Monday, 25 November 2019

Year A Advent 2

Year A Advent 2
Sunday 8 December, 2019
Ipswich Central Uniting Church

Call to Worship
A voice cries out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

The voice calls out to us
across the centuries, without fading:
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

When we're busy with work
and home and all of life
Do we have the time to
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

When the Lord comes, will we have room?
Or will we offer a bed in the hay as the best we have?
Will we
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Let us make our preparations now
Let us make the space for Christ to enter
Let us worship God

Advent Candles – (? To check if we are having an Advent Candle liturgy/ or lighting Christ Candle)

Passing the Peace:  The peace of the Lord be with you always
          And also with you

Hymn: Together in Song  270 “On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry”

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

God of all times and seasons,
in this season of Advent
we gather to worship
and to prepare the way of the Lord -

The world around us prepares
with the excitement of children
with the music of carols
with snow-covered Christmas cards
with remembering friends
with buying gifts
with preparing food
and we take part in all of those things.

As we take part – help us to remember
that our preparation needs to be more
we need to prepare our hearts and minds
and we need to do what we can to prepare our world
not merely for the mystery that you could
reach out to your world through a helpless, homeless child
but for the promise that child would return
as our judge, and as the source of all our hopes for real peace
for the fulfilling of all that creation could be.

We confess that sometimes we take part in the preparations
as if we were simply going through the motions
as if the preparation were just for a party
or just for one day -
and not a preparation for the possibilities and hopes for eternity.

We confess that in the tinsel and the wrapping paper
we sometimes forget, that the call to prepare the way of the Lord
applies to us just as much as as it applied beside the Jordan river 2000 years ago.

This Advent Season,
and this Christmas, as it approaches,
turn us around
help us to see the vision for eternity,
not just for this month,
help us to truly prepare the way of the Lord.
In his name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness
        ... Our sins are forgiven
       Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 272 Come, thou long-expected Jesus

Isaiah 11:1-10
Matthew 3:1-12
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God


We all have our own ways of getting ready for Christmas. In our family the Christmas tree is put up and decorated on the first Sunday of Advent. Over the next weeks, presents are wrapped and put under the tree – for the cat to tear open and spread all over the house, so we can rewrap and put them under the tree. We start cooking special treats for Christmas, and eating them, and cooking more to replace what we've eaten so we'll have some for Christmas. We send cards, and if we're really energetic, letters, to family and friends.

Different families have their own traditions. Most have developed over time to suit the people involved, and change as the family grows and changes.

This week's readings look at preparation in a different way. So what are we preparing for? And how are we preparing?

Let's start with Isaiah. What are we preparing for? Our passage from Isaiah is one of the traditional readings for Advent. It shows the ancient Israelite people looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. This follows on well from last week's reading from Isaiah – the swords being turned into ploughshares passage. Today we continue the image of radical peace.

Peace is something that comes as a result of judgement and justice. With righteousness he shall judge the poor – not by what they can afford to pay for. With equity he will judge the meek – even if they don't stand up for themselves.

The result of this just judgement is the radical peace which makes natural enemies into friends. The image here of predators lying down beside their prey, living in peace is a beautiful one, the kind of thing we expect to find in poetry or whimsical artwork.

If we reinterpreted this image into the world we know we would see politicians of all breeds sorting their differences out and searching together for the best solution to problems. We would see wars end, and nations work together to feed and clothe the poorest people in the world. We would see a world in which weapons and even the thought of violence were distant memories moulding in the basements of museums. We would see a world in which children never suffered from hunger, homelessness or abuse. We would see a world in which we just got on with dealing with things like climate change - because we'd all just choose what was right for God's creation and for each other. This is Isaiah's vision of radical peace, of the lion laying down with the lamb.

Such a world, according to Isaiah, begins with justice – with a righteous judgement on what is – and a vision of what could be. True peace never comes without justice. Justice, at its heart, is the movement to make things right and fair. In Isaiah's vision, the coming of the Messiah is the catalyst for this justice – for the peace that grows from it.

Living between the coming of the Messiah, and his return to fulfil all that he has begun, we have the opportunity to be a part of that movement for justice – of promoting justice, which ultimately promotes peace in the world.

Justice can be an important part in our understanding of life. For example, if justice affects the way we watch the television news – we will watch refugees arriving from other countries, not as huge numbers of people and a big problem to be dealt with – but as many individuals with individual personalities and individual needs, many who have been through terrible ordeals, who need to be encouraged, accepted, and above all, shown love. If justice affects the way we watch the television news, we will see war in other countries, not as some distant event, but as a tragic example of humankind's capacity to commit evil – and we will feel the pain as each new battle makes humanity less than what we are created to be, and shows up once more our failure to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. If justice affects the way we relate to other people, we will be listening to their opinions, caring about their feelings, trying to be fair and just in all of our actions.

If justice affects how we shop,  we will try to be aware of where our goods come from, and be concerned about the working conditions of the people who produce those goods.  If justice affects how we live in God's creation, we will seek to care for the world around us, and limit our impact on the planet.

The Matthew reading is also about Justice and Judgement. John leaves his listeners in no doubt about how he feels the Pharisees and Sadducees will be judged. I've sometimes imagined what the response would be like if a modern minister preached this particular sermon. Greeting the congregation with something like: “You brood of vipers!” might be what it takes to get people talking with their friends, neighbours and workmates about what was said in church on Sunday – but I doubt it would make the minister in question very popular!

John doesn't leave them with that, though – he tells them what to do to prepare for Judgement. They need, as much as anyone else, to repent.

Repentance isn't an empty word. It doesn't just mean saying something like “I'm sorry.”

In the New Testament, the word we translate as “repentance” (metanoia) means to turn around. It's the opposite of the New Testament term for sin which means to turn away from God. To repent means to turn back – it's not an empty word, it's a complete change of one's life's direction.

The way to prepare for God's judgement, is to look at our lives, and see ourselves as God sees us – being aware of all that we like to notice, and all that we'd rather not notice – and acting to change – to align ourselves more and more with God's will.

John called out to people to prepare the way, to repent.

Christmas is coming – more importantly, in this Advent Season, we recall that Jesus will return – and John's voice still calls to us through the ages for us to prepare the way.

So this Advent – as we each go through our family's traditions; address cards, wrap presents, spend far too much time and money at the shops and eat too much, let's all take some time out to remember: what we are preparing for, and how we are to prepare.

Hymn Together in Song 697 All the sleepy should have a place to sleep
        with Offering

Dedication of offering


Prayers of the People
God of Justice and Peace
Isaiah showed us a vision of real justice
of your justice
he showed us how a peace we can barely imagine
would grow out of your justice alive in the world.

We pray for a world which knows neither -
in which justice can be more about revenge than making things right;
in which peace is just a temporary cease-fire
while we find more reasons to resume the insanity.

We hand over to you the injustices
The people who go without food or homes or medicine
while others have more than they can ever use;
the people who live with abuse and fear
while others seem able to get away with anything.
We pray for your justice and your peace.

We pray for healing for your world –
especially in this community and in our own lives.
You know the hurts of each person -
you know our deepest needs -
We pray that you reach into all our lives-
and heal those things which are wrong.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 279 The King of Glory comes


Hymn Together in Song 276 There's a light upon the mountains

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