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church

of Advent

First Sunday

Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

First Sunday of Advent Year A, Colour = Purple

Advent 1 candle

Related Material: Church Sermon Archive and Church Archive of Lectionary Material

See our advent candle lighting in flipping book format

Introduction

Opening Verse of Scripture Romans Chapter 13:11

The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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. Common Worship

Almighty God, as your kingdom dawns, turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect

Lord our God, keep us your servants alert and watchful as we await the return of Christ your Son, so that when he comes and knocks at the door he may find us vigilant in prayer, with songs of praise on our lips.  Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading   Isaiah Chapter 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD , to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD 

Second Reading  Romans Chapter 13:8-14

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbour as yourself. "Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
 

Gospel Reading  Matthew Chapter 24:36-44

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
 

Post Communion Prayer

O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son our Lord; that, when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

The season of Advent came into being toward the middle of the sixth century. At first, the Advent Season was determined as the six Sundays leading up to Christmas. This was then reduced to four Sundays by Pope St. Gregory the Great (591-604). So now Advent is the season four weeks before Christmas in which we prepare for the coming of Christ and it begins on Sunday nearest to 30th November. Advent is the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus and its name comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming".

The season also celebrates Christ's anticipated coming again in the fullness of time to rule triumphantly over life in heaven and earth, so it is so much more than just a time to get ready for Christmas. The colour of Advent, seen in the candles used in the wreath is purple. Purple is used in the church at Lent, because it is the colour of saying sorry, it is also the colour used for funerals to show mourning. Purple is used at Advent not in a mournful way, or to say sorry, rather it is to demonstrate that something serious is taking place, Advent purple encourages us to engage in a time of reflective watchfulness. At Advent the Church is put on guard, to watch, be vigiliant and prepared, but this is a time of reassurance, because it reminds us that the question is not whether Jesus will return to judge the earth, but when.

God’s first intervention within our history came not in the form of some instant or earth shattering event, but instead God chose to come into the world as we all do, to be born as a baby in the midst of a chaotic world. By our own impatient standards this seems such a slow way to bring salvation to the world. But God may not always choose the easy answer or the quick fix. But by His earthly incarnation He demonstrates a total commitment to the very core of humanity. A commitment, to its day by day routines and challenges, a commitment to humanity from the cradle to the grave and beyond. And in that same incarnational way, God comes to us day by day, through the working of the Spirit, through His Word and Sacrament, making the ordinary extraordinary; making the broken whole; and redeeming and restoring the past, present and future, whatever they hold.

We should not spend our time worrying about the timing of God’s arrival or about the distraction of what might happen in the meantime. God’s reign has already broken into our world through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. His Kingdom is near and it is coming, even as it is already arrived but not fully realized. We are to remain watchful, and aware, and to be prepared for the final coming, which might arrive at any time.

In the birth of Jesus God’s love is shared with uncommon grace in a world so desperately in need of that love. It is through us, and through the very imperfect Church that bears his name that his love and grace continue to come and be spread.

There is much about Advent to enjoy, the Advent wreaths found in our churches where they have four candles to be lit each Sunday and one for Christmas Day. But in the midst of our church we know that just as we prepare for Christmas, so we have to make ready to welcome Jesus in our lives. As Christians there is a real sense that we live all year round in Advent time. We are living in the present but trying very hard to bring to the present the realities of the future. Our lives should be characterised by the lifestyle of heaven, even though we are currently inhabitants of planet earth. It is difficult to know how to interpret the standards of Jesus for our society. How do we ‘turn the other cheek’ in a society in which people are brutally murdered on our streets. Yet Advent tells us that we Christians are to do just that, bring God’s reign in our own lives in such a way that we are salt in this sorry society and bring about change which makes a real difference. We must not become fatigued, we prepare inwardly and spiritually, but if that means anything it is demonstrated visibly in our changed lives. Somebody said "Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life." This Advent we are challenged not to blame others, but instead to recognise that the change must come from us as we live the new lives of the Kingdom. Are you ready for the coming of Jesus? Charles Royden

 

