Worship for Sunday 28th November 2021, by Peter Smith

Notices and welcome

Opening music

We have waited long for you,

Deep has been the darkness.

This is the path that God marked, who said ‘Let there be light’, and there was light; and God saw that the light was good.

For people walking in darkness a great light dawns, for the true light that lightens everyone is coming into the world. 

The light shines in the darkness and cannot be put out.

Today we light our first advent candle.

The candle is lit

We mark out the Advent path with candle flames.

Lead us, O Lord on our journey through Advent, that in the shadows

We may know your light.

That in conflicts and troubles

We may know your love.

That in our fears and worries

We may know your peace.


Call to Worship

O Emmanuel, God-with-us

at one with our humanity,

whose glory is our abundant life

come and transform us

who find our destiny in you.


Hymn: StF 180    O come, O Come, Immanuel

   1      O come, O come, Immanuel,
           and ransom captive Israel,
           that mourns in lonely exile here
           until the Son of God appear:
               Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel
               shall come to you, O Israel.

   2      O come, O come, O Lord of might
           who to your tribes, on Sinai’s height,
           in ancient times did give the law
           in cloud, and majesty, and awe:

   3      O come, O Rod of Jesse, free
           your own from Satan’s tyranny;
           from depths of hell your people save,
           and give them victory o’er the grave:

   4      O come, O Key of David, come,
           and open wide our heavenly home;
           make safe the way that leads on high,
           and close the path to misery:

   5      O come, O Day-spring, come and cheer
           our spirits by your advent here;
           disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
           and death’s dark shadows put to flight:

Latin, 18th century, based on the ancient Advent Antiphons
translated by John Mason Neale (1811–1866)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 180.

Prayer of approach

O Wisdom, dwelling in the womb of God,

Generating and nurturing the earth

Through nights of darkness

Come and cherish in us

The seed of wisdom


O Music of the spheres,

O song of silence

echoing through ears that listen,

come with still small voice and heal


O Ardent lover stirring in the loins of God

Yearning to create what is ever new,

Come and open our flesh

To love’s fierce touch


O Anointed One, long-awaited Messiah

blessing, healing and commissioning your people

Come and empower us

To serve your purpose of liberating love.


O Emmanuel, God-with-us

at one with our humanity,

whose glory is our abundant life

come and transform us

who find our destiny in you.  Amen

Prayer of confession

Gracious and loving God,

In the stillness and silence, we call to mind our sins.


For our failure to recognise you in others

Forgive us

For our failure to speak for the voiceless

Forgive us

For our failure to seek for and to bring light and understanding

Forgive us


May we know the reality of Christ’s gracious words in our lives

that our sins are forgiven, and seek to live our lives as his disciples.  Amen


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, Amen.

Reading Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Psalm 25: 1 – 10

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
   therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
   and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
   for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Reading Luke 21:25-36

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Hymn: StF 172 Hills of the North Rejoice

    1      Hills of the north, rejoice,
           river and mountain-spring,
           hark to the advent voice;
           valley and lowland, sing.
           Christ comes in righteousness and love,
           he brings salvation from above.

   2      Isles of the southern seas,
           sing to the listening earth;
           carry on every breeze
           hope of a world’s new birth:
           in Christ shall all be made anew;
           his word is sure, his promise true.

   3      Lands of the east, arise!
           He is your brightest morn;
           greet him with joyous eyes,
           let praise his path adorn:
           your seers have longed to know their Lord;
           to you he comes, the final Word.

   4      Shores of the utmost west,
           lands of the setting sun,
           welcome the heavenly guest
           in whom the dawn has come:
           he brings a never-ending light,
           who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

   5      Shout, as you journey on;
           songs be in every mouth!
           Lo, from the north they come,
           from east and west and south:
           in Jesus all shall find their rest,
           in him the universe be blest.

Charles Ernest Oakley (1832–1865) and Editors of English Praise, 1975

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 172
Words: ©


By early October the more obscure channels on Freeview were already showing Christmas movies, many of them from the States with a cloying sentimentality.  If like me you have the TV on in the background whilst doing other things you sometimes get drawn into films and programmes that you would not have made a conscious decision to sit down and watch.  Well, I found myself watching a Christmas film, the premises of which was that the family (husband and sons) were content to leave all the Christmas preparations to the woman (wife/mother) and could not be relied on to play their parts. 

