3rd DECEMBER 2023
SENTENCE FROM SCRIPTURE
Show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son
who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Stir up your power, Lord and come
that with you as our protector,
we may be rescued from our sins;
and with you as our deliverer,
we may be set free;
for you who live and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
Isaiah 64: 1-9
read Simon Lidwell
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 forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:3-9
read by Andrew Ratnam
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
read by Rev Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark chapter 13 beginning at verse 24
Glory to Christ our Saviour
The Coming of the Son of Man
“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.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
“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.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
“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.”
I recently viewed again the movie Mrs. Brown, which looks at the life of Queen Victoria after the demise of her husband Albert. Queen Victoria is sunk in a deep depression after his passing, and she is unwilling to do anything. It’s at this point that her advisers come up with an idea. They send for her pony to be brought to Balmoral, accompanied by a handsome Scot named John Brown. She is not interested in being cheered up and is infuriated when she looks out in the royal courtyard to see John Brown standing at attention beside her saddled pony. Day after day she refuses to go down. Day after day he returns. Finally, she sends someone to tell him that she is not now and may never be interested in riding. John Brown is unmoved. “When her majesty does wish to ride,” he says, “I shall be ready.” John Brown shows the attitude Jesus wants from us in our faith life. “When His Majesty, does come, I shall be ready”?
Being ready… is so important. Sir Ernest Shackleton could testify to the importance of being ready. While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!” They replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘He may come today’ He may come today! The explorers never waned in anticipation and hope.
Christ may come today. He may come today, and we must not waver in our anticipation, expectation, and hope. Anticipation, expectation, and hope are advent themes. These advent themes of anticipation, expectation and hope are very much needed at this time of year but are often so lost in this preparatory time of year, leading up to the season of celebration. For so many the countdown to Christmas has truly begun and Christmas purchasing is well underway. Jewellery commercials are dominating the airways. People are passing carol singers as they go in and out of the shopping centres looking for just the right gift. It’s Christmas! This is the time of year when we celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, the happiest season of all.
Yet Christmas is not all tinsel and joy, for it is also the time of shadows, deep and dark shadows. The sun is becoming increasingly short-lived in our sky. It is the season of the year when light is scarce and shadows and darkness reign. It is a time when depression intensifies, and people are more prone to suicidal tendencies. So how important are those advent themes of anticipation, expectation, and hope whilst we live in the shadows!
Shadows- are part of life’s experience. We see these shadows in our lives. We recognize their presence in the lives around us. Our screens are filled with images of people living in the shadows. A husband, and a wife whisper, “I love you, and say to each other good-bye,” as the husband’s life ebbs away and the wife dreads his departure. Shadows, shadows laden with sorrow!
We see this in the economic world, where businesses are struggling to stay financially solvent, and the lay-off notices go out. Thousands of jobs lost. An entire community like Scunthorpe could be devastated. Families struggle to survive. Financial pressures mount; there are bills to pay, food to put on the table. Then Christmas is coming, and we need presents for the kids. Shadows, heavy, hard shadows!
Seemingly a study found that Dumfries and Galloway is one of the worst regions in Scotland for people struggling to afford to heat their homes. In a recent report, it is estimated that 26 percent of children in the region experience the harsh realities of poverty- that’s roughly 6,751 children. Shadows, worrying, stress-filled shadows!
Shadows, gathering shadows continue with wars in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia. The images on our screens speak of untold horror and suffering. Woeful, painful shadows
Then there are the multitudes caught up in a lifestyle of living in dependency upon the latest pill they can swallow, or the alcohol they can consume, or pictures they can lust over, or the pain they can cut into their dulled senses. Anything to create a buzz, to give relief so they can make it through to the next day! Shadows, oppressive shadows!
Deep shadows or distress are not new they were around in Jesus’ time, and he draws attention to them but that’s not all there is, for Jesus speaks of a reality greater than the shadows, a reality that chases the shadows with glory. This is good stuff! “This is the exciting anticipatory news we long for.
The Son of Man will come in the 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 the heavens” The reality of Jesus’ coming is greater than the reality of shadows. Jesus’ coming dispels the shadows with the glory of God. Here is what we must catch. Jesus shares this with His disciples because that is not only a truth for the end of time, but it is a truth for the times in which we live.
