Sunday– 6th December 2020

2nd Sunday in Advent

 

This Sunday we light the advent Candle for peace and I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. “ (John 14:27.

 

The Gospel reading today is the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. And reads:  “This is the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”    John the Baptist prepares the way, so we are going to listen to that wonderful old hymn that tells us that great news…

 

Hymn:    On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

 

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry                 Stretch forth thy hand, to heal our sore,

Announces that the Lord is nigh;                    And make us rise to fall no more.

Come then and hearken, for he brings                       Once more upon thy people shine,

Glad tiding from the King of Kings.                 And fill the world with love divine/

 

Then cleansed be every Christian breast,       All praise, eternal Son, to thee

And furnished for so great a guest!                Whose advent sets thy people free,

Yea, let us each our heart prepare                 Whom with the Father we adore,

For Christ to come and enter there.               And Holy Ghost, for ever more.  Amen

 

For thou art our salvation, Lord,

Our refuge and our great reward;

Without thy grace our souls must fade,

And wither like a flower decayed.

                         

John appeared in the desert, baptising and preaching. -  Turn away from your sins (repent)….. and God will forgive your sins. 

In a moment of silence, in repentance, let us each bring before our Lord what we need to confess……

 

Thank you, loving Savour Lord for washing away our sins.

So as our Lord taught us, let us pray together:

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.

 

Reading:  Isaiah 40:1-11

 

The people  to whom Isaiah prophesied, needed the comforting words at the beginning, for the preceding 39 chapters were full of woe, they  needed comfort as do we!   And then this passage ends with the incredible picture of God himself being the Shepherd of his people.

 

 

 

Hymn:  The Lord is my Shepherd (Townsend)

 

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want.           He guides my ways in righteousness,

He makes me lie in pastures green.                And he anoints my head with oil,

He leads me by the still waters.                      And my cup, it overflows with joy,

His goodness restores my soul.                       I feast on His pure delights.

 

And I will trust in You alone.               And though I walk the darkest path,

And I will trust in You alone.               I will not fear the evil one,

For Your endless mercy follows me,    For you are with me and Your rod & staff

Your goodness will lead me home.     Are the comfort I need to know.

 

Prayer

 

Loving Lord, we thank you for answering so many prayers and giving inspiration to scientists to find a vaccine.  We pray that the distribution will be well managed and that all people near and far, rich and poor will be able to benefit from a vaccine.

For our own Churches here in this beautiful part of your creation, we ask you to give wisdom, discernment and courage to see and to follow where you will lead us.   We ask you to inspire and refresh each of us that we may overflow your love to those around us now as we have no local “shepherd”.

Sovereign Lord we ask you to give wisdom and integrity to all in authority, especially Elizabeth our Queen and those under her who have the burden of governance in our parliaments.   Direct this nation in the ways of justice and peace at this uncertain time with coronavirus and Brexit, that people may honour one another and seek the common good.

We lift to your throne of grace our loved ones, our friends and neighbours - particularly those hurting and in pain, bereaved, lonely, troubled in mind or spirit or burdened in any way.  We would ask you to bless them and as you have made us your ambassadors here, your physical heart, hands and feet, show each of us how we can fulfil the channelling of your grace to them.

And we continue to remember before you, Sally’s family.

In a moment of silence, let us name other loved ones on our hearts before God.

And to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever!      AMEN

 

Reading:  2 Peter 3:1-15a

 

Reflections:

 

Advent is the time when we look to the second and final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We read last week (Mark 13) Jesus telling us that after wars, earthquakes famines and persecutions “At that time we will see The Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”  Peter is remembering those words, and also having watched the risen Jesus ascend to heaven when two angels appeared saying “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”    But, as Peter writes here, “That Day of the Lord will come like a thief.”   Many times Jesus had told his disciples to watch out for that Day.  Peter asks his readers, and us therefore, “what kind of people ought we be?”  Jesus said “by their fruit you will recognise good people and then says “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Mat:7:20-21

How would you feel if Jesus, now King of Kings and Lord of Lords, not the humble carpenter, descended from heaven tomorrow morning in power and majesty, as Judge of all the world?

Are we a little like the scoffers Peter writes about, not really believing that Jesus returning in awesome splendour to Judge the world could actually happen now, tomorrow or anytime in our lifetimes?   Jesus had warned his disciples to be watchful, otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise.   

We do need to take the words of the Lord seriously, like Peter - “This day of the Lord will come like a thief.”

Advent is a good time to ask what kind of people ought we to be then?  How do we live holy and godly lives?  By doing the will of our Father in Heaven.  How?  By looking to Jesus our Saviour, spending time with him in prayer and reading his word, listening to his promptings and so being “stimulated to wholesome thinking” as Peter puts it!  Remember Jesus himself said, “ My sheep listen to my voice;  I know them, and they follow me.   I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no-one can snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:27)  Have we put our hand in to the hand of God?  Do we listen to our Shepherd and follow him?    Heaven and earth might pass away, but the word of our God stands for ever as Isaiah said.

Sally’s sudden and so unexpected, and unprepared death has set me thinking, as I did when my husband died out of the blue in an accident – as followers of Jesus, did Jesus himself meet them and had they repented and turned to him?   I believe they were both his sheep and belonged to him and will be gathered by the angels into the new heaven and a new earth.

But for us, whether with the whole world at one time or individually, are we ready to meet the Lord Jesus the Judge of all the world?  Are we sheep or goats?

As those lines in our first hymn say “Yea, let us each our heart prepare for Christ to come and enter there.”

So, I pray we can all say as God’s children “the Lord is my Shepherd, knowing we are his sheep, so trusting in him we can look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.                       Amen

 

Blessing

 

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.  AMEN

 

A Prayer for Advent

 

Father, in this season of Advent we prepare our heart for your coming.

You are the vine, we are the branches.

Come and tend us, prune us, clean us.

Discard in us everything that does not bear fruit.

Nourish in us everything that bears much fruit.

As we celebrate your coming as a vulnerable baby,

Our hearts await your glorious return as the eternal King.

Nurture in us expectant heart, O Lord.

Cultivate in us a deep longing for more of you.

And flood our horizons with your glorious splendour.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory

Throughout all ages and generations.      AMEN