Morning Service for Advent Sunday
 

HYMN - Creator of the Stars of night

1. CREATOR of the stars of night, 
Thy people's everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all, 
And hear thy servants when they call. 

2. Thou, grieving that the ancient curse 
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace.
To save and heal a ruined race.

3 Thou cam'st, the Bridegroom of the bride
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine:

4 At whose dread name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

5 O thou whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

6. To God the Father, God the Son.
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honour, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally. Amen

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
When the Lord comes, he will bring to light things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
   to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
 Amen


FIRST READING - Isaiah 64.1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 

You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. 

We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.  

HYMN -  The Lord will come and not be slow

1. The Lord will come and not be slow,
    His footsteps cannot err;
Before Him righteousness shall go,
    His royal harbinger.

2. Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
    Shall bud and blossom then;
And justice, from her heavenly bower,
    Look down on mortal men.

3. Surely to such as do him fear
    Salvation is at hand!
And glory shall ere long appear
    To dwell within our land.

4. Rise, God, judge thou the earth in might,
    This wicked earth redress;
For thou art he who shalt by right
    The nations all possess.

5. The nations all whom thou hast made
    Shall come, and all shall frame
To bow them low before thee, Lord,
    And glorify thy Name.

6. For great thou art, and wonders great
    By Thy strong hand are done:
Thou in Thy everlasting seat
    Remainest God alone.

GOSPEL - Mark 13.24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

SERMON

Advent is all about waiting. But there is more than one sort of waiting - there is the kind of waiting when you know something's going to happen and you know when it's going to happen. Like Christmas, we all know when it is so we know how long we have to wait. 

But there are things that you wait for that you don't know when they going to happen, just that they will. Like catching the ball, you know that someone's going to throw it to you, but you don't know quite when, so you have to stay ready, just in case - fielding in cricket is exactly like that - waiting for hours in the out field. And we all know that life is like a game of cricket. The problem with this kind of waiting is that you can't just stand there with your hands at the ready for hour after hour, day after day, waiting in case somebody hits the ball to you. You have to acquire an attitude of readiness, a state of mind, even perhaps a philosophy of readiness. 

For the Christian this philosophy has something to do with the future being within the hands of God. It means that however dark, however bleak, however unpleasant the present is, we know that we can trust God for the future, or rather, trust the future to God. It's not that all is neatly planned out, neatly prepared with no possibility for change, it's rather that God is still creating, still making things new, still redeeming, still being our salvation. This is what we can understand by the doctrine of Christ’s coming again – the great theme of this Advent season. God hasn’t finished his work – he hasn’t given up, and nor must we.

In Mark’s gospel Jesus exhorts his community to embrace the world as Gethsemane: to stay awake in the darkness of history, to refuse to compromise what Ched Myers called the politics of the cross. The revolution of means as well as ends, the nonviolent struggle against all that is not the kingdom of God - the casual cruelty of the world that lives only for itself and its own interests, the world of the powerful and rapacious.

Within the context of a universe that is designed for change, and is for ever changing, within a relationship with a God who for ever calls people to change, we can be confident, we can "stand-up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near" - because it is always drawing near, because the future is a redemption that is God's will for us. This belief and understanding will only be of use to us, however, if we remember not to be "weighed down with the worries of this life."  Darkness is all about us and despair lies like a trap ready to spring shut upon us, that is why we must be 'alert at all times.'

Advent is a time when we celebrate light coming into darkness. The people who can use Advent best are those who both comprehend the darkness and who do not despair  - because they welcome the light, born anew each day in a daily advent of renewed life and hope. Someone once said "if you want to see stars, you must be willing to sit in darkness." But if you want to really live - watch for the dawn - and the sun's rising – and be always watchful. Expectant for the moments when the kingdom breaks into our world in acts of resistance and glory, in acts of self sacrifice and costly kindness.

HYMN - Come, thou long expected Jesus

1 Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.

2 Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

3 Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.

4 By Thine own eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Sheila Forbes

Lord on this first day of the Christian year, we give thanks that in the approaching  weeks, when much our loved familiar patterns of life are put to one side, we can turn to the unchanging message of Advent. We can be sure that you are waiting and ready to come to us. May we come to you in moments of silence, when we do not have to search for words;  when we do not have to deliver anything, we can just be; we can just listen  and so hear your voice telling us to prepare.

Lord as we watch and wait, we bring before you our world, awash with sickness, poverty and suspicion: suspicion of governments, of scientists, of vaccines, of the media. We pray for all leaders that they may be  fired up by a passion for what is right and good, thus establishing your just and gentle rule so that those whose lives are entrusted to them feel secure and of value. 

Lord in your mercy…. Hear our Prayer

Lord as we watch and wait we bring before you our local communities where many vulnerable people are still unable to go out. We pray that the vaccines are passed by the regulatory authorities and thereby offering the prospect of a resumption of life. Alongside this, we give thanks for all the scientists who have worked around the clock to reach this stage, not forgetting the volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves and said, “Use me.”

Lord in your mercy….. Hear our Prayer

Lord, as we watch and wait we are mindful of those anxious about their livelihood, about hospital treatments or members of their family. Anxiety Lord eats away at hope but hope is embedded in all your gospel has told us. We ask that you bring your reassuring presence,  to all who are fearful. In a moment of quiet we offer up our prayers for those for whom we fret or miss and know that above all else they need your love.

Lord in your mercy…. Hear our Prayer

Lord, we pray for all who have come to the end of their earthly life and for those whose lives feel empty without them. Give comfort to the bereaved and everlasting peace to all who rest in your love.

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
Christ the Sun of righteousness shine upon you, scatter the darkness from your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory.
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - Lo! he comes with clouds descending

1 LO! he comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluya!
God appears, on earth to reign.

2 Every eye shall now behold him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at nought and sold him,
Pierced and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing
Shall the true Messiah see.

3 Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To his ransomed worshippers:
With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

4 Yea, Amen! let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory:
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly!
Alleluya! Come, Lord, come!

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

To end:

Handel - The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah - Voces8 and friends