Sunday 29th November 2020

An act of worship at home

Advent Sunday

Reading          Mark 13: 24-37

‘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.’


As we begin our Advent journey in 2020 we may hear those words from Mark very differently from previous years. With all that has been happening with a global pandemic, the chaos caused by a US President who has seemed determined to break ties with those working for unity and peace and saving the world and choosing to befriend those who have worked for years to cause disunity and distrust and conflict and the destruction of natural resources, and I haven’t even mentioned Brexit… Someone said to me very recently that they wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear there is a giant meteor on a collision course with earth. Perhaps you feel the same.

Mark warns us of the end times and the need to stay awake, to keep watch.

Watch, but what are we to watch for? Should we be watching for something good happening, or something bad.

Dread and hope: are words as good as any to describe the mood of Marks words.

But of course, Advent is very much about the nearness of God, our hope and desire to experience God, God’s presence and power and love.

A minister from the United Church of Christ in the United States, a sister church of the United Reformed Church, wrote: “At Advent, God’s people summon the courage and the spiritual strength to remember that the holy breaks into the daily.”

No matter how bad things are, we are reminded that we belong to God, that all the earth belongs to God, and we believe that God breaks into this reality regularly.

Sometimes, this inbreaking is dramatic and publicly celebrated:in the end to slavery and apartheid, for example.

Sometimes it’s felt in private consolations and reconciliations, a relationship restored by forgiveness or a return to health.

“The coming of Advent,” De Jong writes, “jolts the church out of Ordinary Time with the invasive news that it’s time to think about fresh possibilities for deliverance and human wholeness.”

This good news, she observes, comes when people long for peace in the world, especially in the Middle East

and in places like Afghanistan and Africa, even though we may feel “helpless, hopeless, and just plain broken-hearted over the devastation….”

Advent calls us to a time of both individual and collective self-examination as well as hope. 

Perhaps the radical transformation that God will work may bring us back to wanting to be good rather than merely feel good.

At Christmas the churches would usually be filled with people with a strong desire to return to a life they once knew, whether within families, relationships, churches, or even nation and internationally.

But while we may look back, God always looks ahead….  not in a return to the glory days of the past, but in the light of the Child born in Bethlehem, the light the darkness has never overcome.”

In the 4th century Augustine wrote “You have called, You have cried out, and You have pierced my deafness.

You have radiated forth, and have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for You. I have tasted You, and I hunger and thirst for You.” Thanks be to God. Amen.


Creative God, out of blanket blackness you conceived life; bringing energy and light.

In the spinning earth you were there in cycles and seasons.

We praise you for your creative power.

Redeeming God, you did not remain apart from your creation.

You committed yourself to individuals, calling them to step out in faith.

You chose a nation to be your people and brought them out of the land of slavery with signs and wonders.

And then, beyond all expectation you came to us, revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

We praise you for your redeeming love.

Sustaining God, you continue your creative work, you continue to redeem,

you have caught us up in your timeless purpose, and drawn us into your covenant.

Creative, redeeming, sustaining God, we worship you.

Lord, as we come to you we see afresh the full possibilities of being human,

and realize anew what flickering shadows we are, of all we could become.

And we are sorry: sorry for harsh words and neglected opportunities;

sorry for acts of kindness left undone;

sorry for the broken promises of discipleship.

Lord, lighten our darkness.

Let the bright shafts of your love gild our lives.

Let colour flood the greyness and sunbeams chase the sadness of our world.

Then we shall stand in the brightness of your presence and reflect your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This Advent, in our preparation and in our waiting,

may we sense your continued work in our lives and in the world around us.

For from ages past, no ear has heard, no mind has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,

who comes to those who wait for him.

We anticipate your unfolding work and we praise you.



O come, O come, Immanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, rejoice!

Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free

thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

from depths of hell thy people save

and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Rejoice, rejoice!

Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer

our spirits by thine advent here;

and drive away the shades of night,

and pierce the clouds and bring us light!

Rejoice, rejoice!

Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


We have been called in, to be renewed in the name of the one who is love.

Even in the darkest night, even when there is only one small candle lit, your power and love restore us.

Let your light shine on us as we go from here, so that we may be warmed and strengthened

to light your light all around that all may know your blessings. Amen.

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