simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Worship Resources, Prayers and Bible Study

First Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Colour - Purple

Opening Verse


advent candle one

Advent 1


People of God:
The day is coming soon
when you shall see God face to face.
Remember the ways and the works of God.
Christ calls you out of darkness
to walk in the light of his coming.
You are God’s children
Lord make us one as we walk with Christ
today and for ever. Amen.

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship


In most places in the world this Advent you will be preparing to celebrate a Christmas the like of which you have never seen before. This is the first Sunday of Advent, and the first Sunday of the church liturgical year. It comes at a time of year when we are all wondering wqhat the next month will bring. We must not lose sight that Christmas is a celebration of something extraordianry, the coming to earth of God to live as Jesus in human history.

The reading from Isaiah today longs for God to come down to earth. We can all echo this longing, and we seek an assurance of God's presence in our world and in our lives. We live in a world which so needs the healing touch of God. Advent is a time when we think of light but it is an honest season in which we also acknowledge the darkness. The world is not a happy place, we are surrounded by evil and suffering and it is okay to be truthful Christians who recognise that we are weary of hoping and waiting and long for our Lord to appear to sort out the dreadful mess. Our minds are filled with all manner of worries of the damage done by the Covid crisis but each Sunday we will be lighting candles, they remind us that we live in times of darkness in which the light of Christ is present with us.

The reading from the Gospel of Mark encourages us to 'watch and pray.' This is important for us as we go through this time of preparation for Christmas, we seek to create space for the presence of God. Advent is an opportunity to create time to reflect. In four short weeks it will be Christmas and we will have to be filled with joy, but for now we can be realistic and think awhile before we rejoice. Christians are a joyful people but we are not supposed to head in the clouds people who have lost touch with the realities of life. Prayer is not meant to remove us from the chaos but rather equip us to be better able to serve in it. As Christians we know that ’All shall be well’ but this statement is a future assurance, in spite of the present reality.

At Advent  we remember that our Lord Jesus will come again and we look to be ready to welcome him. We also remind ourselves that Christ has come and is present with us. It is all to easy in the rush of modern life to become preoccupied with the hurry of day to day existence and we loose our spiritual awareness. Advent  is a good time to resolve to awaken our spiritual sight and to become conscious of God's presence. Wake up and watch, for it is in the darkest night that the light shines most brightly.

Opening Verses of Scripture  1 Corinthians Chapter 1:8-9

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

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. All Amen CW

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. CW

First Bible Reading  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 for ever. Now consider, we are all your people. NRSV

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9

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. NRSV

channel of your peaceGospel Reading  Mark 13: 24-37

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.’ NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

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. CW


God’s 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.  Tom Wright has said that ‘what we ought to celebrate at Christmas is heavens opened and glory unveiled’.  This is what we look to in Advent, heavens opened and glory unveiled.  As we look towards the final unveiling of heavens being opened and glory unveiled, we are called to reflect on the significance of when it first happened in the incarnation.  It’s a time to start preparing, but the gospel reading from Mark seems to indicate rather than being very busy, we are called to be alert, pray, keep awake, and look to God, not everything else in our own lives.  Depend on God in quietness and hope, letting Him direct our thoughts, words and actions.  As the poster days, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, rather than embroiling ourselves in frantic, guilty, activity as we try to make up for lost time.

Righteousness rain downThe Old Testament readings for the first three Sunday’s in Advent this year come from the book of Isaiah who was speaking to Israel around 740 BC around the time the nation fell.  The worship of the people had become empty and for many they had begun to depend not on God but on their own positions, wealth and power.  Isaiah’s message was simple.  Turn around, ask for God’s forgiveness and He will send a Saviour and restore greatness to the Kingdom. 

Our lives can sometimes drift from God without us realising it. Then, perhaps because of an event in our lives or because something happens which causes us to think and reflect, we become more aware of the sense of His absence to us.  Fortunately, we too have the same offer from God that Isaiah presented to Israel.  Turn around, recognise God for who He is and ask His forgiveness to our indifference and those things which have come to separate us from Him. 

