On Sunday December 4th I led worship at Killinghall Chapel on the second Sunday in Advent. The opening hymn was ‘God has spoken – by his prophets.’ I led the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. I gave a children’s address where I said how easy it was to blame someone else if you have made a mistake, so someone else gets into trouble. My younger daughter Cathy learnt how to wind Beth up till she reacted and hit her, then she came running to me in tears; Beth of course got the blame!! Later on Cathy admitted that! I reminded the children that we all make mistakes and it is far better to admit you have done something wrong and then hopefully you learn to behave better. John the Baptist told religious leaders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees that they needed to repent and say they were sorry for the wrong things they had done and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins. They thought that they had no need to repent as they were children of Abraham, but he told them they did. None of us are perfect as we know we make mistakes, so we need to say we are sorry and make a fresh start with the help of Jesus. Let us not forget that Jesus loves us and is ready to forgive us.
We sang ‘Sing we the King who is coming to reign’ and I blessed the children as they left for their classes. We heard the dramatised reading based on Isaiah 11.1-10 and Romans 15.4-13 before we sang, ‘On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry’. There was a second dramatised reading based on Matthew 3.1-12.
John the Baptist emerged from desert after years of lonely preparation and the people recognised him as a prophet. Many came from Jerusalem and Judea to see John. They felt drawn to him, as they realised that there had been no prophets for 400 years. Suddenly God’s voice was heard in John’s message and they recognised their need to repent and be baptised and begin afresh. Paul was not just preaching to the crowd; he specifically challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees not to rely on their physical descent from Abraham and not see a need to repent. He wanted to shake them out of their complacency and recognise their fallibility and need of God to keep them on the right path. Their lives needed to show the fruit of their devotion to God or they could risk being cut off from God. We too need to recognise our need of Jesus and not begin to rely on our own resources.
John knew he could only baptise with water and that someone coming after him would baptise them with the Holy Spirit and in power. Isaiah too looked forward to a time, when nature would no longer be red in tooth and claw. It would be a time of peace and unity ruled by a just and righteous descendent of David. Paul called for unity in the church and mutual acceptance of Jewish and Gentile Christians. We must not be complacent in our faith and fail to recognise our need of repentance and our need of Jesus. Now in the period of Advent we have time to prepare to meet Jesus afresh and draw nearer to him daily, so he can transform us into the people he created us to be.
We sang ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord’ in preparation for the intercessions which I led. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Forth in thy name O Lord, I go’.