COCU2A.Advent 2A

Isaiah 11:1-10: Isaiah proclaims the coming of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” who, through God’s Spirit resting on him, will bring peace, justice, righteousness and equity to the earth.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19: A prayer for the King to rule wisely and justly, protecting the weak and vulnerable and refreshing the world and the godly who live in it.
Romans 15:4-13: Paul’s prayer that God may empower the Church to live in harmony, since Christ came for both Jew and Gentile, and together they form one voice of praise to God.
Matthew 3:1-12: John the Baptist preaches in the wilderness, baptising those who repent, speaking out against the corrupt religious leaders, and challenging people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.
(Summaries from Sacredise)

By the Well
Textweek – Advent 2A;
Church of Scotland starters
Godspace reflection on Advent 2 by Lilly Lewin

Call to worship (inspired by Romans 15: 4-13)
Gather around,
you are welcome here,
and you will hear Good News.
In a world
where there are so many
discouraging and negative voices
it is the God of encouragement
who will speak to you today.
The God of Jesus Christ.
So come in, relax,
let your tiredness roll away.
Lift up your hearts, and listen.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community)

Call to Worship (references: Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:3, Isaiah 40:3)
We come to prepare the way;
The way for Christ – 
the hope of Christ, the peace of Christ –
to enter our world,
to enter our hearts.
We cry out together in the wilderness:
The kingdom of heaven has come near.
We come to be part of the light –
the light that shines in the darkness.
(Source: Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith)

Prayer of thanksgiving
We give thanks to you O God,
that day after day, year after year,
we can have absolute confidence
in your love for us
and in your understanding of our lives.
We thank you that we find your faithfulness
in your servants
who have proclaimed, who still proclaim, who will proclaim
the great news of the coming on earth of your kingdom –
the kingdom where the oppressed and the marginalised,
the poor in spirit and poor in material wealth,
and all those who count for little in the ways of our world
will be accepted and loved.
And we praise you that all people – we –
are invited to lift our heads above the trials of life
and celebrate the sunrise of your arrival on the horizons of our world. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this – the gift of the Messiah, the promise of the Kingdom.
Thanks be to you, O God. Amen
(Source: ALTERnativity, Church of Scotland starters)

Prepare a way for the Holy One. Clear a path of God to come by. Matthew 3.3
The prophet cries to prepare a way
for the Promised One,
and we panic.
We write shopping lists,
and head to the store for the treasures
we must surely present.
We survey with dread the mess of a heart
we must clean up for the holy visitor.
But after all the cleansing the house is still
just our little place.
The Gift is not to be found in any market.
We fear our unpreparedness,
our failure to adequately repent,
still rushing, still dusting this
and hiding that.
In the din the Spirit speaks softy.
We are not asked to clean the house
for the weekend
to impress the Unexpected Guest.
We are asked to prepare a room
and set a place at the table
for the rest of our lives
for the Beloved,
the child who already dwells within.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Come, Emanuel, and Make Straight Our Paths
(A reflection on Matthew 3:11-12)
Come as John the Baptist said that you would,
Come and baptise us with fire and the Spirit
Bring to us your winnowing fork
That you might blow through our lives,
So that the chaff of our existence might be blown away,
All the material things that we cling to,
And our efforts to secure prestige and position.
Leave us with the good grain of your love and grace
That we might help you sow into the lives of others.
Bring not peace, but sword,
That we might sever the umbilical connections that we have to injustice,
and cut away that which holds us back from truly taking up our cross,
to follow in your way.
Ignite in us a burning passion
To better understand your will and Word,
And go where you call and send us
To join with you in God’s work.
May this be part of our Advent prayer.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Facebook post Dec 2019)

We celebrate the dream of peace:
Not only the absence of conflict,
but the presence of true compassion
and community;

We celebrate the dream of justice:
Not only appropriate consequence,
but radical, inclusive dignity
and equality;

We celebrate the dream of goodness:
Not only an end to corruption and evil,
but the nurture of extravagant integrity
and love;

We celebrate the dream of salvation:
Not only life beyond the grave,
but present wholeness
and restoration for all;