Advent has always been one of the traditional times that the church and its people turn to God in repentance and welcome the coming of the Christ as Messiah in Bethlehem at Christmas and Messiah as Lord of all at the end of time. 

An ancient text from the 4th century, sometimes known as the Rorate Caeli (‘Drop Down you heavens’) or Advent Prose which is sometimes sung as plainsong in Advent liturgies is based on Isaiah 45 v 8, and brings together some of these themes.  A modern version would read something like:

You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. 
Let the earth open wide and be fruitful, and let salvation and a Saviour come and righteousness grow.

Do not be angry with us, O Lord, and do not remember our sins for ever
Your holy cities are a wilderness, Jerusalem is a desolation:
Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised you.

You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. 
Let the earth open wide and be fruitful, and let salvation and a Saviour come and righteousness grow.

We have sinned, and these sins make us unclean

We fade as the leaves of autumn:

The storm winds blow us away

Our faces are turned from your face of mercy

We are consumed by our sins and feel hopeless and crushed

You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. 

Let the earth open wide and be fruitful, and let salvation and a Saviour come and righteousness grow.

You are my witnesses, say the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen;

                        So that you may know me and believe me:

                        I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour:

No-one that can take you away from me, you are in my hand.

You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. 

Let the earth open wide and be fruitful, and let salvation and a Saviour come and righteousness grow.

Comfort, comfort my people says God, my salvation shall not be long in coming:

                        I have blotted out your sins as if they were covered by a thick cloud:

There is no need to be afraid because I will save you:

Because I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel,

your Redeemer and Saviour

When Christ returns as Messiah, and comes looking to find us in His love, it is surely more likely that if He asks any question at all it will be, ‘Where are you and are you ready?’, rather than, ‘Can I answer any questions you might have and what have you been doing while you wait for answers?’.  As Mark’s gospel unfolds in the coming year, we’ll see there is a real urgency about the question about being ready for the Messiah.  There are questions too about what we do and how we live, and how we respond to the divine significance of Jesus and what it means for each one of us personally.  Questions too about how we respond to His call and commandments.  And we’ll see, in our response to all of these questions, there is a world of difference between merely saying ‘I’m here’, and boldly being able to state, ‘Here I am’.  One response implies presence, the other readiness and eagerness.  Advent is a time to prepare as we look to Christ’s coming, as heavens are opened and glory unveiled, with readiness and eagerness as we await the revelation of the next chapter of God’s intervention in the world.  Sam Cappleman. 


The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s Son and our God, was in obscurity; the second will be in the sight of the whole world.  When He came in obscurity no one recognised Him but his own servants; when He comes openly, He will be known by both good people and bad.  When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged; when he comes openly it will be to judge.   Augustine (AD 354 – 430)

In Advent, history, myth, belief and imagery come together to create a vision, the strength of which is not in trying to understand the detail of Christ’s second coming, but in catching a glimpse of the message of salvation and healing being completed.  It follows then that 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 but focus on its significance.  As we look around, even in our broken and disjointed world, it’s clear that God’s reign has already broken in through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ and the transformation that inaugurates.  His Kingdom is both near, and it is coming, even as it is already arrived but not fully realised.  As we wait in eager expectation, we are to remain watchful, and aware, and to be prepared for this final coming, which is likely to arrive any time that 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 spread, at Advent, and through the Christian year ahead as we look to His coming in glory.


  1. O come o come Immanuel (Veni Immanuel)

  2. The trumpets sound the angels sing

  3. Come thou long expected Jesus (Stuttgart)

  4. Jesus is Lord

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

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.


