Sunday 29th November 2020

Please note that recordings of this service have been added to each section and may be listened to as well as read.

Welcome & Intimations

Call to Worship (from Psalm 80: 1-23)
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.

Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.

HYMN 273 O come, O come, Emmanuel

Prayer

O come, O come, we pray our God.
we call upon Your name,
seeking to know your truth,
seeking to know your touch,
seeking to know Your love.

O come, O come, we pray our God.
Reveal Yourself to us
that we may know Your presence,
that we may know your touch,
that we may praise Your Holy Name.

O come, O come, we pray our God.
As we begin our journey toward Christmas
may we open our hearts,
may we open our minds,
may we open our arms
to embrace the Good News of Your coming among us.

Ransome us, we pray, our God.
As we call on You, so too do we turn away.
As the world cries out for help,
so do we turn deaf.
As the world reaches out for love,
so to do we close our hearts.

Ransome us, we pray, our God.
Claim us once more as Your own.
Restore us once more as Your people.
Open us up to the needs of our neighbour.
show us how to love,
even as You have loved us.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

Isaiah 64: 1-9
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins for ever.
Oh, look upon us we pray,
for we are all your people.

Mark 13: 24-37
‘But in those days, following that distress,

‘“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in 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.

‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[b] is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’

HYMN 472 Come though long expected Jesus

Reflection

What do you want for Christmas? Depending on who you ask you will get a variety of answers; you may even get a list. It is a question that comes up every year in so many households and families. Sometimes the question is put subtly before the rush to buy presents takes over the local shopping centre. Other times the question could be quite blunt. If you ask it of your loved ones will the answer be straight or will they try to avoid the question so as not to seem presumptuous or greedy. Perhaps the answer may be that all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth! Whatever you want for Christmas I imagine that, like most folk in the world, your desire is not the same as that of the people of God as they approached what would become the first Christmas. What were they doing on that first Christmas? What were they hoping for?

One thing is for sure, they were not waiting for anything similar to what we look for each year. The people of God were waiting for many things; they wanted freedom from a despotic ruler; they wanted to come back to the halcyon days of the time of King David; they wanted peace. Some were waiting for a coming King like David who would restore the nation. They were not waiting for presents wrapped and lying under an evergreen tree; they were not awaiting the birth of a child who was wondrous; they were not awaiting mysterious strangers and scholars from afar. Theirs was a grounded expectation. Theirs was a hope that sometimes seemed as if it would never be fulfilled.

As they waited to be set free from all that kept them apart form God they turned to ancient stories and prophecies that warned them to prepare for a coming day. It was to be a day of God’s favour, but it was also to be a day of God’s wrath. That, perhaps, helps to explain the two readings set for today. The people were awaiting a time of judgment. Yet they were also awaiting a day that would see judgement turn to wonder, grace, and mercy. Some continue to await that coming King from David’s line. As Christians we believe that these hopes were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, son of Joseph, in Bethlehem. That birth was not into the sanitised crib scene we so often see in our churches. That birth was not into the sentimental scene that we have created that is palatable and inoffensive. The truth is far different. That birth was into a stable full of dirt and smells that have to be experienced to be understood. That birth was marked by strange signs. The visitors from nearby were shepherds, a group often regarded as untrustworthy, who had just been terrified by angels. The visitors from afar brought strange gifts that hinted at sacrifice and death, and whose presence hinted at prophecies of last days.

What do you want for Christmas? Do you want the safety of the tame and manageable? Want do you want for Christmas? Do you want the sanitised version that causes no offence? Want do you want for Christmas? Do you want the real story in all its messiness and grim reality? It is this, latter, story that changed the world and has the power to continue to do so. If you want the real story of Christmas then it is a story of hopes and fears rolled up in the promise of a coming King. If you want the real story of Christmas then it is the story of the God who forsook heavenly glory to be at one with His people in the flesh and blood of the one we know as Jesus. If you want the real Christmas then you are opening yourself up to be transformed and transfigured into the image of God.

So tell me, what do you want for Christmas?

Amen.

Prayer for the World

Listening God,
we thank You that You are God with us,
that we can glimpse Your Kingdom around us,
that we can see signs of You in our world,
that we can be part of Your story.
God, we wait and we listen;
we hope for what is not seen.
Shine the light of Your kingdom
into the darkness of our world.

Listening God,
will You come into the darkness of today’s world?
To the places where once You walked among us
but are now places of despair, conflict and occupation.
Be with those whose stories we have heard
and the countless others whose voices are silenced.

Help us to be a voice of peace,
to speak out against oppression
to share the real Bethlehem with others this Advent.
Bring Your wisdom to a situation which seems to have no end.
God, we wait and we listen;
we hope for what is not seen.
Shine the light of Your kingdom
into the darkness of our world.

Listening God,
will You come into the darkness of our community?
To the people living with fear and worry,
to the people whose Advent is not full of joy,
to the people needing support.
Open our eyes to the situations all around us that we do not see
and open our minds to the ways we can respond.
God, we wait and we listen,
we hope for what is not seen.
Shine the light of Your kingdom
into the darkness of our world.

Listening God,
will You come into the darkness of our lives?
To our human doubts and failings,
the times we do not live out our faith,
the situations we have not used our power to change.
Help us to be as open to you as You were to us
when You were as vulnerable as a baby
trusting in the world for Your safety.
Show us glimpses of Your Kingdom.
Help us to hear Your story.
Reveal to us our part in Your Advent Hope.
God, we wait and we listen.
We hope for what is not seen.
Shine the light of Your kingdom
into the darkness of our world.
Amen.

HYMN 279 Make way, make way, for Christ the King

Benediction


Go from this time
in the name of God
whose promises are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’.

Go from this time
in hope and expectation,
of promises fulfilled.

And as you go
may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with you, evermore,.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayer for the World adapted from Church of Scotland Weekly Worship.