URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 28th November 2021 – Advent 1 – The Revd. Andy Braunston

Order of Service

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Daily Devotions Service for
The First Sunday of Advent 2021
28th November

The Rev’d Andy Braunston
 
Opening Music U2 – Tomorrow
 
Welcome and Introduction
 
Hello, my name is Andy Braunston and I work with four churches in and around Glasgow.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent  – a time of looking forward and looking back.  We look back and remember God’s promises of hope and redemption.  We look forward as we yearn for Jesus to return again and put all things right.  We realise that we’re between two worlds – the world we live in and inhabit and the world that is to come.  We are often tempted, when we think of the state of the world, to long for God to come and put things right; today we remind ourselves that God also waits – for us to put things right too! 
 
Call To Worship
 
We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
 
We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
 
We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
 
We wait for the Lord!  We take courage; we are stout hearted for we wait for the Lord!
 

 
Hymn       Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) (alt.) based on a hymn by John Cennick (1718-1755)

 

Lo! he comes
with clouds descending,
once for favoured sinners slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
 
2 Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears;
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshippers:
with what rapture,
with what rapture,
with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars.
 
3: Yea, amen, let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
claim the kingdom for thine own:
oh, come quickly,
oh, come quickly,
oh, come quickly,
Alleluia! come, Lord, come!

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession, Forgiveness and Inspiration
 
Oh Lord we wait for you, as watchers wait for daybreak  so we wait for you.  But Lord it’s hard to wait;  we’re so impatient, there’s so much to be done, so much to be put right.
 
We wait for you as our world seems to go to hell in a handcart; we wait for you as the sea levels and temperatures rise, as humanity continues to pillage the earth, our fragile home, we wait for you to do something.
 
We wait for you as we see injustice pile upon injustice; we see people flee here for safety having lost family, home and security, often risking all to cross the channel in little dinghies only to be treated with hostility, suspicion and public indifference, we wait for you to do something.
 
We wait for you as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we see more and more people on the streets in our country and people around the world deal with famine and fatigue, pandemic and pestilence and we wait for you to do something.
 
Lord Jesus open our eyes to see what we can do! Lord Jesus help us to see that you’ve given us all that we need to make this world right!
Lord Jesus forgive us when we wait for you and do nothing ourselves;
passing the responsibility to you when you’ve given it to us. Lord Jesus forgive us when we forget to hope, hope for change, hope for strength, hope for you to come again hope for you to change us.  Amen.
The One for whom we wait, is ready, standing at an open door, holding open arms of welcome  all we need to do is stop waiting and turn back to Him and be ready to be changed!
 
Advent Candle Lighting
 
Lighten our darkness, O God, and remind us, as we light this Advent candle, to both hope in you, our light and salvation, and to be light to others in the gloom of our world. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open our hearts O God, to hear your word that as we listen, ponder and digest, you may inspire us to change, to act and to love,  Amen. 
 
Reading:  Jeremiah 33:14-16
 
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
 
Hymn:      Longing for Light, We Wait In Darkness
© 1993 Bernadette Farrell (b.1957)

 

Longing for light,
we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth,
we turn to you.
Make us your own,
your holy people,
light for the world to see.
     
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your Church
gathered today.
 
2  Longing for peace,
our world is troubled.
Longing for hope,
many despair.
Your word alone
has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.
 
3 Longing for food,
many are hungry.
Longing for water,
many still thirst.
Make us your bread,
broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
 
4 Longing for shelter,
many are homeless.
Longing for warmth,
many are cold.
Make us your building,
sheltering others,
walls made of living stone. (cont.)

 

5 Many the gifts,
many the people,
many the hearts
that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
 
Reading:  St Luke 21: 25 – 36
 
Jesus said “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
 
Hymn:      Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) CH4 472  Tune: Stenkarazin Sung by Phil and Lythan Nevard
 
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art,
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
2 Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a King,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.

