Worship for Sunday 3rd December 2023, by Rev. Sharon Read

Year B Advent One

Advent Liturgy © Methodist Church


Our Advent ring stands waiting,

for candle light to lead us on.

We’ll open up traditions,

With challenge and with change


Advent God

Challenge us today.

Our box of decorations stands ready to be explored.

We reassess the treasures in this bulging cardboard box.

Let’s sort the treasure from the trash

The needed from the not


Advent God

Challenge us today.

Our living is refocussed with preparations underway.

Our ordinary and everyday

Will be challenged along the way.

Letting go of stuff to do God’s will, is here to stay.


Advent God

Challenge us today.

In the mundane and ordinary,

Stars will start to fall,

Challenging and changing us

With holy goodness breaking through.


Advent God

Challenge us today.


Advent God, as we light this, our first Advent candle

May we let go of what swamps us

And serves no purpose for us

So that we can meet the challenges that lie ahead of us.

May our ordinary lives be enriched by your extraordinary love for us.



Hymn: STF 177 Lo, He comes with clouds descending


Bright, shining God, shimmering in the darkness of winter,
we approach you today with your light in our hearts.
We wait for you, we watch for you,
just as the watchmen await the first signs of morning.
Walk with us throughout Advent,
and light our feet as we walk perhaps a little unsteadily
towards the birth of the ‘light of the world’.

We come to your house, God,
sometimes aware, and sometimes not aware.
Sometimes aware of our need,
sometimes ignoring others’ needs. 
You wait for us, O God, and as you wait,
you call us to wait for you, too.
As we gather today in our churches, online, or at home 
may we remember how you have helped us –
in the kindness of a stranger, 
in the comfort of a friend,
in the call for justice, 
in the shout for mercy. 
And make us, who wait for you, 
approach you and each other 
with new vigilance, and with new hope. 

We have turned our face from you, O God,
whose face is always turned towards us.
We have forsaken what we know is just. 
We have ignored what we understand is true.
We have refused to believe what should be believed. 
We have deceived ourselves in word and deed. 
For this, we humbly repent, 
and we turn our face towards you –
who waits for us, and makes us ever new. 
Make us ever new now, O restoring God. 


Reading 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[b] 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.

The Day and Hour Unknown

“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[c]! 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!’”

Hymn: STF 169 Come thou long expected Jesus


Today we begin Advent, a season of waiting, anticipating, hoping for the coming of the Christ who will save us from all that seeks to destroy us. Advent, a time when we desperately look for hope, or at least a respite from the terror that seeks to drown us. We might echo the words of Isaiah, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” We might simply be lost and confused with little hope breaking into our world.

Today we read Mark’s description of the difficulties of the age and we know some of the fear and we look to the hope. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” And we hope that it is true, that it will happen soon.

Marks’ gospel is one of action and few words. Mark records only two sermons of Jesus, one in Chapter 4 and this one in Chapter 13. In Chapter 4 the key word is “Listen”. He says, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen.” He is surrounded by people unwilling to listen, people unwilling to listen to Jesus and hear what he is really saying. They refuse to hear in his words the voice of God speaking of a new way of living, a purpose for creation that is not based upon power and violence. To truly listen is to listen with the filter of Jesus Christ, to hear the cries of those in need and hear that true power comes in service of others.

In Chapter 13 the key idea is “Watch”. “Keep alert, keep awake!” See the world as God sees the world. Use the filter of Jesus Christ to see the world as it really is. See the events of the world as Jesus sees them. In the midst of terror, recognize that God is there. Recognize evil for what it is, an empty promise of meaning which is meaningless. Do not look elsewhere to find meaning, meaning and purpose to life is found only in the one who created the world, who promises to save all those who look to him in times of terror.

Within the passage today is the short parable of the fig tree: a fig tree has a regular pattern – the leaves appear and summer follows. It is the last tree to show signs of growth and was a familiar sight on the Mount of Olives during the time of Jesus.   When you see the leaves, it is a reminder that summer is near. In the same way, when the signs (v24-25) are appearing, we know that the return of Jesus is near. Jesus tells us to “keep alert, keep awake, watch! Do not be held hostage to seeing things as the forces of evil would have you see.” “Watch!” See things as God would have us see them. See God in the midst of terror promising hope. Recognize that God gives life meaning, life is not defined by the fear or the promises of that which seeks to control us. See in a new way, keep awake to God’s way of seeing.

As we enter Advent, a time of anticipation for the one who is to come. We see around us all that seeks to give us false hope and Jesus tells us we are not to be deceived, we are to keep awake and alert so that all that would claim to give meaning to life apart from God is recognized for what it is. We are to long for the coming of the one who promises release to the captives, sight to the blind, hope for you and me in the midst of all that would incite terror in us today. The hope for the world is not found in weapons or a war on terrorism. The hope for the world is found in one who comes as a vulnerable child into our world, in one who knows our fears and terrors and cries with us in the midst of the terror, but also shows us a way through the terror to hope. It is Jesus who has the power to destroy the powers that destroy people.

Watch, Keep awake, the saviour of the world is about to do a great thing. And in that is hope.

Hymn: STF 706 Longing for light


Holy God, as we enter Advent, our minds and hearts, hopes and visions turn towards our journey to Christmas and all its promise, yet we feel overwhelmed and helpless as we see and hear and feel the pain of the Holy Land. We pray for families there and all who are bereaved, fearful, homeless, hungry and stateless.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, we pray too for those in Ukraine and Russia who are suffering because of the ongoing war.  Most want to live in peace and harmony with each other but the violence prevents them from living the life they would wish. 

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, all around the world there seems to be pain and anguish created by political tactics and desires, while people simply seek peace and calm, home and shelter, food and water.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, our national health service in the UK is under so much pressure; both staff and patients are suffering. So many people with illness and injury cannot get the help and healing they need. So many staff not able to give the help and healing they would like to.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, as we live out our lives, carve out our path and step daily into the future, may we seek to make good the failures of our forefathers. Those who have gone before us have crafted our world for good and bad. Let us pray for all who are making amends for past failures.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, as we unearth our Christmas treasures in our decorations box, we think of those who have nothing to unearth, no happy memories, nothing to pass on. May they find someone and something that gives this Advent a meaning and a memory worth passing on to the next generation.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to them and the needs of the world.

Holy God, as we prepare for Christmas, we think of those who will be spending their first Christmas without a treasured loved one; for those who will be stepping into Advent with sadness, loneliness and uncertainty.

Bidding:  Lord, hear our prayers for them…
Response: … and help us to be alert to the needs of them and the world.

Holy God, bless all we have prayed for,
all we have brought to mind
and bless us too we pray.


The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: STF 405 Great is the darkness

Sending out prayer

Lord, we begin our Advent, 
waiting for you with love and patience.
Help us to remember that you will return for us
and for those yet to know you.
Help us to be patient and alert,
but help us also to be doing and serving 
and building your kingdom.
Your kingdom come on earth,
as it is in heaven. 


Advent Liturgy © https://www.methodist.org.uk/ChristmasResources/

Other prayers © ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2023.

Reproduced with permission.