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Sunday 5th December 2021

Welcome & Intimations:
Welcome to our service for this second Sunday in Advent. As Advent is a time not only of thinking back to the birth of Jesus, but a time of looking forward to his return, we will be thinking today about what that second coming means.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 134)
Praise the Lord all you servants of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

HYMN 162 The God of Abraham praise

(from Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California)


Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God.Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. (Baruch 5: 1-3)

Let us pray.

Living God, in our worship,
we seek to be ready to meet with You.
We prepare ourselves;
we still ourselves;
we organise ourselves;
we get ourselves in the right frame of mind.
And now we come to You in prayer.

We come with thanksgiving,
for the beauty of this day,
for the wonder of life,
for the fellowship of this place,
for the freedom to meet and worship,
and for the Gospel message of this Advent Season.
So we rejoice, with the universal Church,
as we journey through Advent in worship and in faith.
Make us ready for the coming of our Lord.

But are we ready yet?
Are we really prepared to meet You here?
Are we properly ready for the wonder of the Incarnation?

We look at how we are and who we are, and we wonder how we will look to You.
We still wear our garments of sorrow and affliction.
For life may have been tough for us this week,
and the burdens we carry might be hard to bear.

We’re still dressed in the garments of failures, promises made and promises broken,
acts of kindness missed and acts of sinfulness offered.
We are still clothed in unrighteousness.
And we are ashamed.

We’re still dressed in the garments of doubt and uncertainty.
We are not perfect.
We have so many questions.
But mostly, we hide them under our coats of respectability,
our jackets of strength,
our coverings of faithfulness,
our public image of certainty,
while underneath we are shabby and grey.

Are we ready? Are we prepared for You to look on such as us?

But just when we want to turn away in our shame,
Your message comes to us again. “Put on the beauty of the glory from God”,
for you deserve my love, dear children.

“Put on the robe of the righteousness”,
and don’t be fearful of my wrath, for this is the message that comes from God.

“Put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting,”
for you need no longer be ashamed.

Ready? Yes, we can be ready, not through our own purposes,
but by offering ourselves to God;
not through our own efforts,
but by believing that our “God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven”,
even for the likes of each one of us.

So now we can be prepared.
Now we know You can look on us and smile.
Now we can recognise again that You and Your people are one.

Merciful God,
You sent Your messengers the prophets to preach repentance
and prepare the way for our salvation:
give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Here us, we pray, as we come to you in the words Jesus taught, saying:

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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.


Malachi 3: 1-4
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Luke 3: 1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler 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 region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:“Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight.Every valley shall be filled,and every mountain and hill shall be made low,and the crooked shall be made straight,and the rough ways made smooth;and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’

HYMN 474 Hail to the Lord’s Anointed

(from the Chet Valley Churches)


What images come to mind when you think of the Christmas season? Do you think of nativity scenes that decorate our homes or churches? Do you think of the evergreen tree, with all its decorations? Do you think of the hectic nature of shopping as the big day gets closer? I wonder, too, how the season makes us feel. Excitement? Joy? Perhaps you look forward to the sense of fun and the catching up of family and friends. I wonder, though, how many of us approach Christmas with a sense of fear or dread!

Many in our city, indeed our land, will approach Christmas with no real sense of joy. For those with children to provide for it may be worse for them than for others. The apparent need to provide the latest gadgets or toys, and to spend beyond our means so as not to make our children feel embarrassed, or so that we may ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ will drive many into unmanageable debt. If you think I am exaggerating a little, then reflect upon this fact: one in four children in Scotland, today, live in poverty!

If we turn to the days of the early church, or even to the hopes and aspirations of the people of God in the time leading up to the coming of Jesus we will find a very different set of thoughts and feelings in place. The people were expecting a Messiah, someone anointed of God to come and set the people free; he would lead them not only out of captivity in a human sense, bit also out of whatever it was that was holding people back from encountering God. The Messiah would be a liberator. However, this liberator would also be a revolutionary of sorts! He would bring judgement to bear upon the people as he prepared them for the coming ‘Day of the Lord’. This would be a day of rejoicing, that much is true, but it would lead to much soul searching and heartache as well. Look at the language we heard read earlier; it speaks of refining, and fire, and purification. It asks who can stand, who may endure that day. Those are not images that conjure up the idea of an inoffensive crib scene or Christmas party; rather these are scenes of terror and dread.