 

Sermon
 
The people yearn for a new start.  Everyone is longing for hope.  We’ve had a dreadful time and things have got to change.  It’s all been too much, we’ve lost so much and it is easy to become despondent at how things are going.  Will things ever get better?  Will the rich still continue in charge doing their own thing and letting the poor suffer?  Will the tables ever be turned?  Will there ever be justice, will things ever go well for the dispossessed and displaced?
 
These words could sum up our life now as we struggle to move on from a pandemic that is still with us, as we face reality in our churches with many people still hesitant to return and with some churches deciding to close.  These words might have a resonance as we deal with inflation in prices but not wages or pensions, and as we look at the ecological crisis that threatens to wash all away before it.  The words might resonate in a world where there is little justice, where despots die in their beds not their prison cells and where capital is a principality and power all of its own.
 
The opening words could also reflect things in Jeremiah’s time when he was called to be a prophet to a people who didn’t want to hear.  He was called to tell the people that the impending disaster of invasion and exile in Babylon were their own fault.  Jeremiah had to tell the people they’d turned away from God and relied, instead, on foreign policy to save them.  Then, as now, foreign alliances are fickle mistresses; the sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan left a people in mortal peril and showed the British that the special relationship with America wasn’t that special after all.  Worse Jeremiah had to find a way to instil hope in a people who were about to endure unimaginable suffering; he does this to looking forward to a new branch of the House of David, a new ruler who will rule with justice unlike the then current rulers of the people.  God would, in his good time, raise up a new king who would put things right. 
 
The opening words could well have been said in Jesus’ time when the people groaned under the oppression of Roman occupation, where the religious leaders were more concerned with keeping things calm, placating the Roman governor, and where the puppet rulers of Israel were more concerned with feathering their own nests rather than the welfare of the people.  The long promised king, or Messiah, hadn’t come, Israel wasn’t living in a golden age but had suffered from oppression, invasion and occupation.  Maybe those old verses from Jeremiah were laughed at, seen as poetic imagination, but not a lived reality for the people. 
 
In Jeremiah’s time, in Jesus’ time, and in our own time people cry out “how long, O Lord, how long?”  Then, as now, pity parties might well be deserved.  For Jeremiah had to try and make sense of the ending of the Jewish state, the destruction of the Temple and long years of bitter exile where the people had to learn to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.  His message was to turn back to God and hope for better days; this may not have been altogether encouraging.  In Jesus’ time the people yearned to be free from Roman oppression, corrupt leaders, and unjust taxes as they dreamt of their own land being free once again.  In our own time our hopes and ambitions may not be so focused on such political ambitions but, instead, on fundamental changes to how we function as a society – perhaps we want to move away from an economy that always values growth over the earth, perhaps we want a society where things are more equal, where there’s a fair playing field for everyone; perhaps we want a society where ethnicity isn’t a bar, where how we love isn’t a thing to be despised, where the disabled are as valued as the able bodied. 
 
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are, frankly scary.  They are spoken in a style that would have been familiar to his hearers – they sound like parts of the Book of Daniel and, of course, like parts of Revelation which would have been written after Jesus’ words today.  Their style is the same used when writers wanted to give lessons about the end of time and where meanings might be hidden.  Jesus, like Wesley in our first hymn, was trying to say that these earth shattering things would happen – there will be signs in the heavens, the nations would be confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves, the powers of heaven would be shaken – but that we are not to lose heart as these are signs that He is returning.  In Wesley’s great advent hymn, Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending, we play with the same juxtaposition of ideas – the terror of the end with the hope that Jesus comes again. 
 
Throughout the centuries Christians have got a little over excited about Jesus’ return – and often those groups which majored on it the most were either suffering horrific persecution or had very narrow views which are alien to how we think.  Yet there is still a temptation amongst some Christians to ignore the plight of the earth and the injustices around us as they believe that Jesus will come and rescue us leaving the earth to go to ruin.  The consequences of that type of thinking is a neglect of the earth at best or a disregard for it at worst.  Yet the witness of Scripture is a renewed creation – a new heaven and earth – not an escape from it.
 
