Act of Worship for Sunday 29th November 2020 (First Sunday of Advent)

This short act of worship has been prepared for you to use if you are unable to attend church. If you are well enough why not spend a few moments with God, knowing that other people are sharing this act of worship with you.

Opening Prayer

Loving, faithful God,
As your people of old waited and watched for your coming in Jesus,
So we wait and watch for your coming today.
As we come before you now, waiting and watching,
Fill us with your light and love.

(If you have an Advent wreath at home, you may wish to light one candle)

Hymn: Lo, he comes with clouds descending (Singing the Faith 177)

Sing / read / pray / proclaim the words or listen to a performance of 'Lo, he comes with clouds descending' , or sing a verse of a hymn that comes to mind.

Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
once for favoured sinners slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him
robed in glorious majesty;
we who set at nought and sold him,
pierced and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

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.

Sing, amen, let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
claim the kingdom for thine own:
come, Lord Jesus!
Everlasting God, come down!

Mosaic of the Good Shepherd in Sacred Heart and St Margaret Mary, Aston

Let us pray together

Loving, faithful God,
We praise you for your faithfulness to your people down the ages.
They hoped and were not disappointed;
In Jesus they saw you come as one of us, sharing our life so we might share yours.
We have known your coming in our lives,
Whether in blazes of glory,
or quiet moments of knowing we are loved;
and in the power of your Spirit.
We know you will come again in glory,
In light and power that we cannot imagine,
That one day all heaven and earth will praise you.

We come to you too, sorry for the times
When we have been too impatient to wait,
When we have lost heart.
God who comes to us in love,
We know that you forgive all who turn to you.
Forgive us, renew our hope, turn our eyes back to you,
So that we may see your coming in our world
And share your joy with others.
Amen.

Today’s Reading from the Old Testament

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 for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

Advent candles

Today’s Gospel Reading

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.’

Stained glass of the Holy Trinity symbol

Time to Reflect

by Reverend John Morton

Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent - a season of waiting; a time to be marked by urgent anticipation, by a longing for the fulfilment of what has been promised, and when reading the Gospel passage from Mark it can appear that this is given to promote discussions on prophetic timetables. Part of Sunday’s reflection acknowledges that when the writer wonders if today, we feel a mixture of hope and fear. And while it is surely true that we want an end to the virus, and the pain, deprivation, sadness and loss it has brought, the gospel passage is there to stimulate right living for God in a world where he is largely ignored.

I am in the habit of scanning the daily headline tabs on my home web-page. There is plenty of headlines on terrorist acts, criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic, celebrity news, sport headlines … but nothing about where God is in all of this. At the beginning of this second lockdown lists were produced on news bulletins about what establishments would be closing and which organisations could be kept going. Just like the first lockdown – places of worship did not appear on any list I saw or heard.

It was only later, when the finer details were thrashed out, it was confirmed that places of worship would indeed close (except for funeral services with restricted numbers).

We may be experiencing a second wave of the virus but the "second coming" should not be simply a doctrine to which we officially subscribe (mentioning it in the creeds); it should be a defining reality that impacts our faith and lives. The gospel writer Mark relies on metaphor, imaginative imagery, and paradox to get his message across.

Modern Christians often think, "The time of Jesus’ return is unknown, it could be hundred, or thousands, or millions of years from now," yet Mark draws a very different conclusion: since the timing is unknown, it could be today! Maybe this evening, or at midnight, or when dawn breaks.

But does anyone actually think that way? Does anyone go through every day, wondering at morning, noon, and night if now is the time that someone long gone might return?

Yes. People who are in love do that. And that may provide the best context for assessing the intended impact of Mark's passage for Sunday. Elsewhere, Mark's Gospel likens the time of awaiting Jesus' parousia to the phenomenon of a newlywed waiting for the return of a "bridegroom" who has been inexplicably "taken away" (Mark 2:20).

For many, life in this world is actually not very pleasant. But even those fortunate enough to have a life filled with joy and blessing should not be satisfied to the point of complacency. There is more! There is better!