God who cares for us, the wonder of whose presence fills us with awe. Let kindness, justice and love shine in our world. Let yours secrets be known here as they are in heaven. Give us the food and the hope we need for today for today. Forgive us our wrongdoing as we forgive the wrongs done to us, Protect us from pride and from despair and from the fear and hate which can swallow us up. In you is truth, meaning, glory and power, while worlds come and go. Amen (Monica Furlong, version of the Lord’s Prayer)

O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful as we wait for the coming of your Son; then when He appears, He will not find us sleeping in sin, but active in His service and joyful in His praise, for the glory of your Holy name.  Amen

Living God, you have given us a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: grant that we, being risen with Him, may fix our hearts on heavenly things and share eternal life.  Amen

Come, O Lord, in much mercy down into my soul and take possession and dwell there.  A poor dwelling, I confess, for so glorious a Person as You.  Yet, I am preparing for a fitting reception of you, by holy and fervent desires of your own inspiring.  Enter then, and adorn my soul, and make it a worthy place for you to inhabit, since it is the work of your own hands.  Give me yourself, without which, even if you should give me all that you ever have made, yet this would not satisfy my desires.  Let my soul ever seek you, and let me persist in seeking, until I have found, and am in full possession of you.  Amen St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)

Dear God, I have written the cards and packed up the presents, hung up the stockings and bought the mince pies. But somewhere in the bustle I lost You. Come and find me, Lord Jesus, as the shepherds found you in the stable. Draw close to me this Adventide. Amen
What I don’t want for Christmas: I do not want gadgets and junk mail, or hundreds of cards, nor mountains of waste paper and round robin letters from half-forgotten people.
What I want for Christmas: I want a bit of peace, time to spend with people I care about, somewhere warm to stay and things to eat. I want to know more about the coming of our Lord. (Robin Fisher)

Begotten of your love, O Father, we are made in your image. Cared for all our days, we are never beyond your sight. Enfolded in your heart, we are never out of your thoughts. To think of you is rest. To know you is eternal life. To see you is the end of all desire. To serve you is perfect freedom. To love you is everlasting joy. Amen. W E Orchard, 1877-1955

Additional Material


We are supposed to enjoy Advent. In our services we will be lighting candles in a beautiful ceremony which counts down to Christmas. This is a time when we look forward to the coming of Jesus which we remember and celebrate at Christmas. Yet of course Jesus is already with us as a Christian community and this is some of the ambiguity of Advent, there is a sense of ‘already and not yet.’ It is the fact that Jesus is with his people now which gives Christians confidence and reassurance for the future. We are a people who can step out into the future knowing that God is in charge. When Jesus left his disciples physically, his presence did not in any way diminish, rather his risen presence pervades the whole world. This is why so many prophetic voices proclaiming the second coming seem to sound hollow, they look forward to a return of Jesus and somehow fail to look around and see that Jesus has never left. It is as if every person holding a billboard with ’the end is nigh’ is blissfully unaware of Jesus standing behind them.

Today, the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the new church liturgical year. Advent is a time of watching and waiting, but this does not mean standing around with our hands in our pockets hoping that one day Jesus is going to appear on a cloud. Neither does fulfillment come on December 25 when we symbolically place the doll in a crib scene. Advent has been seen as this time of looking to the future to see if we can discern Jesus return. It is like one of those people taxi people at an airport by the arrivals holding a sign with the name of the person they are supposed to give a lift. This image rightly captures the Advent message of being alert, but it fails miserably to see that Jesus has already arrived, and now being ‘alert’ and ‘watching’ means ensuring that we are about his business.
In Luke today Jesus uses apocalyptic language to encourage the faithful to be participants with God in his purposes, even in the most difficult of times. Jesus’ tells us to “be on guard so that our hearts are not weighed down with... the worries of this life” [v. 34]. This might especially be true of Christmas but it is also for throughout the year, an invitation not lose the focus of our faith, but to be fully attentive so that we might not miss any opportunity for participation in God’s ongoing work of creative transformation. This is the work to which Advent and the new church year calls us.

Today on the first Sunday of Advent we see Jesus in apocalyptic preaching telling that the old systems, the old kingdoms are falling away so that God’s kingdom, with all of the power of Christ’s love can come in its place. This rebuilding is taking place now and we are a part of it, all who are not idly standing in the airport but living as citizens of the kingdom of God.

So, this is a time of reaffirm our trust in God’s promises and ensure that we are alive to seeing Jesus in our midst and ensuring that we are sharing in his work. If Jesus were to physically walk the streets of our community what would he see and say and do? What concerns are there on the heart of God for the people around us and are these our concerns? We Christians are supposed to be part of the Kingdom of God, going about this world as citizens living out the new ways to which we have been called.

It is unsurprising that we walk past Jesus in the street without recognising him, this is exactly what the Bible tells us characterised his birth and subsequent life. While a few Magi and shepherds came and worshipped and Herod tried to have him killed, the rest of the world got on with business as usual. The truth is that Jesus just didn’t live up to the expectations which people had of him, in fact for most he was a bit of a disappointment. They wanted so much more in the sense of fulfilling the human desire for excitement and power.

Around us over weeks of Advent we will be seduced by the trappings of Christmas and we will taste lovely food, see beautiful and tinsel and as it all grows and develops we will almost naturally start to sing ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.’ However Advent is a season of purple, a solemn season. The reason for this solemnity is clear, whilst we enjoy the festivities of the season, we are nevertheless mindful that the grown up Jesus is already Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ He is seeking to engage us in his work now, rather than just look back and re-enact the nativity. There is always a temptation to see Advent as a count down to Christmas, counting how many sleeps are left until we can enjoy ourselves, opening the doors on the calendar and eating chocolates one a day at a time before the big event. But Advent is not a countdown, it is a season in itself, a time of preparedness and reflection to ensure that we are a part of God’s ongoing work of redemption. If we are not ’on duty’ in the service of the Kingdom now, then Christmas is a fairy story and Jesus has no more importance than Harry Potter.
It is this solemnity which causes us to look past the mind numbing carols and Christmas trappings which beguile us to sing sugar coated songs about still silent nights with twinkling stars. The first Christmas was born out of human misery and pain in a land under military occupation in which human life was so cheap that babies could be killed without mercy, on the hunch that one might be a political threat. Of course little has changed and Christmas today will be a most difficult time for many people. Issues around relationships are thrown into much sharper focus and the pains of such things as broken families and bereavements can be at their most painful. This year the global economic and social challenges which we face are more acute and our welfare system is in a state of change and cutbacks which will inevitably bring problems which throw people back on their own resources or lack of them, without a safety net.

While Christmas preparations are unavoidable we need to work on living in the present and not let the season's preparations divert our attention. There is a story told which may or may not be true but which makes the point quite clearly. It is said that two hundred and twenty years ago the Connecticut House of Representatives was in session on a bright day in May, and the delegates were able to do their work by natural light. But then right in the middle of debate, the day turned to night. Clouds obliterated the sun, and everything turned to darkness. Some legislators thought it was the Second Coming. So a clamour arose. People wanted to adjourn. People wanted to pray. People wanted to prepare for the coming of the Lord. However the speaker of the House, who was a Christian believer rose to his feet. ‘We are all upset by the darkness’, he said, ‘and some of us are afraid. But, the Day of the Lord is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. And if the Lord is returning, I, for one, choose to be found doing my duty. I therefore ask that candles be brought. At which the men who expected Jesus went back to their desks and resumed their debate.

So this year as you celebrate and enjoy all the best that Christmas has to offer with family and friends, keep vigilant and seek of God to know what is your duty and where service might be found for a citizen of the new kingdom. Charles Royden


Today we start a new liturgical year and our Sunday readings come from Mark’s gospel. It seems odd but we don’t start at the beginning of the Gospel, we jump straight to Mark 13. In this passage Jesus has entered Jerusalem, it is a short time before his death and he speaks to his disciples mindful that soon he will be killed and no longer physically present with them. He therefore warns them about what is to come and uses a story of a man going away and leaving servants in charge of his home. The master is leaving, those given charge of his household do not know when he wil return, but he will. What is also sure is that when the master does return he will expect to find his house in good order and his servants alert. They are charged to be constantly awake. This is why this reading is selected for the start of Advent this morning. Advent is about watchfulness and being prepared, believers are told to be vigilant.

