St James, Gatley
Morning Service – The First Sunday of Advent
29th November 2020
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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.
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lighting of the Advent Wreath
Blessed are you, Sovereign Lord, God of our ancestors,
to you be praise and glory for ever!
You called the patriarchs to live by the light of faith
and to journey in the hope of your promised fulfilment.
May we be obedient to your call
and be ready and watchful to receive your Christ
a lamp to our feet and a light to our path;
for you are our light and our salvation.
Blessed be God for ever.
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 for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1.3-9
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.
Hymn – Hark! a herald voice is calling
Hark! a herald voice is calling;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say,
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day!”
Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.
Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.
So when next He comes in glory,
And earth’s final hour draws near,
May he then as our defender
On the clouds of heaven draw near.
Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father, and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.’
For nearly twelve months now the world has been living through a time of great upheaval. The effects of the Coronavirus have been felt to a greater or lesser degree the world over, and its impact has touched every sphere of life. It was sobering this week to see how the effect of the virus will continue to touch our lives for years to come. The hope of potential vaccines is a great blessing, and we are all so grateful for the scientists and others who have worked hard to develop vaccines that will potentially treat people the world over. We all hope and pray that these vaccines will reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. At the same time we are aware of how the virus has created a lot of stress and anxiety to those whose livelihoods and financial security has been affected.
And in the midst of it all we go about our lives with a sense of curtailment and uncertainty. Certainly Christmas is going to feel very different this year, and yet, as we begin this season of Advent this morning there is a sense of anticipation, a sense that the coming of Jesus, in his birth at Bethlehem and in his second-coming at the end of time, is a sacred and precious gift which stops us in our tracks, both by its simplicity and splendour. Jesus, God with us, God coming to dwell in the mess and the muddle, coming to draw us to the heart of God, is the solid ground on which we stand.
God calls us to live in these times of upheaval with a sense of both realism and hopeful anticipation. Whenever we experience difficulties in our lives we can tend to either pretend it isn’t happening or it’s not so bad after all, or, on the other hand, to be overwhelmed by it. Yet, our faith, our trust in God helps us to live with the difficult reality of the way things are and also to trust that God is not only with us but is also working towards a fulfilment, an end, which we can scarcely imagine and yet also glimpse in the present.
In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus describes cataclysmic events of turmoil and upheaval. Yet, in the midst of his words of warning about the suffering the world will face, he says, ‘‘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.’ It’s a curious phrase. Jesus has just been talking about a world in turmoil, and as we look at the history of the world and the present challenges we can’t deny their reality. Yet, says Jesus, in the midst of the suffering of the world there is another reality waiting to burst into life, there is another reality that is budding and ready to come into leaf, and that reality is what Jesus has brought to the world, the reality of God and the Kingdom of God that buds and bears fruit, transforming the mess and the muddle, the fear and the pain into something beautiful and life-giving.
In this season of Advent God calls us to lift up our eyes, to see the pain and suffering of the world, and at the same time to see how God is with his suffering world, and how the kingdom of God is breaking forth in the midst of it. In the scriptures God addresses his people on numerous occasions with the words ‘lift up your eyes’ - to look and see things in a new way. The prophet Isaiah addresses God’s forlorn people in exile with these words in Isaiah 40.26 We can imagine Isaiah pointing to the stars and night, and saying to his people – ‘Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.’ And in the gospel reading, Jesus says to us, look up and see, the kingdom is close at hand, it is already budding and beginning to break into leaf.
So, we watch and we wait, we lift up our eyes, we look around and see that Jesus is always coming, always coming with good news, with salvation and healing and new life. He calls us to keep awake, to keep our ears to the ground and our eyes open, for he comes to us in unexpected people and he comes in difficult times. He comes in times of pandemic and times of stability, and he calls us recognize him as the one through whom God’s reality buds into leaf in the world. In Advent, in the midst of winter we look up and see the signs of the kingdom, signs of what the saviour has established through his birth, life, death and resurrection, and signs of the coming kingdom when the whole creation will be drenched with the glory and splendour of God. The kingdom is at hand and our saviour calls us to lift up our eyes and behold its grace and truth, its beauty and power among us.
Gracious Lord, we pray for the needs of the world in this period of upheaval. We pray for those who are unwell and for those caring for the sick. We pray for those who have lost their jobs and sources of income, for those who feel anxious and afraid. Give wisdom and compassion to those in positions of power and influence – help them to navigate a path through these days.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, light of the world, shine in and through your Church. Give us the courage in these days to walk in faith, to be attentive to your presence with us. As we look towards Christmas, give us grace to see you with fresh eyes, to recognize your loving presence in ours and others suffering, and may your healing and humble love reach the world through your Church.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
Holy Spirit, breath of life, we pray for the communities in which we live and work. We pray for all whose acts of goodwill and generosity bring hope and support to others, and we ask that in the coming weeks people may be helped by the thoughtfulness and care of others. Teach us the ways of your kingdom.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
God of Love we pray for all who are sick, praying today for children and young people who are unwell. We also pray by name for Isobel, John, Millie, Sue, Alexis, Anne, Kath, Mary, Martina, Nick, Christine, Malcolm, Tilly, Norman, Sharon, David and all others known to us. Bless them and their families. Help them to know your faithful and abiding presence with them, and we pray for their wholeness and healing.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
God of peace, we pray for those who are dying and we pray today for our local hospices: bless their work and help them to find the resources they need to continue to care for people near the end of their lives. And we pray for those whose lives in this world have come to an end and for those who grieve for them. We commend into your care all who have died recently, praying for Ena & Frank Lennon and those whose year`s mind falls at this time, praying for Agnes Hoyle and James Fielding.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
We bring to our loving Father the needs and concerns of our own hearts and lives…
Merciful Father, Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ
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.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours now and for ever.
A time of silence and self-examination may be kept.
Father, you come to meet us when we return to you: Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, you died on the cross for our sins: Christ, have mercy.
Spirit, you give us life and peace: Lord, have mercy.
May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins,
and restore us in his image to the praise and glory of his name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord Jesus, it is not possible for me to share in the sacrament of Holy Communion today, but I want to be united with you and so I receive you into my heart and share in communion with you through the gift of your Holy Spirit. I pray for spiritual nourishment and give thanks that nothing can separate me from your love.
O Lord our God,
make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear,
he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service
and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn - Lo, he comes with clouds descending
Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced and nailed him to the tree,
Shall the true Messiah see.
Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To his ransomed worshippers:
With what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen, let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly,
Alleluya! Come, Lord, come!
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen.