A service for at home on the 1st Sunday of Advent (28th November) prepared for us by a Methodist Local Preacher.

Call to Worship (Psalm 25)
1 In You, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.
2 I trust in You;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in You
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me Your ways, Lord,
    teach me Your paths.
5 Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
    for You are God my Saviour,
    and my hope is in You all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, Your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my Youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to Your love remember me,
    for You, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

HYMN StF 175: Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness

Prayer of Adoration
Lord, we come unready to worship You; our minds are too full of the things we have left undone. Our focus is not completely on giving You thanks and praise. We carry so many memories of hurtful words spoken to us. We are finding it so very hard to strip away all the distractions and to clear our minds of the things that trouble us deeply.

In the silence, come, Lord, and refocus our thoughts on You and by Your grace we lay before You the baggage of our lives.

silence

Lord, by Your Holy Spirit, enter deeply into our hearts and fill our lips with songs of praise and thanksgiving. Now we are ready to give to You the praise You deserve and to honour Your great and glorious Name
        
Prayer of Confession
Lord we turn away from the busyness of the season to worship and praise You but we are so often distracted by and attracted to the glitz and colour of society as it rushes headlong into celebration for the sake of celebration. We get caught up in the rounds of partying and greetings that we, too, ignore the real meaning of the season, of Christmas.
We turn to You and lay ourselves before You, weighed down with the dross of this world; with the uncaring and selfishness; with the indulgences and debt that arise.
Merciful God, take all this from us. Lift the load of sin from our shoulders and put upon us a sense of love that goes beyond any love this world can give.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
We thank You, Lord our God, for our homes and families that bring us such joy. We thank You for friends and for colleagues who share the good days You give us.
We thank You for those who stand by us when life is full of problems and for those who offer comfort to friend and foe alike.
We thank You, Creator God, for the beauty and variety of this amazing world we live in and for the wonders of Creation we discover day by day.
We thank You, Loving Lord, for those who give themselves to the service of others as teachers and carers, as nurses and doctors. We thank you for those who provide our daily food and drink as farmers and growers, as processors and delivers.
We thank You for those who remind us of our responsibility for the care of others. Those who open our eyes to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the uneducated.
We give You thanks for all those who have opened our hearts and minds to receive Your love and Your Holy Spirit and for those who have lived their lives for Christ and with Christ bringing many prodigals back to the fold.
We thank You, Great Carer, for the promise of Christ’s coming, for the prophets who were obedient to Your word and the truths we share and learn during this time of preparation, this time of Advent.
We give humble thanks to the One Who made all that is for the blessings of love, hope and joy with which Christ fills our days. We thank You for the call and the opportunity to witness to Your Love, Your Power and Your Glory.
Loving God, accept these our prayers, our work and our worship in the Name of Jesus, our Lord, our Rock, our Saviour. AMEN

Reading: Jeremiah 33: 14 – 16
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    He will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.’

