Sunday Worship, 28 November 2021

Advent Sunday

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 273 O Come O come Emmanuel

Lighting the Advent candle

Hymn 282 Christmas is coming v1 and choruses

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 291 When out of poverty is born  

Reading        Psalm 25: 1-10

Reflection

We’re now into Advent. No doubt, without looking it up on their phone, someone could tell us how many shopping hours there are till Christmas, when the deadline is for posting cards with Second Class stamps, or where to get the best bargains for pigs in blankets. We hope for more freedom this December than last, but it will still not be like the ones we knew only a few years ago. Some people are still wary about going out and mixing with others, some Christmas functions are simply not happening this year, and many will be struggling to plan for Christmas when ordinary living costs (for example heating) are so much higher. Nevertheless, despite all that, it is likely that life in most homes will be fairly hectic over the next few weeks. December, Advent, usually is busy.

It was pretty much like that when Christianity became established across the Roman Empire. Newly converted Christians were happy to celebrate Christmas with their Christian friends, and also Hannukah with their Jewish ones, and a whole set of others with their pagan ones. November and December were a time for parties and getting drunk. In a way very good for intercommunal relations. But church leaders worried that many were totally missing what the message of Christmas was – that God came to experience human life in order to redeem humanity and change the world. So Advent was born. Initially it was a period of 40 days beginning on 11 November, Martinmas, but in time was cut back to the four Sundays before Christmas.

The main lectionary readings for Advent Sunday usually focus on judgement, the end of the world and looking forward to Christ returning in glory, but the Psalm set for today encourages us to think about our inner preparation for Christmas, and our personal relationship with God – which is pertinent for any time of the year:

  • It begins by declaring trust in God. Trust is the solid foundation on which any relationship needs to be built. The Psalmist envisages a relationship where trust in God comes naturally, presumably based on years of experience
  • God is one we can turn to when we feel vulnerable, isolated or threatened. Jesus is our most faithful friend. He will never abandon us. He will always stand by us and affirm us. He will shine a light on our failings and shortcomings, but he does so to help us address them, not to humiliate us
  • Like all relationships, our relationship with Good, through Jesus, is something we have to work at. We can’t take it for granted. We have to make time for God, we need to be open to his guiding – whether through prayer, reading the Bible, study or reflection. We also have to be ready to put God’s guiding into practice. It’s no use God showing us what he’d like us to do, and us turning round and saying, ‘I don’t want to do that’, or giving up when things get hard
  • Looking forward, whether in our own lives, in the life of the church, or the life of the world where there are so many challenges – from disease to poverty, to climate emergency, to the rise of authoritarian states and intolerance towards anyone who is ‘different’ – our hope is in God. It isn’t just to give us a nice and cosy ‘well, I’m OK’ feeling, but something designed to undergird our actions as we seek to build the Kingdom, to establish a world of peace and justice
  • Our faith, our hope is grounded in God’s past action and faithfulness. We look back to what he did through Jesus, to what he has done over the centuries, to our own experiences. We know that he is a loving, caring God who forgives us and gives us a new start when things go wrong
  • We are called to be his faithful people. To live by his ways, to walk humbly in the path that our God has set for us

However busy or otherwise our December is, our God calls us not just to reflect on what happened so long ago, but on how our relationship with him is now, and what he wants us to do in the task of building the Kingdom.

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

Hymn 283 The voice of God goes out to all the world

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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