatherings possible. Yesterday was the feast of St Barnabas, known as the son of encouragement, so help us all to spread a gospel of love, joy, peace, patience
and humility.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Then participants were invited to share their own prayers if they wished to do so.

#stayconnected: Chioma sings

Sometimes people who lead us in the intercessions on Sunday mornings (do you remember?) share a song. So I asked Chioma to simply send me some songs just as a voice message to my phone. These are two songs from her collection:

Thank you, Chioma, for sharing with us not only on Sunday mornings but also during these times!

The words are:

Thanks, thanks
we give you thanks for all you have done
In our lives we are so blessed
Our souls have found rest
O Lord, we give you thanks

Lord, you are more precious than silver
Lord, you are more costly than gold
Lord, you are more beautiful than diamonds
There’s nothing we desire compared with you

You are the Lord / Let your name be glorified (2x)
We give you glory and honour
You are the Lord / Let your name be glorified

We give you all the glory
We worship you, our God
You are worthy to be praised

#stayconnected: Intercessions shared during Evening Prayer on 6 June

These are the intercessions we prayed during last week’s Zoom Evening Prayer:

Please join me in prayer for the church and for the world, for our community and people close to us.

The response to ‘Lord, in your mercy’ is ‘Hear our prayer’.

Lord, we thank you for bringing us together once more on this Saturday evening – allowing us to be together even though we still have to be physically apart. We think of those from our community who cannot join us in this form. Help us to find different ways to reach out to them and show them that they have a community to rely on. We especially pray for those who have to stay at home due to sickness or because they have to care for a sick loved one. Lord, comfort them and support them in these difficult times.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

We also continue to pray for everyone affected by the ongoing pandemic. Whether they suffer from the virus themselves, have lost loves ones to it or are on the front line as healthcare professionals. Whether they fear for their existence due to the economic crisis or risk their health every day by working in essential industries that keep our society running. We also pray for everyone working hard every day on finding a cure or a vaccine. We ask you to watch over them and their loved ones.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord, during this time we also think particularly of people around the world suffering from and fighting institutional racism and prosecution and living in fear of it every day. And while current events in the United States are in our focus now and it would be easy to look at this as something happening far away from us, always help us to remember that there are still too many people suffering from this worldwide, including within our own city. Lord, help the ones among us who are lucky enough to not know what is feels like to face xenophobia and racial persecution in our own country to open our hearts and really listen to those who have, so we can understand what they are going through. Give us the words to speak up in support of them, and guide us and also leaders and people in power across the world to forge a better society for all your children.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Finally, we ask you to guide our church in the process of finding our new chaplain. We pray for everyone directly involved in this process – please empower them to help us find the person who is truly called by you to fill this position here in Hamburg.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Then participants were invited to share their own prayers if they wished to do so.

#stayconnected: Who would you like us to pray for?

As many of you know, we have been offering Compline/Evening Prayer on Zoom since the lockdown started and continue to do so every Saturday at 7pm. If you haven’t joined us yet, you can do so any time, simply by getting in touch with Yotin.

But, we are also aware that meeting on Zoom is not something for everyone. If you cannot join us online, but would still like to offer a prayer (for example for a specific person in your life or for a group of people or anything really you’d like to pray for), we are happy to include it on your behalf during the shared prayers part of our Evening Prayer.

Simply contact Yotin and Arwen at and they’ll make sure your prayer request gets included.

#stayconnected: Read (say, sing) through the psalms in a month

An invitation by our choirmaster Yotin Tiewtrakul to join our Zoom Evening Prayer (every Saturday at 7pm), and a suggestion to read (or say or sing!) through the Psalms from 1 to 150 in a month:

Psalms in a month according to the Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer divides the psalms into sections for the thirty days of the month. So for example for Day 1 the appointed psalms are Psalms 1-5 for Morning Prayer and Psalms 6-8 for Evening Prayer.

  • Day 1: Psalms 1-5 / Psalms 6-8
  • Day 2: Psalms 9-11 / Psalms 12-14
  • Day 3: Psalms 15-17 / Psalm 18
  • Day 4: Psalms 19-21 / Psalms 22-23
  • Day 5: Psalms 24-26 / Psalms 27-29
  • Day 6: Psalms 30-31 / Psalms 32-34
  • Day 7: Psalms 35-36 / Psalm 37
  • Day 8: Psalms 38-40 / Psalms 41-43
  • Day 9: Psalms 44-46 / Psalms 47-49
  • Day 10: Psalms 50-52 / Psalms 53-55
  • Day 11: Psalms 56-58 / Psalms 59-61
  • Day 12: Psalms 62-64 / Psalms 65-67
  • Day 13: Psalm 68 / Psalms 69-70
  • Day 14: Psalms 71-72 / Psalms 73-74 
  • Day 15: Psalms 75-77 / Psalm 78
  • Day 16: Psalms 79-81 / Psalms 82-85 
  • Day 17: Psalms 86-88 / Psalm 89
  • Day 18: Psalms 90-92 / Psalms 93-94 
  • Day 19: Psalms 95-97 / Psalms 98-101
  • Day 20: Psalms 102-103 / Psalm 104
  • Day 21: Psalm 105 / Psalm 106
  • Day 22: Psalm 107 / Psalms 108-109
  • Day 23: Psalms 110-113 / Psalms 114-115
  • Day 24: Psalms 116-118 / Psalm 119 (verses 1-32)
  • Day 25: Psalm 119 (verses 33-72) / Psalm 119 (verses 73-104)
  • Day 26: Psalm 119 (verses 105-144) / Psalm 119 (verses 145-176)
  • Day 27: Psalms 120-125 / Psalms 126-131
  • Day 28: Psalms 132-135 / Psalms 136-138
  • Day 29: Psalms 139-141 / Psalms 142-143
  • Day 30: Psalms 144-146 / Psalms 147-150

