Readings And Sermons or Talks

Readings for today, the First Sunday of Advent

The Collect for Today, 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 forever. Amen

Today’s Psalm is Psalm 80 : 1 – 7 & 18 - 19

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. 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. 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. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever. Amen

Today’s first reading is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah – 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 forever. Now consider, we are all your people. This is the word of the Lord Thanks be to God

Today’s Gospel reading is from the Gospel according to St Mark – Mark 13 : 24 - 37

Jesus said to them :  “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 and pray; 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, or 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. This is the word of the Lord Thanks be to God

Today’s Sermon is by Pam

Prayer:-Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our Redeemer. Amen

Our readings this morning from the Old Testament are a familiar theme of the Hebrew people seeking God’s mercy and renewed presence and as we move into Advent that is what we will be doing, in the Sunday services and in the Advent study.

Many of us come to the gospel story at a low point in our lives. I was very young when I sat crying on a curb edge in Muswell Hill, London. The boys I had been playing with had ran away and left me. I was alone and bereft. An elderly lady came over to me and asked me what was the matter. That lady was Mrs Philpot, the last person on the list that Mike and I read out on the remembrance list on All Saints day service. She befriended me then and led me to Christ over the years, not by preaching to me but by meeting my need at that moment. She has been dead nearly 60 years but I still remember her faithful love and support even now. She shone the light of Christ in my life when I felt lost and alone.

I don’t know about you but in these present days I sometimes feel lost and alone and I am sure there are many feeling just like that. Isaiah and the Psalmist were expressing their hope and desire that God would come to act on behalf of his people. Injustice, oppression and a general sense of unease led to the conviction that, unless God interceded, or were to come in a new way, there was no hope. Throughout though, there was a confident trust in the faithful God who kept his promises given to the Patriarchs and the prophets.

On 1st December, when we start looking at the Advent study, the writer notes how Genesis looks at Creation from the perspective of meeting humanities needs. Genesis is not the earliest Creation story. It shares many of the themes of creation, but unlike the earlier ones, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is a striking difference. The earlier ones look on humanity as disposable assets. They are there as units to be used or abused at the god’s pleasures and the gods were capricious, fighting with each other and generally untrustworthy. They used humanity to meet their needs. The Genesis narrative is entirely different in that it talks of a totally dependable and trustworthy God, one who is entirely reliable through thick and thin. A God who created us to be in relationship with Him, who walked in the garden with humanity in the cool of the evening. A God who was there and who met our needs, who recognised that we need to be with others, to communicate and value each other, as the Trinity communicate and work together to achieve that which is good. You and I live in a society and culture that is often very dark. It is materialistic, selfish, hedonistic, and egocentric. Our culture doesn’t support the idea of interdependence, rather the cult of individualism. But we were created to be in relationship with one another and with God, the three in one, and as long as this is not happening in our world then there is turmoil and dissent. You and I, alone, without God are lost. You and I were created in God’s image. We were created to become the people of God who know Him and serve and find peace and joy with Him. All the world around us, all of creation was meant to be in one accord with God, but we have become lost and alone. We can cry as Isaiah did, ‘Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter, we are all the work of your hand.’ Our hope is in the Lord, who Mark tells us is to come again. The Christmas Carol talks about the 2,000 years that have rolled past and we are still waiting for the return of our Saviour. We are still longing for the cessation of wars and injustice and oppression and deceit and cruelty that we still see around us. In this day and time we may become weary, perhaps beginning to doubt that our Saviour will return in glory. When these moments threaten to overwhelm me, I cling to the fact that our God is a faithful and utterly trustworthy God, and, as Lorraine told us last week, look to the coming of our Saviour. I recognise that his coming may be delayed through mercy for those who have not come to recognise his love for them, but oh, sometimes I long for His return.

You and I are warned to be ready, not to lapse into depression, or weariness or begin to believe that our Saviour is not trustworthy. We need to encourage one another when we see those signs of God’s love, those signs, sometimes very little things, that God is bringing His purposes together. Joshua told the people of Israel to remember their stories, the way that God had brought them into the Promised Land and given them the victory.

Think how many of us have changed over recent months. We have been drawn together, supporting each other, and others around us. We have learnt to value the little things, the special things that we may have begun to be so used to that we no longer appreciated them. We have been encouraged to share with each other more, care for each other more, even if only in little ways, such as wearing a mask when we have to be in public. It doesn’t protect us, but it does protect others. For some it has been the joy found in going into our back yard or garden, because we can go nowhere else.

Mrs Philpott didn’t just stop and ask if I was alright. Over the years she took me into her home, showed me how to make jam tarts and then let me eat them still warm. She encouraged me to have a bath from time to time. My mum and I lived in a flat with no bathroom, only cold running water and my mum worked full time. Mrs Philpott encouraged me to read, to go to Juno’s and then Campaigners. I don’t know if it was her, but someone paid for me to go to summer camps with the European Mission, away with the church to the Isle of White. She took me to Sunday School and church services until I was old enough to go by myself. I would sit in the evening service next to her, reading G A Henty books while the sermon was on! She took me to the Monday evening prayer meeting and Wednesday Bible Study week by week. My mum knew I was safe with her and it gave her space from being a hard working mum. She cared for me as a Grandmother would do. Can we be like that? I think that is part of what being ready for the coming of our Saviour is all about.

I think we do this because He, God, first cared for us. So, we need to be alert and prepare for the coming of our Saviour, we need to be praying for our world, and those we know who God places on our hearts. I find that When I have a passing thought of a country or place or a person, I send a prayer to God about that person or place. You were created by God for His purposes and this may be one essential area where you enable God to work. You don’t have to go out and do things you can sit in your own home and be part of God’s plan. Have you ever thought about prayer like this; a way of God limiting himself that you might free God to act? I remember reading once that God doesn’t actually need us to evangelise. The Holy Spirit can do a much better job than we ever could, BUT God chooses us to be His hands and feet, His voice and eyes and ears and then the Holy Spirit works with what we have done to complete God’s plan.

If you are plagued with worries, personal, national or international, and you can’t sleep and all those thoughts are racing around your head, try stopping, write them down and then give them to God, that God might deal with them and every time the thoughts come back, give them back to God because you had given them to God to deal with, so they were God’s business, God’s responsibility, not yours any longer.

Be prepared, be alert, become more focussed, disciplined, reliant on God to the nuances of the world around us, that we can be the people of God who are awake and ready when he comes again. This approach time to Christmas, may we rededicate ourselves to be God’s servants, people who share His light and love, through actions, through prayer, through becoming more fully the person we were created to be to God’s glory. Let us be the people, who in the here and now are preparing the world for when He comes again. Amen