Good News Sheet
29th NOVEMBER - THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Almighty God, 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. Amen.
My brothers and sisters: 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.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘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.’
Advent: the word means “coming.” This is the first day of the new church year, and like every church year, we start by remembering when Jesus first came into the world and remembering that he will come again. Yet we can’t walk around all the time with our heads raised to the sky in anticipation, can we? We would look silly and nothing would get done.
Martin Luther was asked: “What would you do if you heard that Jesus would return tomorrow?” He said that he would plant a tree, for in all likelihood, the rumour would be untrue. After all, Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour when he would return, no one but the Father. So why not plant a tree and plan for the future? Then, if Luther was wrong and his Lord did return, he would find Luther taking care of the earth.
What Jesus is saying in the parable of the fig tree is that Christians need to be prepared for the coming of Christ. We should look at the leafing of the fig tree in spring as a sign of the Lord’s return. Does this mean we need to look at the prophesied events taking place to tell us that the end of the age is upon us?
Well we live in troubling times. The world economy is breaking down. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Hate and misery are rampant. Christianity is under attack. But equally troubling times existed, for example, during the reign of Justinian as well as at the time of the Reformation. We have had two terrible world wars. Even though these were times of great tribulation, the end was not yet.
If then we cannot be sure that we are at the very end of the age, how are we to prepare? Jesus told us that only the Father knows the time, so if we are having trouble with the tea leaves, perhaps there is a better way to prepare. Jesus calls us not to figure the time or seasons which are in the Father’s authority but to be his witnesses; first in Jerusalem, then Judaea and Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts of the world. So I think the best way to prepare for the return of Christ is to be busy with what the Lord has commanded us, to be his witnesses. We need to be proclaiming the Gospel whenever we can, in word and deed. We have the promise that he will be with us in this endeavour until the end of the age and the servant whom he finds, when he comes suddenly, who is busy at his assigned tasks will be commended.
The Jews were anticipating the arrival of the Messiah in the days of Jesus. They saw the misery of the times. They were right about the Messiah coming, even though there were disagreements about the nature and mission of the Messiah. They were right about much, but even so, they were totally unprepared when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They could tell Herod where the Christ would be born, but were not interested in following the Magi to where Jesus was staying in Bethlehem.
Mother Teresa told a story about the time she came down with a terrible fever. Her temperature climbed and she became delirious. She had a vision of being at the gates of heaven and telling St. Peter that she was ready to pass from this world to the next. But St. Peter refused her entry into heaven. Mother Teresa asked why. Peter replied: "Because there are no slums in heaven."
It's the first day of Advent, and we could easily trivialize this season, this beginning of a new church year. We could focus on the Advent wreath and the other church symbols of the season and miss the vocation, the deep longing, of Advent. We might easily spiritualize this season and see it only as a time for retreats and inner preparation for the joyous time of Christmas.
Peter turned Mother Teresa back from heaven's gate because there was work for her left on earth. Her vocation was in the slums of earth not in the glory of heaven. And for us too, the waiting for the Christ Child is best spent working for the cause of justice and righteousness in the world.
Many have been led astray over the centuries by false prophetic interpretations. We should not be going after them. Let us continue to prepare by being faithful to the task which Jesus has commanded us.
And so, as we begin our preparations to receive Christ more fully into our lives, let us ask for an open and loving heart. May God be with us as we make ourselves ready to celebrate the birthday of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Intercessions by Julia Robinson
Let us pray. We thank you loving Father for today, this first Sunday of Advent and for the excitement and joyful anticipation in the run up to Christmas. We thank you for the opportunity to celebrate the fulfilment of hope, in the birth of your Son, even though our celebrations may be a little different this year. Lord in your mercy…
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to your Church as Lord and Saviour. We thank you for reminding us, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this morning, that they, and we, have been given every spiritual gift we need, and that everything we have and are comes from you. We thank you that church services may be able to resume next weekend in some parts of the country and we pray for all churches world-wide as they prepare for Christmas, especially during these challenging times when many are closed. We pray for extra energy for Revd Sandra, Revd Rosemary, Carol, and for all who minister in churches around the globe. And Lord, for the many congregations who’ve been unable to witness the lighting of the first Advent Candle today, we ask that that you may fill our homes with your light and love. Help us to reach out to each other and share what we have and teach us how to share our joy and at the wonder of what is come. Lord in your mercy...
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to us as Lord of all Creation. At this time of year when we tend to dwell more on material things, we ask that you may deliver us from shallowness in our thinking and instead ask for wisdom, for ourselves and our governments, leaders and authorities around the world, opening all eyes and ears to economic and environment wrongs so that peace and justice may be restored. Deepen our concern for those around us and every living being you have created and give us all a burning sense of responsibility and love for one another. Lord in your mercy…
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to us as King of all Nations and Prince of Peace. We thank you for each of the successful vaccines being developed and ask for an effective and fair roll-out around the world to those who need it most. We pray for a peaceful transition of government in the United States. We pray peace for all the victims of war, the refugees and all who have been widowed or orphaned. We pray for those who are persecuted, those suffering abuse, those who are hungry, those who thirsty, those who are in prison, those who are frightened. And we pray for the communities in Central America whose homes and crops have been devastated by two hurricanes in a row. Bring your light to erase their darkness. Lord in your mercy …
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to us as our Helper and Comforter. We pray for all those who are ill or suffering in any way and those who are lonely and anxious. May they know your healing power and love, your comfort and peace. And Lord may this healing love also pour through the eyes, lips, hands and feet of all nurses, doctors and surgeons everywhere and guide and strengthen them as they work. Lord in your mercy…
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to us as our Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. Loving Father make us watchful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son, our Lord. As we remember those who have died, we ask that you may bring comfort to those who mourn and we ask a special blessing on all those who find Advent and Christmas a difficult time to be alone, having lost a loved one. Lord in your mercy…
In joyful expectation of your coming we ask that you may come to us as Jesus Christ, Messiah. Just as heaven touched earth, appearing when least expected, in a stable under a starry sky in a miracle of mystery and hope, we pray you may be with us in our Advent journey, to the manger and beyond. Replace our fears and insecurities with your peace and amplify your still small voice as it whispers to our conscience and soul. Forgive us those times when we doubt your Word and feel alone. Draw us ever closer into your family that we might know your presence and forever sing your praises.
And I’d like to conclude with an Advent poem/prayer for us to lift to our Lord in welcome.
Come! by Sr.M.Charlita, I.H.M.
“From Mary’s sweet silence Come, Word mutely spoken,
Pledge of our real life, Come, Bread yet unbroken!
Seed of the Golden Wheat, in us be sown
Secret held tenderly, Guarded with Love,
Cradled in purity, Child of the dove,
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS ……