Prayers of Approach
Emmanuel, God with us, with excitement and anticipation we gather together, to watch and wait for the signs of your presence among us.
Let the Advent adventure begin.
The time of your birth is coming. We are waiting. The time of your birth is coming. We are watching. The time of your birth is coming. We are listening. As the time of your birth gets closer, we will be ready.
God of mystery, we have stepped into Advent and await your revelations. We have stepped into Advent, hoping that we and others will see and feel and know your message. You are a patient, persevering God, who offers your all for us; you offer to us the depth of your being, the essence of life, the gift of love beyond compare. And we wait to celebrate again the gift of Jesus born for us, given for us. We look to you, for you will show us true life bursting forth.
Eternal God, hope of the world, we cannot grasp the immensity of your being, and yet all around us we catch glimpses of your power. You speak to us in nature’s blessings. You speak to us through science and creativity. You reveal yourself in the love and the care and the support of those around us. You show yourself when we most need to see you. When we least expect it, we see your hand at work. We read your Word, time and time again, and suddenly, we are amazed by seeing something new. Eternal God, we adore you. Amen.
Hymn: O come, O come Emmanuel (R&S 126)
Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Jeremiah is often regarded as a prophet of doom, his book full of warnings and predictions of disaster, so much so that a gloomy, pessimistic person used to sometimes be called ‘ a right Jeremiah.’ Two thirds of the way into the book however, in chapters 30-33, we encounter hope, a promise of redemption and restoration for Israel and Judah. Just at the point when Jerusalem is besieged and all seems lost Jeremiah’s message is overtly reassuring and hopeful. In our Gospel reading too, after Jesus has spoken of destruction, troubles and persecution, he promises salvation with the coming of ‘the Son of Man’ and urges us to be alert and look for those signs of hope.
Hymn: The day of the Lord shall come (R&S 637)
It may seem a little odd that at the beginning of Advent, as we make our preparations to celebrate the birth of Jesus, that the Gospel reading is set in Holy Week, a day or two before his arrest. However it is part of the paradox of Advent that as we look back and get ready to celebrate once more God coming to us as a child, we also look forward to the time when Christ will come again in glory, and this passage is full of warnings and advice on what to look for to prepare us for that time.
Jesus had caused uproar in the Temple as he spoke to the crowds and warned of troubles to come. Both sets of religious leaders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, tried to trap Jesus in arguments. At first glance this passage can seem full of big, threatening images. Yet, if we keep reading, we see the signs of hope: the buds on the tree heralding summer; the signs of God’s kingdom; and the encouragement to ‘raise your heads’ (v.28).
Sometimes it can be hard to see the joy that awaits, that will come…in time. But even in the most hostile of environments, there are signs of
life. Indeed, life often needs a tough start in order to grow – e.g. a hard winter or a forest fire. Perhaps it’s the same for us, too. In tough times, we need to look for those little signs of hope.
In Jeremiah the basis for reassurance and hope is the faithfulness of God enshrined in promises that the Lord has made in the past and future, focused in the promise of a ‘righteous Branch’ that will spring up for David – a sign which, as Christians, we believe was realised in a tiny infant born in a little town called Bethlehem. It is an ongoing promise that is still being worked through today and we still look forward to that time when all the people of Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, and the whole world can live in safety.
The so called ‘little apocalypse’ in chapter 21 of Luke’s gospel fits into this pattern of God’s saving plan for humanity. It is quite a startling passage, nevertheless despite its sobering warnings of distressing times to come, Christians throughout the ages have found comfort and hope in it. Events may seem overwhelming but no matter how bad things seem the Kingdom of God is coming and Jesus will return bringing salvation.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is a time of waiting, watching and hoping: hope like that expressed by Jeremiah during a time of persecution – hope that justice is coming; hope like that in the story told by Luke when Jesus uses the new shoots on a fig tree in spring to describe the hope and joy of new beginnings;
We are approaching the darkest time of our year but today we light the first of our Advent candles – a reminder that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, and never will, overcome it. And each Sunday of Advent we will light another candle, and the light that holds so much promise will become stronger each week – culminating in the hope that is Christ’s birth.
In dark days, we wait and watch and hope. Both Jeremiah and Luke offer words of hope, safety and confidence to those who are deeply anxious and fearful. In these uncertain and deeply troubling times how might we offer the same today?
Hymn: Lo, he comes with clouds descending (R&S 656)
Prayers of Intercession
God, you entered the world as a human baby at a difficult time. We pray for those in difficult circumstances, those for whom the picture is bleak: those waiting in hope for justice, those in the darkness of poverty, those who must walk for clean water. Lord, inspire us, and make us signs of your kingdom.
We pray for those who live in fear and foreboding under the tyranny of modern-day Herods; for those who are weighed down with dissipation and the worries of this life. Give us the courage to support them through protest and prayer. Lord, inspire us, and make us signs of your kingdom.
We pray for those who show where God is to be found: those who offer friendship at bus stops and in the playgrounds, in the counselling rooms and on telephone help lines, those who work to bring peace and restore hope. Lord, inspire us, and make us signs of your kingdom. Amen.
Hymn: Make way, make way for Christ the king (R&S 141)
Loving God, as we end our time of worship and return to our daily lives, send your blessing upon us. Let us go in hope, live by hope, and be signs of hope for all to see. In Jesus’ name. Amen.