Online service 6th December 2020

Welcome to the Service for the 2nd Sunday of Advent: Also available via YouTube

Online service 6th December 2020

6th December Sunday Service Advent 2

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.



Good Morning, and welcome to our Sunday service from St Andrew’s, on this, the second Sunday of Advent. Traditionally in the Church year this is the Sunday when we remember the prophets, and this week the lectionary readings lead us to John the Baptist, and his message of the coming good News of God’s Kingdom dwelling amongst us in the form of God’s Son, Jesus.

As we come to Worship, we invite God’s Kingdom into our hearts and lives- Let us pray:

In the lonely places,
The wilderness
Where we stand forlorn
Windswept and alone
Your voice calls out
Prepare a way for the Lord

In the dark places,
The shadows
Where we hide our fears
Embrace our tears
Your voice calls out
Prepare a way for the Lord


Almighty God,

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. Amen.



Advent candles:

Lord Jesus, light of the world,

Your prophets told the people to prepare,

for you were very near.

As Christmas grows closer day by day,

help us to be ready to welcome you now.

Amen.



Hymn On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

1 On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
come then and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings from the King of kings!



2 Then cleansed be every Christian breast,
and furnished for so great a guest.
Yea, let us each our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

3 For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge, and our great reward;
without thy grace our souls must fade
and wither like a flower decayed.

4Stretch forth thine hand, to heal our sore,

and make us rise to fall no more;

once more upon thy people shine,

and fill the world with love divine.


5 All praise, eternal Son, to thee
whose advent sets thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Spirit bless, for evermore.



Confession

Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, we confess to you that we have sinned

Restore us, O Lord, we pray

In thought, word and deed

Restore us O Lord we pray

We have not loved you with our whole heart

Restore us O Lord, we Pray

We have not loved our Neighbour as ourselves

Restore us O Lord we pray

In your mercy, forgive us all that is past
Restore us, O Lord, we pray

Cleanse and restore us to new life in you

Restore us O Lord we pray. Amen



Absolution:

God our Father, who illuminates the way for us with Grace and Mercy,

Cleanse you of all sin, and restore us to His righteousness in Jesus name Amen.



Gospel reading: Mark 1:1-8

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”



Reflection:

Our reading this morning, the second Sunday of Advent, neatly links the theme of the prophets, with the ministry of John the Baptist. By quoting the prophet Isaiah immediately before introducing us to John the Baptiser, Mark reveals John to be the very messenger that Isaiah spoke of, the fore-runner, proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah, and urging God’s people to prepare their hearts and lives in readiness to receive Him.

A few years ago my Son bought himself a brilliant T shirt, which I was surprised to see had just such an Advent theme. The T shirt had a picture of Jesus in the centre, (well, at least, an image that most of us would recognise as a representation of Jesus) with the wonderful proclamation ‘Jesus is coming!’ but then it said ‘Look Busy!’ and around the side it said ‘It’s been a long time, but the main man is back in town! Get those bibles out and stop cheating on your girlfriend!’ Now, I liked this Tshirt. For one thing, it was quite funny, but it also expresses a truth that we need to acknowledge, especially at Advent.

 

During Advent we consider how God’s people have been waiting, through the ages, for the coming saviour, God’s own rescue plan. How the prophets spoke of light breaking forth into the darkness of a fallen world. A message the Nations are longing for, perhaps more than ever this year, as the world lives under the shadow of pandemic. Yet in the light of these truths we need to realise that the coming of God’s kingdom is not only a time of expectation, but also a time for transformation. Once the light has dawned, we cannot go on in deeds of darkness. It is time for change- an urgency persuasively expressed by my son’s T shirt!

 

And this was the message of John the Baptist. The bible tells us that John is a relative of Jesus, born also by divine proclamation and purpose, and was filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth. John’s ministry is recorded in all four gospels, and in the writings of the contemporary secular historians of the day. Jesus himself commended John and his ministry. John lives an austere life in the desert of Judea, from where he preaches, prophesies, and baptises. John’s prophetic ministry breaks the silence of 400 years. And his message is one of urgency. Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near! His was not a message of waiting, but one of immediacy. Because of course, The light, which had been promised by God by the prophets throughout the ages, had dawned. The waiting was over. Jesus Chris, God’s son, saviour, redeemer, hope of all peoples, was in the world. The King, amongst them. In ancient times when the King entered a province his messenger would run on ahead of him, announcing his coming and instructing, encouraging the subjects to prepare themselves and their towns to receive the royal visitor. This messenger was called the forerunner. This was John the Baptist’s role. He was, he tells the priests and Levites, a herald, The voice in the desert, calling out ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him’ he was one called, chosen to announce Gods reign. John had little or no possessions. Yet this man possessed such joy. John knew that he was preparing the way for one so much greater than himself. He knew his place in history, and his place within Gods plan. Don’t we just love to know our lives count, and that we have a place in God’s plans? Because each one of us has you know. Paul tells us in his letters that we are created for good works in Christ, which are prepared in advance for us to do. John knew who he was before God, and who he was in relation to Jesus, who’s sandals he deemed himself unworthy to untie. And Jesus knew him too, and spoke of him with great affinity. Told his disciples that of all men born of women, no man was greater than John the Baptist.

