Sunday 29th November 2020

Advent Sunday: Theme: Our hope in God

Let us pray.

We come to you today, knowing deep down that you love us, yet perhaps we struggle to come to terms with Sally no longer leading us on a Sunday – and in these reflections. We are reminded by Paul in his letters that ‘all things work to the good in those who love Him’. We thank you for that promise even though we might struggle with its significance at this time.

Almighty God as we bring our remembrance of our thoughts, words and deeds before you, we are perhaps at this time especially conscious of our weaknesses, our failure in exhibiting your life in who we are. So as we ask your forgiveness, using the words of a traditional advent prayer in looking forward to the fullness of your Kingdom in our lives.

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

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: Lo He comes with clouds descending

  1      Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
          Christ, the Lamb, for sinners slain;
          thousand thousand saints attending
          join to sing the glad refrain:
          Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
          God appears on earth to reign.

  2      Every eye shall now behold him,
          robed in dreadful majesty;
          those who set at naught and sold him,
          pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
          deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
          shall the true Messiah see.

  3      Those deep wounds of cross and passion
          still his glorious body bears;
          cause of endless exultation
          to his ransomed worshippers:
          Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
          See! the day of God appears.

  4      Yea, amen, let all adore you,
          high on your eternal throne;
          Saviour, take the power and glory,
          claim the kingdom for your own:
          oh, come quickly, oh, come quickly, oh, come quickly,
          Alleluia! come, Lord, come!

 

Readings:

1 Corinthians 1:3-9; (The Message paraphrase)

Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.



 

Mark 13:24-37

Jesus said, “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.”

Reflection: Advent is about looking forward to anticipated events; Sunday readings variously focusing on John the Baptist – in advance of the ministry of Jesus, the anticipation of the Jesus’s birth and also His second coming. Advent itself is not a biblical festival, and its meaning tends to evolve through time. A set of Sunday themes that has evolved in some, is hope, peace, joy and love.

The readings associated with hope come on Advent Sunday, and usually relate to the expectation of the second coming (seen especially in our reading from Mark’s gospel). A well known hymn verse puts hope into perspective:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

These words suggest our hope or promise can be split in three ways: ‘hope past’; our faith resting on a ‘pardon for sin’ following Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection; ‘hope present’ the ascended Jesus ruling over His people ‘cheering and guiding’; and finally future hope, the ‘bright hope’ of 'ten thousand blessings' under a new heaven and new earth at the second coming of Christ. Today's church more often than not majors our 'hope' thoughts on the past and future. But, it is in the present we live, and our first reading from the beginning of one of Paul's letters to different churches, reminds us that time and again Paul is at pains to emphasize our present hope. He informs his readers for example that we, the church, are 'set apart for a God filled life.' and He has 'blessed us with every spiritual blessing'.  Paul's letters are not always the easiest to read, but a quick speed read of his letters reveals that Paul is very much focussed on our corporate faith in the here and now. Indeed at the end of his discourse on love (1 Corinthians 13), he says that faith, hope and love are core Christian attributes. However, what we sometimes miss is that this passage, often read at weddings, actually relates to the life and worship of a church, rather than an individual. Thus we need to rediscover in our churches what it means for the church to have hope for today.  To put it another way, we may ask how does Christ view the Church. Perhaps Samuel Stone caught the vision of this, when he wrote the hymn: The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, she is His new creation, . . . from heaven He came and sought her to be His Holy bride. These are powerful, exciting words of hope and expectation for today’s church.

Points for Prayer:

Continued thoughts for Alistair, David, Rachel and Ruth and Sally’s grandchildren.

Pray that the community support and love for Sally, so evident as the funeral cortege passed through the parishes, may be turned into a response to your gospel – the good news.

Pray for those in authority, our queen and all that she represents.

For the governments in Westminster, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland. Our thoughts are with the difficult ‘tug of war’ decisions in how much to relax coronavirus restrictions – especially in the Christmas period. That our leaders will act out of love and concern for their country, rather than vested political interest.  

For your church, growing in so many parts of the world, but not here. We pray for a positive response to the gospel in the West, but also that we the church may be envisioned by what it is to have hope, not only that our sins are forgiven and that we await the future return of Jesus, but also that we are inspired by what Christ’s church, His new creation is. 

Finally, we remember before God:

We have a hope that is steadfast and certain 

Gone through the curtain and touching the throne 

We have a Priest who is there interceding 

Pouring His grace on our lives day by day 

 

 Hymn: 739 The Church’s one foundation

 1       The Church’s one foundation
          is Jesus Christ her Lord:
          she is his new creation
          by water and the word;
          from heaven he came and sought her
          to be his holy bride;
          with his own blood he bought her,
          and for her life he died.

  2      Called forth from every nation,
          yet one o’er all the earth,
          her charter of salvation:
          one Lord, one faith, one birth.
          One holy name she blesses,
          and shares one holy food,
          as to one hope she presses,
          with every grace endued.

  3      In toil and tribulation,
          and tumult of her war,
          she waits the consummation
          of peace for evermore,
          till with the vision glorious
          her longing eyes are blest,
          and the great Church victorious
          shall be the Church at rest.

  4      Yet she on earth has union
          with God the Three in One,
          and mystical communion
          with those whose rest is won.
          O happy ones and holy!
          Lord, give us grace that we,
          like them, the meek and lowly,
          on high may dwell with thee.