Meditation

We Christians start our new Church year at Advent. It should be a time of mounting excitement and anticipation, as we look forward to commemorating the coming of Jesus to the world. Traditionally, the faithful prepared themselves by fasting and prayer. This time of refocusing is marked also by the wearing of purple (the Roman Imperial colour of mourning), as though there is a period of sorrow before the bursting out of joy at the Incarnation. We are so busy with non-stop shopping, cooking and celebrating, right from the beginning of December, that this dramatic shift of mood is lost. I suggested a few weeks ago that we should, as a church, challenge ourselves by setting ourselves a task; to read the Gospel of St Matthew all the way through. This can be both a seasonal discipline and also a useful way of deepening our appreciation of what we will be hearing in sections over the coming year. Shall we give it a try? Joan Crossley

Hymns

  • When to our world the Saviour comes (Tune Church triumphant)
  • There’s a sound on the wind
  • Revive thy work O Lord (Tune Carlisle)
  • Father, hear the prayer we offer (Tune Sussex)
  • Christ is surely coming

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.

If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Lord our God, keep us your servants alert and watchful as we await the return of Christ your Son, so that when he comes and knocks at the door he may find us vigilant in prayer, with songs of praise on our lips. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

God of all hope and joy, open our hearts in welcome that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself; Amen. (New Zealand Prayer book)

Come Lord Jesus, come as King. Rule in our hearts, come as love. Rule in our minds, come as peace. Rule our actions, come as power. Rule in our days, come as joy. Rule in our darkness, come as light. Rule in our bodies, come as health. Rule in our labours, come as hope. Thy Kingdom come among us. (David Adam)

Our heavenly Father, as we once again prepare for Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and thought and prayer, that we may reflect upon the wonder of your love. Allow the story of the Saviour’s birth to deepen our joy, make our worship more real and our lives more worthy of all you have done for us through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Frank Colquhon)

Be to us, O Holy Spirit, breath for our being, purity for our souls, healing for our wounds, fire for our hearts and light for our path, that with all creation we may rejoice in your presence;; now and for ever. Amen. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Lord, may we love all your creation, all the earth and every grain of sand in it. May we love every leaf, every ray of your light. For we acknowledge to you that all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending, and that to withhold any measure of love from anything in your universe is to withhold that same measure of love from you. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81)

My heart is cold today, O God, I feel no burning desire no zeal to pray or to be with you. My heart is frozen by the chill of emptiness– sluggish and stalled. send forth your Spirit to revive my heart. Spark it with a relish for service, with a longing to pray. And may my desire to be your flame of warmth and love spark other stalled souls to come alive, aflame in you. Edward Hays

O God, animate us to cheerfulness. may we have a joyful sense of our blessings, learn to look on the bright circumstances of our lot, and maintain a perpetual contentedness under thy allotments. Fortify our minds against disappointments and calamity. Preserve us from despondency, from yielding to dejection. Teach us that no evil is intolerable but a guilty conscience, and that nothing can hurt us, if with true loyalty of affection, we keep thy commandments and take refuge in thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. William Ellery Channing 1780-1842

 

Additional Resources

Commentary: A new Kingdom

Isaiah 2:1 – 5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11 – 14; Matthew 24: 36 – 44


