ONE: We wait for the coming of the Christ Child. ALL: The kingdom of heaven has come near.
PRAYER & LORD'S PRAYER: Dear Lord, in this Advent of expectation, draw us together in unity, that our praise and worship might echo in these walls and also through ourselves. The Advent story of hope and mystery, anticipation, preparation and a king appearing when we
least expect, help us to open our eyes and our hearts, that this might be an Advent of hope to the world. God of hope, be with us in our Advent journey to the stable and beyond. Be with us in our meeting and in our travelling together. Be with us in our worship and praying together. Be with us in our Advent journey.
Let us pray together: 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever Amen
ADVENT SYMBOLS: The First Sunday In Advent
CANDLE LIGHTER: Awake! The bells chime during Advent. Bells summon people to worship and they ring out the birth of Jesus. They remind us that the time of hope is at hand. Christ is coming! God comes and dwells with us. Christ is God with us, the incarnation of the eternal in our finite world. Christ is coming! The bells herald the presence of Christ in our world and in our hearts. They call us to come and worship Christ now. Allow the bells of hope to ring in your heart. Christ is coming.
STORY: Through Jesus Hope Lives
For a moment, or perhaps a long while, we are dropped into the depths of despair, a tragedy of intense proportions. In the darkness we struggle with difficult and often confusing feelings. As Christians we often feel
guilty about these feelings. All are true human emotions, and necessary in enabling us to cope. God understands our pain and our suffering. He will wrap His loving arms around us, He will be there when no one else can.
After a time we begin to feel His presence. You can see a faint light in
the distance. This is the light of HOPE. Moving toward the light, the Holy Spirit takes us by the hand and helps us to move even closer to the light. The light of the Lord that shines into each of our lives.
Here in the Lord's loving presence our souls and our wounds begin to heal. God has a plan for us and we can rest assured that we have been called
here for a purpose. Our job is not yet finished. We must continue to move forward. We might not understand the sequence of events in our lives. We might not understand the meaning of our suffering. But we have not lost everything, we are not alone. We will always have HOPE.
As the holiday season approaches, let us remember that Hope was born at Christmas. His name is Jesus. And Hope does live on'.
Offertory Prayer: God of Hope, in this season of Advent, this time of
waiting, we offer to You our gifts, our time and our energy. Accept what we offer, and use these offerings to the light of Your hope in the dark places of our world. Amen
Jeremiah 33, chapters 14-16,
"The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise..." With this opening statement in today's first reading, the longings of our heart should be stirred with eager anticipation, just as it moved those who first heard this message from the prophet Jeremiah. God is faithful and does marvellous things to rescue a beloved people from the bondage of sin and death. God has acted and continues to act, bringing us salvation. Do we dare to hope in God's promise of fulfillment, even when confronted with overwhelming odds? Hope we must!
Jeremiah 33: 14-16.
The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days
Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.
The second reading is from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 21, verses 2528 and 35-36, found on page 1636. Drawing attention to the end-of-time theme that is presented during the first half of Advent, our Gospel seems foreboding and perhaps frightening. Yet, the Gospel is always Good News. The intention is to "Reassure the faithful that God's promised salvation will indeed come to pass." Rather than become despondent and overwhelmed in the face of
adversity, the disciple of Jesus is called to remain steadfast in hope. The characteristic anticipation and joy which marks the season of Advent must permeate the heart. Come, Lord Jesus! Do not delay!
Luke 21: 25-28, 35-36. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.
On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (verse 35) For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
THE PROPHECY CANDLE
A symbol is something that a group of people can identify or associate with something else. The early Christians used symbols to identify each other as followers of God. Today, we heard the children tell us about the symbol for the first Advent candle, the candle of Hope, and they will be back for the next three Sundays to tell us about the symbols of the other candles. And all this is leading up to Christmas Eve, when we will hear about, not only the symbols of Christmas, but the legends that go along with them.
Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches. Every year during Advent we set out the Advent wreath with its five candles, lighting one each Sunday and finally the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. The Advent wreath includes many symbols. The wreath is in the shape of a circle, without beginning or ending. This reminds us that there is no beginning or ending to God. God's love and care for us never ends. The evergreen branches are a sign of ever new life. The candles tell us of the light which came into the world with Jesus Christ. The traditional colours of the Advent candles are penitential colours, reminding us that we need God's help to be the people we are meant to be. The white candle which we light on Christmas Eve, signifies the coming of Christ.
The Advent candles are traditionally purple, the colour of penitence and fasting, as well as the colour of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. In the four weeks of Advent, the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing, and many churches replaced the purple candle with pink, turning the attention more to the celebration and joy of the season. As you can see, this year our third candle is pink. Each Advent candle has a name. There's the candle of hope or prophecy, the candle of peace or Bethlehem candle, the candle of joy or the Shepherd candle and the candle of love or the Angel candle. The candle we lit this morning is the candle of hope, also known as the Promise candle or the Prophecy candle. God promised the Old Testament prophets that He would send someone to deliver His people from their troubles. In the New Testament, God made a promise to a young couple, Mary and Joseph, that Mary would give birth to a son. His name would be Jesus and He would save His people from their sins. And so we remember that the first candle stands for God's promise that Jesus would be born.
The people of Israel heard God's promises through the prophets. For century after century, God's prophets had predicted the coming of the Messiah, who would set things right. Even in the midst of situations where there seemed very little reason to be hopeful, the great Jewish prophets reminded the people of God's promises. The prophet Isaiah spoke words of hope to Israel. He spoke of the coming of God's realm of Shalom, when all nations will walk in God's light. We, too, hope and pray for a world of peace and harmony.
In the church's calendar, Advent is meant as a time for quiet reflection, self-examination and preparation leading up to the birth of Christ. That's quite a contrast from what the weeks leading up to Christmas are actually like for most of us, with everyone rushing about, exhausted from shopping, baking, sending Christmas messages, wrapping presents, decorating and all the rest.
A minister tells the story of eating dinner with his family during the Advent season. He asked, "Who can tell me what the four candles in the Advent Wreath represent?" His 7 year old son piped up, "There's joy, love, peace...and...and...and" Eager to keep up with her brother, his 6 year old daughter excitedly broke in, "I know! I know! There's joy, love, peace and quiet." Perhaps she was hoping for peace and quiet. We know that hope is often hard to hang onto, but we must always know that is there.
Jesus is coming and we are preparing to welcome Him again into the world and into our lives. We light the Advent candles to celebrate the gifts we are given. The prophet Isaiah declares that we are like clay and God is the potter. We are the work of God's hands, and we have the potential to be greatly transformed. Paul reminds us that, in Jesus, we have been blessed in every way, and likewise we can be a blessing to others. These are both statements of great hope.
Advent is all about hope, but hope isn't something we can manipulate. We can't just try to be more hopeful. Hope doesn't come with the power of positive thinking. Hope comes from knowing and trusting God's promises. The message of hope was written over 700 years before the birth of John the Baptist. Only a true message from God could predict the truth so far in advance.
Hope is at the beginning of the Advent season because it is the hope of the coming Saviour that would save the nation of Israel. It is the hope of the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi that proclaimed the coming of John. It is the coming of John the Baptist that prepared the way for Jesus. Hope is what Christianity is based on. Hope for eternal life through the coming of our Lord and Saviour.
Hope is what happens before the fulfillment of God's promises, and His track record of fulfilling promises is perfect. We are here to celebrate the hope that God has given us through His promises and through His fulfillment. We are here to celebrate the coming of Christ, because without Him, there is no hope.
People need hope during times of darkness, and that hope is Christ. Christ was the hope of a world that sat in darkness for many years without hearing the voice of God. At His birth, hope came into the world.