Home Service for Sunday 3rd December Advent First Sunday

Prayers of Approach

As the adventure of Advent begins, let us prepare to meet with God. Let us bring our hopes and expectations. Let us prepare ourselves for what God wants of us. As we come to worship let God find us ready and waiting.

Bright, shining God, shimmering in the darkness of winter, we approach you today with your light in our hearts. We wait for you, we watch for you, just as the watchmen await the first signs of morning. Walk with us throughout Advent, and light our feet as we walk perhaps a little unsteadily towards the birth of the ‘light of the world’.

As we enter into the radiance of God’s presence on this first Advent Sunday let us bring all our hopes and expectations before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on whom all hope is founded and on whom we wait.


Hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel (R&S 126)



Each of today’s readings has uncomfortable elements that are hard to appreciate for those like us, living in later times. Isaiah and Mark however both remind us that the coming of God in the darkness of our world, or the darkness of our personal experience, will be unexpected

Jesus tells the disciples to keep alert for the coming of God. He encourages them to read the signs of the times but no one knows the day or the hour, so they are to keep awake at all times. He speaks of coming dark days when people will be close to losing hope and urges them therefore to stay awake to signs that offer hope of the coming deliverance, which will certainly come, though at an unexpected time.

Hymn Lo, he comes with clouds descending (R&S 656)


If we stop to think about it Advent is a curious time – it is a time of both looking forward and back, a time when we feel rather like the Roman god of doorways, Janus, who is depicted with two faces, one looking forward the other back. We need to be able to see both where we have come from and where we are going. In purely secular terms we are looking forward to a fun holiday time of a break from work, celebrating with family and friends, eating and drinking and giving and receiving gifts. But it all involves a lot of preparation.

Preparing to welcome Jesus however, involves a lot more. It means looking back as well as looking forward, reflecting on God’s promises and how he has brought about the fulfilment of them. We remember how Jesus came into the world over 2000 years ago and look forward to his promised return. And we have to get ready for that return – the problem is we don’t know where, when or how he will come. In ordinary life how many times do we get caught out because we weren’t prepared: we’re late because we forgot about rush hour; or there’s no milk for that late night drink because the workmen drank it all? While on these occasions we can ring ahead, or nip to the corner/garage shop, if necessary, there’s no ‘plan B’ if we are not ready for Jesus.

Getting ready for Jesus involves a process of ‘Stop – Get Ready – Go!’. STOP – to pray, to think, to listen, to repent. GET READY – to welcome Jesus into our homes and lives. GO – and witness for him this Advent and Christmas and always. It is a cycle that continually repeats since we need to keep reminding ourselves who we are and of our relationship with God in Christ. In his lament Isaiah, speaking at a time when Israel has been overrun and is in exile in Babylon, pleads that God would tear open the heavens and come down. Yet recognising Israel’s failures he also implores God not to be too angry but to remember ‘we are all your people’.

It is a plea that we might echo today. Jesus warned that even he did not know the time when he would come again, so wherever we are in the cycle of ‘stop, get ready, go’ we have to be

watching so that we will recognise the time when it comes. We will be going about our ordinary lives when we suddenly hear the cry, ‘Coming; ready or not!’. Jesus warns, ‘Beware, keep alert’.

Being alert can lead to frustrations. Waiting puts us at the mercy of whatever we are waiting for, whether it’s a bus or Christmas, or that Amazon Prime delivery you have stayed in for. Whatever it is you need to be watching for its arrival. I once saw, scrawled in the dirt on the back of a delivery van, ‘Be alert, Britain needs lerts’. Getting ready is like a drill, where we practice for what we have to do when the alarm sounds. But unlike a drill, where we can do it again if we get it wrong, we need to get it right because when Jesus comes there won’t be another chance, we will have already had all the chances we get.

We need not fear or despair however. Advent is a time of hope, a time that reminds us of all that God has done for his people, is still doing and will continue to do. The first candle of Advent represents hope and is followed in succeeding weeks by peace, joy and love, which find their fulfilment on Christmas Day with the candle lit for Christ, the light of the world. So as we begin once again the cycle of the Christian year, ‘

Hymn Come thou long expected Jesus (R&S 138)

Prayers of Intercession

We thank you, Father God, for your abundant blessings: for never giving up on us; for giving us all we need to live and serve you; for peace and stability in this unstable and conflicted world; for the security we have in you and in your guiding word; for keeping us strong in faith and hope in a world where Jesus is pushed to the sidelines and ignored by many. Thank you, Father, for the riches of your grace, and the glory that is yet to come.

As we know ourselves blessed by your love we pray that others too may be blessed:

For those who have waited for years for the dawn… Lord, we pray. For those for whom hope seems dim… Lord, we pray. For those whose morning brought the unexpected… Lord, we pray. For those struggling to adjust to new realities… Lord, we pray. For those whose fires have grown dim… Lord, we pray. For those who are ignoring the signs of the times… Lord, we pray. For those who are struggling to keep awake… Lord, we pray. Amen.

Hymn Hills of the north rejoice (StF 172)


Lord, we begin our Advent, waiting for you with love and patience. Help us to remember that you will return for us and for those yet to know you. Help us to be patient and alert, but help us also to be doing and serving and building your kingdom.

May your spirit fall afresh on us this Advent-tide. May you take us in your hands, melt us, mould us, and make us fit for your purpose.

And your blessing rest upon us, now and forever. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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