So let’s take a look at this passage and consider exactly what it means. In my Bible chapter 13 is headed ‘signs of the end of the age.’ However if we start from the beginning of the passage in chapter 13 from verse 1, it is clear that the discussion concerns the Temple. We read
‘one of Jesus disciples said to him look teacher, what massive stone what magnificent buildings’,
Jesus replies   ‘not one stone here will be left on another’

So Jesus is speaking in these apocalyptic words about the Temple, not signs of the end of the age. This is just one of the reasons why I urge you when you read from the Bible in church, just stick to the text and don’t read out the introductions which are human commentary and not the original text! They are sometimes misleading, as is the case today. Jesus goes on later in the chapter to speak about his coming again, but first he has a warning about the fall of the Temple which happened in AD 70. Jesus urges his followers to flee. Jesus says,

‘let those who are in Judaea flee to the mountain,  Let no one on the roof of his house go down, or enter the house to take anything out, Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.’

Jesus is giving a warning to his disciples to flee, if the end of time was envisaged there would be no place to which to flee! Sadly people did not heed Jesus warning and instead of fleeing to the mountains they crowded into Jerusalem.  We know why Jesus encouraged such a mass exodus because we can read about the events of the fall of Jerusalem. It is recorded for us by the historian Josephus. He tells the terrible tale of the siege of Jerusalem, people starved and ate their own babies to stay alive. There was terrible political infighting with more Jews being killed by other Jews than by the invading Romans. In the year A.D. 69 one Roman Emperor succeeded another four, Nero, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian each time with violence and murder. As Vespasian made his way to Rome to receive the crown his adopted son Titus entered Jerusalem burnt the Temple destroyed the city and crucified thousands of Jews. Josephus tells us that 97,000 were taken captive and 1,100,000 perished by slow starvation and the sword.

So what are the messages today 2000 years after these events have taken place? We should remember the awe and wonder which impressed itself upon the disciples when they saw the Temple and be aware that we can be caught up admiring or failing to challenge the wrong things. The Temple which Herod built was one of the wonders of the world. It was begun about 19BC and in the time of Jesus it was still not fully finished. Josephus tells us that some of the stones were forty feet long by twelve feet high and eighteen feet wide. It was these stones which the disciples found so amazing. The Temple represented the pinnacle of human endeavour, but not for Jesus. Jesus saw the Temple differently, he recognised it as a human institution which was corrupt. It had set itself up against god’s law, it had perpetuated deep injustice and oppression. Jesus was never beguiled by human power and prestige, he saw through it and recognised that it had little to do with the love and compassion of God. His disciples through all ages must do the same. We must refuse to be caught up and impressed by institutions which do not reflect God’s concern with each and every individual created in God’s image. God has no favourites, no special rewards, all are equal and beautiful in God’s sight.

The chapter concludes with a story with the message that we must keep awake and watch. The disciples of Jesus must not be lulled into any false sense of security, we must be vigilant and engaged in a state of preparedness. The judgement which fell on the Temple is a foretaste of the judgement which will be for the whole world. God’s people are called to be faithful and not to compromise with the standards and fashions of the present age, rather keep awake.

As Christians we keep alert and perhaps as an example this means challenging the diet of mind numbing stuff that is fed to us by our media. For example, our daily news focuses our minds on trivia such as the lives of celebrities, whilst in Africa there is apocalyptic devastation in countries like Zimbabwe, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan's Darfur, and especially the Congo. A 2008 study by the International Rescue Committee concluded that 5.4 million "excess deaths" occurred in the Congo from 1998 to 2007 — a staggering ten percent of the population and a death toll eight times greater than the Rwandan genocide.