Here and now, O God, we, your people,
give you thanks and praise
for the dream, and the reality,
of Shalom.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Baptism of fire (Mt 3:1-12)
it’s not what you think,
not what you expected,
as you trek beyond what you know;

it’s not a warm and fuzzy welcome,
not cries of delight at your arrival,
but woe and wrath and warning;

it’s the voice in the desert,
as the prophet had said – and yet,
his wildness, the camel clothes, the locusts?

it is the voice crying out, but the message
is harsh, turn back, change heart,
you are no more precious than that stone;

it’s a baptism, a renewal, it’s life,
this water immersion, this rising;
but the Spirit, but baptism with fire?

what will he require, this ‘one more
powerful than I’; to baptise by burning,
turning us into candles used up for the flame?
(source: Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story)

Preparing the way
Where there seems to be no way
to end the conflict and violence in our time,
we pray that you would teach us, O Christ,
to prepare the way;

Where we can see no way
to provide for the needs of all people,
we pray that you would show us, O Christ,
how to prepare the way;

Where can find no way
to work together for justice,
we pray that you would change us, O Christ,
until we prepare the way;

Where we are unable to believe in a way
to live simply, responsibly and mindfully,
we pray that you would inspire us, O Christ,
to faith that prepares the way;

In a world where we are tempted
to see so many of our challenges as dead-ends,
we pray for a new vision, a new heart and a new commitment
to prepare the way for your reign,
your grace,
your shalom
and for the liberation, justice and peace that you bring. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Waiting for Christmas
Christmas Jesus,
Child in a manger,
The shops are decked out with tinsel and decorations.
The buying frenzy is beginning,
Whilst we, together as a society, nominally celebrate your birthday.
As we enter into the lead up to Christmas,
Help us to think beyond what we have always heard.
Open up our curiosity to ponder the story of your advent anew.
What might it really mean to celebrate you taking on the human condition?
How did it all work as you became vulnerable and were humbled into humanity?
What might we learn this season which might create a space within us for change and growth?
So, Christmas Jesus,
Child in a manger,
But Christ in our midst,
God with us,
Reach into our stories with your stories,
That new things might be possible,
Our horizons widened,
Our hope rekindled,
As we take on your example of becoming deeply involved in life,
And giving our whole selves to the work of building a better world in the communion of your commonwealth.
So we begin to pray.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Prayers for others (based on the reading from Romans)
Loving God who enfolds with love those on the outside
and who knew in Jesus what it was like to be excluded
– who befriended the despised Zacchaeus,
the shunned prostitutes and sinners
the untouchable lepers
draw close to those at the edges of our communities
and give them hope through the patience and encouragement of your people.

This advent, we remember those marginalised because of mental health issues.
Who often suffer in silence because of stigma
who reach out for help that is often not there because of stretched services
who often feel bleak and helpless
draw close to them with your wholeness
and give them hope through the patience and encouragement of your people.

This advent we remember those marginalised because of poverty
whose children cannot take part in Christmas celebrations because of the expense,
who become increasingly indebted in an attempt to meet expectations
who may have to use foodbanks for a Christmas meal
draw close to them with your wholeness
and give them hope through the patience and encouragement of your people.

This advent we remember those marginalised because of where they came from whose language is unfamiliar to us and whose customs we are strangers to
who live with the fear of racism and violence,
who long for separated families to be reunited.
Draw close to them with your wholeness
and give them hope through the patience and encouragement of your people.

God of Hope, use us, your people,
as messengers to speak out for and work on behalf of those at the edges.
Give us patience and encouragement as promised
so we might be faithful in supporting all those excluded and broken. Amen
(Source: ALTERnativity, Church of Scotland starters)

We pray with voices echoing from the past, into our days and beyond our knowing, through the praying of Psalm 72
God of Justice and Peace,
We see the injustice
And hear the cries of the poor, the disadvantaged,
The down trodden and the violated.
We pray for our world leaders
And particularly for those in Australia…
Teach the leaders to judge with your tender love, decency and morality, O God.

Share with them your own justice,

so that they will rule our communities and your people with justice
and govern the oppressed with decency and honesty.

May the land enjoy prosperity;
May we listen to it and care for it
In all its diversity and richness.

May the land experience righteousness and honesty. 

May our leaders judge the poor fairly;

may they help the needy and quash the selfish and oppressors.

May we, your people worship you as long as the sun shines,

as long as the moon gives light, for ages to come.
May your love be like rain on the fields, like showers falling on the land,
For we are often experience the drought of honesty, truth and compassion.

