Material for Worship on the First Sunday of Advent

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
the prophets said you would bring peace
and save your people in trouble.
Give peace in our hearts at Christmas
and show all the world God’s love. Amen.

A reflection by the Ven. Peter Potter on today’s readings: Isaiah 64.1-9 and Mark 13.24-37 read here by Peter Owen and by Liz Owen.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Church’s calendar. But, strangely, today’s reading are concerned with an immanent end of things. The reading from Mark’s Gospel comes just before Jesus’ arrest on Maundy Thursday. This ambiguity reflects the mood of Advent as we swither between waiting and looking back, hopeful anticipation and fear and trembling as we confront the four great themes of Advent: heaven and hell, death and judgement.

Perhaps we find these contrasting, jarring notes all the more keenly as we prepare to celebrate Christmas at the end of a year like no other. We shall be deprived of carol singing and Midnight Mass. In the UK alone over 56 thousand people will be missing from family gatherings. But yet, our feelings are not far removed from people in Isaiah’s day or those living in first century Palestine. The Israelites had endured decades of deprivation in Babylonian exile and the apocalyptic words of Mark 13 tell of trials and tribulations.

Isaiah 64:8 gives us a striking description of God “we are the clay and you are the potter”. (I like that, but I would, wouldn’t I?) It portrays a dynamic God whose creative energy never ceases. We can picture him working away at his potter’s wheel, creating a thing of beauty out of a shapeless lump of clay. At times when things are not going right he pushes the clay back into a lump to start again. This picture holds good at an individual level, for there is never a time when God has finished with us. It also applies in other ways. Israel, for all its faults had become like a piece of pottery on the wheel that was beginning to come apart. The potter needs to push it together and start again.

When the later chapters of Isaiah were written there were signs of this new start. Cracks were beginning to show in the Babylonian empire and a new power was rising. A new star in the east, we could say, and with it new hope was dawning.

The scene in Mark 13 was similar. The coming events of Holy Week and Easter heralded both an end and a beginning. As today’s readings and the Advent collect tell us, this will be both a time of deliverance and a time of judgement.

Today, after a year of tribulation, it seems as if there are signs of a new dawn. Talk of a vaccine has got our hopes up. But are we to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to where we were before? Or has the misshapen vessel been put back on the potter’s wheel to be reshaped into something more pleasing in the sight of God.

For now, we must wait, be alert and ready to cast off anything that obscures the light of God’s glorious majesty.

Intercessions – please add your own petitions where indicated

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.
Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for …
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with Andrew and all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
(Adapted from Common Worship, Times and Seasons)

A prayer for the Feast of St Andrew, Patron of Scotland, 30th November

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son, Jesus Christ, give us, who are called by your holy Word, the grace to follow him without delay and to be messengers of the good news of your kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by reading or singing the words of the seventh-century Advent hymn, ‘Creator of the starry height’ as David Sawyer plays the tune.

Creator of the starry height,
thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, redeemer of us all,
hear thou thy servants when they call.

Thou, sorrowing at the helpless cry
of all creation doomed to die,
didst come to save our fallen race
by healing gifts of heavenly grace.

When earth was near its evening hour,
thou didst, in love’s redeeming power,
like bridegroom from his chamber, come
forth from a virgin-mother’s womb.

At thy great name, exalted now,
all knees in lowly homage bow;
all things in heaven and earth adore,
and own thee King for evermore.

To thee, O Holy One, we pray,
our judge in that tremendous day,
ward off, while yet we dwell below,
the weapons of our crafty foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honour, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally. Amen.
(Trans. J. M. Neale)