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Service at Home – 6th December

Service at Home on 6th December 2020 Advent 2

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 2020-12-06 Advent 2

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 second Sunday in Advent.  The Bible readings challenge us to live holy lives in preparation for Jesus’ return.  We look at our need for some Advent decluttering and a willingness to let God change us and work through us.

But first, we light the second candle of our advent ring, followed by a short reflection from the NWBA on the Candle of Love. 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: Advent Reading 2 The Candle of Love

Watch: Getting ready for Jesus week 2

Watch: Perfect Love (Mary's Song)

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord Jesus, you are indeed perfect love and I worship you. I worship because you left your throne and came to this world as a little, vulnerable baby. I worship you because you grew into the only person who has never sinned and was willing to sacrifice yourself for me. I worship you because through you I can know my Father in Heaven and experience that perfect love.

Lord Jesus, when I think about your perfect love, I know that I often don’t love you and don’t love others as much as I should. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I bring to mind the times in the past week when my love has been lacking and confess them to you now in the silence……

Lord, forgive me. I thank you that because you revealed your love to me on that first Christmas, I know for certain that I’ve been forgiven and the chains of sin have been broken.

Lord, as we approach Christmas, especially at this time of anxiety, disappointment and uncertainty, we know that our heads are full of thoughts that distract us from truly worshipping you and hearing your voice. Lord, help me to empty my mind now of everything that’s unhelpful or distracting……….

Help me to feel your presence with me now and sense your love and peace……..

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: Love Divine

Prayers of intercession by Susan and Old Testament Reading

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Old Testament Reading

Heavenly Father, we bring our prayers of Intercession to you now, in love and compassion for all of your creation.

We look at the world and see that man has not learned from past experiences. We hear of:

  • Wars and acts of violence, in places like, Ethiopia and Sudan
  • Hurricanes, Floods and earthquakes in Honduras, and Guatemala
  • Famines in Yemen, Venezuela. South Sudan and Afghanistan,

to name but a few.

We see:

  • Injustice and racism. political unrest and religious persecution
  • Growing poverty in all countries

Lord, in your love, open our hearts that our love for power will be replaced with the Love for people. May all leaders and politicians of the world work together to bring compassion and love, reconciliation and understanding. Give guidance and a fresh eagerness of trust and reconciliation among the nations so that your healing hand will bring justice and peace. May they willingly share their resources with those who need it most.

Compassionate and loving God. Hear our prayer.

We pray for our own country as the pandemic still continues to dominate our lives, and as final Brexit negotiations continue with the EU.  Give wisdom and understanding to our government in the best way to tackle the situations. Help them to be mindful of those who are affected most and show them how best to proceed. We especially remember farmers and fishermen.

As we hear the news of vaccines being developed and the progress they are making, give wisdom and understanding to all involved in the process, that they may develop a safe and effective cure for the disease.

Lord give us patience and hope at this difficult time. May we be mindful that in this unprecedented time we sometimes get things wrong and need to start again. Help us to be loving and caring to one another, give encouragement and guidance to all decision makers, and when they get it wrong give them strength and support to try again.

Compassionate and loving God. Hear our prayer.

We pray for:

  • All who have experienced loss, whether its loss of freedom, a job, of good health or loss of loved ones.
  • For those who are over worked, fearful or feel depressed
  • For those who are lonely, forsaken or forgotten
  • For those who don’t know where to turn to or feel afraid to ask for help
  • For the unemployed, furloughed, or self employed
  • For all those affected by companies going into liquidation or in financial difficulty
  • For NHS workers who are over worked, and tired
  • For our children and young people
  • For teachers as they try their best to provide an education in this difficult time, with dwindling staff numbers and large number of classes in isolation.

Lead them to a place of hope and love, strengthen and uphold them that they may see and feel your outstretch arms surrounding them and bring them to a place of peace in amongst the turmoil.

Compassionate and loving God. Hear our prayer.

And finally, we pray for ourselves as we struggle to make sense of all that’s going on.  Lord renew us afresh, keep our eyes fixed firmly on you, that your love will overflow from each one of us, bring your light and hope into our communities and all who we encounter this advent. Bless and keep each one of us this today and forever more. Amen.

Bible reading: Isaiah 40: 1 – 11

Watch: The Lords my shepherd

Bible readings, sermon and prayer in response

Watch: Bible readings and sermon

Bible readings

2 Peter 3: 8 – 15a

Mark 1: 1 – 8

Sermon

‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God’. In the first reading we heard the prophet Isaiah proclaim a message of comfort and hope to God’s people.  They were suffering, but God was coming, just as He promised, to rescue them from their misery.  The people who first heard this would see God rescue them from exile and restore them to their homeland.  As with many prophecies, there is a greater, deeper fulfillment still to come and the reading from Mark’s gospel sees the start of this fulfillment.

John the Baptist is the prophetic voice crying out from the desert that Isaiah has predicted, urging people to be ready for God’s coming.  The people are desperate to hear John’s message.  How do we know?  Mark tells us that, ‘The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him’.  There have been no prophets in Israel for hundreds of years.  Imagine the impact of this man, who with his strange clothing of camel’s hair reminded people of the great prophet Elijah.

John’s message is stern and uncompromising; the people must turn away from wrongdoing and turn back to God who is ready to forgive them.  The people hear and accept John’s message, they repent – turn away from sin and back to God and queue up to be baptized.

John is a national figure, a celebrity who even gets to preach to the king.  He is a Spirit-filled prophet, clearly sent by God, he has great authority and influence and yet his whole motivation is to point people away from himself and towards the one who is to come.  John says that he’s not even worthy to untie the sandal of the one who is coming after him.  Taking the master’s sandals off was the job of the most humble slave in the household, so this shows how much greater Jesus was than John.  John was glad to point this out and to point his disciples away from himself and towards Jesus, because he knew that only in Jesus would they find what they needed.

We can learn from John’s humility and his desire to point people to Jesus.  All that we do as Christians should point people to Jesus, because it is only when they meet Jesus that their lives can be transformed and they can receive the freedom and new life that He alone offers them.

‘Prepare the way, make his path straight’, cried the voice from the desert.  In Isaiah’s day there weren’t many proper roads so before the king set out on a journey around his domain, messages would go out to the areas he was going to visit to make sure that the roads and paths were in good repair and everything was prepared for the royal visit.

The Daily Telegraph website has an article by Gordon Rayner detailing the preparations that are made for a present day royal visit abroad.  He writes, ‘Weeks or sometimes months before the Queen travels, a detachment of her staff will visit the country to prepare the ground. Nothing, but nothing, is left to chance.  The Master of the Household department will be in the reconnaissance party to tell foreign chefs not to cook anything with garlic or too much spice for fear of giving the Queen bad breath, and not to cook shellfish or anything that could cause food poisoning. If there is still a question mark over the quality of the local food, large containers of nourishing British foodstuffs will be taken on the trip, and bottled water in case the local supply proves unreliable. Hotel staff will also be told in advance how the Queen likes her chosen tipple, Dubonnet and gin – an exact 50/50 mix, usually taken at 6pm, in a tumbler.’

Painstaking preparations to make sure that everything goes smoothly for the Queen’s visit.  But John the Baptist was calling the people to be ready for a far more important arrival.  The promised Saviour was coming and it wasn’t roads that needed repairing, but people’s relationship with God.  Unlike the Master of the Royal Household department, it wasn’t the preparation of meals that concerned John the Baptist, but the preparation of hearts and minds.

Advent is the opportunity for us to make sure that we too are ready to meet with our Saviour.  Like the crowds who flocked to hear John’s message, we first need to repent – to turn away from the things we do wrong and turn to God.  This includes considering the ways in which we fail to point people to Jesus and considering whether anything in our lives has assumed more importance than Jesus.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords – there is nothing and no-one more important than Jesus, he needs to be right at the centre of all that we do, the focus of our lives.  We need to ask God’s forgiveness and to clear out from our lives and from our practices as a church anything and everything that has got in the way of Jesus – make a straight path for Him to come into our lives and strengthen us through His Holy Spirit.

