We welcome visitors to our services at Yetholm (10am) and Morebattle (11.15am) this Advent Sunday. Please take time to sign the visitors’ book.
Lighting of Advent Crown – Hymn 284 (v1)
A candle burns, the sign of our hope. In the darkness of our world we dare to hope. God of hope, come to us again this Advent. May your hope live within us, burning as a light in our lives.
Call to Worship
The light shines in the darkness,
We come to worship, seeking the light of Christ
Shine into our lives and into your world this Advent.
Renew us with fresh hope.
Hymn 273 – O come, O come Emmanuel
Prayers of adoration and confession
Almighty and everlasting God,
You hold all our days in your hands,
and embrace us in your everlasting arms.
In a tired and violent world, you are hope.
In a hectic and busy world, you are peace.
In a cold world, you are comfort.
In Jesus Christ, you bring love into this world,
and call us to embody his love in all we do and say.
In our worship this day, we offer you our love and loyalty. Make us one in worship and service,
so that the world will see your hope at work in us and through us, making all things new. Amen
Forgive our sleepiness in the presence of your splendour. Forgive us for abandoning hope so quickly,
and expecting the same old thing in the same old way.
Forgive us for underestimating your power to do a new thing. Awaken us to your holy, hopeful presence.
Awaken us so we may watch and wait for you.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
The One who comes with justice also comes with mercy. The God of Judgment is the Christ of compassion. Do not be afraid but rejoice in the God who comes to us.
Readings - Isaiah 2:1-5 (Pg 686)
Matthew 24:36-44 (Pg 994)
Hymn 543 – Longing for light
Holy God during this season of Advent, as we move towards the festivities of Christmas, we pray that peace will flow from all of our actions and interactions this week. Teach us all your ways, so that we also may be ready to walk in your paths of peace. Amen
Have you noticed any Christmas decorations up yet? I visited my Syrian friends in Galashiels and I was amazed to see some of the houses decorated for Christmas already. Plastic lighted deer in gardens and so on. But then that particular housing estate seems to have a lot of children. But on coming back home, I drove through Eckford and noticed a house festooned in fairy lights, actually quite tastefully done, but Christmas seems to get earlier every year.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We don’t have our Christmas trees up yet, but we do have our Advent crown, and we have lit our first candle, a symbol of light shining in the darkness. The world is dark just now with the war in Ukraine still in the forefront of our minds with other conflicts in Ethiopia as bad but not making the headlines; with energy bills soaring and inflation rampant; with floods and earthquakes and lack of human rights. We need hope. We need a candle shining to break the darkness; we need the coming of Jesus.
Advent is a special time of watching and waiting and anticipating, and Advent means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, and we anticipate the arrival of Jesus. We are asked to stop rushing around with lists of 101 things to do, but rather ponder the wonder of God coming to earth as a human child, born in the manger, the longed-for Messiah, but also we are asked to be ready to prepare ourselves for His coming again, for he will turn the world upside down.
Many of the prophets looked for the Messiah to come to right wrongs, to establish a kingdom of justice and peace, and we will be reading some of these prophecies during Advent, but today we read the familiar words from Isaiah of a kingdom, where weapons of war would be turned into tools for tending creation and where the lion would lie down with the lamb – and where people would study war no more. It is an ideal world, a return to Eden. But there is more, for the nations of the world would come together and seek a unified purpose, namely to walk in the ways of God. If only the nations of the world would learn to cooperate. But the passage also gives a challenge to us – to live differently. For to walk in the light of the Lord means a different, transformative kind of living, where peace and justice will be our priorities.
The early Christians had to learn that too. They were waiting for Jesus to return. They thought it was imminent. He would come back and usher in his kingdom. But they waited and they waited… Some scholars think that the Gospels were written in part to encourage Christians who were confused and discouraged by Jesus’ delayed return. Matthew, like Mark and Luke, devotes a section of his gospel to exhorting his readers to stay awake, keep prepared and wait with anticipation for Jesus to return. Matthew would highlight Jesus’ parable of the virgins waiting for the bridegroom to encourage the Christians to be ever vigilant. But they were given the example of Noah in our passage today. There was a flood, and it was pretty much the end of the world for most people. They didn’t know it was coming and they perished. They weren’t ready. If a householder knows a thief is coming, then they will prepare themselves, but mostly the thief catches us unprepared. In Indonesia this week there was an earthquake. There wasn’t much anyone could have done. But it emphasises the fragility of life, and how all of a sudden everything is tuned on its head, and I am sure that all of us have been in situations where ill-health or family matters have been critical, and we realise what is important and what isn’t important I remember when I was in Israel, I had to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but President Obama was visiting Israel at the time and was making the same journey, and the motorway was closed. I duly got off the road and visited a church on the site of Emmaus (one of three places making that claim!). I visited the church until I heard the road was open again, so went back to my car, parked up a narrow road. I did a three point turn that turned into a 5 point turn, but whenever I went into reverse it seemed to jam. I pushed the accelerator down to the floor, but it refused to budge. I got out only to realise the back wheel was half over a 7 foot drop. There are reasons why it wouldn’t budge I am sure, but I still remain convinced that angels were pushing it back up. I did get turned around eventually, but it was quite sobering thinking what may have been. A time to reassess priorities and make sure we are ready to face our Lord.
At Advent we are encouraged to wait and watch, to be alert to what is happening in our world. We are challenged to live differently, by walking in the ways of the Lord. So that if Jesus were to return, we would not be afraid to meet him.
Hymn 339 – Sing of Andrew
Dedication The work of our churches continues to care and continues to walk alongside many in differing, challenging circumstances. Your giving enables this work reach those who need it most. Thank you, whether it be via direct debit or envelopes into the offertory plate, your contribution is so very valued and appreciated.
Bountiful God, we give thanks for all that we have been blessed with. Our skills and talents, our friendships, families, communities to name a few.
May these monetary gifts given in response go some way towards your work and presence being made known to others. Amen
Prayers of Intercession
Living God, on this first Sunday of Advent, we bring our longings to you. We are waiting. We are yearning. For we, and our world, are in need of healing. So we pray that you may suddenly return and never, never more thy temples leave. Pause
Prince of peace, we pray that swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks in Ukraine and in places of conflict around the world. We pray for all who are working for justice and reconciliation and all who are suffering as a result of war both directly and indirectly across our global village with pressures on food, fuel and places of safety. May our country be a place of safety and flourishing for those who come in need sanctuary.
Creator of this amazing world in which we live, we pray in the wake of COP27. We ask that all the commitments that have been made should be kept urgently. And that governments and peoples across the globe should continually see the need for more, and quicker, responses to global warming, until the tide of action flows around the world.
Righteous one, as the World Cup puts the spotlight on Qatar and Iran, we pray for the protection of migrant workers around the world and for the breaking down of barriers between people so that all may be valued for who they are, wherever they are, for we are each your child, made in your image.
Loving God, As the weather gets colder we pray for all for whom the cost of living is a crisis. We rejoice that during the pandemic everyone was offered a place to stay, but we are concerned that many do not now have adequate housing. We remember too all those who are sleeping on the streets or sofa surfing, unable to find good accommodation.
Jesus our healer, as we hear of the pressures on the NHS, we thank you for the staff who are doing an amazing job in difficult circumstances. As we pray for the health of our own health system, we are conscious of the many millions across the world without access to good health care and of the places where healthcare is only available to a fortunate few. We hold up to you now all those places and people and pray for a just and equal sharing of all the things that earth affords. To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word. pause We pause before you now in silence to hold up to you those who are particularly on our hearts today….
Hymn 477 – Lo he comes with clouds descending
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