Our Christmas cards will direct our thoughts to snowy scenes, robins and candles. The holy family crib scene depicting the perfect family. Our reading today is a warning that we must not sentimentalize Christmas. The real story is a foul stable with animals, a pregnant and homeless teenager, and a world which simply had ‘no room’ for our Jesus. Advent is about watching and waiting and recognising things for what they are. Today in our church we welcome Bechar and our speaker Rob Huddart, we are grateful to Bechar for the opportunity this Christmas to be able to give to the work of helping the homeless in Bedford. Advent is a time to wrestle with the unsolved problems of the world such as homelessness and also to come to terms with our unanswered prayers, and so many unfulfilled promises. In the words of the Christmas hymn, Advent isn't about pious platitudes but about our very real "hopes and fears of all the years."  The exhortation to "keep alert" and "watch" is not unique to Mark, it is one of the most common exhortations throughout the New Testament.  It has nothing to do with reading tea leaves in an attempt to predict  "the day and hour."  It is a time for discernment, when we look at the crucified Jesus and seek ways in which to serve him.    Charles Royden


I have to try and remember this year never to write Xmas, in the past it has caused zealous Christian to write me three page letters telling me that I am unworthy and selling out the real meaning of Christmas to Beelzebub. Of course ‘X’ is the Greek letter chi which together with ‘P’ the Greek letter Rho, form the first two letters of Christ used in the chi-rho monogram, a very ancient Christian symbol. In fact Constantine used it in the fourth century as a religious emblem placed on the shields of his soldiers as a conquering sign, not something which Jesus would have had in mind.
The Church has been using X as an abbreviation for the word Christ for centuries, especially since the invention of the printing press and Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century. It is not part of a secular plot to obliterate Jesus and we need to be lot less defensive around the whole season. We Xians are not the only ones who celebrate a winter holiday at this time of year, in fact we pinched it off a pagan festival around the winter solstice. Many people will come along to Church this year at Christmas time because they sense something special, we have to try not to put them off by being too precious and holy. If we really want to keep Christ in Christmas’ then the way to do that is to ensure that we are doing the kinds of things which Jesus spent his time doing, looking after the poor, the lonely and the sick. He was a really holy man who never bragged about what he did and would never have wanted his name up in lights however we decided to spell it. Perhaps that cross (X) is a way we can remind ourselves of the kind of life he lived for others and a cross (X) can also be a great way of us expressing our love for him by doing the same.



Advent is the season of waiting and watching and a season of hope. What do we see? A church in confusion and struggling to come to terms with a weakening influence. A world in which many live with extraordinary wealth well and in which many more die without the most basic food and medicine. There is growing uncertainty of how our nation will cope surrounded by economic difficulties. Advent is a time of hope and yet we struggle to see God at work in our world. In the reading from Isaiah the prophet captures our Advent hopes and fears with words full of impatience, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.”

Isaiah thinks God is angry at the people and this is what has brought about the current circumstances: “You were angry and we sinned…. we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” It feels to Isaiah like our pain must be God’s doing: God must be punishing us, withdrawing God’s presence, because we have gone astray. God is angry at us and God’s anger takes the form of apparent abandonment. Isaiah and his community are going through a severe case of “separation anxiety.” God’s is present with us moment by moment and yet he does not micromanage our lives, God gives us space. We assume that God is absent whereas our actions or lack of them have limited God’s presence in our own lives and our communities. God acts through us as we seek to be part of his Kingdom right now. If we want God to tear open the heavens we will wait a long time, if we ask God to allow us to share in the work of the kingdom then God might say to us ‘about time too’  Charles Royden


  1. Come thou long expected Jesus
  2. (After confession) Be still and know that I am God
  3. Hosanna, Hosanna
  4. Tell out my soul tune:woodlands 
  5. To God be the glory 
  6. Hail to the Lords anointed —tune:cruger
  7. All for Jesus
  8. Christ is the world's true light
  9. Take my life
  10. O come o come Immanuel (Veni Emmanuel)  
  11. He’s got the whole world in his hands
  12. The race that long in darkness pined
  13. Lo! He comes with clouds descending


Lord Jesus Christ, by your thorn-crowned head, receive the devotion of my mind. Lord Jesus Christ, by your nail-pierced hands, accept my daily work. Lord Jesus Christ, by your wounded feet, bless my faltering journey. Lord Jesus Christ, by your riven side, accept the adoration of my heart; for your love and your mercy's sake. Amen
After George Spencer, Father Ignatius, 1799-1864

God our deliverer, whose approaching birth still shakes the foundations of our world, may we so wait for your coming with eagerness and hope, that we embrace without terror the labour pangs of the new age, through Jesus Christ. Amen. Janet Morley