The New Testament writers held the beliefs that God was king and that his kingdom would one day be established on Earth. Neither of these beliefs was new or particularly startling. What they were really excited about was the conviction that this new kingdom had already begun to dawn, and that God was now entering into human history. Not surprisingly, they believed that this would make a radical difference to the way that things were. The whole point of what they were saying was not the reality of God’s kingly rule, but the immediacy of it.
The Old Testament prophets had prepared the ground for such convictions. The Old Testament passage from Isaiah asserts the belief of what God will do ‘in days to come’, after the nation of Israel had been able to return to her own lands after the exile in Babylon. But the role of prophecy is complex: we easily use the term to predict the future but it is also important to remember that the prophet speaks God’s words: it is not so much fore-telling, as forth-telling. What is also important is that the prophecies are recorded in texts so that they have an effect upon the life and faith of contemporary readers, and do not simply record what took place in the past.
Psalm 122 ties in with this same idea, and was a psalm sung by pilgrims as they approached Jerusalem. Apparently, for those who have visited and looked at Jerusalem, with this psalm in mind, it is very hard not to become moved at the beauty of the place which seems to be at the theological centre of the world. Anyone who thinks such thoughts today is definitely at the end of a long line of predecessors who ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’.
From the believing in the coming of God, and feelings of wonder at the sight of the ‘holy City’; we next consider Paul’s passage in Romans which focuses his expectation of seeing Jesus. This is the famous passage which is reputed to have brought about the conversion of St Augustine of Hippo, ‘not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ This is the summons to a life lived in the context of the eternal future offered to all people and known now by those who respond in faith to the Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24 provides us with one of the basic texts for this complex of beliefs. Here is Jesus, towards the end of his life, warning his disciples that the end is to come imminently, and that the events which accompany its coming will be spectacular. The imagery is stark, deriving, as it does from the apocalyptic tradition which provided the context for the preaching of Jesus. In a world where the actual beginning and end of history are matters of scientific exploration rather than theological dogma, we need to read through the words of Jesus to penetrate their essentials. Stripped down to these, the message is that at any moment might reveal the glorious presence of the God who is Father of Jesus Christ.
What hope is there for the world? Can we look forward to anything, or are we condemned either to seeing things getting steadily worse or to an endless circularity of improvement and decline? The answer from the Christian tradition has always been that hope can only truly be fixed in God. The proper response to God is one of goodness, kindness, and compassion to our neighbour, such as God shows us. These qualities can reveal the Christ who is gloriously present in our neighbour. Peter Littleford

picture of mennorahMeditation: Hanukkah

Each December, the Jewish community celebrates a festival of lights, called ‘Hanukkah’.
Over 2,100 years ago, King Antiochus (the Greek ruler of Syria) had control over the land of Israel, his southern neighbour. Whilst the Jews believed in one God, the king insisted that they worship many gods, including himself. 
A Jewish rebellion started against the far greater forces of the occupying armies. After 3 years of war, the Jewish leader - Judah Maccabee - re-took Jerusalem’s Temple, built by the Jews for the worship of God. The Temple had been desecrated, abused - by worshipping pagan gods whose statues had been placed there. 
The Jews set about re-dedicating the Temple to God. There were 8 days of festivities. In the Temple, the oil lamps of the Menorah - a branched candlestick -were lit again, but there was only enough oil for them to burn for one day. Miraculously, the oil burnt for 8 days until new oil was obtained, and so ‘Hanukkah’ has become an 8-day festival.
 Nowadays, as Hanukkah is celebrated, recalling the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews re-dedicate them-selves to God. It is a happy time, and presents are given. Pancakes are eaten, and children play a game with a spinning top that bears 4 Hebrew letters, standing for the words: “A great miracle happened here.”
At nightfall on the first day of Hanukkah, one candle is lit. Each night another branch of the candlestick is lit, until by the end of the Festival, all 8 are alight. 
Let us pray. Basing our words on Jewish prayers used at this time. Of course we need to remind ourselves that our own bodies are ‘living temples’ and every bit as important as the old temple was that once stood in Jerusalem.

Commentary

This week’s sermon takes a look at the Gospel of Matthew as a whole. We shall be hearing about the history of the Gospel and how it has important differences from the other two Synoptic gospels, Mark and Luke. We shall also be looking at the key themes of the Gospel according to Matthew. They will constantly recur as we spend the year reading from this wonderful work. One of the major themes is introduced in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, chapter 24. It is about the end times, when Jesus will return to this world, bringing in the Kingdom. The imagery is very powerful. In the preceding passage it is predicted that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from the heavens. The writer paints a vivid picture of the people at the time of Noah, merrily enjoying life, not aware that the Flood would wipe them out! You can imagine how chilling the hearers found the words about the people taken while carrying out their daily tasks “one is taken, one is left”. It is a terrible warning against complacency. We must not live our lives as though there is no final reckoning. No one knows when it will be. It might be today! Are you ready for the Kingdom, are you ready to face your Maker? Matthew’s Gospel asks these hard questions in a very straight way. They are the kinds of questions we are uncomfortable to ask ourselves but we should not expect them to go away. Joan Crossley

 

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the universe. We light these candles to remind ourselves of the wonders you have performed for your people down the ages. Create new miracles for us and, as the days go by, may your light grow brighter and brighter within us. Amen.

Hymns

Joy to the world
There’s a sound on the wind
From heaven you came
When the angel came to Mary (Tune : O the holly bear a berry ) 
Christ is surely coming