You see she had a very detailed schedule that needed to be followed exactly otherwise there just would not be time to do  all the things that were necessary to deliver a perfect Christmas and the failure of the men to abide by this schedule (clearly displayed on the fridge) was just too much for her.  So, she went on strike, and the other woman of the town joined in.

The men of the family attempted to make things happen, local bakery to make the cookies, buying in decorations etc.  All of which failed to impress.

I’m sure we were supposed to sympathise with her.  But really, so much activity that there was no room for anything else, or spontaneity, to be in the moment?  Remained me of the friend whose wife and family go to the same place, the same week every year knowing exactly what they will be doing each day because that is what they always do. He stays at home.

Yes, I know that if I don’t get the Christmas cakes made and posted/delivered, I will have let friends down, but if preparations for one day consume all our time to the exclusion of all else, then we have failed to engage with Advent and its great themes of waiting and hope.

The season of Advent brings with it a growing sense of expectation and excitement as we count down the Sunday’s to Christmas, and prepare to engage once more with the mystery and wonder of the incarnation and the opportunities to speak of the God who dwells with us and within us.

But on route, we can pause to contemplate the promises and revelations that bring us finally to Christmas day.  Our Advent candles represent: The people; prophets; John the Baptist; and Mary.  But they can also remind us of the themes of: Hope; Faith; Joy; and Peace.  With the central candle standing for Jesus the light of the World.

Today, on the first Sunday in Advent, as we think of those who waited in darkness for the coming light of God, we are reminded that that hope is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, God incarnate. But we are presented with a very strange Gospel reading.  Strange because by and large we don’t think in apocalyptic terms, added to which is the embarrassment we feel that Jesus appears, at least here to have expected the end of the world to have happened quite soon whilst in other places he seems to be saying it is some time off!  Was he wrong or misreported?

However, for some followers of Christ it remains an active part of their faith to attempt to discern the signs of the times and anticipate the end of the world.  I have not kept a running total of the number of times that it should have already ended during my life.

It is the Old Testament reading, with its specific historical and Jewish references, that seems to offer much more of a sense of hope, it feels more reassuring, gentler even – but I’m blowed if I know why.

For some Christians the thought that the end is nigh, and they will see the signs everywhere, it becomes pointless to do anything to change the world or society other than call people to repentance and call down judgement, the worst vitriol being reserved for those who do not read the Bible in the same way they do.

Recently on one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of a picture of a banner outside a Glasgow church was posted which read:

There was a very involved and times confused debate.  Some folk seemed to think that the banner had it right – the world is God’s, its fate in his (sic) hands and there is nothing we puny humans can do about it or should try!  In fact, we learnt on the group that the Church displaying the banner is one that denies that there is a climate crisis!

Whilst the majority, having realised that the minority weren’t being ironic, took a very different approach. That as stewards of creation, we are called by God to care for the Earth.  To address the damage done to creation by human activity, and in that care and commitment to tackle climate change we are indeed preaching the Gospel by our actions.

It seems to me to be of little comfort to those in greatest need that we refrain from relieving their suffering or tackling the causes of inequality and injustice on the off chance that after nearly 2000 years we might, just might, be right this time that the world is about to end and all will be well.

During the 80’s we often wondered were the gung ho approach to diplomacy would lead us. So much so that, with that old gallows humour, the Gone with the Wind poster was adapted – she to follow him to the end of the world, he to organise it.

Quite why so many religious people have felt that the end of the world would be good news, I’m not sure.  I really like this world in which God has created and which is our home.  We will have the whole of eternity to explore the other, so why the rush?

Perhaps its is because we have accepted without much critical thought, the lazy short hand that the World is and always will be all that is opposed to the Divine – a shorthand for evil.  But the world is God’s creation and the whole of creation strives for that liberty that is ours in Christ.

I am amazed at the number of times on the Methodist Facebook pages when people complain that they have come to think about God not to do politics – as though it is ever possible to divorce the outworking of our faith from a concern about the world.  We are blessed that the majority of politicians in this country are honourable people even if we do not agree with their policies.  But we are called to challenge injustice, to call out our leaders, to speak truth to power (more of that next week I guess when we get to the prophets) and to work for the transformation of society.  To relieve not just suffering but ask why it happens in the first place.

The Advent hope is not about the end of the world as we know it but about the transformation of the world though the coming of God to dwell as one of us. Today we are reminded of that light that pieces the darkness and shines on and in us.

