29 November 2020
To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
isaiah 64: 1-9
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.
Mark 13: 24-end
‘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.’
Welcome to this short time of worship and reflection.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Remember that lovely Hymn ? (Do sing or hum it to yourself)
Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes,
the Saviour promised long;
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song!
You come the prisoners to release
in Satan's bondage held;
the gates of brass before you burst,
the iron fetters yield.
You come the broken heart to bind,
the wounded soul to cure,
to bring the treasures of God's grace,
good tidings for the poor.
Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
your welcome shall proclaim,
and heaven's eternal arches ring
with your most honoured name.
Our Reading this morning is from Mark's Gospel Chapter 13,
including verses 26-27:
“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."
Something to think about?
The Advent Wreath
You will probably see one in most churches. It is a symbol of the beginning of the Church year AND a reminder of what this season is all about. Drawing our thoughts to Christmas – the first coming of Jesus AND His second coming (The Parousia).
It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the centre. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. My favourite is this:
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God's eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end.
The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.
The four red (or purple) candles usually symbolize for us those who prepared for the coming of Jesus: On the first Sunday we light a candle and remember the Patriachs (Abraham and David and the like). On the second Sunday we light (in addition) the second candle reminding us of the prophets, and on the third Sunday we light (in addition) the third candle remembering the words of John the Baptist. On the fourth Sunday, the fourth candle (sometimes pink) brings to mind the obedience of Mary; and of course on Christmas Day we light (in addition) the fifth (the white) candle telling us of the Birth of the Son of God and the coming of purity into the world.
The light of the candles is an important symbol of the season reminding us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6).
The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lit over the four-week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the fifth [White] Candle lit at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.
Let me tell you a story:
There was this very strong woodcutter who asked for a job with a timber merchant and got it. The wages the timber merchant paid were really good and so were the work conditions.
For that reason the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him where he was supposed to work.
The first day the woodcutter brought in 20 trees and the boss was full of praise. Very motivated by the words of the boss, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder but brought only 10 trees.
Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
"I must be losing my strength," the woodcutter thought.
He went to the boss and apologized, saying he could not understand what was going on.
When was the last time you sharpened your axe? The boss asked.
"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees."
When did you last sharpen your 'axe' ?
Even in this terrible time of lockdown and other restrictions because of Covid19, we may have been keeping busy with so many things that we may have neglected our spiritual life.
Like the axe that needs sharpening, we also need to sharpen our spirit.
Let us sharpen our spirit this Advent by becoming more loving, more prayerful, more compassionate, more generous and more faithful.
Life is not about finding yourself.
Life is about recreating yourself!
Let this season be a real time of sharpening our 'axe'
Keep a moment of silence and reflect on these thoughts.
A prayer to round off our time with The Lord:
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.