May righteousness flourish in this lifetime,
For now and the gifting to the coming generations,

and may prosperity last as long as the moon gives light.
May you, God, the source of hope, fill us with all joy and peace by means of our faith, so that our hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen 
(Source: Rev Anne Hewitt, Churches Together)

Lord God, this is our offering to you and to your Church.
It’s our way of saying yes to you and to what you are saying to us;
it’s a sign of our gratitude for the world around us, and the life within us.
We offer ourselves now in service to your Kingdom,
for in Christ you have revealed your love for us all.
We thank you Lord God for your goodness to us, in giving meaning to our lives,
and purpose to our living.
Come Lord Jesus, fill us with your Spirit,
that we might live in you and you live in us,
so that we can do what you would have us do.
As Christmas approaches help us, Lord God, to be calm and expectant,
to enjoy this time of preparing.
May we budget our time as well as our money
that we might not forget you, or ignore our neighbour.
In our plenty keep us mindful of those who have nothing,
in our rejoicing, keep us mindful of those who are sad.
In this season of giving and receiving,
enable us by your grace to receive and give your love.
We thank you Lord God for the faith you give us,
the love you provide that makes life wonderful,
and the hope you offer which is not for this world alone.
(Source: ALTERnativity, Church of Scotland starters)

Benediction (Romans 15:13)
As we leave this place,
and scatter back out into the world,
may the God of hope –
who loves us and gave himself for us –
fill us with all joy and peace
as we trust in Him,
today and throughout the coming week,
so that in believing,
we may abound in hope,
through the love of Jesus Christ,
and the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Source: re-worship)

Benediction (using the words of Romans 15:13)
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the blessing of God,
Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier,
be with us all this day and always. Amen. 

Prose – John emerges from the Judean desert
(May be useful to read in conjunction with Matthew 3: 1-12)
Out of the Judean desert he came, wild man of God,
with uncombed hair,
matted beard,
unwashed feet.
Out of the hot, dry desert, where the wind whistles between the mountains,
and sand blasts the rocks,
he came with fire in his belly.
In the wilderness
he discovered the power of his voice, crying out to God
above the cries of falcons and eagles, above his own inner resistance.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”:
and though they did away with him his cry still rings out
from the pages of Scripture.
As Christmas approaches,
and we enter our own hot, dry season, may the words of John
still claim our attention
and call us to put our house in order.
For Christ comes,
entering our lives again
as the year draws to an end,
and if you will not hear his prophets
at least be quiet enough to hear a baby’s cry.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

Meditation: Based on Matthew 3: 1-12 (John emerges from the desert)
(meditation to follow the reading of the Scripture passage.)
I don’t go into the wilderness very often, but occasionally I need to travel that way for trade and I usually try to skirt around the edges. It’s a fearsome region, especially for those of us more used to the cities. The Judean desert is hot and dry, a great mountainous, barren wilderness. No wonder the vultures circle overhead, anticipating food!
On this occasion I took plenty of fresh water and a handful of dates and went by my usual route, which in the early stages passed by the Jordan River. I was expecting to see very few people. But before I’d gone more than a few steps I came upon a small crowd, and heard such a commotion going on!
Apparently this fellow had just wandered out of the wilderness, wild-eyed and scruffy, shouting about preparing a way. If I’m honest it spooked me, because it was like something straight out of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Only I was more used to hearing the words of Isaiah in the Temple, read from a carefully unfolded scroll, and read in a reverent tone of voice.
I had to join the crowd and listen, just for a few moments. I’m not usually side-tracked so easily, and I don’t really like crowds. I like to get on with my business. But I welcomed a diversion that day.
The man wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around the waist. People were saying that he’d only eaten insects and wild honey, and he looked like it! He wouldn’t have got through the door of a Temple looking like that, and making such a noise!
When I saw the Sadducees and Pharisees arriving (later I was told they came to be baptized by the man) I took off. No point in getting caught up in trouble. And I had trade matters to attend to.
In the following days I have found this man, and his words, playing on my mind. A bit of the wildness of God has come into my life and upset my routine, and I can’t ignore it. God comes in unexpected ways. I urge you to watch, pray and be ready.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Centre)

