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Advent Sermon

Sermon preached by
The Reverend Charles Royden
Advent 1, 4th December 2000

Quick Quiz—

What prayer does the last verse of the Bible finish with?

'He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.'

If you had read your Bible Notes Commentary you would have spotted that verse. Not that you should necessarily have read them yet of course. They are best read at home. I am encouraged by the number of people who do use Bible Notes each week.

An older lady who is too frail to come to church anymore told me that she is able to read them and follow the Bible readings that we are using in church. I know that some of you like to follow the Bible readings, but the main purpose is to allow you to have something to take away every week with prayers, Bible Readings and thoughts.

Today we move in the three year cycle from Year B to Year C, which to most of you will mean nothing at all . But what it does mean is that this is the beginning of the Church year. Advent is the beginning of the church year, when we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas.

Next week the carol services start in our churches, with different groups holding their own services there will be several services of one kind or another each week now until Christmas. This is a difficult time, indeed by the time Christmas eventually comes some of us will be suffering from 'FFS' that is 'festive fatigue syndrome.' Its good to give these things a name, it makes them sound more serious and researched, somehow 'fed up' doesn't sound nearly as important.

It is said that behind every good Christmas is an exhausted woman. But the truth is that most of us feel a bit exhausted by the time that Christmas finally arrives. Does part of you want to just fast forward to Christmas Eve and avoid the messy bits in between?

At Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but it also reminds us the coming of Christ again. This means that Advent is very much like life in general, and sometimes I suppose we wish that we could just fast forward over the messy bits, and have Jesus appear now. No wonder that the Bible finishes with a prayer hoping that Jesus will come soon. As Christians we should all want Christ to come, yet we live all year round in Advent time, the period in which we are waiting and preparing for the return of Christ. This means that Advent should be a time characterised by vigilance. 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. The text from Luke encourages us to think of the Lord's second coming on this Sunday on which we begin to prepare for Christmas. One Advent leads to another, but in the meantime we have the task of striving to build up a new community founded on justice and God's righteousness. As Luke tells us we have to be careful not to be 'weighed down by the anxieties of this life,' instead we should be 'always on the watch, and pray.'

It is hard to live in a manner which reflects God's kingdom, rather than the somewhat shabby standards which are all too evident around us. We can too easily become preoccupied by 'life' just as we can loose the real meaning of Christmas in all of the preparations which cause 'festive fatigue syndrome.'

Apropos of not remembering why we celebrate the season:

There is a story of a young Naval Academy graduate, who after completing his first overseas cruise, was given an opportunity to display his talents at getting his ship underway and out of port. The young officer's efficiency established a new record for getting a naval ship underway. He was stunned, however, when a sailor approached him with a message from their captain. "My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparations exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste however, you have overlooked one of the fundamental rules—make sure the captain is on board before you leave."

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 young children are brutally murdered on our streets, as we tragically heard again this week? 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 his 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.

This Sunday we are lighting for the first time our Advent Wreath. I have prepared four services this year and we will use one each week at the start of each service as a part of our preparation for Christmas. There are three themes and these three themes focus on four things which should characterise our lives. For those of you reading this sermon, the service is outlined below. May God enable us to be Christians who live out these 'signs' of the Kingdom, this Advent and as we wait for the coming of our Lord. Amen.

THE ADVENT WREATH

Advent comes from the Latin word 'adventus' meaning 'Coming.' Advent begins the church year starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation since the 6th century. Advent is a time for preparing for Christ's second coming, even as we remember and celebrate his first coming at Christmas. This is why the colour of the season of Lent is used, purple or blue, the colours also of Lent, of forgiveness and repentance.

Traditions vary from church to church, but usually one week, either week three or four in Advent, is set aside as more celebratory than others. Rose is the colour of this week rather than purple, which is why a rose candle is used. In our churches we will celebrate this week on the fourth Sunday of Advent, when we remember Mary, the mother of Jesus to whom is attributed that great song of joy, the Magnificat.

First Candle—The Candle of Hope: The Patriarchs, Abraham, the Old Testament Ancestors of Jesus

Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord

All: Thanks be to God

Leader: Today is the First Sunday of Advent, in which we recall the hope we have in Christ.

