In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
nd shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Call to Worship: (Psalm 122)
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
O Come, o come Emmanuel
O ever loving God,
With glad and joyful hearts we come in worship. You are our God who gave and fulfilled the promise of salvation through your Son our Lord. On this day we come in anticipation and expectation of your Son’s coming. With praise and thanksgiving we bring before you our worship. Be among us. Receive this worship. Create in this place a sacred space where you are present to be honoured, blessed and glorified. All these, we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 13:11-14
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Matthew 24: 36-44
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Sermon: Fullness of Time
Suddenly the world is crying over the impending disasters. If we don’t annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons, we will suffer through irrevocable climate changes that will wipe out life on earth as we know, we are told. This is a very grim and dark message. We have known all along that humanity was teetering at the edge of extinction for the last decade and has been predicting the demise of humanity for many decades already. This is not a surprise. What is truly surprising is that we thought everyone would rally to save the earth when the push came to shove. However, this is where we were wrong. Not everyone will rally together with others to save themselves.
As Christians, however, we have known all along about the human capacity to sin. That is, we knew ever since human beings existed that, left alone, humanity is more than capable of destroying itself mercilessly. This is why Christians have been particularly concerned about sin. Sin lurks near everyone. Its desire is for everyone. That is, sin is more than ready to take each person over. It is everyone’s responsibility to master it. Whether it is pride, lust or envy, it is ready to take us over, leading us to live under the power of death. This is what we see now in the world. For us, however, all is not lost.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans,
[Y]ou know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Paul’s reminder that the darkest time is behind us is very encouraging. We forget it so quickly because the news we hear is so sad and upsetting. We see our powerlessness as well as our physical weaknesses. We often lose our hope very easily because we face overwhelming odds. Everything we try seems to end in failure. At some point, we give up trying and turn inward. In this despair we have a hard time understanding what Paul is talking about how we have passed through darkness and are ready to be in the light.
In spite of all dooms and glooms of this world, Christians ought to know that our time is coming. What we mean by this is that the time of Christ or salvation is nearer to us. We are currently residing in this time of waiting. The deep darkness is now behind us because we became believers who follow Christ. Yet, we also know that we are not in the fullness of light in Christ. We know we are in the in-between time where we are to endure darkness as the light dawns in this world. This time of anticipation and preparation requires us to be Christians in a certain way, according to Paul.
We remind ourselves of what Paul wrote to Christians in Rome on this First Sunday of Advent because we need encouragement in these dark times. Sure, the world is not the way God intended it to be. We knew that sin would continually win the hearts of many. We also knew that eventually the power of death would rule over many hearts. Yet, all is not lost because we know our Lord Christ has won the victory over death and is returning to bring his reign over this world. Yes, last Sunday was all about celebrating the reign of Christ as our reality. Today, we proclaim through our way of being that Christ will soon return.
Along with Paul’s encouragement, today, we are asked to read Gospel Matthew 24:36-44. This passage reminds us that we are to be watchful in our waiting. The time comes. Trouble for us is that we will not know when. It will take place as a total surprise. When this fullness of time arrives, there is no way of preparing for it. It will be already too late. Matthew makes a strong case that as Christians, we are to live life worthy of being with God in the present. We cannot wait until the time is full in order to be Christians who love God and one another in ways we glorify God.
This passage from Matthew is neither a warning nor a threat. It simply states the reality that will be when that final time arrives in our life. Reading this passage about how this fullness of time arrives as everyone goes about their business does make us ponder about our readiness and the very style of life we live. Do we live a life of no regret as Christians? Does our lifestyle honour and glorify God? Can our very being as Christians today demonstrate our love for God and humanity in the way Christ loved? All these are self-reflective questions, not accusations or judgements against what we are doing today.
When we read these two passages together, we are inspired and reassured to live honourably as Paul says. This honourable way is self-evident in some ways. There is no revelling, drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarrelling and jealousy. That is, all sinful actions are no longer present in our lives. This way of living separates us from the secular world, not by a mile, but by the way we carry out. Our task is to master sin in ways that sin no longer leads us under the power of death. This honourable way is very much like living a decent and orderly life, staying away from harming others and loving them instead.