Holy and compassionate God: so direct our strength and inspire our weakness, that we may enter with power into the movement of your whole creation towards wholeness, justice and peace. Amen. Christchurch Cathedral Vancouver

Before I commit a sin it seems to me so shallow, that I may wade through it dry shod from any guiltiness. But when I have committed it, it often seems so deep that I cannot escape without drowning. Thus I am always in the extremities; either my sins are so small that they need not any repentance, or so great that they cannot obtain thy pardon. Lend me, O Lord, a reed out of thy sanctuary, truly to measure the dimension of my offences. But oh! As thou revealest to me more of my misery, reveal also more of thy mercy. Thomas Fuller 1608-61

Additional Material



In Mark's Gospel today Jesus uses language in Chapter 13 which would have been familiar to Jewish thinking at the time about the Day of the Lord. Some have read this passage and said that Jesus got it wrong. Jesus said that these things would happen before some people died,

'I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.'

But this is to misunderstand the passage. The words of Jesus do not refer to the Second Coming, he is speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple. This occurred in AD 70. Jerusalem suffered a terrible destruction and it would have been wise for people to run. Josephus the historian tells us that people ate their own babies to survive, more Jews were killed by Jews than by the Romans. Jesus wanted his followers to escape that destruction which he foresaw. They would not be running away from the second coming, who could run away from that! No, they would run away from the dreadful times to come. In AD 69 there were four Roman emperors, one after the other with violence, killing and civil war. Nero, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. As Vespasian went to Rome to be crowned, his adopted son Titus entered Jerusalem, burned the Temple and crucified thousands of Jews.

Many people look at events today and comment that things are so bad, it sounds just like Jesus predicted. Not the case, it was the end of Jerusalem and the events of that most dreadful time which Jesus predicted. Not the events surrounding the end of the world, but the end of the world for the Jews as they knew it in AD70. So it would be that the Son of Man (Jesus) would come in clouds and glory, his words would be vindicated and proved true. 

As to the Second Coming - well that is quite a different matter and Jesus tells us that he does not know the timing of the event. However we do well to learn the lesson of history. We must heed the words of Jesus, amend our lives and be obedient to his ways.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent and it marks the beginning of the church year, when we remember Jesus' coming as a baby in Bethlehem. But we also use Advent to think about Jesus' second coming as king and judge. So the good news is, Jesus is coming back, the frustrating news is, we don't know when! Of course we are not supposed to know, instead we are told what to expect and how to prepare.

In the Gospel passage from Mark, Jesus teaches about second-coming preparation for his disciples. On his way to die, he is already talking about coming back. First of all, Jesus tells them, the times before his return will be difficult. Darkness will rule both the physical and spiritual world. But they (and we) are not to find reason for despair in this darkness. Quite the opposite, we are to be alert and watchful and we will see the signs of Jesus' return as plainly as we see spring turning into summer.

Not knowing when Jesus is returning gives us some choices for how to live. We can ignore his coming and get on with life as though he really didn’t exist or we can live as though he might return tomorrow and dedicate our gifts and energy to living and sharing God's Word right now. Our faith is not in the future, it is in the here and now. Jesus places a high premium on faithful discipleship in the midst of terrible trials. He calls for us endure and to be watchful. 

As look around us this Advent we might become aware of so much disaster and evil. Hardly a day goes by without news of more killing and terrorism. Do we still trust that God is in charge, is faithful to us and will finally draw us into a loving and lasting embrace? 

Our Advent liturgies and scriptural texts encourage us all to trust in God. They keep our hope alive, despite the news headlines. Advent faith isn't mired in the past, doesn't nostalgically relish a former time when things seemed better. Advent faith looks forward.

So what do we have to look forward to? God---that's who. God has not given up on us. The coming of Jesus shows us that God is eternally committed to humankind. Advent is a time of fear and apocalypse, but it is in the midst of fear that we learn to hope and trust. That is why we Christians should always be an optimistic people even if the odd star does fall out of the sky. Charles Royden