Act of Worship for Sunday 5th December 2021 - The second 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.

Call to worship

Now is the time to get ready:
Let us prepare the way of the Lord!

Now is the time to be changed:
Let us repent and seek forgiveness.

Now is the time to welcome God into our midst:
Let us worship God in humble expectation.

Statue of Our Lady beside an advent wreath, with 2 lit candles, and the word Peace written above it

Hymn: Come, thou long-expected Jesus (Singing the Faith 169)

Sing / read / pray / proclaim the words or listen to a performance of "Come, thou long-expected Jesus" , or sing a verse of a hymn that comes to mind.

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.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art,
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

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

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Let us pray together

Lord Jesus, Light of the World,
the prophets said you would bring peace
and save your people from trouble.
Give peace in our hearts in this advent season.
We ask that as we wait for you to come again,
you would remain present with us.
Help us today, and every day to worship you,
to hear your word,
and to do your will
by sharing your peace with each other.
We ask it in the name that is above all names,
the name of Jesus Christ
who is the reason for the season.


We have sinned against you;
we have done evil in your sight.
We are sorry and repent.
Have mercy on us according to your love.
Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.
Renew a right spirit within us
and restore us to the joy of your salvation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

Orthodox style icon of Christ the King

Today’s Reading from the Old Testament

Malachi 3: 1-4

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.

Today’s Gospel Reading

Luke 3: 1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar — when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene — during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’

Stained glass of the Holy Trinity symbol

Time to Reflect

by Reverend John Morton

Time flies over.

According to the chocolate Advent calendar I bought yesterday, there are only three days till Christmas!

Sunday’s reflection is all about preparation and the figure of John the Baptist is key here. He says that the rough places are to be made smooth. In reality Jesus is able to come to us over the rough patches of life. They cannot and do not keep him away. And we should give thanks for this because if Jesus only came to us when the way was smooth, some of us might never have got to know him, or to know the strength and comfort which his coming brings.

But that’s no excuse for our failing to keep the road in good repair. These days, if we were thinking about rough places in a road, we would probably think about potholes. Some potholes are formed as a result of storms and we are not responsible for their appearance - though we may be responsible for their repair. And some potholes are simply the result of neglect.

Recently, I visited someone in Willows Care Home, Midgeland Road. I (naively) thought it might be within walking distance from where I live, but decided to drive in any case. I was surprised, therefore, that after logging in the destination on my satellite navigate system (recently updated) it would take me 10 minutes to arrive there. The route directed me along Kitty Lane .. and to say part of that particular road is in need of repair is putting it mildly!

In preparing a way for the Lord, we need to be sure that we do not fail to keep in good repair those paths by which He comes to us.

At this time of year, we can prepare for the coming of Christmas and assume that by doing so, we have prepared for the coming of Christ. We can go to services about Jesus without offering Jesus our service. We can sing carols without thinking for one moment about the meaning of what we are singing. We can send out our messages of goodwill on numerous Christmas cards without actually sending out any real goodwill into the community. We can give presents to each other without actually presenting Jesus with anything. We can enjoy each other's company without ever being conscious of his.

The fulfilment of Christ’s return is yet to come, but we are called to celebrate his love now, taste his joy now, seek his mercy now and offer our service now. Trust in the future, yes; anticipate it, certainly; prepare for it, without question; but let us do so by focusing on the response we make in the present – and leave the rest to him.

Upper panels of the Ghent Altarpiece, by Van Eyck showing enthroned figures, each with a halo. They are the Virgin Mary to the left, John the Baptist to the right, and Christ in the centre.

Time to Reflect

by Peggy Kabonde

Today, as we step into this second Sunday of Advent, we are invited even more to prepare our hearts and minds for yet another Christ-mas, another coming of the Christ-child. And I have rarely met anyone who does not in some way want to be in on the expectant, hopeful feeling of this season. All around us, in the coming weeks, and certainly when Christians gather to worship and pray, people will be given the opportunity to celebrate the Holy birth of “God with us.” This is the business of preparation, or as our Gospel lesson puts it, it is a time of "Making Straight the Way." A time of great preparation. With Xmas with us, decorations will be everywhere, This is all preparation.

Today's Gospel lesson reveals the work of the ultimate preparer. John the Baptist, whose ministry, some scholars tell us, lasted only about a few months. John comes to us and tells us to prepare the way. But for thirty years, John's life had been leading up to this short period of ninety days during which he would build a path for the Saviour of the world.

The Scripture tells us that the forerunner John the Baptist did this to call on his hearers for “repentance.” He modeled that in his own life by saying he was not even worthy to carry the sandals of the One Who was to come. John knew, despite some rather incredible popularity in his own right, that for God to work in his life and to continue His work on earth, the Baptizer had to step aside and allow Christ to begin for another preparation, the preparation for His kingdom.

If we are really to be part of the Advent season, I think we have to turn to John as a model. How do we "make the path straight" for the return of our Lord and in our day to day lives? Certainly there are many things, but let me briefly point to two:

The first is that we must utterly and wholeheartedly offer our lives to God in Christ. John the Baptist said that he must decrease so that Christ might increase. We are to do the same. We are consciously to offer ourselves to a deepening commitment and have a personal relationship to Jesus if we are to truly be children of the Light named Christ.

The second is that as John set his life on a path of making straight the way for others, we are called to do the same. Jesus tells us time and time again, that the greatest of all commandments...of all laws, is the law of love the law of concern for those around us. We, you and I, have an obligation to all those around us to take the skills, talents, gifts and resources we have and make straight the path for others to reach the Kingdom, by pointing the way as did John to Jesus.

This is crucial that each of us give of ourselves beyond joining in worship week after week. Not just by our prayers and words. We are called to - in all things - word and deed, prayer and action, by what we say and do, share the Christ story and thereby draw others into our journey to the end of the path.

As Advent continues, let us turn from those things, those paths that are not of God, open our hearts and our souls and say with all that we are, “Emmanuel, God with us." Amen.

Amen.

Take time to sit quietly.

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer

A time of prayer

We pray...

For those lost in the desert.
May they find the straight path.

For those down trodden.
May they be lifted up.

For those in dry places.
May they find you as the living water.

For those heart broken.
May they find peace in Jesus.

For those seeking healing.
May they be healed.

For those seeking consolation.
May they be comforted.

For those waiting to be heard.
May they find justice in you.

For those waiting for transformation.
May there be sprouts of change.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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 trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power and the glory
For ever and ever
Amen.

stained glass window of the resurrection in St George's Cathedral, Southwark

Hymn: The prophets’ voice comes down the years (Singing the Faith 162)

Sing / read / pray / proclaim the words or listen to a performance of 'The prophets’ voice comes down the years’, or sing a verse of a hymn that comes to your mind.

The prophets' voice comes down the years
to teach and to inspire,
to show the nature of our God
in words and deeds of fire;
not to disclose some rigid plan
that God has set in stone,
but to renew the promises
the saints have always known.

The prophets' voice speaks of the past --
the actions that reveal
the way God used the people then
this broken world to heal;
and then translates the things gone by
in ways that we find new
so we can judge the world we know
by standards ever true.

The prophets' voice holds up a glass
in which to see our day;
events which span the globe around
and things we do and say.
It calls us to repent and turn
from things that tear life down,
to choose the path that Jesus chose
and share his work and crown.

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

A prayer of blessing

And now may the blessing of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be with us
and all we love
now, tomorrow and the days to come.
Amen.