Sunday Worship, 29th November 2020

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Welcome

Lord Jesus Christ

your world awaits you

Come Lord, desire behind our greatest needs

Come Lord, liberator of humanity

Come Lord, O come Immanuel

Hymn: O Come O come Emmanuel

Lighting the Advent candle


Prayer

Open our eyes, Lord.

Some of us may be tired of looking

Some fear to see too much

For some yesterday, today and tomorrow are much the same

Some only see what we want to see

Open our eyes, Lord

to see the lives we live

the homes we have

the world we live in

and to find signs of hope there

 that we can fasten onto and encourage

Give us a bigger vision of what you can do

even with hopeless cases and lost causes

and people of limited ability

Show us the world as you see it

riddled with debt, deceit and disbelief

but also full of possibility

for recovery, renewal and redemption

Help us to see real possibilities for change

in our everyday situation

Open our eyes in yearning for Jesus

On the mountains

in the cities

through the corridors of power

and streets of despair

to help, to heal

to confront, to convert

O come, O come Immanuel


Hymn: Make way make way

Reading Isaiah 64: 1-9

Why don’t you tear the sky apart and come down? The mountains would see you and shake with fear. They would tremble like water boiling over a hot fire. Come and reveal your power to your enemies, and make the nations tremble at your presence! There was a time when you came and did terrifying things that we did not expect; the mountains saw you and shook with fear. No one has ever seen or heard of a God like you, who does such deeds for those who put their hope in him. You welcome those who find joy in doing what is right, those who remember how you want them to live. You were angry with us, but we went on sinning; in spite of your great anger we have continued to do wrong since ancient times. All of us have been sinful; even our best actions are filthy through and through. Because of our sins we are like leaves that wither and are blown away by the wind. No one turns to you in prayer; no one goes to you for help. You have hidden yourself from us and have abandoned us because of our sins.

But you are our father, LORD. We are like clay, and you are the potter. You created us, so do not be too angry with us, or hold our sins against us for ever. We are your people; be merciful to us.

Reflection: preparing for Christmas

Usually at this time of the year people are making all sorts of plans for the festive period: meals in, meals out, cards, presents, decorations etc. For most folk this year, planning is hard, because we don’t know for what we are planning. How many people will be allowed to come together in one house? Can we have friends or relations round? Will we be able to visit them? Can we go out for a meal together? Will we have to post all our presents to Santa, or can we help him by distributing a few to friends, relations and neighbours? What about the relations in care homes, will we be able to see them, and if so how closely? It may be that we don’t have many answers till the last minute.

For some people there are added worries. Some are struggling to pay the bills and put the next meal on the table, they are trying not to let on to others that they are struggling, and they want their children to have as ‘normal’ a Christmas as they can. Some are struggling with loneliness, stress and depression: it is often worse at this time of the year, but the impact of Covid restrictions and uncertainties about what we will and will not be able to do, make it harder for them. And of course there’s all the other stuff like Brexit going on in the background.

‘Tear the sky apart and come down.’ We are with the ancient Jewish prophet on that one. If there really is a God, if there really is a God who cares, then start doing something and come and sort out the mess that your world is in. This portion of the Book of Isaiah seems to come from a time when the exiles in Babylon had returned to Jerusalem, but their initial hopes and dreams of rebuilding their broken land and restoring prosperity had been dashed, and they were beaten down by the dullness and difficulties of life. They felt abandoned by God, and as though their prayers were hitting a glass ceiling and bouncing back. And in the two and a half thousand years between then and now, billions of people will have felt much the same.

Advent is a time of looking forward, looking forward with hope, in spite of the gloomy signs around us. It isn’t just about looking forward to Christmas 2020, and whatever form that takes. The Jewish prophet looked forward, standing on the experience of God’s action towards his people in the past – leading them out of slavery in Egypt, leading them out of exile in Babylon. We look forward standing on the experience of God acting in and through Jesus: coming to earth as one of us, to experience for himself the pain and challenge of being human, of showing and teaching us how we should live together, and through his death and rising again to give us new life and new hope for the future.

Amid all the gloom and uncertainty of the immediate future we do have the hope that next year will bring vaccinations that could transform life in so many ways. Next year we hope to have the Cop 26 conference in Glasgow, with decisions taken on measures to address the climate crisis. Next year we hope that steps will be taken to rebuild the country and world after the Coronavirus pandemic, with greater attention to building peace and justice. Some of our hopes may not turn to reality, but because of the story of Jesus, and our experience of Jesus in our lives, we can keep hoping. We also find that God says to us, ‘It’s not all about me doing all the work. You have to work too, along with me. I will give you my Spirit to help you, to help you to be beacons of light on how to live, to help you to achieve change in the world. Now away you go and get on with it. Advent isn’t just about preparing for Christmas 2020, it’s about preparing to make it the kind of world I want it to be.’


Prayers for others and Lord’s Prayer

Heavenly Father

There are many times –

 especially this year –

 when we can echo the prophet’s words

 “Why don’t you tear the sky apart and come down?”

We want change, we need change

 but we feel powerless to bring it about

 there are even times we doubt

 whether you can do anything

 or want to do anything

 whether you care

In this season of Advent

 we are reminded that you do care

 that you have responded to our cries

 not by coming in might and majesty

 but in the vulnerability of a new baby in a stable

We bring before you all

 who are struggling with life and its problems

 who share that longing for you to intervene

 to bring peace, justice and hope

We pray for all who are ill,

 those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for your church

 the worldwide church

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

We bring our gifts of money, we bring ourselves

 take and use them, take and use us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

Our Father, who art in heaven,

 hallowed be thy name;

 thy kingdom come;

 thy will be done;

 on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

 as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation;

 but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

 the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen


Hymn: The race that long in darkness pined

Blessing

Look forward in hope

to the coming of your Saviour

prepare the way for Christ your Lord

welcome him with love and faith

when he comes in glory

and the blessing of God Almighty

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

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