I think we are fighting a losing battle if we rail against the adverts, merchandise etc appearing earlier and earlier.  But we can in our own lives take a different pace and path.

This Advent, which is almost as long as it can be, (always four Sundays but differing numbers of days),which should give us some space for reflection and contemplation of the mystery of God.  We can achieve this through prayer and reading, taking time in the midst of the chaos to be still in the presence of God and of each other.

The circuit is helping us to do this through the publishing of the Advent booklet, and at Manley Park we will be meeting to say Compline online – taking time out from the busyness, just to be.

But our discipleship is also shown in practical ways as well.  Some people will have been taking part in the reverse Advent calendar to ensure that the foodbank has supplies for its Christmas parcels. However, Christmas is often a time when people spend beyond their means in order to have a good time, to provide presents for children etc.  It would seem a good idea to ensure that the Foodbanks are well stocked for the New Year- so you could follow the calendar now and pass on the results in time for January.

Will the world end?  Yes.  When? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else.  But this I do know, we cannot let the idea of the end either paralyse us with fear, or lead us into indifference, or  cause us to think that God does not care about the here and now.  The Advent hope is that God does care. Cares enough to take the risk of being one of us – Emmanuel God with us.  Amen


We wait in hope for hope to come:
promised of old; the righteous one.
Help us to watch, expect and pray
and then to greet Messiah’s day.

We read the story of your plan:
this world redeemed by heaven’s Son.
Grace breaks upon the present time;
mercy and hope through David’s line.

We hear the prophet’s voice ring clear:
‘changed hearts and lives are needed here’.
So, when the Spirit fires your Church,
make us a sign for all who search.

We go to share this great Good News:
heirs of the promise – we will choose
to live in hope that all may sing
praises to Christ, the infant king.

Words © 2013 Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org
Metre: 88.88 (Long Metre)
Suggested tunes: Gareth suggests “Deep Harmony” (StF 90); “Niagara” (StF 596) is more upbeat; “O Waly Waly” (StF 607) adds a reflective, arguably more personal, dimension to the words.


Prayer of thanksgiving

We praise and thank you living God

That in our darkness you shed your light

Giving hope and strength to people in every age and place

Emmanuel, God with us we praise and thank you

 We praise and thank you that you sent your prophets

to speak truth to power,

to bring words of comfort and challenge,

to offer a vision of a world transformed by your love

Emmanuel, God with us we praise and thank you

We praise and thank you

that you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way,

to make people ready for the new things you were doing

To call us to repentance and new life.

Emmanuel, God with us we praise and thank you

We praise and thank you

That in the fulness of time, born of Mary, you became one of us

Human and vulnerable. That you embraced life and death and showed us how to love

And through the resurrection brought new hope and life.

 Emmanuel, God with us we praise and thank you. Amen


Prayers of intercession

Gracious and loving God, hear our prayers

We pray for the Church…….

Child of God, calling together the creatures of the earth

The vulnerable with the powerful,

Come gentle our strength,

Coax our trembling into song

We pray people everywhere….

O Sovereign of all the peoples

Uniting Jew and gentile,

white and black

Come and reconcile all

whom you are shaping out of common clay

We pray for the leaders of the nations …..

O bright Sun of Justice, and Judge of all the world,

seeking to straighten what is crooked

and put right what is wrong,

Come with dread power and stark mercy

To reluctant hearts.  Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer of dedication

Gracious and loving God, accept the gifts we offer, and take us and transform us to be faithful disciples of Christ. Amen  

Hymn: StF 169 Come thou long expected Jesus 

   1      Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
           born to set thy people free,
           from our fears and sins release us,
           let us find our rest in thee.

   2      Israel’s strength and consolation,
           hope of all the earth thou art,
           dear desire of every nation,
           joy of every longing heart.

   3      Born thy people to deliver,
           born a child and yet a king,
           born to reign in us for ever,
           now thy gracious kingdom bring.

   4      By thine own eternal Spirit
           rule in all our hearts alone;
           by thine all-sufficient merit
           raise us to thy glorious throne.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 169 .

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

The blessing

And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you, now and forever. Amen.

Closing music

Advent candle lighting Adapted from Celtic Daly Prayer (Northumbria Community).

 Prayer of adoration and intercessions based on Great O’s by Jim Cotter. ©Cairns Publications, adapted by P Smith.

 Prayer of thanksgiving ©Peter Smith 2020.

 Collect from Methodist Worship Book

 Bible readings form NRSV