When we’ve cleared the way, by asking for forgiveness for what we’ve done wrong and resolving to live in God’s way, not ours, there is room for the Holy Spirit to work.  We have Jesus’ promise that when we ask God for the Holy Spirit, He always responds.  So, having repented, we ask God to fill us with His Spirit of love, truth, new life and healing and through the working of the Spirit to make us fit for his service.

The weeks before Christmas are often a time for having a sort out and getting rid of old clothes etc. to make room for new.  We need to do the same with our lives – get rid of all the rubbish we harbour that gets in the way of following Jesus, to make room for the new life lived in the power of the Spirit, given by God the Father, through Jesus.

Make way for Jesus – we don’t know when he will return to earth, but we do have the certainty that this will happen and that his perfect Kingdom of justice and peace will be established on earth.  The reading from Peter’s letter points out that it is because God is patient and merciful and wants everyone to turn to Him and be saved that He delays the Second Coming, verse 9 ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’.

Peter also explains how we can help to hasten Jesus’ return – by living holy lives, living in God’s way, and by helping to spread the good news about Jesus so that more and more people will live in God’s way.

The prophet Isaiah said ‘You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid.’  We have good tidings for our community and we must be bold and brave enough to tell people.  God is ready to strengthen us for this too through his Spirit living in us.  And be in no doubt that God’s Spirit is active right now in the world, preparing people’s hearts to receive the good news about Jesus.

‘You who bring good tidings to Bury, to Ramsbottom, to Edenfield, to your home, your work, your school, your community, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid’.  This year, of all years, people are desperate for good news, and we can give them the best news of all time.

We have been blessed by all the people who have brought Jesus to us. The least that can be expected of us is to do the same for others. What better Christmas gift could we give to anyone than to help them know and love Jesus our Lord as the Way for their lives?

Who can you pray for this Advent to come to know Jesus?

Who can you send a link to an online service to?  Or invite to one in the church building?

Which family member, friend or neighbour is God prompting you to share your faith with?  Pray about who to approach and then give them an invitation to one of our Christmas services, or a link to an online Christmas service.  Pray before you do this that God will take away any barriers to them meeting with him.

So this Advent we first need to repent – examine our lives and say sorry for what is wrong with the way we’re living them.  Repenting also means being determined that with God’s help we’ll stop doing those wrong things and live in His way.

Having cleared out our lives, got rid of the sin and the guilt that were cluttering them up, we then ask God for the help of his Holy Spirit to make us into the loving children of God he created us all to be.  The Holy Spirit will fill our lives, working in us to transform us and through us to reach others with God’s love.

Then we need to spread the good news about Jesus to our friends and neighbours  - helping them to come to know Jesus and experience His love in their lives is the most wonderful Christmas present you could ever give them.

Prayer

Let’s take a few moments to start to examine our lives, to repent and to ask for God’s help: After each prompting question there will be time for us to think and to pray.

Is there anything that you need to say sorry to God for –things you’ve done or left undone?

Anything that has assumed more importance in your life than Jesus?

Anything else that is cluttering up your life and getting in the way of you serving God?

Lord God, we are truly sorry, forgive us and help us to live our lives in your way of love.

Would you like God to fill you afresh with His Holy Spirit?  Take time to ask God for that now, remembering he always gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask…..

Now think about your family, friends and neighbours.  Take time to picture each one in your mind’s eye and to ask God to bless that person…..

Who is God prompting you to help to discover the good news about Jesus?....

Ask for God’s help now in doing this.  Ask him for the opportunity and for the words to say…..

Lord, we commit our lives to you, may we bring glory to your name.  Amen.

Watch: Come, thou long expected Jesus

Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here