The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. John Murray
Sunday 29 November 2020: The first Sunday in Advent
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent is that period in the church calendar starting four Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of waiting. And not just passive waiting but an invitation to us to reframe our lives afresh, as did Mary when she said ‘May it be to me as you have said’.
Isaiah 64:1-9 1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 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. 8 Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.
Confession: Lord hear us, see us, and may this time be for us a waiting time when we receive your undeserved grace: your grace which is amazing: not just in the substance and effect of it, but also the way it came and comes: through your Son, the Word made flesh. The living answer to the question ‘How then can we be saved?’
The Lord’s Prayer
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Mark 13:24-37: “But in those days, following that distress, “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!
Why are we waiting?
This passage is not intended to chill the spine but to put strength in our bones to endure. The call of Christianity is to watch and endure: there is no escapism here, with quick fixes. We can leave the big issues to our God who is loving and caring. This is the lesson of what happened in Jesus’s generation as above. If we understand then, we will understand now: that the important thing for us is to watch and be ready in every circumstance: to be faithful to God in such times. May Advent 2020 find us watching and ready, preparing the way for the future.
Lord we cry out for the quick fix!
Lord, we long for everything to be sorted and tidied up, so that we can relax.
Lord, if you are in control why do you not just come down, do the necessary and show your power?
But here we are, lurching around in the middle of disorder. How long Lord, how long?
We want normality back and quick: ‘Come down, come down Immanuel!’ we cry.
Exactly so, says the Lord, exactly so. This I have done: and in this waiting time, may we read about it, be nourished from it: God with us, in the mess.
Lord, forgive us when we fail to see you and all that you have done for us. In sending Jesus to search and find us. As we wait in these times, may you come to us in a new way: opening our eyes and ears, opening our hands and hearts: and sitting with us as we wait, and watch. Comforting us in our fretting and in all our fears. Your times are in your hand: forgive us when we misconstrue your patience and grace, for your absence, as if you had given up on humanity: and give us faith to sit, and to wait and watch and to get more comfortable with not knowing, not knowing where or when or how. But knowing we are safe with you.
We thank you for so much of humanity keeping going in kindness and love at this time, for people doing their work each in their assigned tasks for the good of others. So, as we wait Lord, we give you praise for those who are the building blocks in our common life: and name them now: as we think of the ones who impact our own lives. Look over us as we go on in this time of pandemic; and give wisdom to those who are called to shape the way forward for our society.
And in these days of darkness, be with those finding this dark time a real struggle- those suffering with poor mental health, those feeling so isolated, alone, worried, and those who are suffering from the financial effects of the pandemic. Hear every prayer and in your mighty power come down and be God to all, who call on your name, and to those who do not. Amen.
May we wait in the darkness, listening, looking, trusting. The true light, which lightens everyone, is coming into the world. O come Lord, the desire behind our greatest needs. O come, liberator of humanity. O come, Lord, O come Immanuel.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always, Amen.
Faith means believing in advance, what only makes sense in reverse.
P Yancey (Disappointment with God 1997)
This heron here is waiting with focus and anticipation. Although standing still, it’s not wasting its time.
Let us pray: Lord we have waited long for you. Deep has been the darkness. We long for you to shine, right here among us where we are. We will not fear the depths and shadows that surround us: We await the movement around us showing us you are there, under the surface. Lord, may we see you, and be ready to shoot forward at your call. Amen.
Revelation 22: 7: Listen! I am coming very soon.
Advent began in a dramatic way one year when seven potholers emerged unscathed after ten days underground, in France’s largest rescue of its kind. Trapped by flooding, forty metres down, they managed to stretch their three days supplies and survive the freezing conditions. People had been drilling through rocks, and lowering microphones and listening. Two groups of people listening for the other in the darkness, hoping the other was there. Neither had known for certain, but they had kept going as if life depended on it. Which it did. Saved by the listening, and by looking, and by not giving up.
B Woodcock and JS Pickard (Advent Readings from Iona)
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way - with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge - God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our LORD Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our LORD Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our LORD.