2019 reflection on the Gospel reading
It might be illustrative to look at the impact of the Youth Climate Strikes and the work of Greta Thunberg, who addressed the UN on 23rd September 2019. Just as Jesus did with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the protesters have roundly criticised the adult leaders of their communities. Greta Thunberg said, “How dare you!” with her whole person filled with emotion as she described the leaders of the world as obsessed with money and careless of the future of the planet.
Those world leaders, and many who subscribe to their values, have not been slow to excoriate Greta Thunberg. She has faced a barrage of insults on social media and in mainstream media. The powerful message she brings has the force of truth, the Polar Regions have a crisis we cannot control and the Amazon is burning. The Victoria Falls are practically empty and the people who live by the Zambesi fear they will never see its annual floods again in their lifetime.
The radical protester who has a plant-based diet, or only eats foraged foods, or only eats sustainably raised meat, or whatever the protest is, is a necessary part of a society facing a crisis. We need to see extremes in order to get the main body of opinion to shift. In this current case.
John the Baptist uses the analogy of a tree that needs to be cut down. The petrol-based economy is literally cutting down trees that bear good fruit. We want to be able to clear our own consciences, and so going on a litter pick might salve the soul but it doesn’t cancel the impact of commuting, using a petrol car for short urban journeys, or buying single-use plastic, or flying for holidays or work.
We also like to point to the complexity of the problems in order to excuse ourselves from doing the little we can. Just because a vegan burger might contain imported soya from more than one country doesn’t excuse us buying junk food with intensively farmed and processed beef (which is probably fed the same imported soya). Both the soya and the beef need to be more sustainably farmed and eaten more locally.
Equally, the human justice required of our world leaders is for them to ensure that the world’s wealth, food, health resources, and even those few oil-based products we really do need and can afford to keep, are more fairly redistributed. A good example is the need for accessible and widely used public transport as a viable option for the majority of urban journeys. Many people cite the inadequacy of public transport as a reason for taking the car on an urban journey. These sorts of ‘helpless cycles’ are really easy excuses for not mobilising a bigger social change. If we improve public transport, we also need to incentivise the use of it in order to ensure cars are not being used in urban areas where the effects of the air pollution are greatest.
If we want to hear the voice of John the Baptist today, we need look no further than Greta Thunberg. The question for us, as it was in Jesus day, is: are we wheat to be gathered into the granary, caring about our world neighbours; or are we chaff to be thrown into the global winnowing fire?
Greta Thunberg may be thought of as a prophet of today. The conflict she causes simply by speaking her mind is needed. It is our responsibility to enter into that conflict in word and action to slow our global climate crisis. John the Baptist was a forager and believer in a natural lifestyle. The protest elements of his ministry were wearing clothes of leather and eating foraged food, locusts and wild honey. He might fit well today with those who practise ‘die-ins’ lying on the road to prevent fossil fuels being burned, or who inhabit trees to prevent road or runway construction. He was a protester, a voice shouting in the wilds. Jesus was the prophet, the son of God, the man with the radical message. The protester John grabbed attention, Jesus followed and hammered home His gospel, good news for some, and the end of entitlement and entrenched power for others.
(Sourced from contribution to Church of Scotland weekly worship resources by Rev Dr Janet Foggie, Church of Scotland Pioneer Minister at the University of Stirling)

Gospel reflectionPolitical Theology – Amy Lindeman Allen
Wordle Source: 5minsspace

“As we retell the story of weary travellers, a star, shepherds, and the Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago. A message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers. That we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other, to let the light of our good deeds shine for all. To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden. And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It’s a message that grounds not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. It’s a message of unity and decency and a message of hope that never goes out of style.” —President Obama speaking at his final National Christmas Tree Lighting

Isaiah 11:1-2 (Inclusive Text)
A shoot springs from the tree of Jesse,
from Jesse’s roots a branch will blosson:
the spirit of God will rest there,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and reverence for God.

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

Photos (below) by Vinícius Matos, powerpoint of the images below Isaiah11.lion&lamb.

rat&cat2 foxdogcat cat&chickens hen&dog cat&guineapig cat&possum dog&goat fox&rabbit cat&dog3 dog&cat2 rabbit&cat sheep&dog cat&rat boar&menagerie rabbit&chicken cat&bird2 dog&cat rabbit&piglet cat&bird

ADVENT: The Human Experience Of Waiting, by Joan Chittister
From The Liturgical Year

When all the feasts have been celebrated and all the prayers are said and done, the strength and power of the liturgical year does not lie in its cataloging of feast days and seasons, as important as these are. Nor does it lie in its rubrics and rituals. The real power of the liturgical year is its spiritual capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart. By walking the way of the life of Jesus, by moving into the experience of Jesus, we discover the meaning of our own experiences, the undercurrent of our own emotions, the struggle it takes to go on walking the way.