The season of Advent invites us to wait impatiently for the consummation of hope, longing to know God as fully as we have been known; to see no longer through a dark pane, but face to face; to love as we have been loved; to experience Jesus Christ as he is, and in so doing, to become like him (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2).

Time to Reflect

by Judith Lincoln

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” So says Isaiah in our Old Testament reading. I wonder how many of us, with what 2020 has thrown at us, would want to say something similar to God, perhaps putting it as “Come on God, get this sorted!” Coronavirus has gone on quite long enough now, many of us are weary, down, fed up.

Isaiah and his people longed to see the coming of God, but were also scared. They feared that the trauma of exile had happened through their own fault- what would God do to them? They go backwards and forwards between hope and fear. In our Gospel reading, we again get a mixed message. “The Son of Man” will return in glory, His followers will share in that glory…but not before some very difficult times. Mark’s readers are also warned to be ready, not to be “caught out” by the coming of the “Son of Man”.

I wonder if today, we also feel a mixture of hope and fear. We want an end to the virus, and the pain, deprivation, sadness and loss it’s brought. We long for a better world, a safer and more peaceful world, for Creation to be healed and restored. Yet we know that living in the way that will build such a world- in God’s way- could be costly. It might mean, for instance, living more simply, or reaching out in love to those whom we don’t like, or don’t like us. We may also struggle to see where God is at work in our world, or in difficult things that are happening to us personally.

Both Isaiah and Mark, in their different ways, say “Wait- and see.” “Wait and see signs of God’s coming, at the end but also every day. Be ready for signs of the Kingdom, for God’s promptings to work for that Kingdom. Know that you are loved, and show that love to others”. This Advent, may we, through whatever we are facing, wait in hope and love. Amen.

Take a time to sit quietly.

During this season the Methodist Church is proclaiming “God is with us”. God is with us is more than a statement. It’s a reminder that God is always with us. We are encouraged to share our story (and other people's stories) of walking with God in this extraordinary year. How might you share how God has been with you this week? Find out more at the Methodist Church Website.

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer

A time of prayer

Loving God, who comes in Jesus,
We bring to you all who wait for you,
in hope and faith, or in fear and despair.

We pray for all who wait for peace, for justice, for their voices to be heard.

We pray for all who live in fear, of war, violence, abuse or bullying.

We pray that our Churches may wait on your guidance, so we may serve you faithfully.

We pray for all who wait for test results, news about their jobs, news of loved ones, or for the coming of a child.

We pray for all who are ill, all who are close to death, and all who watch and wait with them.

May we watch and wait with them, be people of peace and justice, and bring hope, comfort and healing, light in the darkness.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father ……

Hymn: Into the darkness of this world (Singing the Faith 173)

Sing / read / pray / proclaim the words or listen to a performance of 'Into the darkness of this world’ , or sing a verse of a hymn that comes to your mind.

Into the darkness of this world,
into the shadows of the night;
into this loveless place you came,
lightened our burdens, eased our pain,
and made these hearts your home.
Into the darkness once again --
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

Come with your love
to make us whole,
come with your light to lead us on,
driving the darkness far from our souls:
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

Into the longing of our souls,
into these heavy hearts of stone,
shine on us now your piercing light,
order our lives and souls aright,
by grace and love unknown,
until in you our hearts unite –
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

Come with your love
to make us whole,
come with your light to lead us on,
driving the darkness far from our souls:
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

O Holy Child, Emmanuel,
hope of the ages, God with us,
visit again this broken place,
till all the earth declares your praise
and your great mercies own.
Now let your love be born in us,
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

Come in your glory,
take your place,
Jesus, the Name above all names,
we long to see you face to face,
O come, Lord Jesus, come.

God The Creator mosaic by Hildreth Meiere in St Bartholemew's, New York City

A prayer of blessing

God of hope, the Dawn from on high, break upon us, and fill us with light and hope.
Send us out to be light and hope wherever we are.
Amen