My most recent course in Scottish history is looking at how the Highland Clearances were resisted and, in places, reversed.  It’s a history of differing forms of social protest and one of the ideas we’ve been playing with is the Gaelic idea of dùthchas (doothas).  It’s not a word that is easily translated as it captures idea of where we’re born and grow up; our heritage.  In the contexts I’ve been looking at it’s about how one’s heritage, landscape, culture and language affect one’s sense of identity as well as ties with family, clan, and land.  For the Jews of Jeremiah’s time their dùthchas was dislocated as they were uprooted from their land, faith and heritage as they were made to march off to Babylon.  We know from how the Highland Scots had to leave their straths and glens to find work in the central belt, in North America or in Australia and New Zealand and how this can be a tragic thing to have to do.  In Jesus’ time the continued invasions of Israel by Babylonians, Greeks, and then Romans meant that the Jewish community was scattered all over the ancient world leading again to torn loyalties – the heritage of the past and the need to put down roots in the here and now.  Jeremiah had to give hope amidst disaster – to encourage people to see the hand of God even in the face of disaster and to make the best of it hoping for better times.  Jesus also encouraged his hearers to see God at work even in the natural disasters seen in the earth and the heavens and to long for all to be made right when he came again. 
 
So here we are between various worlds.  We’re starting Advent and are invited to look forward to the end of time when Jesus will return but our society is starting the run up to Christmas.  We’re coming to the end of another difficult year and we look forward to 2022 with some hope – the vaccines seem to have worked but new Covid cases are still with us and we’re not sure what the worst of winter will bring.  Many of us are glad to be back in church but we know that many churches across these islands have not reopened but, instead, concluded their time was up.  We live in an affluent society with huge amounts of poverty; we live in a rich continent which seeks to keep the poor and displaced out; we want the global movement of goods, money and services but not people – especially if the people who wish to come are different from us.  We’re between two possible futures too – maybe the crisis of the earth could be read into Jesus’ words about signs in the heavens and the groaning of the seas and the waves.  Maybe we will find ways to change, maybe we won’t.  These are the tensions we live with in Advent – we look back to the manger and forward to the end of time, we face up to the world as it really is and long for deliverance from the evil around us, we see what we have to do in order to save the earth but lack the will to do it.  Long ago the people groaned under the oppression of the invading Babylonians, they wept in the bitterness of exile.  Later they suffered the oppression of Roman rule and the ruin of the people.  In their faith they found hope – hope of a better world not a replacement to this one but an earth renewed where injustice, prejudice and oppression would end.  In our own time we need hope – hope that the pandemic will cease, hope that the world will become fair, hope that the poisonous prejudices of patriarchal systems will cease, hope that we may find ways to renew the earth.  We long for Jesus to return, but mustn’t forget the responsibility is ours to bring about the changes that we long for.  Will you pray with me?
 
God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may live in awe and wonder
before your marvellous deeds.
Raise our heads in expectation,
that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord,
and use the hope that He brings,
to change our world as we proclaim your coming Kingdom. Amen.
 
Hymn       Comfort, Comfort Now My People
Isaiah 40:  1-5 adapted Johannes Olearius (1611-1684) translated Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)  revised John L. Bell (b.1949) recorded at First Plmouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
 
Comfort, comfort now my people;
Tell of peace – so says your God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning under sorrow’s load.
To my people now proclaim:
that my pardon waits for them.
Tell them that their sins I cover;
and their warfare now is over.

2 For the herald’s voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
calling us to true repentance,
since the reign of God is near.
Oh, that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way.
Let the valleys rise in meeting
and the hills bow down in greeting.

