Home Service for Sunday 4th December 2022 Second Sunday in Advent

Prayers of Approach

Lord Jesus, you are the head of your body, the Church. Sometimes we can make it seem that church is all about us – who we are, what we believe and do – but in truth it’s always about you, Jesus. We come to give you honour and praise. We come to bring ourselves into line with your example. We come now to worship you.

May your light shine brightly in our sin-darkened world, and bring hope, healing and joy this Advent and always. Amen.

God of urgency and truth, at this darkest time of year we thank you for your light shown in Scripture, shown in those who seek not their own glory but who point to you; shown in the ways you bless us in the ordinariness of our lives, and in the big moments. You are the light that no darkness can overcome, and we thank you for inviting us to share your flame of love.


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

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10

Matthew 3:1-12


Isaiah celebrates God’s promise of a new king who will embody the spirit of the Lord, as he pictures a felled tree putting out new growth. Jesse, father of King David, is the tree’s root and even though foreign attack has destroyed the kings of David’s dynasty, the root is still alive and pushing up new shoots. John the Baptist fulfils the role of Isaiah’s prophetic voice, preparing for the Lord’s coming. The preparation is repentance, and learning to ‘bear good’ fruit by depending only on God. When the Lord, the Messiah, comes, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Our readings all speak of a message for the whole world. In their different ways they reflect the glory of God, especially as revealed in Jesus. Our gaze is drawn away from concern with ourselves to see a bigger picture – it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus.

Hymn On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry (R&S 134)


John the Baptist, in his words and actions, carries with him echoes not only of Isaiah but of many past prophets, and brings together many different experiences and expectations, as he points to the coming of the kingdom through a new Messiah. Suffering miserably under Roman occupation, the people of Israel longed for a new Moses to set them free; a new Joshua to reclaim the Promised Land; a new David to defeat their enemies and reign in power. Matthew wants to show that Jesus fulfilled all these messianic expectations – but in very unexpected ways. John tells them that the kingdom of justice and peace is coming. He says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,’ but he also warns them to bear fruit worthy of repentance.

John preached a radical message. A message of challenge, particularly to the religiously confident. A message of repentance. Repentance is one of those words that can be easily misused, even abused, and of which people can, as a consequence, be fearful. Repentance properly understood is a life-giving, liberating word. The root meaning of the word is positive: a radical changing of mind and consequent behaviour or a return to right living (and, consequently, God’s favour).

Isaiah presents an idyllic vision of a heavenly earth, characterised by peace and harmony throughout creation but for Matthew, ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is a more down-to-earth concept. He wants to see heaven on earth (as in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’). The way John spoke reflects this, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’. John wanted people to change the way they thought and lived so that they, and others, could experience the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk and some controversy about Matt Hancock and his appearance on ‘I’m a celebrity – get me out of here!’ Should he be there, what’s he getting paid for it, is it a cynical attempt at rehabilitation, trying to gain popularity by showing what an ordinary bloke and a good sport he really is? And of course the public votes have ensured that he faced a great number of ‘bush tucker trials’. Well, John did eat locusts!

Unlike Matt’s, John’s celebrity may not have been intentional, but he certainly achieved celebrity status. Calling some a ‘brood of vipers’ isn’t exactly a way to increase his popularity yet, even so, Matthew suggests that people were flocking to hear him and to be baptized. It was trendy to go out to hear this wild man in the desert. So, what does he do with his celebrity status? He questions the motives of those who came to him. Are they really sincere about being baptized? Will they change their ways, sort themselves out and look for what is really important? And to cap it all he says, in effect, that it’s not about him and his baptism anyway – it’s about someone far more powerful. I might be a celebrity, but get me out of here…go and follow him.

What do you make of John the Baptist? How would we respond to his radical message today? Who are today’s radical characters?

Hymn Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes (R&S 137)

Prayers of Intercession

God of hope, where things seem to be one big tangle of pain and unhappiness, intervene with your saving love; where people are in conflict or locked in a stalemate, release them from the cycle of war; where your name is outlawed and your children are forced to hide, break through their darkness and be God-revealed to them; where despair takes centre stage and depression and anxiety sharpen their claws, fill those situations with unexpected peace and joy.

God of hope, God-with-us, God of all time and of every place: may the earth be filled with the knowledge of you, and may your light flow over the world like a covering, bringing protection from the darkness and from the evil that often frightens and wounds us. Amen.

Hymn Long ago prophets knew, Christ would come, born a Jew (Singing the Faith 178) https://youtu.be/Rl8QXJUsIX0


Lord as we turn to you give us your blessing.
As we look forwards to the coming of your kingdom,
Lord, lead us and help us to follow you. Lord, lead us and help us to keep our eyes on you. Lord, be at the centre of our lives, our thinking and our actions. Make us useful in your service, and show us how we can live so that our lives point towards Jesus. Amen.

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

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