-Rev Barbara Allen
TIS 265: O come O come, Emmanuel
TIS 286: Light one candle for hope
TIS 272: Come, thou long expected Jesus
TIS 302: The angel Gabriel
TIS 229: Jesus loves me, this I know
TIS 279: The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices
TIS 276: There’s a light upon the mountains
TIS 283: Long ago, prophets knew
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession
This is the season of His coming;
it is time to wake from sleep.
His coming is the advent of saving love.
His coming is good news for all.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
God of presence and power,
in the face of strange happenings on earth,
of amazing changes in science and technology, of probings into outer space, and into the inner landscape of our mind and body,
we acknowledge your ongoing advent in all things.
You are the one who pushes back the boundaries, who enables us to ‘discover’ new things.
You are the one who comes to us in Jesus the Christ,
revealing the true nature of your love.
We praise you, and worship you.
O God, you bid us watch for signs of your reign.
Open our eyes to behold your presence in all parts of our lives.
Keep us from putting you on the fringe, from turning to you only when we are in need.
Remind us that you accompany us throughout our lives.
You tell us, through Christ, to be ready, since we know not when the hour will come.
Keep us from putting off this vital work, make us willing to break out of the comfortable, into the work that you want us to do.
Help us to be prepared for your appearance, help us to prepare the way.
Evidence of your creativity is all around us, yet there have been times when we have thought you absent, or limited.
At times we allow society’s cynicism to cloud our vision.
Scripture tells of your awesome power that shakes the hills and seas, and confuses people, but at times our praise is too restrained, our prayers too tentative, or lukewarm, our deeds of mercy too few.
As we listen to messages about preparing for Christmas by purchasing certain items, or spending big on rich food, forgive us for following the ways and voice of the world, rather than your way.
Remind us about the spirit of Christmas, rekindle our love for the greatest gift of all.
Forgive us when we do not give you top priority, when we forget that we are under your reign, that you are our King.
And in a time of silence we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness
God is love.
Through Christ our sins are forgiven.
(thanks be to God)
Take hold of this forgiveness and live your life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 64: 1-9
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
Mark 13: 25-37
Advent: the beginning of the Christian New Year.
It’s our New Year’s Day today
(and aren’t we relieved!)
It’s nice to be able to make New Year resolutions ahead of the general community
It’s not often we’re one month ahead for things, is it?
Advent: 4 weeks until Christmas.
Advent means ‘coming’, from the Latin ‘Adventus’
Advent reminds us of Christ’s coming at Christmas, as well as his final coming, the Second Coming of Christ at the Last Day (for which we have to be on guard) and to remind us that Christ is also in the present, in each of our lives: our personal relationship with Jesus.
Christ’s coming in the past, in the present, and in the future.
Beginning Advent with apocalyptic words encourages us not to get stuck in history, in a manger, with a baby.
We are to be alert, for the coming of Christ.
It is our season to prepare, reflect, and acknowledge our gift of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus.
It is a time of waiting.
It is a time of reflection.
So Advent is both a joyous time, preparing for Christmas, and also a solemn time, when we consider the Last Things, Christ’s second coming.
Society bombards us with the commercialism of Christmas.
We need to resist, to try to hold on to our church calendar.
Remember: we do not conform to the world, we do not have to be told how to live our lives by the large retailers.
Listen to our Lord, hold fast to your faith and your religious traditions.
We are more than the sum total of our material possessions.
Advent is about preparation, but preparation always done in the light of Christ.
We often miss the penitential aspect of Advent. But it is there.
Purple is the colour of this season-a colour of penance. A colour also used during the penitential season of Lent.
This side of Advent tends to get pushed aside as we prepare for Christmas.
Let’s not forget the two parts of Advent, for this season reminds us that Christ’s coming did not end on Christmas Day.
We, as the church, proclaim it, celebrate it, and live in hope.
We are a people of hope, a people living in expectation.
If we were able to worship in the church building today, we would have had an Advent wreath, and we would have lit the first candle, the candle of hope.
Today’s Gospel reading from Mark addresses the theme of hope. He speaks of the Son of Man
v 26: ‘Then they will see the Son of Man coming in cloud with great power and glory.’
In the midst of this reading, two main principles stand out.
First, the Christian is to avoid unhealthy interest as to the actual date of Christ’s second coming.
vs 32: ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’
If we calculate the date when our Lord will return, we will be wrong. Does this matter? A warning follows:
‘v. 33: ‘Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come.’
‘Beware, keep alert…’
Being uncertain as to the date of Christ’s return, means we are to be watchful, ever ready. Out of the uncertainty comes a moral goal- to grow in holiness. We are to be ready, active. In the parable that follows the warning, we hear about the doorkeeper. The watchfulness of the doorkeeper is the main point of the parable; he must stay awake and on duty, as must we.
v. 37: ‘And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
This command had an effect on the Early Church. The Greek word ‘gregoreite’ which means ‘be wakeful’ led to the name Gregory being chosen as a popular Christian name.
Keep alert, keep awake.