It is into moods such as these that Jesus was born. Our Gospel reading skips ahead to the time when Jesus was about to begin his ministry, but the mood is just the same, the images remain. John the Baptizer comes proclaiming the coming of the Lord. He comes, calling the people to judgement yet calling them also to repent, to turn back to God and know His mercy. He prepares the way for the coming of Jesus. Yet note, there remains no sign of this ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, the strange infant who ‘no crying he makes’. It is this Jesus that John is calling us to watch out for, and to follow. It is this Jesus that would be horrified at the way we spend Christmas while so many of our neighbours are lacking the basic things of life. If we stand back and do nothing then we, too, will know the judgement of the ‘Day of the Lord.

So what are we to do? What may we do? We may begin by turning and focussing on what it is that is meant by the kingdom, and of what sort of people who may populate it. The kingdom is the rule of God, and it is eternal. It is not bound by politics, or geography, or history. It predates these things and will be long after they are gone. It is a kingdom whose population will be defined by their righteousness, not their ethnicity, or theology, nor having right beliefs. The righteous citizens of that kingdom are those who do works of justice, for that is what righteousness means. We can use our voice to bring justice to bear. With one in four of our children in poverty we can resource the various agencies who work with such as these. We can vote and argue and petition to change the structures that imprison them. With a new variant of COVID circulating around the world we can demand to know why the wealthy west allows the poorer south to go without sufficient vaccines to give them a fighting chance to beat the pandemic. Perhaps this pandemic will remind us that we are all one, for it is not fussy who it infects or whom it kills. Wouldn’t it be a most wonderful Christmas if we even made a start on such things?

The kingdom began in eternity and will end in it. On the way prophets came and went. So too did monarchs and dictators, kingdoms and empires. Into this kingdom Christ was born. This was not to save the spiritually elite nor the theologically correct but to bring justice. This justice demands a reorientation of the heart and mind, to think beyond the self and self-interest. It is to see God in the eyes of the other. This is what Christmas enables us to do, but only if we see beyond the trappings and the jolliness. Christmas enables us to transform the world, to bring in the kingdom of God. So what are we waiting for … let’s prepare.

HYMN 472 Come, thou long expected Jesus

(from Songs of Praise, St. John’s College Choir, Cambridge)


Let us pray.

Let us pray that God will transform us,
that this world would become more just.

We pray that the Church would be empowered
to raise our voices like those of the prophets
that we may proclaim the way of salvation.
Fill your people with your spirit that we may fulfil our callings.

We pray that the rulers of this world would live in humility,
that they may discern the truth
and that their power may be exercised for the good of all.
Make straight the crooked ways of the world.

We pray that we may be reborn this Advent.
May we hear the call to repent of our selfishness
and turn to your path of redemption.
Lead us into the paths of peace.

We pray for the sick and the injured,
for those who ache in body or in mind.
We pray for the grieving and the struggling,
may the whole world know your healing.

We give thanks for the great saints
of this and every age
who walked the paths of justice
yet gave glory to you alone.

May our prayers be acceptable in your sight,
our Lord and our God.

HYMN 290 The race that long in darkness pined

(from Grimsby Minster)


May the Blessing of God who made us,
Christ who redeems us,
and the Spirit who renews us,
rest upon us all
through today,
through Advent,
and the time to come.

Sung Amen:

Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission.

Opening prayer by Rev. Tom Gordon. Taken from Church of Scotland, Weekly Worship.

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Sunday 28th November 2021


Call to worship (based upon Psalm 25)
Make us to know your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.
Lead us in your truth, and teach us,
for you are the God of our salvation;
for you we wait all day long.

HYMN 273 O come, O come, Emmanuel

Prayer c/w Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray:

God of all light, Creator,
Light of the World
we approach You
with joy in community,
with gratitude for love,
and with prayerful stillness
revealing the love and light
at the heart of all creation.