By taking us into the depth of what it means to be a human on the way to God — to suffer and to wonder, to know abandonment and false support, to believe and to doubt — the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine. It gives us the energy to become the fullness of ourselves. It makes the next step possible. It calms us as we stumble from one to the other. It leads us beyond our present selves to the self that lies in wait for God.

The liturgical year does not begin at the heart of the Christian enterprise. It does not immediately plunge us into the chaos of the Crucifixion or the giddy confusion of the Resurrection. Instead, the year opens with Advent, the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious. It trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.

A friend recently gave me a textile wall-hanging from Peru that makes clear that the process of finding God in the small things of life is as profound as it is simple. A pastoral scene of palm trees and rural lean-tos has been hand-stitched by peasant women, quilt-style, across the top of a felt banner. Under it is a calendar of thirty small pockets, each of them filled with something we can’t see. Every day until Christmas, we are invited to find the part of the scene that has been pocketed for that day and attach it to the scene above, one piece of handwoven cloth adhering to the other as we go.

Some of the pieces are of benign and beautiful things; some are not. There are bumble bees and angels, wild animals and dry straw, a branch-laden peasant man and a weary-looking woman. But there at the end of the days, as common as all the rest of the items in the scene, is the manger; the sign of the One who knows what life is like for us, who has mixed His own with ours. Now, we can see, all our expectations have been worth it.

Advent is about learning to wait. It is about not having to know exactly what is coming tomorrow, only that whatever it is, some hard, some uplifting, is sign of the work of God alive in us. We are becoming as we go. We learn in Advent to stay in the present, knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life.

Life is not meant to be escaped, we learn, as the liturgical year moves from season to season, from feast to feast. It is meant to be penetrated, to be plumbed to its depths, to be tasted and savored and bring us to realize that the God who created us is with us yet. Life, we come eventually to know, is an exercise in transformation, the mechanics of which take a lifetime of practice, of patience, of slow, slow growth.

Clearly, then, learning to wait is an essential dimension of spiritual development. It has its own values, bringing its own character to the process of becoming spiritually mature.

Waiting hones our insights. It gives us the time and space, the perspective and patience that enable us to discriminate between the good, the better, and the best. It is so simple to go through life blind to the wealth of its parts, swallowing life whole, oblivious to its punctuation points. Then we fail to call ourselves to the small, daily demands of compassion or choice, trust or effort. If we do not learn to wait, we can allow ourselves to assume that one thing really is as good for us as another. Then we forget that life is about more than this life. We race over the top of it, satiating ourselves with the obvious, unmindful of its depths. We become stale of soul. We fail to grow spiritually.

It is waiting that attunes us to the invisible in a highly material world. In contemporary society, what counts is what we can get and what we have. Instead of listening for the voice of God in the winds of change around us, we can come to hear only our own.

The function of Advent is to remind us what we’re waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that do not matter to remember the things that do. When year after year we hear the same scriptures and the same hymns of longing for the life to come, of which this one is only its shadow, it becomes impossible to forget the refrains of the soul.

Advent relieves us of our commitment to the frenetic in a fast-paced world. It slows us down. It makes us think. It makes us look beyond today to the “great tomorrow” of life. Without Advent, moved only by the race to nowhere that exhausts the world around us, we could be so frantic with trying to consume and control this life that we fail to develop within ourselves a taste for the spirit that does not develop within ourselves a taste for the spirit that does not die and will not slip through our fingers like melted snow.

It is while waiting for the coming of the reign of God, Advent after Advent, that we come to realize that its coming depends on us. What we do will either hasten or slow, sharpen or dim our own commitment to do our part to bring it.

Waiting — that cold, dry period of life when nothing seems to be enough and something else beckons within us — is the grace that Advent comes to bring. It stands before us, within us, pointing to the star for which the wise ones from the East are only icons of ourselves.

