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..
Mark 13. 24 - end
Jesus said, ‘But 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.’
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
By Joe, Reader at St Mary's.
Today is the First Sunday in Advent – it’s a time when we all start
looking forward to Christmas. Apart from the annual ritual of Advent
Calendars – and these days one seems to be able to get an Advent
calendar for everything, from chocolate, to cheese, to whisky – and
not forgetting the reverse Advent calendar, where we put something
aside each day of Advent to eventually give to charity – the meaning
of Advent as we understand it in the Church hasn’t made much of an
impact in society.
But within the Church, Advent is quite something. It is a period of
waiting; it’s a period of anticipation. It is a quiet period, a
contemplative period. With the hustle and bustle of modern life at
this time of year, I think that observing Advent is certainly something
that offers a lot of benefits!
The word Advent is derived from the Latin word ‘Adventus’, which
means ‘Coming’. In turn this was a translation of the Greek word
‘parousia’, which roughly means ‘a visit by someone to a specific
group of people’. In the Greek writings that made up the New
Testament, this referred to the coming of the Lord Jesus.
In the early Church, Advent was a period during which new Christians
were prepared for Baptism, which would take place in January at the
feast of Epiphany. However, by the 6 th Century, the Roman Christians
had tied Advent to the coming of Christ – but NOT the birth of Jesus
in Bethlehem! They were referring to Christ coming in judgement.
So, when we talk about Advent, there’s a great deal tied up in that 6
We talk about ‘looking forward to the birth of Jesus at Christmas’,
even though that took place 2000 years ago. What we’re actually
doing is looking forward to our commemoration of Jesus’s birth. But
at the same time we’re looking forward from our own times and
waiting for the second coming of Christ when His kingdom will be
finally, completely and eternally established.
The readings we have today reflect the experience of waiting from
two perspectives. In our reading from Isaiah we are shown the
experience of the people of Israel as they wait to regain God’s
favour; in the Gospel reading we are told of what to expect at the
final coming of the Kingdom, and that we are to wait and remain
prepared in the meantime.
Our reading from Isaiah is a lament. The people have had experience
of a God who was the only God since ancient times, and who did
miracles for those who waited for him. A God who did unexpected
and amazing things, and who could make the mountains tremble.
But then, the relationship changed:
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.
God hid from the people. No one calls upon Him any more, he is
absent from their lives. In fact, the people have been given over to
their sins; instead of ‘God’s will be done’, the will of the sinful people
is being done and God is simply leaving them to it.
But even in this situation, the people wait; they know what they are
lacking; they want God back; it’s just that they don’t really have any
idea of how to get there.
Their plea is simple:
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our
They wait; they do not know what to do; they no longer do right in
God’s eyes; they do not call upon him. But they wait, unsure of what
the future holds, not even knowing whether God will turn his face to
them again, pleading and begging for God to not remember their sins
and to show mercy on them.
And then we come to our Gospel reading from Mark. There is no
uncertainty here about what we are waiting for. We are waiting for
the full and final coming of the Kingdom. We are waiting for the end
of the world. We are waiting for a time when:
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. and Heaven and Earth will pass away.
And when is this supposed to happen? Well, Jesus initially says
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until
all these things have happened.
Which has caused a lot of confusion over the years. What did Jesus
actually mean by this? It’s been pondered over for 2000 years.
Some theologians have suggested that in part Jesus was prophesying
the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD 70. However bad
as that was, the world didn’t end. A more commonly held
interpretation is that the generation mentioned in the Gospel is not
the generation who were alive, listening to Jesus, but the generation
who WILL be alive when these events come to pass.
To me, this fits well with the following text where He says:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels
in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father
The time is not known to anyone except God. But when it IS time, it
will happen quickly, suddenly, in the time it takes for a generation of
people to live and die.
So, we are waiting; again for a length of time unknown to us. But
here we are given guidance on what to do. Be watchful. Be on guard.
Be alert. Don’t be caught sleeping. Don’t think you’re going to get a
warning. The final coming of the Kingdom will be sudden and quick.
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
The late Pope John Paul 2nd said the following about the liturgy of
"The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value
and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about
commemorating the historical event, which occurred some
2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is
necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an
‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To
predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the
Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we
must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily
life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that
directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will
come, and who comes continuously."
So, when we leave here today, let’s be prepared for this ‘run up to
Christmas’ to be more of a ‘run up to Christ’s Kingdom’ – like all good
surprises, it will come when we least expect it.
Let us be ready for it. As it says in today’s Collect:
Almighty God, as your kingdom dawns, turn us from the
darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to
meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prepared by David.
In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid
we pray to Jesus.
Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for our Bishop's Pete and Sophie and give thanks for all who minister in this Diocese.
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for all the peoples of earth, that they may walk in the paths of peace.
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for who find life difficult.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember those we have loved and see no longer.
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with Mary, Mark, John, all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council