We welcome all visitors to our services at Yetholm (10am) and Linton (11.15am) this Advent Sunday. Please take time to sign the visitors’ book.
Lighting of Advent Crown – Hymn 284 (v2)
Call to Worship
A time to prepare, a time to get ready.
A time to reflect, a time to repent.
A time to begin again, a time to start afresh.
A time to worship and adore.
Hymn 277 – Hark the glad sound
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.
We live in a chaotic world, Lord,
for though you have shown us the way of life,
we have not walked in it.
We have gone our own separate ways, done our own things. We thought we could live without you.
We have pretended not to need you.
We have tried our independence.
Now loving God, forgive what is past; renew what is,
and lead us into the future of your Son,
for he only is Lord, and there is no other.
He is the truth that sets us free.
God of our lives help us to walk in his ways.
Receive the Good News in peace. With great mercy, God forgives and offers us new life in Christ. Receive the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Readings - Isaiah 11:1-10
Hymn 241 – Isaiah the prophet
Eternal God, we sing with joy in anticipation for the coming of God to earth at Christmas. Help us to sow peace around us, live like Jesus and like the Baptist pave the way for the King as he comes to reign as the Prince of Peace, giving people a glimpse of his kingdom. Amen
I attended two services during the week. The first was by Zoom and was from Linlithgow where I had been locum before coming to Cheviot Churches. It was the commissioning of an old friend, Rev Stewart Gillan, as a mission partner. Stewart is the new minister in Jerusalem. He was supposed to fly out this week, but there is a problem with his visa, so he is stuck in Edinburgh. In the sermon, there was a passionate plea for justice for the Palestinians.
The 2nd service was on Wednesday and was the St Andrew’s Day service at St Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh, organised by the Friends of St Andrew’s Jerusalem and Tiberias, so I saw a lot of people I knew and hadn’t seen for three or more years. The focus at that service was on the Parents Circle, a group of bereaved parents, both Israeli and Palestinian, who had lost sons and daughters in shootings or bomb attacks. They came together and their grief as a mother, say, overcame their suspicion of someone from the ‘other side’ and they were able to process their grief together. Their grief helped them to understand each other and offered hope. Often we think of Israelis and Palestinians fighting each other, but there are so many cases of them trying to live with each other in justice and peace. Advent is about hope and peace.
On my way to St Cuthbert’s for the service, I passed another church, St John’s on Princes Street, and on the railings outside were photographs of a number of young Iranian women and men who had been killed in the recent protests. It was really quite meaningful to see them, cut off in the prime of their lives. These were protests against the rigid religious authorities who were inflexible in allowing any freedom or anything other than their own narrow outlook. Does that ring any bells? In many ways, John the Baptist’s ministry was a protest against the religious authorities of his day, and on the 2nd Sunday of Advent we traditionally think of John. Crowds came from all over to hear John, and included in the crowd were Pharisees and Sadducees, and John lambasted them, calling them a brood of vipers and saying that an axe was ready to cut them down. John wasn’t exactly the most welcoming of people. There isn’t much mercy or forgiveness in John in this passage. He saw things in black and white terms and spoke directly and bluntly, and this would ultimately lead to his death when he spoke out against the King.
But even our Isaiah reading is a protest. Like last week’s reading, it gives a vision of a world at peace where creation lives in harmony. The difference is that here a little child will lead them. It was a prophecy from a time when things were not going well in Israel. The king, Ahaz, was unpopular, and no-one had a good word to say about him, even though he was from the line of David. The glorious tree which was David’s line had become a stump, almost dead – but not quite. The kings had departed from the ways of the Lord, but here was a shoot from the stump of Jesse, who would bring wisdom and understanding, who would rule with justice and compassion. We immediately see this as referring to Jesus, though Ahaz had a son, Hezekiah, who people hoped would be a good thing. Could life come out of the tree that had fallen? There was hope.
As Christians we see that hope in Jesus. The one who brings wisdom to every situation and guides us in the paths of peace; the one who offers mercy and hope to even the worst of people, who brought a Zacchaeus back to the fold and spoke forgiveness from the cross. John the Baptist spoke words of judgement, and maybe sometimes we need to hear that. But Jesus is the one who speaks of hope and salvation, self-sacrifice and new life. In him all things are possible. John was the forerunner; he did his job and pointed to Christ. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the light in our darkness and the one we can trust. There is hope. In all the tensions in our world – the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the war in Ukraine, the tensions in Iran- people sacrifice themselves or, like the Parents Circle, work together, looking for hope to prevail. There is ever hope.
Hymn 336 – Christ is our light
God, our Peace and our Promise, receive our gifts as seeds of gratitude for your gift to us in Christ Jesus. Bless these seeds with growth so that peace will take root in people who face conflict and danger, and places seeking to establish peace in the face of violence. Be their peace and their promise, through Christ our Lord.
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Intercession
For every good meal we have shared,
for every kind word we have received,
for every good book on our shelves,
for every good idea in our heads,
for every good message on our phone
may our good Lord be thanked.
For the nights of good company,
for the music of Advent,
for inspiring speech and positive writing,
for the wisdom of age and the smiles of children,
may our wise and bountiful Lord be thanked.
For people who have taught and nurtured us,
for thoughts which have helped and restored us,
for friends who have listened to us and stayed alongside, for the work of Your Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others,
may our gracious God be thanked and praised
We remember those for whom Advent is a difficult time –
those on their own, those with difficult memories,
those anxious about the stresses of the Christmas season. We pray for those who are cold and hungry because of fuel poverty, and all who seek to help them. We pray for the sick in body and mind,
for the lonely and the fearful,
for the bereaved.
John worked in the wilderness baptizing people with water. We pray for the people without safe drinking water. We ask that you will give strength to groups such as Christian Aid who are working to provide access to safe water to those without it. We also pray for the victims of flooding, some far away in Pakistan and others nearer to home.
Isaiah wrote about branches sprouting from a stump. We pray for your world where forests are being destroyed. We pray that all humankind will respect your world. We ask that the decisions made at COP27 will become actions. We must stop destroying what you created, and we pray that politicians worldwide will see the need to act now.
We pray for those who lead our nations –
for members of Parliaments and Councils,
for Governments at home and abroad,
and for all who have the power to make a difference in people's lives. We join a great company around the world who seek peace and justice, and long for a kinder world.
And we pause to pray quietly for the particular people and needs which we carry on our hearts . . Amen
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory
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