The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this 1st Sunday of Advent.
Call to Worship
The heavens are trembling with anticipation,
And we wait for Jesus.
The nights are long and the days are short,
And we wait for Jesus.
Our redemption is drawing near,
And we wait for Jesus.
Let us hope in God and worship as people ready to see the salvation of our God!
Hymn 273 – O come, O come Emmanuel
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Creator God, You made the heavens and the earth.You set the planets in their courses, lit the sun with fire, caused the stars to shine and the world to turn.Life springs up wherever your breath moves.In Jesus Christ, you brought hope into a world full of fear and despair.You sent your Spirit to enliven our hope and guide us on the way.We are waiting now in anxious times for the world to be made new.We wait for new life, and we wait with deep hope.
Redeeming God,We confess that waiting is difficult for us.We want to be comfortable in this festive season,but the pandemic keeps us anxious and unhappy.We complain about our own troubles and close our eyes to the suffering of others,Forgive us for seeking our own comfort at the cost of others.Give us eyes to perceive the great need within our community.Give us eyes to see the deep need within our own lives. Turn our hearts to you again and again.
There is nothing we have done, nothing we will ever do, that will separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. This love is yours! So live in love as forgiven and forgiving people and travel through Advent in hope.
Lighting of Advent Candle
We light this candle for all God’s people,
Struggling to be bearers of hope in a troubled world.
As we wait for your promise, give light, give hope.
Hymn 284 – Hope is the candle
Readings – Isaiah 64: 1-9
Mark 13: 24-37
Hymn 339 -Sing of Andrew, John’s disciple
Advent Lord, as we move into the new church year, draw near to us. Strengthen our faith, deepen our love for you and for our neighbours and open our eyes to the wonder of your creation, so that when our Saviour comes, he may find our hearts ready to receive him. Help us as we try to set an example of a true spirit of preparation for that incredibly precious gift of the Christ-child. Amen
I always love Advent. It is a time of darkness and light. A time of preparing and anticipation. It is a time of waiting and watching. This year many things are going to be very different, but just as the trees are stripped of their leaves, this Advent and Christmas we can focus away from the fripperies and on the essentials, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas.
Of course, we want this year especially the comfort of the Christmas story, not that it is always very comfortable. But we begin Advent this year with readings of God rending over the heavens and stars falling and the heavens shaken and the Son of Man coming in clouds: a picture of the 2nd Coming of Christ. And the 2nd coming of Christ is part of Advent, and we will listen to hymns like ‘Lo. He comes with clouds descending’ in the weeks to come. It is appropriate that we should have readings like this, because they were readings written at times of crises. It is called apocalyptic literature, and it was written when people were down, were being persecuted, and they called on God to intervene – but they also re-evaluated their lives.
When someone has been very ill, it can be a wake-up call and often they can re-evaluate their lives. They decide to look at their diet and live more healthily and responsibly. The Black Lives Matter movement over this summer has certainly had an impact on making us look at the inherent racism in society and the legacy of the slave trade in many of our towns and cities. The Covid crisis we are going through has made us reassess what the important things in our lives are, and certainly one crisis area which we have been made very aware of over this period has been the environment, and scientists and celebrities and David Attenborough are warning us to act now before it is too late.
The message of the Bible is the same. Act now, but also be watchful, be alert, keep awake, for the Son of man will come when you least expect it. Tomorrow is St Andrew’s Day, and Andrew was very watchful. He was always in the background, but he noticed things. When a crowd of 1000s followed Jesus and were hungry, Andrew noticed a boy with fish and loaves of bread – the outcome was the feeding of the 5,000. When some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, it was Andrew who enabled them to do so, and in his early days when he was a disciple of John the Baptizer, Andrew noticed Jesus pass by and followed him. Andrew was awake to what was going on around him and to the needs of others and acted. We are encouraged to be awake to what is happening around us and to the needs of others – so many lonely, so many struggling over this time. We reach out to help.
We have to be awake to the coming of Christ this Advent. Not just his coming as a vulnerable baby born to poor parents in a Palestinian backwater. Not just to his coming in glory at the end of time. But Christ comes now and keeps coming in unexpected and unlooked for ways. Every time we reach out in love, God is there, as Emmanuel, God with us. A God who is committed to us.
What is required of us is to be waiting and watchful, ready for Christ to slip in or to burst through and change the world.
Hymn 509 – Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
God of hope, we offer you our gifts with our thanks that your love never goes out of style, your presence is never beyond our budgets. Bless what we bring with your Spirit and enrich their impact in a world with desperate needs. May we shine as symbols of the unending hope we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Friend.
Come Lord Jesus, into the darkness of our world;
A world where there is injustice, racial tension and war; where many still lack the basics of food and clean water.
Come Lord Jesus, into the uncertain future of refugees and migrants, who risk everything to escape atrocities or difficulties, but know that they could still pay with their lives.
Come Lord Jesus, into our communities;
Where many struggle with anxieties over Covid, over jobs, over their future.
Come Lord Jesus, into our lives and the lives of those for whom we are concerned.
Bring comfort to the bereaved and those struggling to cope for whatever reason.
Come Lord Jesus, give reassurance where there is fear; confidence where there is doubt. Wherever people are hurting, let your light shine.
Hymn 291 – When out of poverty is born
Go in eager expectation, awaiting and watchful for the coming of Christ. May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and those whom you love and those whom we are called to love, this day and even forevermore. Amen