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 2nd Sunday of Advent.
Call to Worship
Now is the time to get ready:
Let us prepare the way of the Lord!
Now is the time to be changed:
Let us repent and seek forgiveness
Now is the time to welcome God into our midst:
Let us worship God in humble expectation.
Hymn 277 – Hark the glad sound! (1,4,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Loving God, we gather at this season of promise
to worship you. We praise you for your love and your faithfulness, for you are the source of all hope and from you all joy springs.
You are the one we expect, but your coming is always unexpected. You turn everything upside down and make all things new.
Advent God of surprises, we worship you and wait for you to awaken our wonder and astound us with your arrival.
Lord God, in this season of excitement and weariness, open our hearts to your presence, for we know you meet us and hold us;
In and beyond the glitter, in and beyond the busyness and the rush. When we are tired and frayed, when we lose sight of what it is all about, when we put ourselves first and forget that you come to bring love, come close and restore us and forgive us we pray. Smooth down the mountains of our pride,
and lift up the valleys of our doubts.
Open a path in the wilderness of our lives
that we might find our way to you again.
Loving God, mend our broken hearts and help us to know ourselves forgiven and loved. In our thankfulness help us to wait and to watch for you, faithfully and truly all our days
Lighting of Advent Candle
We light this candle for all God’s prophets,
Confronting injustice and restoring the dream of a world of freedom and peace.
As we wait for your promise, give light, give hope.
Hymn 284 – Peace is the candle (v2)
Readings – Isaiah 40: 1-11
Mark 1: 1-8
Hymn 543 – Longing for light (1,2)
Everlasting God, as we come before you in this Season of Advent, we ask you to prepare us for the coming of your son Jesus Christ, in whom the glory of the Lord has been revealed. Hear us when we pray in faith for the needs of the Church, and give thanks for your goodness as we are gathered in His arms and carried close to His heart. Amen
Every morning I sit at my desk and I write a ‘To Do’ list. My memory is such that I have to jot everything down – emails to reply to, people to phone, things to do, and gradually I tick them off as ‘Done’. Maybe you are the same? But someone recently recommended a ‘Not to Do’ list – a list of things NOT to do over Advent. It could be NOT to spend more money buying books on Amazon. NOT to buy a second packet of chocolate biscuits. Or it could be NOT to worry.
There are some things we need to let go of over Advent. Maybe you could try it!
If the Jews in exile in Babylon had a ‘Not to do’ list, Don’t worry would be at the very top. For they were so anxious. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, they had gone through the catastrophe of seeing Jerusalem captured and destroyed by the Babylonians, their Temple razed to the ground. Everything they held dear was taken away, and many of them were forcibly relocated to Babylon, thousands of miles away. They were in exile and they were homesick. Generations came and went, and still they longed for Jerusalem.
Everything they counted on had gone, and they questioned, ‘Where is God? How long must we wait till God comes and takes us home?’ They prayed and pleaded and watched. The world they knew had been turned upside down and the things that used to give them strength had been ripped from their grasp.
Maybe we know a bit how that feels. After all, since the arrival of Covid, we have been living in a confusing world and things dear to us like hugging family members, singing our hymns or going to coffee mornings with friends seem a long way away. During this Covid exile, we can ask, ‘When will it finish?’
It was to these homesick people at their lowest ebb that the prophet Isaiah spoke, and he spoke words of comfort. ‘Comfort, o comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Zion’. He didn’t condemn like other prophets had and say that it was their fault and that they had sinned. Instead, he offered comfort and hope. Hope that their exile would end and God would take them home. ‘Every valley will be exalted, every mountain made low’. God was preparing the way and God was in fact with them in exile. ‘Here is your God’, Isaiah says. ‘The shepherd will gather them in his arms and lead the way’.
Their world was confusing and strange, but the prophet offered them hope of a way home. With the hope of vaccines rolling out this week, we have the hope too of our Covid exile finishing, though maybe not immediately. But we have a God who speaks tenderly to us, a God who is with us.
John the Baptist had obviously missed the pastoral counselling courses at college. He didn’t speak tenderly or empathetically; in fact, he was quite judgemental. But he pointed the way to the One who would usher in the Kingdom of God – the one who in Jesus was there already, with the people, offering peace.
In Advent we ponder on the God who comes, who draws near to us, who meets us where we are, in all the predicaments in life, and who speaks tenderly to us; a God who leads us home. Let us be ready to welcome the One who comes and be energised to reach out in love to all God’s people around us.
Hymn 281 – People look East (1,4)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of Wisdom and Patience,
In this season of Advent, we wait for your gifts of hope and peace to claim the world once more.
We wait on you in prayer, knowing you hear us even before we speak.
Prepare our hearts and minds to welcome the coming of your Son once again,
and prepare our courage and conviction to follow the way of the Lord.
Thank you for leading us on the Way, especially in these difficult days when the pandemic still threatens, and people are so divided.
We are grateful that we can rely on your strength and comfort when so much around us has become uncertain.
Comfort those who are troubled in mind or spirit as the days grow shorter.
Strengthen the bodies and spirits of those who are tired or suffering.
Embrace those who are living with loss,
and protect children and young people
for whom the future seems confusing and unimaginable.
We give thanks for the vaccine and pray for all who have the logistical nightmare of organising its distribution to those most at risk.
Today we pray for the work of the Church of Scotland HIV Programme and for all the project partners around the world. For people caring faithfully for the wellbeing of others and showing Your love in practical ways. We remember today all who are unable to access antiretroviral medicine, particularly at this time, when Covid-19 is affecting us all. Strengthen us so we never to grow weary of doing good in Your name, of offering the hope to others. Help us to raise our voices in solidarity with those who have been silenced. Help us to always seek justice for those whose lives are so much harder than our own. Thank You for being the Good Shepherd who cares equally for us all and help us to follow Your example
In a moment of silence we bring before you those whom we are concerned about.
Hymn 477 – Lo, he comes with clouds descending (1,4)