 

How we need our prophetic, John the Baptist figures today. Strong, Spirit filled Women and Men to speak out, exhorting a radical rethink of the way we approach God, His people, and His world. We, like the people of John’s time, been waiting for such a long time that we can sometimes forget that the kingdom of God is here, amongst us. That we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth.

 

The Celtic Church saw Advent as a time for reflection on Three comings of Christ; Firstly, the incarnation of God as a baby in a manger, that we celebrate at Christmas; Thirdly, the return of Christ to earth at the end of this present age, something we look towards and acknowledge in our creeds. But the Second coming of Celtic Advent focus, was, and is, that of Christ coming into our lives and hearts, not as a one-off event, but as a daily inspiration and interweaving in our lives, with a kindness that leads us to true repentance. God’s dwelling place is now with men and women, within us! In our very hearts! A redeemed, sanctified people, who therefore need Holy, renewed lives. John Preached his message, calling all to repentance, because the light had dawned, and was in the world, overcoming the darkness. But when you are used to a degree of darkness, you can kind of get used to it. It’s comforting. And useful too. Some things seem to stay hidden in darkness.

A long time ago we had friends staying, they accidentally tipped some drink over the sofa. Well, it was late into the evening, we had low lighting on, so I just sponged it off, and it looked fine. Until morning that is. When the bright light of day came, the stain on the sofa was exposed. So I sponged it again, but it just wouldn’t come off. Its ok in the dark, you can’t see it. But once the lights there, the stain shows. I can hide it behind a cushion. But that doesn’t get rid of it, just masks it.

 

Johns message was for everyone who has ever had a stain in their life. And that really is, just about everyone. The only way to deal with the stain in our lives that the bible calls sin, is by repentance. A transformation of our hearts and minds. For John, this inward transformation was marked by an outward sacrament. John gave the baptism of repentance, to mark a change of life into a righteous way of living. But John the Baptist had no kind words for those who sought Baptism, and the appearance of righteousness just for their own selfish gain. When the scribes and Pharisees went to him he condemned them for just trying to escape coming judgement by going through the motions instead of allowing their hearts to be changed. True repentance isn’t just about us being delivered from the law of sin and death, or as John puts it, to escape the coming wrath. It’s not about fear. It’s about love. It’s about Godly sorrow. It’s about God’s terrible kindness. It’s about His judgement, with which, according to Isaiah 35v4, God is coming to save us. It’s about our hearts and minds being bound to the mind of Christ, that we may know and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

 

Advent is the time when we acknowledge our expectant longing to see God’s Kingdom come, here, on earth. And that expectation when fully embraced, can’t fail to also engender a spirit of penitence and preparation amongst us, because we all know how far short our lives fall from God’s perfect will and purposes for us. Repentance leads to right living. And living our lives right, getting our house in order, making straight paths as it were, helps us to align our lives with God’s Holy Spirit within us. And because we know ourselves redeemed, loved, forgiven, our hearts are changed, and our desire becomes to live lives worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God, because He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of His son, in whom we have redemption. (Col1 v10-14)

So, this advent time, I would encourage us, in our expectancy, in our preparation, in our penitence, to heed the word of God spoken through John the Baptist, and to seek to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Or as my son Jon’s T shirt says, ‘Get those bibles out, and stop whatever it is you’re doing that wrong!

And may God bless and empower each of us as we seek to do just that. Amen.



Hymn: Light of The World

1 Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore you
Hope of a life spent with you
So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me



2 King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above

Humbly you came to the earth you created
All for love's sake became poor

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me (repeat)



And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
And I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me





Prayers of intercession

Circle us, Lord
Circle us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark world
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair
Enable us to become that which you would desire
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle us with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle our family and friends within the shelter of your outstretched arms
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives
Protect them in the decisions that they face
Protect their homes and relationships
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our families and friends with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this nation with Advent love and hope
Create a desire to listen to the Advent message
Create a willingness to understand and respond
Create a longing to reach out to the Christ Child
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our nation with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this world with the joy of your Salvation
Where there is sickness and disease bring healing
Where there is hunger and despair bring hope
Where there is torture and oppression bring release
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation, Light of the world,
Circle this world with the light of your presence

Be the centre of all that we are, and the life that we lead

Lord Jesus, Light in this dark World, illuminate our hearts and minds
All: Be the centre of all that we are, and the life that we lead, and hear the prayers of our hearts, now and forever, Amen.



Blessing

May the God of all hope and promise, bless you and be with you throughout this Advent season and draw you ever closer as you journey with Him toward the stable and the birth of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.Amen







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