A whisper of Hope – Worship @ Home, Advent Sunday, 29 November 2020

Arrangement and photo by Steven Turner

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
(Major Elizabeth Turner)

Advent Candles

The Advent Wreath is an important symbol of Advent. The wreath is of German origin and is made of evergreen, either real or artificial. Its circular shape represents eternity, for it has no beginning and no end. The evergreen was chosen, as it symbolized growth and everlasting life.

By Jonathunder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12311700

There are four candles, three purple and one pink. They represent the four weeks of preparation. As another candle is lit each week, we are reminded of the growing light of Christ’s presence. Purple is the colour used during Lent, another period of time spent in preparation and reflection. The rose or pink coloured candle a lighter colour than purple, symbolises joy, celebration, a happy time of buoyant mood. This too is observed partway during Lent, anticipating the joy that comes to us through Jesus: his coming to earth as a baby, his coming to the person who confesses their sin and accepts him as Saviour and his coming to earth again in judgement when he will establish his kingdom of righteousness. 

We have provided you with five little battery powered tea lights, with which to make your own advent wreath. This could be made from real or artificial foliage, or you could use a green cloth or green card or paper. If you don’t have any materials, just choose a prominent place and set up the five candles to form a focal point.

Advent 1 – Hope

Today we light the first candle of Advent, the candle of Hope. (Light the Candle now)

We put our hope in the one to come, the promised one who comes from God to bring good news of salvation. We hope in the one who will lead us to walk in the light of the LORD. We hope he will not let us live in dark valleys, but on the high mountain of God.

We light this candle in Hope.

On this day, we remember to look hopefully for the coming of Christ.

Dear Jesus, you are the hope in our messy world. This Advent, help us slow down, listen to your voice, and focus on what’s really important. We place our hope in you as we prepare our hearts to celebrate your birth on Christmas Day. Amen.

Source: https://www.liturgylink.net/2016/11/22/advent-wreath-liturgies/
Prayer: https://holyfamilyep.org/2019/11/16/advent-candles-and-prayers

Song           A light came out of darkness

Tune: Ewing

By Petar Milošević – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55225270

1. A light came out of darkness;
No light, no hope had we,
Till Jesus came from Heaven
Our light and hope to be.
Oh, as I read the story
From birth to dying cry,
A longing fills my bosom
To meet him by and by.

Shall you, shall I, meet Jesus by and by?
And when we reach the Glory Land,
We’ll swell the song of the angel band.
Shall you, shall I, meet Jesus by and by?

2. How tender his compassion,
How loving was his call,
How earnest his entreaty
To sinners, one and all.
He wooed and won them to him
By love, and that is why
I long to be like Jesus,
And meet him by and by.

3. Yet deeper do I ponder,
His cross and sorrow see,
And ever gaze and wonder
Why Jesus died for me.
And shall I fear to own him?
Can I my Lord deny?
No, let me love him, serve him,
And meet him by and by.

William A. Hawley (1870-1929)

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading     

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village
among all the people of Judah.

Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.

The people of Israel will be abandoned
to their enemies
until the woman in labour gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.

And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honoured around the world.
And he will be the source of peace.

Micah 5:2-5a NLT

Song           Lord of all hopefulness

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment. whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping. and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Jan Struther

A Whisper of Hope

By Elekes Andor – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
w/index.php?curid=46003745

As we start this season of Advent, reflecting on the coming of Jesus the Saviour we each need so much, we remember too, that we are mere days away from the start of another new year. It is at this time of year that we hear the word ‘hope’ spoken about more often: children hope for a particular gift and perhaps a ‘white’ Christmas, adults hope they have enough resources in terms of finances and energy to meet the various expectations.

And older people hope to spend just enough time with loved ones that busyness dictates they see so little of during the year, and then want to retreat to their own space, away from the noise of the bigger group, to be themselves and savour the special moments they’ve had.

Created by Steven Turner

Hot on the heels of those Christmas hopes, New Year hopes rain thick and fast: hopes for a job or new job, a new home, a special relationship to start or a bad one to end, a family to grow, a chance to travel, enough health and longevity of life to enjoy key moments in the lives of loved ones. So many hopes at Christmas time and at the start of a New Year; some hopes are realised, others take time and still others never materialise.

But I guess this year, the word hope will be used with more fervency:

Yet even after the absurdities and challenges of this past year, there may have been positive benefits to hang onto:

As Vaclav Havel noted,

When all around us seems bleak, dark and hopeless, don’t we look for and long for with intensity, and strain our ears for just the slightest of whispers that things will be different and that difference will be for the better? As Thomas Fuller said, ‘If it were not for hopes, the heart would break.’

When Micah delivered the proclamation he had heard from God to the wearied Israelite nation, baited and beaten time and again by their enemies, it was like a whisper of hope which was to grow in intensity. With a rising crescendo, that whisper of hope foretelling deliverance was to be seen coming when Jesus, the Saviour of the world and babe of Bethlehem, was laid in a manger.

The prophecy told of Israel’s continued struggles but assured them of a definitive time when their long hoped for release from their oppressors would come.  It was only as they followed this Saviour ‘whose origins are in the distant past’ (v2), marking him out as genuine and true, would they know peace. He would lead them with the all the knowledge, authority and dexterity of a good Shepherd, guiding his flock away from danger and on toward truly good and habitable places.

