Happy New Christian Year! Welcome to our online worship opportunity for Advent Sunday; the first Sunday of the Church’s year. It contains prayers, the readings for the day and some musical offerings for the day. Our worship today takes about 40 minutes.
The Prayer for Today: the Collect
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. Amen
Hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
The First Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
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.
Hymn: Into the darkness of this world
The Gospel Reading: Mark 13:24-37 The Coming of the Son of Man
“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; 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.”
Hymn: Hark a thrilling voice is sounding
Today’s Reflection: From our Curate; Revd Suzanne Johnson. Click below to see and hear today’s message or simply read the text below.
Happy New Year! No I’m not mad, today is Advent Sunday, the first day of the Christian year!
In one of my previous churches there is a 9 year old boy called Nathan who loves to help by reading the lesson or the prayers. Nathan is such a star it always brings a smile to my face when I think of the time he did a reading where he referred throughout to ‘Jesus and the despicables’.
The reason I mention Nathan is not only because of the smile it raises every time I remember that reading, but because of his enthusiastic and excited attitude towards Christmas and the time leading up to it beginning today, Advent Sunday which Nathan calls ‘Adventure Sunday’.
I think Nathan’s hit the nail on the head for that’s what Advent is all about, God’s adventure in breaking into history, or more accurately humanity’s adventure in meeting God in person. For great adventures we need to be ready and expectant. People prepare for adventures in different ways; some, like me, plan, make endless lists, pack weeks beforehand and ensure everything is in order. Others leave everything till the last minute, throw everything but the kitchen sink into a bag and make do if they’ve forgotten something. However you prepare, and however frustrated you get as others prepare, all of us need to be prepared to meet God when He comes again.
Here in our Gospel passage, at the start of the church’s new year, Jesus himself tells us to be constantly watching, constantly ready to take on the adventure of finding God anew. Ready to start again, ready to drop what’s unnecessary, only doing what’s essential for Him when He returns.
So what are we to watch out ‘and be ready’ for? According to our Gospel, its terrible storms, stars falling from the sky, darkness, the loss of the moon; great wars, famines, the breakdown of society, our world spiralling out of control as we lose sight of our God. It seems like the four horsemen of the apocalypse are upon us; so you’d better grab your Indiana Jones hat, crack your whip, take up your sword and pistol, step out with cross and garlic in hand and stand ready to fight evil just as Van Helsing does in so many books and films.
You may not realise this but even in sleepy Taplow every person will experience the end of the world, and I don’t just mean through covid. We don’t know when it will be, so keep an eye on your fig trees – read the end times for yourself. Make sure your roosters are awake and able to crow, do not sleep – ever, and never, ever, ever build barns or store up riches here on earth!
Still asleep? Still counting the minutes till the end of this sermon or working out how quickly you can cook Sunday lunch – especially if the service is short? Think again, think about what Advent, God, Jesus and His church, mean in our lives, think about what Jesus is telling us in this passage.
In the first century, the Jewish nation were faithfully fulfilling all of God’s laws, faithfully waiting for their saviour and the end of the world as they knew it: an end to Roman (and all foreign) rule, an ending brought about with lightening, thunder, earthquakes, lava flows and mighty battles led by a warrior messiah overcoming the Romans and bringing a new era of God’s kingdom into being – a Kingdom based on the detailed rules established by the Pharisees, a Kingdom whereby everything would be controlled; including God.
But God did something different, something only six or seven faithful watchmen and women saw: a baby born in a barn; a baby who became a refugee, grew up as an artisan; neither rich nor poor; and a man who had to discover his awesome responsibility for himself, through temptation and challenge; just as every human being does.
There was no mighty darkness, no stars fell from the sky, no great messages given to the powers that be. God simply came as a man, to an obscure part of the Roman Empire, to live and die in comparative anonymity – a man who subsequently changed the world. At the time, no one even noticed despite the stories in the Gospels. Jesus remained an obscure Jewish prophet until at least a hundred years after His death.
So, how are we preparing for this adventure? Are we ready to find God in every part of our lives, especially where we least expect him? Do we live our lives, full of the grace and power of Jesus himself? Who amongst us will be waiting for death at every corner, waiting for judgement by hordes of angels, and waiting for the end of days?
As life carries on and on, moving slowly towards its end it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the message of the final days in mind, it’s not so easy to keep thinking of hordes of judging angels, thunder-claps, darkness and death. It’s not easy to think of fig-leaves sprouting or even of meeting Jesus next Sunday.
So how are you preparing? Have you even thought about preparing?
Perhaps as today is the churches ‘new year’s day’ we should all make it our new year’s resolution to know Jesus better so that we are ready when he comes knocking, whether that be during our lifetime here on earth or on our judgement day, be that tomorrow, next week or in many years to come.
It is my prayer for each one of us, that during this season of Advent we live our lives full of the grace of Jesus Christ, expectantly looking to meet Him everywhere and in everyone, always ready for the call, packed and prepared for the greatest of adventures!
Anthem: People, look East
Our Prayers for Today: Click to listen to the prayers or simply read them below.
Come Lord, light of the World, light up our lives Dispel all our darkness, remove all our blindness; Come, light of the World, be light for our eyes
O God of light, we pray that you may shine in our hearts like the rising sun, and banish the darkness of sin and the mists of error. Help us to take the light of Christ deep into the darkness of our hearts that the darkness may be driven from us and we may be bathed in your glorious light.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer
Come Lord, Strength of our days, strengthen our lives Fill us with courage to follow you always Come Strength of our days, be strength for our minds
Almighty God, as we grapple with the challenges of the pandemic, we pray that we may have the strength to play our part in doing the right things to minimise the spread of the virus. Help us to be selfless in our relationships with others, to support each other with love and care and to resolve to be more Christ-like in how we live our lives.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer
Come Lord, Joy for the world, fill us with gladness Come, bring us together with music and laughter; Come, Joy for the world, bring warmth to our lives.
O God of love, this advent we pray that we may feel the joy of God made man in Christ Jesus. Help us to appreciate the joy of all your creation that we may be encouraged to use our current circumstances as an opportunity to think differently, to love differently and to live differently.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer
Come Lord, Hope of the world, comfort your people, Come heal all our sorrow with love and compassion Come, Hope of the world, bring peace to us all.
O God of love, you understand the fear and pain of those who are suffering before we speak of them, surround the frightened with your tenderness, give your strength to those in pain, hold the weak in the arms of your love, comfort those who mourn and to those who are recovering from sickness, give your hope and patience.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer
Come Lord, Spirit of God, be with us now Enlighten our lives with radiance and power Come Spirit of God, inspire all we do.
O Father God, as we prepare for a different Christmas this year, help us to find time for quiet and thought and prayer; that we may reflect upon the wonder of your love and allow the story of our Saviour’s birth to penetrate our hearts and minds. So may our joy be deeper, our worship more real, and our lives worthier of all that you have done for us through the coming of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hymn: Christ be our Light
Notices for the Week: Click the image below to see this week’s notices
Final Hymn: Long ago, Prophets knew
Be thou a bright Flame before us, Be thou a guiding start above us, Be thou a smooth path below us, Be thou a kindly shepherd behind us, This Advent and for evermore. Amen
Voluntary: Wake O Wake: Choral Prelude by J S Bach