Sunday  29th November – 1st Sunday of Advent


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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First Reading

Isaiah 64.1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!  When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.  From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.  You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways.  But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.  Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity for ever.  Now consider, we are all your people.

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 Gospel

Mark 13.24-37

Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.  Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.   But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

O Lord our God,
make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear,
he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service
and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Reflection

Advent Sunday – 2020

In common with many other churches in western Christendom, we have an Advent wreath here at Holy Cross.  Rather than being just another decoration, the Advent wreath is packed with symbolism and I am often asked what it signifies.

The Advent wreath symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas) in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is usually a horizontal metal wreath with five candles. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of each candle is often accompanied by a prayer. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit.  The fifth, “Christ”, candle is lit at the Midnight Eucharist (the first Eucharist of Christmas and hence the beginning of the Christmas season).

In the Western church, purple is the historic liturgical colour for three of the four Sundays of Advent.  The third Sunday of Advent, is known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word “rejoice.” Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because we have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when our preparation is now halfway over and we are close to Christmas.  Gaudete Sunday anticipates the joy of the Christmas celebration, so its rose pink candle is a mixture of Advent purple and Christmas white.  In some churches, rose pink vestments are worn by the clergy on Gaudete Sunday.  The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His coming again in glory.

There are various interpretations of the symbolism of the Advent wreath. The accumulation of light is an expression of the growing anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, who in Christian faith is referred to as the light of the world. The circular crown represents God’s eternity and unity.

There is a growing tradition that each of the four Sundays of Advent reminds us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ. On the first Sunday of Advent we remember the Patriarchs, such as Abraham, our father in faith, and King David, in whose city Christ was born (and I would suggest the Matriarchs too).  On the second Sunday we remember the Prophets and this gives us an opportunity to reflect on the way in which Christ’s birth was foretold.  The third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) commemorates John the Baptist who proclaimed Jesus and so it could be argued that he really stands as the last in the line of the Prophets.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore Christ in her womb, is especially remembered on the fourth Sunday in Advent.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that the candles consecutively symbolize hope, peace, joy and love.  But each flame, if it is to burn brightly and dispel the darkness, has to consume the candle wax. So each of us if we’re to shine with love has to make a sacrifice; only by Christ-like love transforming our own lives can we then transform the world. The flame of charity has to consume the wax of our sinful selves if we’re to shine with Christ’s light.

Now is the time to wake up, and stand ready and prepared, with our candles lit; with love for Christ burning in our hearts.  The world is full of artificial lights that shine and gleam and glisten and sparkle.  Lights that constantly charm us. My sisters and brothers let us pray that in our hearts Christ will fan the flame lit from the true Light this Advent.  And through preparation this Advent may we hear those words from St John afresh this Christmas:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Amen