Sunday Worship – 29th November 2020 First Sunday in Advent by Rev Gayle Taylor

Please note that although we had hoped to livestream the service from Mayfield and Easthouses Church today, due to illness and self isolating requirements, none of the members of the livestream team were able to come to the church – let us keep them all in our prayers.

Sitting in different chairs, joining in at different times throughout the day, God’s people still gather for worship on this, the Lord’s day. Welcome, to Sunday worship.

Call to worship – with parts in bold to say aloud

In good times and bad times,

Oh God, you are with us.

In glad times and sad times,

Oh God, you are with us.

Right now, in these tough times,

we wish you were here.

In wretched and rough times,

we wish you were here.

Oh God, always with us,

Come quickly, we pray.

Oh God, always with us,

on this first day of advent, be with us today.

HYMN – Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

God of mystery and majesty,

comfortingly close and disturbingly distant,

worryingly near and comfortably far away,

we bring ourselves tentatively

into awareness of your presence,

wondering what today’s encounter may bring.

Will we be awed by your greatness,

or humbled by your vulnerability?

Will we know, without a doubt,

that you are here,

or grieve for the old certainties,

now gone?

If you did come amongst us once,

do we really expect you to come again?

All these thoughts are in our minds

as we prepare to celebrate the birth

of a child, who grew into a man in whom

your spirit was so powerfully distilled

that they called him Immanuel,

“God with us”.

Eternal God,

we want and need you

to be with us now,

but we fear your presence too.

Will you come with words of comfort

or of judgement?

Will you be pleased with what you find,

and the welcome you receive,

or will we disappoint you

and reject you as we did before?

We have plenty of sins to confess:

we have not been good stewards of creation;

we have not made the best use of our time;

we have not lived up to our own ideals,

never mind your hopes for us.

And we are sorry.

But it is hard for us too:

hard to know what to pray for;

what to do for the best;

hard to go on waiting and hoping

as one millennium gives way to another

and nothing seems to change.

So deal gently with us, God.

Come among us with encouragement

and hope, as well as forgiveness.

Show us a new and better way to live,

and give us strength and courage

to follow in your way.

Amen.

THE ADVENT CANDLES will be lit in the church today symbolising the gifts of God given for the whole world in this season: PEACE, HOPE, JOY and LOVE.

HYMN – Like a Candle Flame

Reading: Mark 13:24-37

Reflection:

HYMN – O Come O Come Emmanuel

Prayers for Others and Ourselves

Creator God,

we bring our prayers from a world

in deep distress.

There are signs and portents all around us,

and no-one to tell us what they mean:

fires and plagues and pestilence;

a shaking up of all we thought we knew;

leaders who are corrupt, or foolish,

or just as helpless as we all feel

in the face of forces we cannot control.

And yet we dare to believe

that it is your world.

We go on asserting that you care,

not just because to do otherwise

is unthinkable, but because

the old stories have a hold on us

and we hold on to them.

We kneel with shepherds and sages

by the straw-filled crib

and we worship.

We listen, spellbound, to the stories

told on hilltop and sandy shore,

and we are hooked.

We watch, aghast, as softly

the agony ends, and the final breath escapes.

We grieve and we despair.

We wake early and we wonder

if maybe, just maybe,

new hope may come with the dawn.

God of birth and growth, decline and death,

God of whatever came before

and whatever may come after

the brief, troubled lives that we know,

we commit to your care and keeping

our lives and our loved ones…

Silence

our world and our worries on its behalf…

Silence

We long for you to come and save us.

May we be ready when you do.

Amen.

HYMN – People Look East

Sending

Go with your heart and soul

in eager expectation,

awaiting the coming of Good News.

Be a living witness of that hope,

sharing the blessing of God

in word and action. Amen

Thought for the Week – The Word Made Flesh by Rev Gayle Taylor

The Adoration of the Child is depicted in this 17th-century painting by Dutch artist Gerard van Honthorst. Christmas is celebrated Dec. 25. (CNS photo/Uffizi Gallery in Florence)

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish. John 1 v 1 -14 from The Message by Eugene Peterson

What is our word today?  A word that sums up how you are, how you feel. Perhaps: tired, exhausted or energetic, positive, maybe hopeful. Or you could be angry, bitter, confused, overwhelmed, fearful, unsure, curious, excited or alright, ok.

Imagine our word for how we feel today becoming flesh.

A colleague of mine shared a story at a meeting on zoom a few weeks ago about a woman who came to see him regularly for counselling who was full of bitterness and anger. Each time he saw the woman when he would ask her, how are you today, she would say it, say the word “angry”. And so one day he asked her a different question, “What would it be like for you to not be angry, to not feel such bitterness?” She couldn’t answer but he felt God was prompting him to keep on asking the same question because this woman was so consumed by that word, that feeling, that it was occupying her whole being. You could see it in her face, how she held her body, in her posture, her walk, you could hear it in her voice. And he realised that the real counselling work was not about examining and giving attention to the anger anymore because it had become her identity – the word made flesh. She embodied anger. My colleague realised that the counselling work was now about imagining another possibility. I wonder if you could ask yourself that question about your word – what would it be like not to be….. angry, tired, curious, excited – yes, even ask it about the positive ones because it’s not just about understanding our hurts and wounds, it’s also about recognising that if we are only one way all the time, then we will miss out on many opportunities to relate and draw alongside people that God puts in our path.

As we approach the season of advent when we will celebrate the word made flesh, where God became the word LOVE., embodying love, love came down at Christmas. God with us, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Son of God, Messiah….so many words, so many ways of being with us but all of them LOVE. May we remember that phrase, “the word made flesh” and apply it to our selves because we are called to incarnational worship and service – to take our faith and flesh it out – faith becoming flesh, Christ in our midst.

This week’s prayer:

Word of life, I offer you my word of who I am today. May your love, your healing, your power of transformation, bring understanding, empathy and grace, light to the darkness. Amen.

This week’s music: