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Service at Home – 29th November

Service at Home on 29th November 2020 Advent 1

for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 29-11-2020

As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you want to use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.

Welcome and Introduction

Watch: Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home.  This week is the first Sunday in Advent and we’ll hear Paul Martin, our Chair of District teach us why Advent is a time of waiting, and what this means in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

But first, we light the first candle of our advent ring, followed by a short reflection from the NWBA on the Candle of Hope. This will be followed by a look at the meaning of Christmas through the figures in the nativity set that we sent out, also by the NWBA.

Watch: The Candle of Hope

Watch: Getting ready for Jesus week 1

Watch: Jesus Hope of the Nations

Watch: Light of the world

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord, we worship you for sending us your son, the Light of the World who is our Living Hope, to this world on that first Christmas.

Your love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of David.

As we prepare to celebrate his birth, help us to make our hearts ready for your Holy Spirit to make his home among us.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Light who is coming into the world.

Lord Jesus, Light of the world,

born in David’s city of Bethlehem,

born like him to be a king:

be born in our hearts this Christmas time,

be king of our hearts today.  Amen.

Let us confess our sins to God,
trusting in his mercy and forgiveness.
Holy and forgiving God,
we have sinned against you and each other
in thought and word and deed.
We have turned from your life-giving word,
and ignored the message of those you sent.
We are unprepared for the coming of your Son.
Have mercy upon us and forgive us,
that strengthened by your love
we may serve you more faithfully;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name;

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Watch: Living Hope (there's salvation in your name)

Prayers of intercession

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Loving God, who comes in Jesus,

We bring to you all who wait for you,

in hope and faith, or in fear and despair.

We pray for all who wait for peace, for justice, for their voices to be heard.  Lord of all, strengthen and inspire us to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and to help those who are persecuted and oppressed.

We pray for all who live in fear, of war, violence, abuse or bullying.

We pray for a lasting peace in Yemen.  We pray that medical and food aid will reach all those who need them.

We ask your protection and help for all those who are living in an abusive relationship, all victims of abuse and bullying.  We pray too for the abusers, knowing that no-one is beyond your love and you can redeem and heal any situation.

We pray that our Churches may wait on your guidance, so we may serve you faithfully.

We pray for all who wait for test results, news about their jobs, news of loved ones, or for the coming of a child.  Surround them with your love and fill them with your peace during this waiting time.

We pray for all who are ill, all who are close to death, and all who watch and wait with them.  We thank you for NHS workers, for those who work in our care homes and for all hospice staff and volunteers.  Lord, please continue to guide, strengthen and bless them in their work.

We pray for ourselves, May we be people of peace and justice, and bring your hope, comfort and healing, your light in the darkness to those we live and work amongst.  We ask our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Watch: It is well (You make me brave)

Bible readings, sermon and prayer in response

Watch: Bible readings, sermon and prayer

Bible readings

Isaiah 64:1-9

Mark 13:24-37

Sermon by Paul Martin (Chair of District)

A friend of mine was a keen supporter of Wigan Rugby league and I remember him telling me that he’d gone to an evening away match and part way through the game, the floodlights failed and they were cast in darkness – it was probably Leigh or somewhere in Yorkshire.

The announcement came over the pa system that they hoped to get the lights back on and encouraged the spectators on this cold wet night to wait patiently. On the pitch, the players huddled around, hands on hips, waiting for the action to recommence. It was a time when Wigan were going through a bad patch and had lost a series of games on the trot. After a few minutes, still in the semi-darkness, one of the Wigan fans shouted to the Wigan players on the pitch: “Come on lads, don't just stand around. Practice!”

Today is Advent Sunday. If I trawl through my considerable back catalogue of Advent Sermons, few of which have aged well, there are frequent references to waiting, or more particularly, the fact that waiting time can be wasted time.

Traditionally, Advent has two themes. Firstly, acknowledging the waiting for the second coming of Christ, but more commonly now, waiting for the advent – the coming of Jesus as a baby. It’s an opportunity to prepare for the momentous event of God appearing in human form; a reminder of the huge significance of the incarnation. A spiritual “getting ready” for Christmas.

Advent is then a waiting time. But what sort of waiting time? Is it like the Wigan players standing around hands of hips and doing nothing?

Some of you may well be thinking, “We’ve almost had a year of waiting”. During the first lockdown we were waiting to for it to be over. I mistakenly thought, back in March, that the time would come sometime in summer when we would simply be back to normal. How wrong I was – but I wasn’t on my own. Donald Trump said it would be over by Easter – I suppose he or his lawyers would point out he didn’t say which Easter.

It’s been a year of waiting. Waiting for government pronouncements, waiting to see friends and family, waiting to go shopping, waiting to get your hair cut, waiting and still waiting to go to the dentist, waiting to go on holiday, waiting for a vaccine, waiting to go to church.