In this way, there are no particular calls for Christians to be holy. Living a life of holiness is an excellent aim in faith. However, it is a path for some, but not for others. For the rest who are called to live life honourably as Christians, it is to live in this in-between time with living the exemplary life of citizens who do their best to master sin and put away childish things. This way is seen in Christians who are free from the power of death as they no longer live the life of darkness, having put on the armour of light.
The First Sunday of Advent is our remembrance of worship for this good news that we have put the darkness behind us and are now waiting for the light. It is the commitment by us to live life honourably for God and others. It is our time of anticipation in excitement that soon the joyful arrival of our Messiah will bring us salvation. This worship, therefore, is our thanksgiving for God’s grace. In this worship we praise God who did not hesitate to send God’s only Son to save us in love. By being present in this worship, we proclaim God’s love for us and for the world as we remember how the Son won victory over death so that we may enjoy life with God always.
How blessed we are in this part of the world! Far from troubles and ills, we toil away doing our best to love and care for others. In this part of your vineyard, we take it for granted that life is ours to enjoy and celebrate.
O caring God,
Open our eyes and ears to the troubles of this world. Untold number of people are searching for places of peace and stability. Politically and economically, though you have provided abundantly for all, many are unable to have enough to eat, to flourish without worries, and to go about providing sufficiently for their own daily needs. As the powerful in many countries carve out resources and riches for themselves, too many people without power suffer the consequences of poverty, hunger and destitution unjustly and live in fear. Some are fleeing their homes. Others are protesting against the powers only to be crushed mercilessly. On this first Sunday of Advent, as we anticipate the salvation of the world by your Son our Lord, may your Spirit guide, protect, and provide ways and means for those who suffer to usher in the world of your peace. Be with them so that in hope they may find justice by which the world may enjoy your shalom.
O graceful Christ,
We pray for everyone who is seeking for a life without fear, worries and uncertainties in this country. So many are seeking to live a life of safety. Yet, each day more and more people are put in precarious situations of unpredictable hardship. These, your people, are excluded from the abundance of this world. Some have made mistakes. Others failed. Many are thrusted into these predicaments by unfair forces in our world. O Christ, walk with each one who struggles this way. Be their companion. Fill them with your grace and hope.
O ever present Spirit
We remember before you all those who are fearful of death. With sickness many wonder if their life can be meaningful. Pain and anguish have taken over their daily lives. Their families and friends feel powerless. As death knocks on their lives, they often suffer silently without much help. Be with them. Fill them with your presence so that they may know their lives are as precious to you as any other lives and that you will fill them with abundant life.
We lift up those who are searching for you. Countless numbers of people are lost. Their search yields neither the peace nor the fulfilment they seek. They are unsatisfied. They turn to all other possible ways of seeking meaning for their existence. Keep them in your care. Reveal to them your presence in ways that by finding you they may find their life’s purpose.
We bring before you those neighbours who are at the margins. They live there at the edge, being abused, discriminated against, ignored, and trampled because they are weak and powerless. Help us to see and know our part in perpetuating their silence. Enlighten us to learn the very difficulties they face.
All these and more we pray in your Son’s name on this first Sunday of Advent so that all your people may find hope in you. Amen.
In your grace, we have enjoyed your blessings. In response, we bring these offerings. May your grace and mercy be abundant to all those who offer you their life and put their future in your hand. Be glad that through these tokens we commit ourselves to your service in faith, hope and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Next Sunday we are participating in communion. Please prepare for this important communion in prayer. Come and be fed.
As we do every year, we are collecting gloves, toques, socks, etc, that you have been knitting or have purchased. Please bring them to the church by next Sunday. We will take them to the Salvation Army for distribution after next Sunday.
This year, Christmas falls on Sunday. The session has decided that we will not hold Christmas Eve evening worship service this year. Instead, lunch will be served at noon on Christmas Eve (December 24) and Christmas Eve worship service will follow.
On Christmas Day, we will have our worship service at 10:30 am.
Long ago prophets knew