Call to worship
God, you called and prepared your people through John, a strange man in a strange place.
May we, sometimes strange, sometimes not, all gather to worship you, O God, who calls all kinds of people to gather together.
We turn towards the eternal Word that does not fade, that welcomes all – making strangers friends for ever.
A prayer of confession
We have looked at the rough and judged it for not being smooth.
We have looked at the valley and thought it could not be raised.
We have observed the mountain, believing it would be unscalable, and in so doing, we have become complacent.
Forgive us, God,
for our complacency and our judgements.
Make us see with the eyes of a pilgrim, knowing that you who have called us on this way, will make a pathway before us. Amen.
Please read: Mark 1:1-8
“Please could you send somebody to wait with me until I’m called into the operating theatre”. It’s a common enough request for the hospital chaplain. Please keep me company, please help the time pass quickly, please give me strength, please tell me about God, please pray for me and my loved ones.
Arnie had asked me to meet him in the general waiting room – meaning he still wasn’t even registered in the day’s diary – this could be a long wait!
“I’ll pray for you. I’m a strong man and you look like you could use some help. Let me tell you about Jesus” said Arnie – and he did. Loudly, nervously, and demonstratively.
Coming from a gentle URC tradition, you might describe Arnie as a little eccentric. He also had a peculiar dress-sense – shorts in the middle of Winter, flip-flops on a rainy day.
During the conversation I realised that Arnie could normally be found wearing a sandwich board warning people about the end times approaching – the second coming of the Lord. But today he wanted to tell me and anyone else who would listen about the first coming of our Lord.
And he did – in detail. And he did – putting his own spin on the events that Mark doesn’t tell us about in his Gospel – the nativity story and the desperate waiting of the people for the Messiah to arrive on earth.
Arnie reassured everybody in the waiting room that only good things would happen after their advent wait was finished.
For two hours Arnie became a John the Baptist to anybody passing through that waiting room. Eccentric, maybe. Reassuring, definitely.
Company, if you needed it. Strong, in a weak kind of way. Happy to pray for me and my loved ones. Happy to God’s messenger.
We find ourselves in a period of waiting and wilderness – when will these restrictions every end? In the meantime, let us keep company with God, let us take strength, from God and let us find ways to tell others about God. Pray for your loved ones and all our loved ones.
Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.
An advent thought
Christmas is waiting to happen Outside, a vacant hillside lies silent, strangely empty of any angel’s choir. A stable waits for bookings at the inn to multiply.
Distant kings study charts and keep gifts in cold storage.
Shepherds plan their memoirs in expectancy of unexpected fame, keeping a chapter free for miracles.
A small, velvet patch in the black night sky stands ready to hold a new-born star.
And oppressed people everywhere cling wildly to prophecy and song.
They dare to whisper the word: Messiah.
Prayer of intercession
For those lost in valleys. May they be lifted up.
For those stuck in the heights. May they be helped down.
For those in barren places. May they find shelter.
For those in rough places. May they hear eternal words. For those seeking forgiveness. May they find it.
For those seeking apology. May they hear it.
For those waiting for a long time. May they find patience in your patience.
For those waiting for renewal. May there be springs of growth. Amen.
We have gathered around stories of strange people in wild places. For you, O Lord, no desert is a desert only. It is a place where wild things grow and nurture us, in all the places of our lives. Nurture us, as we go, so that we can find more nurture, and be more nurture, in all abandoned places. Because you see life and light where we do not. And so, we follow your light into all places. Amen.
Freedom is coming
On Jordan’s banks the Baptist’s cry
Rev Jim Williams