29 November 2015

As usual, the Advent readings speak of God’s constantly coming reign, and the need for us to be watchful to recognise it and receive it. The challenge, each year, is to ensure that this season doesn’t fall prey to “same-old-same-old” thinking, preaching and worship. In tough times like these, we need the reminder that God is at work even in the most tragic places in our world, and our worship is an awesome opportunity to make bring our hope to life again.

May our Advent worship open our hearts and eyes to the signs of God’s coming, and fill our hearts with renewed hope in God’s Reign.

Jeremiah 33:14-16: God promises to raise up a descendant of David to reign over God’s people and to bring goodness, rightness, justice, and security to Israel and Judah.

Psalm 25:1-10: A prayer for God’s compassion and forgiveness, for God to make God’s ways known to the Psalmist, and to lead him in God’s truth. For God is good and righteousness, guiding the weak to justice and leading those who keep God’s covenant in paths of love and faithfulness.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13:  The apostle gives thanks for the Thessalonian church, praying to see them and help them grow in faith. He also prays that they may grow in love, and have strong and holy hearts when Jesus comes.

Luke 21:25-36: Jesus teaches the disciples to be watchful for the signs of the coming destruction, using the apocalyptic language of signs in the heavens, dismay among the nations, and unusual behaviour in the natural world. After these signs, people will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud in splendour. So, his disciples must be watchful, ready to read the signs and keep their hearts faithful.

Read a more detailed reflection on the Gospel passage at the Sacredise blog.

The coming of God’s reign is a central focus of this week’s readings. Through Jeremiah God promises a leader like David for God’s people. The Psalmist prays for such leadership and guidance. In his prayer for the Thessalonians, Paul asks them to place themselves under God’s reign, and to grow in love, able to show how they have lived as Jesus did when he returns. Finally, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus calls for us to be watchful and aware of what is happening around  us, and open to the signs of the coming of God’s reign in the midst of great turmoil. While it may be tempting to push all of these promises into some future event, the Lectionary calls us to be open to God’s coming at all times – including in our lives. And, while it may be tempting to view God’s promise as an escape from the world’s turmoil, the readings this week call for us to recognise God’s presence – God’s coming – in the midst of the world’s suffering and struggle. The call, then, is to learn to be those who live with a constant sense of God’s presence regardless of our circumstances, and who cooperate with God’s work of justice, righteousness, goodness, and love.

Global Application:
The season of Advent calls us to remember the God who comes to us – past, present, and future. In the light of God’s eternal reign, we cannot help but reflect on our own priorities. The mark of Christ’s disciples is our love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, and peace. These are values that last and that have universal value. But, we can only live these values when we trust in, and take notice of, the signs of God’s Reign working in our time and space. Advent calls us to be people of this kind of awareness, recognising the signs of God’s reign that are already visible in our world – in places of peace, restoration, and sacrificial service – and calling out the signs of God’s reign in other places – places of need, violence, and self-interest. This means that we cannot avoid making a commitment, as the Psalmist does, to follow God’s ways. It means that we cannot avoid living with faith in the principles and the unseen reality of God’s Reign, as Jeremiah calls God’s people to do. It means that we have to keep encouraging and strengthening one another, as the apostle does for the Thessalonians. And it means that we need to take care to live according to the values of God’s Reign, and avoid falling into the self-gratification that arises when we lose faith, or grow despairing of change. Ultimately, as we work for justice in the world, we need the Advent hope to keep us from cynicism, despair and expediency. We need the reminder that God’s Reign is at work in our world, in order to keep us faithful to what we proclaim and believe. Then, whatever we may encounter, and whoever we may have to confront or work with, we are able to embody the life-giving, hopeful Reign of God.

Local Application:
Advent reminds us that in the midst of our daily struggles and victories, there is another reality at work, one that, if we remain aware and connected to it, will fill every detail of our lives with greater meaning & purpose. As we enter this season, we are called to watch, and to look for the signs of God’s reign around us, and then to co-operate with those signs, calling them into the light, and offering our love and strength to make God’s reign even more visible in our families, churches, and communities. This means living as those who submit to Christ as the embodiment of God’s Reign as promised to David. It means constantly seeking for God’s grace, strength, guidance, and love to empower us to stay faithful. It means supporting and strengthening one another in the community of faith. And it means keeping our hearts faithful and pure as we watch for the constant signs of God’s coming within our daily routines. A key feature of this Advent hope is to release the dream that we will be evacuated from the earth’s suffering, but recognise that God’s desire is to work in and through us in the midst of turmoil and struggle. Then, as we respond to this call, we become a sign of God’s Advent to others, leading them into the hope we have in Christ.

O Come Emmanuel
A New World

Hymn Suggestions:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Creator Of The Stars Of Night
Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending
How Long We’ve Waited
Prepare The Way (Link to YouTube video)
Come Now Is The Time (Link to YouTube video)
Father, Spirit, Jesus (Link to YouTube video)
Marvellous Light (Link to album previews – scroll down for this song)
Advent Songs (A great album of new interpretations and new songs for the Advent season)

A Liturgy for Advent & Christmas

The Return Of Christ
Advent – Christmas
Advent – He Comes

A Collection of Advent Candle Images from Worship Photos
Advent Backgrounds at ShareFaith

Additional Resource:
If you’re looking for a collection of resources for the whole season of Advent to ensure that your journey is deep, creative and transforming, please take a look at There’s a New World Comingan Advent resource in eBook format that provides everything you need.


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