Advent 1: Pointing to God’s Presence

As I prepare for the first Sunday in Advent this week, I am deeply aware of the troubled and turbulent times in which we live; times that necessitate pointing again to the Hope that is Christ Jesus.

The readings for this coming Sunday are:

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16 – the promise of a good branch coming from the line of Jesse to bring justice, righteousness, safety and salvation;
  • Psalm 25:1-10 – a prayer professing our trust in God, confessing our own rebelliousness, and expressing our dire need to return to God’s good and upright ways;
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – a blessing of strength, purity, confidence and love to flow in and through our lives while we wait in anticipation of Christ’s coming;
  • Luke 21:25-36 – a warning to heed the signs of Christ’s coming and, I believe, an invitation to find in the midst of the trouble and turmoil, spaces in which we can bring God’s needed presence.

Call to worship (based on the Jeremiah reading):
The time is coming when God will do the good thing God has promised:
God will open our eyes to Immanuel – God-right-here-with-us.
He will do what is fair and just and right.
He will bring us not only salvation, but also an assurance of safety.
There will be peace in our land.
And we will name him, “The Lord Does What Is Right.”

Prayers of praise and confession (based on Psalm 25):
O Lord Who Does What is Right,
we call upon You this day for You are faithful and true.
In You we put our trust at the start of this season of waiting
for, as the prophets foretold, in You we will never be put to shame:
darkness will never overcome us
and our enemies will never be victorious.
There is no need for us to be afraid.

And yet, God Of Promise For Whom We Watch And Wait,
sometimes our hearts and minds are so full of fear
that there is little room left for You,
just like there once was in that tiny inn
in that tiny town of Bethlehem.

We confess that we too have been sleeping,
that we have been selfish,
that we have been self-medicating:
drinking, shopping, working, screwing
to dull our ever-growing fearfulness
~ that water is running out and famine and crippling inflation will devour us,
~ that no city is safe from the unrelenting bombings and suspicion of those who are different,
~ that the world we have exploited is lashing out at us through earthquakes and fires and floods and disease,
~ that the life that was promised to people finally freed from nationalised hatred and bigotry is only an elusive lie as the powerful profit and the poor continue to cry.

O Lord Whose Great Love and Mercy Have Been Known Since the Days of Old,
remind us that Your ways are full of grace and compassion,
hope and righteousness.
Do not hold our sins against us
but put us on the good and upright paths
that lead to humility and restoration,
safety and salvation.

*silence*

The Psalmist assures us, “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.”
“Guide us in Your truth and teach us, for You are God, our Saviour, and our hope is in You all day long.”

Communion liturgy (based on the passage from Luke):
Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man,
it seems like all hell has broken loose:
everyone all over the world in a panic,
the threat of doom hovering over us
~ in disaster,
~ in disease,
~ in dis-ease.

We thank You for this table –
the regular sign of Your presence
with and within us
in the simple elements of bread and wine.

In our woundedness,
in our fearfulness,
we remember bread blessed and broken:
“Your body broken for me.”

In our sinfulness,
in our hopelessness,
we remember the cup of forgiveness poured and shared:
“Your blood shed for me.”

*lighting of the HIV/AIDS candle set on the altar with the elements*

In our belonging,
in our belovedness,
we remember this day our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers,
still suffering from the stigma and the sickness of HIV and AIDS:
“Your light and love shine upon them, as they shine upon me.”

And so, as we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we receive the power of Your present and we proclaim:
“We will stand tall with our heads held high.
Help is on the way.
Hallelujah!
The Lord does what is right!
Hallelujah!”

The benediction (based on the Thessalonians passage):
Until we meet again,
may Jesus clear your way.
May he strengthen our hearts
so that we can be blameless and holy,
overflowing with love and light 
until Christ comes again.

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