Whispers of hope when times are difficult are always welcome. But almost as soon as we catch the strains of such words, we want them to be fulfilled NOW! Right from the beginning of our battle with coronavirus and the whisper that scientists were working on a vaccine, we’ve wanted to know when such a vaccine would become available. However, apart from the confidence that such a moment would come, no one could say when; it would take time. Until then we would have to wait.

Whilst the people of Micah’s day would certainly have to wait, they were given pointers to watch for as to when that time would come. They were to watch and wait actively, encouraging those coming after them to do the same, and so on. There was a place to keep an eye on: Bethlehem, the house of bread, where God’s gift would be offered in the flesh of a tiny baby; the giver, nourisher and sustainer of life, himself needing nourishment and care. The Saviour who would bring hope not only to Israel, but to all the nations, was missed by the Israelites in the event.

Detail from “Belén” display at El Corte Inglés, Elche, Spain

Only a few faithful souls—Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Anna and Simeon, some marginalised shepherds and some foreigners from afar—actively watched, waited, and were rewarded for their diligence. Yes of course there were those who had watched but never saw that wonderful moment. But as they had looked and talked about it in joyful hope and expectancy, they would have passed the practice on, like a gift. They will have played their part in keeping that hope alive, ‘evergreen’ so to speak.

In Proverbs 13:12 Solomon wrote, ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’ (NIV). Holding on to active hope means that one day that careful attention will result in seeing the fulfilment of that glorious promise. And when in the fullness of time that moment finally arrives, Solomon describes it as a ‘tree of life’. Hope has sprung evergreen and there is abundant, vibrant, vigorous, fruitful life.

During advent, we remember and observe the events that led to that first visitation of God incarnate, in Jesus the Son of God. Rend Collective, a lively Christian band, have produced a great new song worthy of topping the Christmas pop charts. For those of you who are able, why not check it out on YouTube; it’s called ‘This is the Saviours Day’ (not to be confused with Cliff Richards chart topper of some years ‘The Saviours Day’!) The song makes reference to the fact that in Jesus ‘hope is alive’. Indeed it is, but we must also remember to keep the hope of his second coming alive; for Jesus assured us that one day he would return to earth not as a tiny baby, but as King to reign in power, to deal definitively with all that is wrong and evil, and to establish his joyous kingdom of abundant life and goodness.

So as we read and remember the story of the Nativity, catching the joy and wonder of that very first coming of Jesus the Saviour at Christmas, let us keep in mind that Jesus will return one day and re-read those particular Bible passages concerning his coming. Let us be careful to live in such a way that, if his coming were today, we are ready. And if that day is to come long after we are gone, let us play our part in shaping the lives of those who come after us, offering them the gift of hope that lives actively and expectantly. Evil will not gain the upper hand, even if that is how things look in our twisted, messy world, littered with broken hearts, minds and lives.

Let’s encourage ourselves and other believers by these passages from the Bible and be modern day whisperers of hope, building the momentum until the moment of crescendo when Jesus appears.

‘Let us hold tightly without wavering
to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise’

(Hebrews10:23).

 ‘Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.’

(Hebrews 6:11-12)

’Stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope,  comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.’

(2 Thess. 2:15b-17)

(Sources: The Bible and https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/hope-quotes)

Song           A child is born

A ray of hope flickers in the sky,
A tiny star lights up way up high,
All across the land dawns a brand-new morn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.

A silent wish sails the seven seas,
The winds of change whisper in the trees,
And the walls of doubt crumble tossed and torn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.

A rosy dawn settles all around,
You got the feel you’re on solid ground,
For a spell or two no one seems forlorn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.

It’s all a dream, an illusion now,
It must come true sometime soon somehow,
All across the land dawns a brand new morn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.
This comes to pass when a child is born.

Fred Jacobson and Circo Dammicco
© Beechwood Music Corp.

Prayer

Father God, every word in scripture points to the gift of hope that we have because of Christ Jesus. The Christmas story wasn’t the beginning of that message of hope because the old testament is full of glimpses of your plan to redeem your people and restore them into a relationship with you, but we are able to truly begin to see and understand just how great your love for us is when we read the story of Jesus’ birth in scripture.

Help us to see that you are with us. Nothing is too difficult, too messy, or too dirty for you. Jesus came to give us the gift of eternal life through the salvation that only you, our Heavenly Father, can give when we believe on your Son, repent of our sins, and confess Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

That first Christmas, you gave us the gift of hope wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Thank you, Father, for your immeasurable gift. In Jesus’ precious name, we pray. Amen.

Hope Bollinger
https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/7-powerful-advent-prayers-devotions-of-peace-and-joy.html

Song           Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells

The bells ring out at Christmas time
Their message loud and clear;
Our hearts are stirred as on the air
The joyful sound we hear.

Sweet chiming Christmas bells,
Sweet chiming Christmas bells;
They cheer us on our heav’nward way,
Sweet chiming bells.
They cheer us on our heav’nward way,
Sweet chiming bells.

Thanks be to God, since all may learn
The bells’ exultant theme:
The babe of Bethlehem was born
This lost world to redeem.

Glad message of the Christmas bells
Of God whose name is love!
O, may this music all our days
Our hope and comfort prove!

Miriam M. Richards
© Salvationist Publishing and Supplies Ltd.

Benediction        

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows
© 1982 Cliff Barrows

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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