It is the reality of a Saviour who comes to us, who came to us as a babe in a manger in Bethlehem, who comes to us in the shadows, day after day in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and who is coming again.
No matter how deep the shadows get, no matter how dark it may seem-the sun may be blotted out, the moon may no longer shine, all the stars may fall, there may be no light-but no matter how bad it gets, there is a greater reality than the shadows. It is the reality of a coming Saviour.
When we are living in the shadows, we can have hope because there is one who has come, is coming even now, and will come again. There is one who can speak into the shadows and bring peace and calmness. When we are struggling and feel captive to things we can’t escape, we have hope because we understand there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again, one who sets the prisoners free. When we feel like we are dominated by disease and sickness, we have hope because we know there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again; one who is the divine healer who makes us whole; one who calls himself the resurrection and the life.
When we are torn and broken by sin, when we can’t escape our guilt, and feel the sting of shame, when the past dominates us, take heart for we have hope because there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again; take heart for there is one who forgives us, redeems us, and offers us salvation; there is one who rescues us from whatever we need to be rescued. Jesus wants us to understand this truth as a truth that applies to the end time but also in the here and now-the Son of Man is coming and will come again.
This coming again is certain, but we don’t know the hour, for it is every hour. But Jesus tells us the attitude we are to have as we live in the shadows. We are to watch, be on guard, and be alert. We are to be ready. King Charles was on a visit to the Midlands and dropped into a workingman’s home. Next day the man told his friends, sadly, “I never expected him, nor did my wife. The house was untidy, and I hadn’t washed. We shall never forgive ourselves. If we had known he was coming, we should have been ready for him.”
If we had known, we would have been ready. They were unprepared. Todays’ reading warns us against being unprepared -we are to be awake and alert and watching!
The parable about servants left in charge of the household and left to watch the door for the master to come indicates that to watch is not to be found asleep at the post of service when the master comes. It implies an attitude of obedience, of commitment to the will of the Master. Jesus has come, is coming, and will come again, and we watch in hope and confidence for all the ways Jesus invades our lives by giving ourselves in obedience and stewardship to the task of a servant in His household. It is about using our gifts here and now for his glory, whilst we wait on his coming.
As we wait on his coming, we are to watch in hope, expectation, and with an attitude of joy. For the Lord’s coming isn’t meant to be one of dread, but one of good news; it is a declaration of hope in the shadows. Jesus, the eternal light has come, is coming, and will come again; and wherever Jesus is present the shadows lose their power, and light and hope are found. May this Advent encourage us to watch for Jesus’ coming- to see him in the shadows of life offering us light and hope in the present and in the future. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us pray to the God to the God of all time and space,
in whose love we exist
and by whose love we are saved.
As we prepare ourselves
for the time when Christ comes again in glory,
awake in us a grace and honesty
to see what needs transforming
in our lives as individuals
and as members of the Church of God.
O come Lord Jesus
let us walk in your light.
Be with all the leaders of the nations
in their onerous and difficult task of governing.
Awake in them a desire and determination
to emulate your ways of justice and righteousness,
and may they be filled with the longing
to help the vulnerable, poor and needy.
O come Lord Jesus
let us walk in your light.
Be with all the families on earth,
awake in them the significance and priority of love,
and help them to care considerately for one another.
Where there is disharmony, bring peace.
Where there is fear, bring calm.
Where there are misunderstandings, bring reconciliation and healing.
Where there is darkness, bring hope.
O come Lord Jesus
let us walk in your light.
Be with all who are suffering at this time,
from illness, bereavement or injury.
Draw near and enfold them in your love,
and grant them your wisdom, strength and light
to persevere and to receive your healing touch.
O come Lord Jesus
let us walk in your light.
Be with all who find this time of year hard,
for it is a poignant reminder of their emptiness and aloneness.
Remind that that you are Emmanuel, God with us
and that you are ever present help and refuge.
O come Lord Jesus
let us walk in your light.
Come Lord, your wounded world is yearning
for you to come again.
Come Lord, your weary world is crying out
for you to lift us up
out of our despair, our hunger,
our thirst for something better,
our need for the food that will last.
Come Lord, come again,
we need to begin again
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen