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