Loving God we are in awe and give grateful thanks
for all the good things in life.
We know we don’t always get things right.
When we lose focus and direction,
set us back on the right path of love.
When we feel cross, and bitter words leave our lips,
remind us of the abundance of your love
When we feel overwhelmed by daily tasks,
show us the power of stillness;
empower us with inner, quiet strength.
When we turn from you,
turn us gently back so that our focus is on you, on love, on light,
on the goodness at the heart of all creation.

These prayers we bring,
in the blessed name of Jesus
in whose words we now pray together, saying:

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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.


Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.

Luke 21:25-36
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

HYMN 284 Hope is a candle

(from Hobkirk and Southdean with Ruberslaw Churches)


Today we enter the season of Advent. It’s the time when we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ. As we have thought before it is a time of looking back to his first coming, in the birth at Bethlehem, and forward to his second coming when he will return as Lord of all. In our half of the world it is also a time of darkness for we are approaching the shortest and darkest days of the year. Perhaps that is why light features so prominently in our thinking and practice. We illuminate buildings, trees, homes, and sometimes even gardens with a myriad of lights. Sometimes it’s tacky, but other times it is something dazzling and wonderful. As Christians we are not alone in this focus on light, as other faith communities do so too. These lights, though, are not just to help us see, or to provide warmth, but to drive off the metaphorical darkness around us too.

The prophet Jeremiah looked around him and, seeing the darkness that had come over the land and the people, looked forward to a time when one would come who would provide light. Looking back to the idealised example of King David the prophet then looks forward to one who would be like him, leading the people in paths of truth and justice. This was a looking for light through the words of scripture.

Light, though, is not only to be found in the words of the Bible. We are to find light also in each other, in our community. Around us are people of wisdom and faith, individuals and groups who can inspire us to greater things for the benefit of all. We need the great prophet, we need the Messiah, but we also need each other. Leaders and a saviour are vital but so, too, are the pole that they lead, or come to save. We must look to each other for support and encouragement as well as to our God. We need the physicality of human presence and touch if we, too, are to be fully human. And once we are fully human then we become lights to lead and serve others.

Thirdly, light shows us the truth. It reveals to us our flaws, our shortcomings, but it also shows us the way to restoration. It opens our eyes to the ways things are and the way they can be. This is as true of our everyday small actions as it is of the great matters of eternity. We need the light to see.

We live in times of what feels like darkness. We have a pandemic, we see political unrest, we see violence both at home and abroad, we see persecution and terrorism; the list can go on. We need light to be brought to both hearts and minds. But we cannot just sit here and wish or pray for such to happen. Rather, we need to act, we need to get up out of our seats and do something. In the gospel of John, Jesus says that he is the ‘light of the world’. In other words he is the source of our truth, and he is our guide in how to live. We need to take our lead form him, seeking to follow where he illuminates. We need to take our lead from him, seeking to act where he has been our example. We need to take our lead from him, looking not back to some imagined halcyon days but forward in hope. This is hope that we can make a difference, we can be light to the world, dispelling darkness.

HYMN 543 Longing for light

(from the Chet Valley Churches)


Let us pray:

Let us seek the grace of God as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Lord.

May your church remain faithful to your call upon her;
may she strive to seek light, forever trusting in your promises.
May your people be ever watchful,
working for justice and truth for all.

We live in a world where many are trapped,
by poverty, by debt, my pressure from others, by so many other situations;
in compassion, look down upon our world, and let it know your care.
May the hostility that separates peoples be turned to peace.

Open our eyes that we may see your presence amongst us.
When we are distressed may we know your strength;
when we witness others struggle, may they know your peace;
where those around us worry, may they be freed from fear.

We pray for all who suffer this week:
we remember places of armed conflict or terror;
we remember those impacted directly by a changing climate;
we remember those around us grieving, ill, or anxious

We recall all those of our community
who have gone ahead of us into your eternal kingdom.
We celebrate their compassion, their generosity,
and their faithfulness to the ways of light.

In the name of Jesus we pray.

HYMN 286 Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

(Songs of Praise from St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast)


Go into the world
as bearers of light in the darkness.
And as you go
may the blessing of God.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with you, evermore.

Sung Amen

Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission.

Opening prayer by Ruth Harvey, leader of the Iona Community. Taken from Church of Scotland, Weekly Worship.

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