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9 – 13
9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in Your faith.
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to You. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for You. 13 May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Reading: Luke 21: 25 – 36
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.
34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Sermon
Text: “Be always on the watch” Luke 21: 36a
For those who have served in one of the armed forces being ‘on watch’ will have some memories, some pleasant and some not so pleasant. It is often those on watch who raise the alarm when they see or even sense danger approaching.
The watchers look for signs that are out of the ordinary, signs that things just do not look quite right, signs that there is change about to happen.
Imagine, if you will, being in the countryside in mid-April. What signs of spring and summer do we expect to see? Birds singing, trees bursting into leaf, grass being a green and thick carpet under our feet. The first wild flowers appearing – and much, much more.
Imagine, then, if the birds are not singing, the trees stand leafless, the grass lies lank and dull, there are no flowers – and it is mid-April.
What would you make of it?
We always expect that, in the natural course of things, spring will follow winter and summer will follow spring. That is the order of the seasons. Yet not all may be as we have always experienced them.
Jeremiah records the words that God has given to him. The message is one of hope – ‘The days are coming when I will fulfil the good promise I made’, says the Lord.
The promise of a leader, a righteous leader and one who will do right. That implies that this leader will be different from the previous leaders. This leader will care for the people, this leader will be just, this leader will be obedient to God and do as God guides and allows.
David was the great king that many looked for to return. Perhaps those hearing Jeremiah’s message were expecting another David, a warrior king, who would lead them to victory over their enemies and make the land of Judah and safe haven.
We know, as we have hindsight, that there will not be a warrior king. The One Jeremiah is speaking of is the Son of God Who would come to bring peace and justice.
When we read the genealogy of Jesus as recorded by Matthew (Matthew 1: 2 – 16), we find that Joseph, the husband of Mary, was a descendent of king David.
Luke also records the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3: 23 – 37) which takes us down the maternal line of His mother, Mary.
Therefore we can be certain that Jesus, the Son of God, is also a human descendent of king David as was promised by God through Jeremiah.
Paul speaks of earnest prayer and his hope to come once more to Thessalonica and greet the believers there in person. {Paul does not, however, say that he will clear the way. Paul is emphatic that it can only be God and Jesus that can ensure the way is clear for him to take and complete this journey.
We sometimes need to remember that travellers, such as Paul, in first century Judah did not have the ease of booking taxi, a coach or a train. Our journeys today have been made easy by comparison. Paul would have to walk great distances, sail in small boats often at the mercy of the winds and storms.
When Paul speaks of God clearing the way for him to come to Thessalonica he certainly means that only God has the power to ensure the road is easy and seas are calm.
Today, in our busy lives, we often miss seeing where God is at work. We take so much for granted. Inside the Church of Christ there are many who will daily read the Word of God, will pray and seek to be of charitable love for others.
Conversely, in the same Church, there will be those who do not read the Word daily, do not pray, have high regard for self and look down upon those less fortunate than they are.
Both have heard the message but only one has listened and applied the message to their life, the other ignores the message and goes on with a more worldly life. Both attend services – one will be immersed in worship, the other has worship done to them.
The signs of God’s Love, of God’s power are all around us. The events occurring across the world tell us of the faithlessness of God’s children when we see and hear of war, of violence, of hunger, of thirst, of poverty – all these show the absence of Christ Jesus in the minds and lives of those created by God.
Jesus said that there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars of His coming again. This time He will not come as a babe and be born in a manger. When Jesus returns He will come as the King, in power and glory. He will come to judge and sort the sheep and the goats.
We do not know when He will come again but come, He will. There will be signs but will we recognise them?
Storms and earthquakes, wars and rumours of war, famine and drought. These maybe the signs but we do not know. We cannot put a timescale on His coming.
Jesus has warned that we should live each day as if that is the day of His return. Jesus uses the analogy of ‘the thief in the night’.
If we knew that the thief was coming we would take steps to prevent him from entering our property.
So must we make ready for the return of The King, the coming of our Lord Jesus to take His rightful place as our King, our Lord, our Saviour.
This Advent we have the opportunity to change. Change from the way the world is going and follow the road cleared for us by God the Father, the Way of Christ. We have the opportunity to say ‘No’ to the temptations of the evil one and turn and welcome our Risen Lord into our communities, our homes and our hearts.
Come, Lord Jesus. AMEN

Hymn StF 180: O come, O come, Immanuel

Prayers of Intercession
Loving Father, we pray for those who look for peace and for those whose world lies in ruin; for those hiding in broken buildings and for those driven from their homes by violence and warfare.
May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of peace for all the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
We pray, Lord, for those who look for signs of forgiveness and for those who bear the wounds and scars of their mistakes; for those whose prejudice, abuse and lies have wrecked their homes and the lives of who love them and for those who carry secrets that no one knows but You.
May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of forgiveness for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
God of Love, we pry for those who look for signs of hope and for those who wake each morning to find only darkness; for those who long to cry but have no more tears to shed and for those whose fears and disappointments are deep inside. May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of hope for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
Gracious God, we pray for those who look for signs of joy and for those whose pain and sorrow rob them of laughter; for those who are single, with no one to share their happiness and for those who live alone longing for someone to make them smile.
May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of joy for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
Father, we pray for those who look for signs of grace and for those who have been made to look like failures; for those who have spent their lives striving to be accepted and for those hurt and damaged in the past and are longing to know they are loved unconditionally.
May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of grace for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
Lord, we pray for those who look for signs of healing and for those known to us whose days are now short; for those whose illness is of the heart and of the mind and for those longing to be the whole person You created them to be.
May the coming of the Christ-child be the sign of healing for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
We bring our prayers in the Name of the One Who opens eyes and hearts and minds in His love; the One Who taught us when we pray to say:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one
For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are Yours
now and forever. Amen

Hymn StF 177: Lo, He comes with clouds descending

Let us pray:
God of justice and peace, 
from the heavens You rain down mercy and kindness, 
that all on earth may stand 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 stand without blame before Your Son, Jesus Christ, 
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

Blessing:
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us, with those we love and pray for and those we should love and pray for, this day and forever.
Amen

Let us go in peace to love and serve our Lord.
In the Name of Christ Amen