On Sunday December 15th Advent 3 I led worship at Park Grove Chapel. The steward led the Advent candle ceremony for lighting the third candle. We began worship by singing ‘Hills of the north rejoice’ before the opening prayers. I gave a children’s address about a new rector in the village who surprised the villagers by being up before the labourers; when the weather was bad he would be working alongside the labourers and talking simply about his Lord. He even bought the Squire’s old barn and stocked it with grain but the villagers asked no questions as he paid for it himself. They were very grateful to him in a bitterly cold winter when prices were too high for the poor and he sold the grain to them for less than cost price or gave it to those who could not pay; it was the first common granary. We then sang ‘Brother, sister let me serve you,’ before the children left for their groups. We heard the Bible readings Isaiah 35v1-10 and James 5v7-10. We then sang ‘Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes,’ before Matthew 11v2-11 was read.
In the sermon I explained how John had been imprisoned after rebuking Herod for marrying his sister-in-law and now alone in prison he had a lot of time to think and began to wonder if Jesus really was the One to come. His disciples also feeling discouraged came to ask Jesus if he were the One and Jesus just pointed to what they could see happening. Jesus also paid tribute to what John had done in drawing people to repentance and preparing the way for his ministry.
James urged the believers to be patient until the Lord returned. The early church lived in expectation of the second coming of Jesus, but James reminded them of how the farmer needed to be patient waiting for crops to grow. God’s timing was different and they needed to use the time of waiting constructively and throw off the darkness and put on the light of Christ allowing God’s grace to grow closer to Jesus, being changed gradually into his likeness. We too are to build each other up in fellowship and grow in likeness of our Lord through God’s grace and our endurance will be rewarded. Isaiah had the vision of a new highway to Jerusalem and they would flock in a new Exodus freed from bondage, restored in health and singing songs of joy.
Are we ready to meet Jesus? Let us serve, love, and have compassion on those who face injustice, oppression, and poverty sharing from our plenty with the vulnerable and speaking out for justice, as we share the love of Jesus with others. We then sang ‘For the healing of the nations’ before the intercessions and our service concluded as we sang ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus.’