 

3 Straight shall be what long was crooked, and the rougher places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble, as befits God’s holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord now on earth is shed abroad.
And all flesh shall see the token, that God’s word is never broken.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you reject Satan?                                                             We do.
And all his works?                                                                  We do.
And all his empty promises?                                                We do.
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?                                              We do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died,
and was buried,  rose from the dead,
and is now seated  at the right hand of the Father?    We do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?                                                              We do.
God, the Creator almighty, has given us, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, new birth and forgiveness for all our sins. May God also keep us faithful to Jesus Christ, our coming King, for ever and ever.  Amen.
 
Intercessions
 
Loving Lord in this season of advent we look forward in anticipation to the birth of our Saviour. We look forward in hope, love, joy and peace.
 
We pray for the Church, for the great Church throughout the world,
and for our own church community gathered today for worship and prayer. May we remember Jesus every day, grow in understanding of him, and learn to love you and our neighbours. Fill us with your Spirit, and make us people of peace, of faithful prayer and loving action.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
We pray for the whole world; for the people, the animals, the earth, the sea and the air. May all that you have made be sustained in peace and harmony, and may all your creatures share in the goodness of creation. Bring healing to all who are suffering, and may all your people share in hope especially those known to us individually, who need your grace the most. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
We pray for ourselves, for our families and our friends, for all those we love and for those we find it hard to love. May young and old respect one another, and the generations honour one another. May nothing divide us or come between us, but let your love bind us in affection. Bless us with your peace, that together we may praise you forever. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Offering
 
We bring to God our offerings for the work of this church in the world.
Let us pray
 
As you fed the 5,000 from the gift of a young boy. We ask that you accept our gifts, transform them, so we can spiritually feed many, through
the ministry and mission of this church in the world. Amen
 
Hymn:      Christ Is Surely Coming
                  ©Christopher Idle/Jubilate Hymns Ltd  from Revelation 22
       
Christ is surely coming bringing his reward,
Alpha and Omega, First and Last and Lord:
Root and stem of David, brilliant Morning Star:
meet your Judge and Saviour, nations near and far;
meet your Judge and Saviour, nations near and far!
 
2 See the holy city! There they enter in,
All by Christ made holy, washed from every sin:
thirsty ones, desiring all he loves to give,
come for living water, freely drink, and live;
come for living water, freely drink, and live!


3 Grace be with God’s people! Praise his holy name!
Father, Son, and Spirit, evermore the same.
Hear the certain promise from the eternal home:
‘Surely I come quickly!’ Come, Lord Jesus, come;
‘Surely I come quickly!’ Come, Lord Jesus, come!
 
Blessing
 
May the One, long promised, 
who will come to set His people free, free you.
May the One, long promised, who will restore justice to the nations,
give you strength to do what is right.
May the One, long promised, who will give hope to His people,
shower you with hope that you may a sign of the Kingdom
and the blessing of Almighty God, the Three-in-One,
be with you, and all whom you love, now and always, Amen. 
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship adapted from Psalm 37 by Andy Braunston. Affirmation of Faith adapted from the Apostles’ Creed.  All other liturgical material by Andy Braunston.  Intercessions adapted by Margaret Higton from Worship From the URC. 
 
Thanks to Derek McDonald, Margaret Higton, Dan Morrell and Katie Henderson for recording spoken parts of the service.
 
Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending – Charles Wesley (1707-1788) (alt.) based on a hymn by John Cennick (1718-1755). Taken from BBC Songs of Praise
Longing for Light, We Wait In Darkness – © 1993 Bernadette Farrell (b.1957) Published by, OCP Publications. Performed by Bernadette Farrell
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Charles Wesley (1707-1788) CH4 472  Tune: Stenkarazin Sung by Phil and Lythan Nevard
Comfort, Comfort Now My People – Isaiah 40:  1-5 adapted Johannes Olearius (1611-1684) translated Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) revised John L. Bell (b.1949) recorded at First Plmouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Christ Is Surely Coming – ©Christopher Idle/Jubilate Hymns Ltd  from Revelation 22 Performed by Jubilate Hymns

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