Maybe you’d like to just jump in and follow this ancient practice? If you just pick one time during the day to read (or say or sing) the appointed psalms you can of course do Psalms 1-8 on the first day etc. What to do when a month has 31 days? How about reciting one or two of your favourites? Those which really spoke to you?

#stayconnected: Pray with your hands with Pastorin Anne Smets

“Opening my ears / I listen with my heat / waiting for God”

You know by now that the choir is meeting Saturdays 7pm on Zoom to say Evening Prayer (everyone’s welcome!). We figured in the first sessions that it’s rather difficult to sing together. So I asked Pastorin Anne Smets, who is a good friend of the choir and also a member of the Anglican Consort, to teach us a “Gebärdengebet”, a prayer with your hands. We have been starting our evening prayers with this simple prayer ever since. And at the Dawn Service on Easter Sunday morning we had it after the readings of the vigil instead of the responsorial psalms. Maybe it can also become a simple prayer for you when you wake up or in the moments before you’re about to call loved ones?—Yotin Tiewtrakul, Choirmaster

#stayconnected: An Easter poem by John William Holway

John William Holway reached out to us to share a poem he wrote:


Come shout all you people, of every nation and creed.
For HE is risen, HE is risen indeed!
The tomb is empty the stone was rolled away.
This is the miracle of Easter Day.
Our Saviour came for us to save.
HE has conquered death and defeated the grave.
And BY his death He has made us new.
With God there is nothing that you cannot do.

For when we die to our selves and give our lives to HIM.
A brand new life we can begin.
HE will guide us and keep us every step of the day.
We need just to stop, to ask HIM and pray.

Our Father in Heaven has INDEED set us free,
this is the miracle of Easter you see.

GOD says Heed my words, store them in your heart.
Come back to me and make a new start.
Stand up from your misery. Die to sin.
A whole new life with ME begin.
Let me open your eyes, you’ve dwelled too long in the dark.
Feel the JOY of MY presence, a bright divine spark.

At the end of the tunnel. There is indeed a bright light.
At the end of darkness I will overcome the night.
Let me fill your body, Let me restore your soul.
The power of my love will make you WHOLE.

Are you tired and weary? Come away with me.
Together we will change your history.
The blood of my Son wipes away your loss.
That’s why He came and died on the cross.

The door is open. Come back to me.
That is the mystery of Easter you see.

Once you were lost, down and forlorn,
but now you’ve come home. You have been reborn.
My child I love you. I am so proud of you.
I am always with you, whatever you do.

Just a prayer away, call often my name.
When you walk with me you are never the same.

Walk in the Spirit. Walk in my Love.
I am God. I am here. Not far above.
Every day is brand new. Each day with me you can start.
Let me into your life. Let me fill your heart.

Come shout all you people of every creed.
Friends HE is risen, HE is risen indeed.


#stayconnected: A message from Judith, a long standing member of our parish

We received a message last week when we asked how everyone is staying in touch with others. Judith writes:

Telephoning and being able to hear people’s voices feels so very important now. I’m phoning family and friends far and wide, as I expect most of us are doing.  Am in touch with the “card-making” team and other church friends, and nearly every day with R. – she had her 100th last week and had a letter from the Bundespresident.  I’ve also been able to speak to J. several times and yesterday with H. too. 

We were asked about suggestions for staying connected, also spiritually – one of my far away calls last Saturday was to N., an American friend in New Jersey on her birthday.  P. may remember her and her husband F. – they were very regular members of the St Thomas Becket congregation before they went back to the States in 1987.  I mentioned to her that I hadn’t been able to find an actual Diocesan service – though I’d heard and seen Bishop Robert’s video message.  Anyway she guided me to the Canterbury Cathedral website, with morning and evening prayers via YouTube mostly said by the Dean of Canterbury in his garden.  We all have different needs but this very much resonates with me – and there’s the cathedral in the background with spring blossom, magnolia, birds singing and so far blue skies. I also sometimes listen to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning service – ca. 10.15 German time – or on catchup I-Player – and last Sunday the sermon was about Oscar Romero, (24th March being the anniversary of his death} and connecting his life and martyrdom with  St. Thomas a Becket and his 850th anniversary this year, with services and events planned in Canterbury Cathedral.  And my other recommendation is BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day for about 3 minutes either on Catchup, or live sometime between 8.45 and 8.50 German time

With love and very best wishes to you all, and keep safe and well,