God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, because he trusted and put his hope in God. The Old Testament spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a Saviour would be born, a king in the line of King David. He would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations. We too believe in God's promise to send Jesus again to this world to establish his kingdom upon the earth.

(A person lights the First Candle here)

Hope is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at the light of this candle we celebrate the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Leader: Let us pray:

All: God of Abraham and Sarah and all the Patriarchs of old, you are our Father too. Your love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Son of David. Help us in preparing to celebrate his birth, to make our hearts ready and to place our hope in you. Help us today and every day to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your hope with others. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Second Candle—The Candle of Peace: The prophets who foretold the birth of Jesus

Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord

All: Thanks be to God Leader:

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent and we will light the Candle of Peace. Last Sunday we lit the First Candle in our Advent Wreath, and celebrated the patriarchs, this First Candle reminded us of our hope in Christ. We light it again as we remember our Saviour, born a king in the line of King David. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and we believe that he will come again to fulfil all of God's promises to us, to rule the world wisely and bless all nations.

(A person lights the first candle, the candle of hope)

Today we light the Second Candle of Advent, the Candle of Peace. We remember the prophets who spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a Saviour would be born, a king in the line of King David. The prophet Isaiah called Christ "the Prince of Peace". They told us how he would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations.

When Jesus came he taught people the importance of being peace-makers. He said that those who make peace shall be called the children of God. When Christ comes to us he brings us peace and he will bring everlasting peace when he comes again.

We light the Candle of Peace to remind us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that through him peace is found.

(A person lights Second Candle, the Candle of Peace)

Peace is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the peace we find in Jesus Christ.

Leader: Let us pray:

All: Lord Jesus, Light of the World, the prophets said you would bring peace and save your people from trouble. Give peace in our hearts at Christmastide. We ask that as we wait for you to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and everyday to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your peace with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Third Candle—The Candle of Love: John The Baptist

Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord

All: Thanks be to God

Leader: Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and we will light the Candle of Love. Last Sunday we lit the Candle of Peace. We light it and the Candle of Hope again as we remember Jesus, born in Bethlehem, our hope and our peace.

(A person lights the Candles of Hope, and Peace.)

Today we light the Third Candle of Advent, the Candle of Love. In their old age God gave to Zechariah and Elisabeth a son called John. John spoke to the people bravely in the desert denying his own comforts and prepared to die for what he believed. John taught that we should share what we have with others, treat each other kindly and show Gods love. He did this because he cared for people and wanted them to repent and find God's forgiveness.

(A person lights the Candle of Love here)

Love is like a candle shining in a dark place. As we look at the light of this candle we celebrate the love we have in Christ.

Leader: Let us pray:

All: Lord God, Your witness John the Baptist grew up strong in spirit and prepared people for the coming of the Lord. He loved your people and baptised them in the River Jordan to wash away their sins. Help us to have the same love that we would be witnesses to him and spread the good news of your love. As Christmas draws closer day by day, help us to be ready to welcome him.

Fourth Candle—The Candle of Joy (Pink candle): Mary the Mother of Jesus

The Leader says the following

Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord

All: Thanks be to God

Last Sunday we lit the Candle of Love. We light it and the Candles of Hope and Peace again as we remember that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, will come again to fulfil all of God's promises and bring us everlasting peace and joy.

(A person lights the Candles of Hope, Peace, and Love)

Today we light the Fourth Candle of Advent, the Candle of Joy. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that a special child would be born to her she was filled with joy. She sang a song that began with the words: "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. Just as the birth of Jesus gave great joy to his mother, so his presence in the world gave joy to those who had none before. He healed them and gave them hope and peace when they believed in him.

From hope, peace, and love grows joy. We light the Candle of Joy to remind us that when Jesus is born in us we have joy and that through him there will be everlasting joy on earth.

(A person lights the Candle of Joy)

Joy is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the joy we find in Jesus Christ. Leader:

Let us pray:

All: Thank you God for the joy you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and everyday to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your joy with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

 

Bible Notes and Reading for 4th December 2000

 

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