Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on Second Sunday of Advent
A messenger will be born.
Peace is coming.
Someone to show the way.
Peace is coming.
A world is waiting.
Peace is coming.
Lord, we, your people, wait patiently, hanging on for Advent peace. Let us worship God.
Hymn 472 – Come thou long-expected Jesus (1,3,4)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Living God, in our worship,
we seek to be ready to meet with You.
We prepare ourselves; we still ourselves;
we organise ourselves; we get ourselves in the right frame of mind.
And now we come to You in prayer.
We come with thanksgiving,
for the beauty of this day, for the wonder of life,
for the fellowship of this place, for the freedom to meet and worship, and for the Gospel message of this Advent Season.
So we rejoice, with the universal Church, as we journey through Advent in worship and in faith.
Make us ready for the coming of our Lord.
But are we ready yet?
Are we really prepared to meet You here?
We look at how we are and who we are, and we wonder how we will look to You.
We still wear our garments of sorrow and affliction. For life may have been tough for us this week, and the burdens we carry might be hard to bear.
We're still dressed in the garments of failures, promises made and promises broken,
acts of kindness missed and acts of sinfulness offered. We are still clothed in unrighteousness.
And we are ashamed. Forgive us we pray.
Zechariah said, ‘Tell the people they will be saved by the forgiveness of their sins.’ God’s promises endure for ever; so let us be assured, our sins are forgiven.
Lighting of Advent crown
We light this candle for peace
Remembering that we are not alone, but held in the promise of God’s love.
Hymn 284 – Peace is the candle (v2)
Readings – Philippians 1:3–11
Hymn 283 – The voice of God (1, 2, 5)
Almighty God, give us faith like John the Baptist, strong enough to believe that even in a desert you and your kingdom are always close to us. May our love for you and those around us increase, and make our hearts strong like his, not swayed by trials or snared by false pleasures. Give us the courage to be faithful until your promises are fulfilled. Amen
I was in a house the other day, 1st December in fact, and someone was wearing a bright Christmas jumper. A day or two before that, I was in Galashiels as I visit a Syrian family, and the area in which they live is one with lots of young families. It was like entering another world, because there were big inflatable snowmen and reindeer; a Santa was escaping outside a bedroom window, and there were coloured lights everywhere. It wasn’t just a couple of houses which had been decorated like this, but quite a number. The effect was quite magical. Meanwhile my first Christmas card came in the post. Is it the pandemic? Or is Christmas getting earlier?
At church we take a more gradual approach and we have the season of Advent, a time of watching and waiting, of anticipation, as we renew our strength and await the coming of Christ. On this Second Sunday of Advent we focus on John the Baptist. We read from Luke, and Luke was something of a historian of the 1st Century variety. He wants to set everything in context and gives us a list of names – the Who’s Who of 1st century Palestine. There is Tiberius, the Roman emperor, Pontius Pilate is mentioned and then the puppet rulers of the surrounding areas, though the Roman administration was where power lay. The religious hierarchy is also mentioned, Caiaphas and Annas. These were the movers and shakers of the day. Yet the Word of the Lord did not come to them; rather, it came John the son of Zechariah in the desert. It came to a nobody. It came to someone without much pedigree and living in the obscurity of the wilderness.
God chose a nobody to prepare the way for God’s own son to come amongst us. And that is a regular theme in Luke, for God chooses the insignificant to do magnificent things – like Mary the teenager bearing Jesus; like the shepherds at the lowest end of the economic ladder being the audience for the heavenly hosts. God chooses people who are easily overlooked to participate in world changing events. God still does that today and works through us to transform the world for the better in our small ways.
How do we do that – by keeping our communication channels with God open. In our gospel reading we have the quotation from Isaiah that every valley be exalted, often associated with the aria from Handel’s Messiah. ‘The winding roads straightened and the rough paths smoothed’. It sounds like colossal roadwork project in the Ancient Near East. But the prophet was addressing the Jews living in exile in Babylon. Jerusalem had been destroyed, and they were living throughout the Babylonian Empire, and many were very settled. However, permission had been given to return to Palestine and rebuild Jerusalem, but the response was lukewarm. It would be a long arduous journey with a lot of hard work at the destination. But the prophet Isaiah urged them. He wasn’t just talking about the physical journey, but their spiritual journey.
The people had discovered that they could worship God in Babylon, and that was great. But for some, their relationship with God had become long-distance. There were mountains of indifference and valleys of spiritual lethargy separating them from God. They road to God needed to be made straight to bring them to the heart of God.
John prepared the way for Jesus. At this time of Advent let us also be open to Christ’s coming among us, not by keeping a comfortable distance, but by opening our hearts to God.
"Prepare the way!" the Baptist cried
as people gathered round.
"Repent! Believe! The time is now!"
he called out to the crowd.
"Your Lord is here! God has come down
To live with you today.
Be ready now to welcome Him.
You should prepare the way!"
"Prepare the way!" This is our part
as Advent days slip past,
to meet our God in human form,
the Love that's made to last.
Rise up! Be tested by the call!
Don't dither or delay!
For Christ will come! He's born for you!
So come! Prepare the way! (Rev Tom Gordon)
Prayers of Intercession
As we have lit candles to celebrate Advent and as we have reflected on your words so, Lord God, our thoughts turn now beyond our needs, whose cries and anguish trouble and disturb us.
We pray for the Church, both worldwide and for this congregation here, for all who minister to one another in our community, in the compassion of our caring, and in the mission of the Gospel, individually and together.
May the Peace of Christ bless us.
May the Love of Christ work through us.
May the Light of Christ shine in the darkest places.
We pray for our community, our country, and our world.
Bless with compassion and tenderness those we know who work tirelessly for the good of others.
Bless with wisdom and character those who have responsibilities in Holyrood and Westminster.
Bless with purpose those who are leaders, teachers and role-models for us all.
Bless with Your strength those who walk the corridors of power, and who make decisions for the good of all humanity.
We pray for those striving earnestly for Climate change to be tackled with care and justice,
for all who seek to quell the needless destruction of our fragile world and who strive for the best that humanity can be;
for those nearer to home feeling the impact of climate change, snow and storms and gales beyond what is expected.
We pray for those in need:
those close to us; those who struggle for direction; those who are weak and frail; those ill at home or in Hospital or care home; those who are ground down by worries and troubles.
And in the silence, we name them before You:
We pray for ourselves,
as we prepare in thoughtfulness for the coming of Jesus, that we might be honest with ourselves and open to Your grace.
And we give thanks for the Communion of Saints, those who have prepared our way,
who have offered us their guidance, and wisdom, and example, that we might boldly walk the paths of righteousness and truth. Bind us ever with them, that we might journey on as one people under God. Amen
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory (1,4)
May the One, long-promised, who brings hope to the people, shower you with hope that you may be signs of the Kingdom; and 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