Some of the waiting has been relatively minor and even trivial – for those of us not on our own and with well-stocked larders. But some of the waiting has been heart-wrenching and painful; relatives desperately waiting to be able to see a family member in hospital, and the waiting has been ended by the death of that relative.

Turning to our Bible readings today, the prophet Isaiah found himself in a painful place. We might say that he was beyond waiting. To fully understand this passage you need to know something about its context. In the previous chapter, 63, we find these verses:

Look down from heaven and see, from your lofty throne, holy and glorious.

Where are your zeal and your might?

Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us.

Withheld from us. Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us. God has gone away, gone missing. So again, in today’s passage  (ch 64, v 7):

No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.

The significant thing about Isaiah is that he is not going to wait patiently. He’s going to badger God. Even though he believes God has turned away, even though he thinks that for what he accepts to be a good reason, God is punishing people by his absence, Isaiah has the daring and even the audacity to ask God. He does not stand around, idly waiting for something to happen, he calls upon God for help. (64:1) “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…”

This is active, almost aggressive waiting. What have we been like over the past few months? How fervently have we prayed for God’s action and intervention, for God’s support and the strength of the Spirit? There’s a virtue in keeping calm and carrying on. But I would say there’s a greater virtue in fervent prayer and active discipleship.

I’ve been deeply moved by the active waiting I’ve seen over the past few months.

  • When we couldn’t get to church, ministers, local preachers, readers, musicians, worship leaders got to grips with Zoom and other forms of technology so that worship could continue on line. A host of techy people stepped up and made it possible for services to be posted on YouTube, or recorded to DVD.
  • But at the same time, I fear there will have been those who have said, “Well there’s nothing we can do until it’s over”. I would call that passive waiting.
  • Other forms of active waiting. Pastoral care. I have heard so many moving stories of regular telephone calls, socially distanced visits over the garden gate, emails, cards, letters, newsletters and such like delivered to people. I spoke to a person from one church and she’s not been able to get out for years so the past year has not been hugely different for her; but she said to me, “I’ve never heard so much from people at church”.
  • Sadly, there are those who previously did things who seem to have gone quiet – who seem to be waiting for it all to be over until they do anything but thankfully, they are in a minority.

There is active waiting and passive waiting. I’ve been greatly impressed by the majority of folk in our churches who have done so much in spite of limitations. And I’ve been a tad disappointed by those who seem to take the view that if we aren’t meeting in a building on a Sunday morning, singing hymns and pretending to listen to a sermon, then we aren’t properly being church. Some argue we’ve been a better church over the past few months.

The gospel reading from Mark 13 is a complex and terrifying scripture but I take this from it. Towards the end, we are told to be alert. The metaphor is of a man going away and putting his servants in charge, with someone specifically appointed to watch. There is passive watching and there is active watching. The man on watch was I suppose a first century security guard. The man on watch would have done something, not just watched.

We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that we have been entrusted with the responsibility to act as agents of God. Not passively waiting for the clouds to break open, but actively getting on with daily discipleship. One of the big questions is how what we have learned over the past few months will shape how we be church in the future.

I leave you with an old joke, which says something about contemplating the future. It’s a moving, heart-warming, feel-good family story is about a boy who got a pet hamster for Christmas. He loved the hamster, gave it a name, called it Harry, looked after it – fed it, cleaned it out, cuddled it, played with it. He was a bright lad and he read up on hamsters and to his shock and sadness, discovered that hamsters only lived for about three years.

So, one day he said to his dad, “Dad, what happens when Harry the Hamster dies? What will we do?” His Dad says,

“Well, it’s hopefully a long time off but when it happens we’ll put him in a shoe box then we’ll bury him and, er, we can have a bit of a party. You can invite some friends round and we’ll get some pop & pizza & cake – & perhaps have a sleepover, and we might buy something else in place of Harry”.

There’s a long pause and then the lad says, “Can we kill him now Dad?”

Closing Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to remain patient but alert. Whenever things are bad and I feel fed up waiting for things to get better, help me to be patient and remember that you’re in control and you know when the time is right. Lord, when I have setbacks and feel like giving up, help me to pick myself up and to stay alert and be ready to do whatever you call me to do. Lord, when things seem hopeless, help me to remember that in you there is always hope, hope of an eternal life in your Kingdom.

Lord, in a moment of quiet, I think about my worries, disappointments, frustration, unhappiness, and anger – and I lift these emotions before you now in the silence…….

Lord, fill me with your Spirit so that I feel only joy, peace and hope. Fill me now Lord with your love and power………

Lord, take away any darkness in my soul and replace it with light – the Light of the World, your son, Jesus Christ. And I pray that this light will shine out from me on to everyone I know.

Lord, bless me in the coming weeks. Keep me close to you. Keep me full of hope, love and joy, even when things are tough.


Watch: Hope and Glory

Watch: The UK Blessing