Advent Service 29th November ’20

Prayer of approach and hope.

God of light and longing, with hope we look to you this day.
At this season of the year – this time of short days and long nights –
we are looking for the turning of the tide,
that movement which assures us that darkness
will not overcome the world.

With an anticipation overflowing with longing,
we tune our hearts afresh to the ancient hymn
and once more sing from the hidden regions of our souls,
O come, O come Immanuel.

Our longing for your light is our longing for justice.
We know our world needs to be different,
so we look afresh for the coming of the great promise of God.
O come, O come Immanuel.

Our longing for light is our longing for renewal.
We know our lives can become wedged in tired custom,
we look for the day-spring to cheer us again into life.
O come, O come Immanuel.

Amen.

Music: O come, O come Immanuel (R&S 126)

Readings:

  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Mark 13:24-37

Sermon/Reflection

Many people have been counting down to Christmas for several weeks now but this Sunday the Church begins its own countdown. Each of the last four Sundays before Christmas, with its symbolic theme, brings us one step closer to Christ, uniting past, present and future in one moment of time at his birth in Bethlehem. Often churches would have an Advent ring with four candles, of either red or three purple and one pink, for each Sunday, around a white or gold one for Christmas Day.

The candles represent God’s promise, the patriarchs and prophets, John the Baptist (the Herald), and Mary (the mother of Jesus), or alternatively the themes of hope, peace, joy and love. Today as we remember God’s promise to his people we look forward in hope to the coming of his kingdom on earth in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Looking at the world around us, though, we sometimes find it hard to see those signs of hope. The world seems a difficult and troubled place with conflict, injustice and disasters all around us.

Today’s readings show us that little has changed over the centuries. Jesus warns of the great troubles to come before the coming of the ‘Son of Man’ in glory. And he also says that no one, not even he himself, knows when that will be. The only thing that can be done is to wait. In the meantime, to borrow a couple of phrases, it is important that we ‘Don’t Panic’ and that we ‘Keep calm and carry on.’

There are signs of hope however. Jesus gives the lesson of the fig tree – when the leaves begin to come out you know that summer is near. And of course with the summer comes the ripening fruit and the promise of prosperity and better times. Isaiah too looks past the current troubles to a time of peace and prosperity when all nations will live together in peace. For us as well there are signs of hope. Although we are still in ‘lockdown’ at least three vaccines have shown high rates of effectiveness in tests and some may be available before Christmas. We live in an uncertain world. Amid the wars, tensions between nations, natural disasters, climate change and global pandemic, what signs of hope can you see? What is hope? What does it mean to you? What did it mean to the people of Israel?

There is still a long way to go and many other problems to face but if we can see hope in tackling our worldly problems how much more can we rely on God’s promises?

Music: The Lord will come and not be slow (R&S 128)

Advent Intercessory Prayer

Lord, we pray for our troubled world:
for places where war or natural disaster have struck,
and people find it so hard to have hope.
We pray for those who watch and wait.

We pray for our community:
for the people we know and those we don’t;
for all in their sorrows and joys.
We pray for those who watch and wait.

We pray for those who wait for news,
whether good or bad,
that you will be with them.
We pray for those who watch and wait.

We pray for the sick and infirm,
that encouraged by those who care for them,
they may find your presence in their difficulties.

We pray for those who watch and wait.

We pray that those around us
will be aware of the true meaning of Christmas;
that we might be as signs for them.
We pray for those who seek, that they will find.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Music: Hills of the north rejoice

Blessing

Advent God,
Light in our darkness, hope in our despair,
be with us in this week ahead,
fill us with your hope, peace, joy and love.
And may your blessing rest on us,
and remain with us,
now and evermore.
Amen.

My first is in HIDDEN but not in SEEN
My second is COMING but not found in BEEN
My third is in PROMISE and also EXPECTANT
My last is in EASTER as well as in ADVENT
My whole is a word that can mean many things
from confident trusting to just wishful thinking.

HOPE

Rev. Janet Calderley


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