We all want something more. Advent asks the question, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now? And where is that star in its present radiance in your life leading you? Is it a place that is really comprehensive enough to equal the breadth of the human soul?

Marcus Borg: Thinking about Advent
I begin with the obvious: Advent is a season of preparing for the coming of Jesus. For many centuries in Western liturgical churches, it has (like Lent) been a penitential season. Though it is about remembering his first coming 2000 years ago, it has also been about his second coming at the last judgment and the need for us to be prepared through earnest repentance.
Thus, like Lent, the liturgical colors for Advent have been (and for the most part still are) violet or purple, the color of penitence. Recently, in some churches, the liturgical color of Advent has become blue, reflecting a change in emphasis.
Seeing Advent as a penitential season strikes me as unfortunate. It is the product of a seriously distorted and yet widespread understanding of Christianity: namely, that the central issue in our lives with God is our sinfulness (commonly understood as disobedience and/or failing to measure up to what God requires from us) and thus our need for repentance and forgiveness. Within this framework, that’s the reason Jesus was born. As the divinely-conceived Son of God, he was sent by God to be the perfect sacrifice, the payment for our sins, so that we can be forgiven. Provided, of course, that we believe in him.
That is a serious impoverishment of Christianity and Advent. Christianity and Advent are about so much more. The central themes of the stories of Jesus’s birth are hardly at all about sin and our need for forgiveness. Rather, they and the texts from the Old Testament that they echo are about a much more robust, attractive, and compelling vision of what Christianity, Advent and Christmas are about. Their themes, which will be explored more fully in future blogs, include:
*Liberation from bondage – from the Pharaohs and Herods and Caesars who dominate us and the world. These include oppressive political and economic systems and also psychological-spiritual agents of oppression.
*Return from exile – from life in Babylon. As a biblical metaphor, Babylon has political and economic meanings as well as psychological- spiritual meanings. The latter refer to the separation and estrangement that most often mark our lives. “Estrangement” is an especially resonant word: it means to be separated from that to which we belong. Return from exile is about re-connection to that from which we have become estranged.
*Light in the darkness – the stories of Jesus’s birth are full of light imagery. In Matthew, the star in the night sky that leads the wise men to Jesus; in Luke, angels singing to shepherds in the middle of the night. Like liberation from bondage and return from exile, light in the darkness is an archetypal image of human yearning. It is no accident that when Christians in the fourth century formally decided on the date of Jesus’s birth, they chose the winter solstice: the time when light begins to vanquish the darkness.
*Yearning and fulfillment –not so much a separate theme, but built into the previous themes. We yearn for liberation from bondage in Egypt, for return from exile in Babylon, for the coming of the light. But it deserves to be named as a major theme because of the way that the birth stories (and the gospels and the New Testament as a whole) emphasize that what happened in Jesus is the fulfillment of our deepest longings.
Advent should be about all of this. It is a season of anticipation, yearning and longing for a different kind of life and a different kind of world. To reduce it to a penitential season of preparing for the second coming of Jesus, or a season of remembering that Jesus was born so that he could pay for our sins, is a tragic travesty of Advent, Christmas, and Christianity.


O Come O Come Emmanuel (Susan Wickham)

We welcome the waiting
We welcome the waiting
We welcome the longing
We welcome the knowing
That darkness is falling
We watch for your coming
We pray for your dwelling place among us
O Jesus, Jesus Christ
(Source: Kathy Douglass)


Light a Candle, Emmanuel
© Glen Powell November 2015

Light against the darkness, Peace against our violence
Joy against all sorrow, we are never alone
Light a candle, pray a prayer
Hope in Christ, against despair
In the name of Jesus, the light of our world

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God with us, Emmanuel
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Truth against the Powers, Love against all hate
Free the slaves enchained by choices they did not make
Light a candle, pray a prayer
But the fire must not stop there
Each of us a candle, set fire to the world.

O day of peace that dimly shines (O Waly Waly)
O day of peace that dimly shines
through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love,
delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands,
our hearts from envy find release,
till by God’s grace our warring world
shall see Christ’s promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,
nor shall the fierce devour the small;
as beasts and cattle calmly graze,
a little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love,
all creatures find their true accord;
the hope of peace shall be fulfilled,
for all the earth shall know the Lord.
(Source: Carl P. Daw)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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