One person who was alert, watchful, was St Lucia, or St Lucy. In Sweden, the Christmas season is opened by St Lucia’s Day, on December 13th. It is a festival of lights and candles. St Lucia was a young girl who died for her Christian beliefs in the 4th century. Every night she took food out to Christians who were hiding in caves, escaping persecution. To keep her hands free to carry food, she fashioned a crown of candles, to give her light. Sadly, one day she was caught by some soldiers, and killed. To commemorate her good deeds, Sweden has a ritual. Early on St Lucia Day, the youngest girl in the family puts on a long white dress with a red sash. On her head is a crown of seven candles, and she carries a tray of coffee, Lucia buns and ginger biscuits to each bedroom singing the Saint Lucia song. One of the verses contains these words:
‘Hope glimmers through the gloom;
New life is stirring
In every silent room
Soft as wings whirring.’
Keep alert, watchful. Stand up for your faith, whatever the cost.
Sounds nice, but this is the real world. It’s fine for saints like Lucia, but surely we don’t measure up. We’re just ordinary people
In today’s reading from Isaiah:
v.8: ‘Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.’
Take heart, have confidence. We are God’s creation. Indeed, we are the works of a great potter, a magnificent artist: the Creator.
God is more than the potter, more than the person who is fashioning us; God creates the raw material first, then moulds us. God is part of every activity in our lives. God knows what we are capable of doing and being and becoming. We can’t all be like St Lucia, but we can be us.
We have been given gifts, all of us: discern them and use them.
Before Rabbi Zusia died, he said: ‘When I shall face the celestial tribunal, I shall not be asked why I was not Abraham, Jacob or Moses. I shall be asked why I was not Zusia.’
Be yourselves; God has made each of us unique and special. We are not asked to be another St Lucia, but we are to use our gifts.
We may not see out work in this lifetime, but we plant the seeds of hope in others; we may not live to see the tree-BUT it is God’s work, in God’s time.
Trust our potter, our creator.
Trust and use your God-given gifts.
These are some of the things we should be considering during Advent. What are my gifts? How can I use them? What sort of work is God preparing me for? Am I ready, alert, watchful?
Am I reflecting on the comings of Jesus past, present, and future?
Is Jesus part of my life now, influencing my decisions and actions?
Alert, watchful, gifted. Moulded by the Creator.
Advent: a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ in the past, when we celebrate Christmas, and when we wait and watch for the second coming, but also now, in the present. We must ensure that Jesus is alive and active in our everyday lives. This means making Christ our priority. The matters of everyday can so easily take over, grabbing our spiritual time, our time for devotion, reflection, Bible reading.
If we do not spend time with God, how can we know and love God?
How can we feel that we are truly and deeply loved and cherished by God?
I wish to conclude with a story, a legend, which speaks about our priorities-getting them right. It is a story about being watchful, alert, but then letting the daily tasks take over.
It is a warning.
Baboushka (or Babushka) (‘grandmother’ in Russian) was an old woman, very house proud, who always welcomed travellers passing by her cottage. One winter morning, three richly dressed men asked for food and shelter. She fed them and let them sleep there during the day. When they awoke, Baboushka asked why they travelled at night. “We are three kings from the East, following a star.” they answered. “It is pointing the way to the Christ child.”
They asked Baboushka to accompany them to Bethlehem. She said no, as she had to finish her housework. But the next day, about to set off, she wondered about taking a toy to the new baby. Her child had died young, but she had kept his toys, so she spent the next few days cleaning and repairing them. Eventually Baboushka set off. It took her months to reach Bethlehem, and when she did finally arrive, only the animals were in the stable. When Baboushka saw the empty manger, she realized that Jesus was the most important thing in the world to her, and she is too late. It is said that she is still looking for the Christ child. Year after year she goes from house to house calling : “Is he here? Is the Christ-child here?” She is still searching, still calling, leaving presents in case it is the right place.
(and yes-housework CAN ALWAYS WAIT to be done!)
Be alert, watchful, gifted and ready.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Prayers of the People
Jesus Christ, Son of God, you are the hope and light of the world.
You came promising justice, equality and salvation.
Hear us as we bring before you those who need your blessing today.
We pray for all who are mistreated because of the colour of their skin, or their religion, or race, those who are looked down on because of their supposed lack of intelligence. We pray for those who are stigmatised because they are perceived as different.
O Christ, you see the value of every living being: teach us to value and love one another.
We pray for world leaders.
Give them hearts of compassion, minds of wisdom, and help them to speak words of peace.
We pray for our own country.
For those doing it tough on the land.
For those still recovering from the bushfires, nearly a year on.
For those who are ill, lonely, weighed down by worries, anxious about the future, for those suffering from mental illness, and for those dying.
We pray for our church community, for those who are ill, those who are frail, and for those who are apart from their families.
We pray for Leighmoor Uniting Church, and pray for their new minister Rev Heeyoung Kim. Bless her, equip her for her new ministry, and grant that the church congregation and Heeyoung support, delight in, and love one another.
May they be a true and strong church family.
And in a time of silence, we remember other issues which need our prayers.
Loving Lord, as we begin Advent, keeping watch for you, getting ready to celebrate your birthday at Christmas time, and delighting in your presence with us day by day, we join in the prayer you taught us:
May the blessing of the God of hope, who is with us on our Advent journey to the stable and beyond,
the blessing of Christ, our Loving Servant King, who came into this world as a vulnerable baby,
and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, who keeps our souls and feet on the right path,
help us to keep watch, in joyful anticipation, now and always.