ST MATTHEW'S CHURCH
Newsletter and virtual service for
Sunday 29th November 2020
Almighty God,as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you, in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Isaiah 64: 1-9
Isaiah 64: 1-9
O THAT you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.
as when fire kindles brushwood, and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity for ever. Now consider, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
GRACE TO you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
‘BUT IN those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
HOW WOULD you like to start the New Year early?!?
Because I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say 2021 can’t come soon enough! After such a turbulent and troubling year, we are all looking forward to the start of a new year much more than usual, with all the hope and promise that a new beginning can bring.
If that's you, I have some good news-we can start the new year early! Together!
Because a month ahead of the secular world, the Church starts the new year today with the beginning of “Adventus”, Advent 2020. A new (church) year, and a new beginning, starts today. Happy New Year!
To start this new year off, here is a heart warming seasonal story for you...
Waiting for God?
“LIGHTS HAD begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little village, for the short winter day was nearly over.
The old village shoemaker stepped outside his shop, to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness and the bright lights reminded him of past times, when his wife was still with him and the children were little. Now, they are gone.
He looked sad now. He went back indoors, put up the shutters, and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then with a heavy sigh, the old shoemaker settled into his big armchair. In no time at all, he was fast asleep.
And as he slept, he dreamed...
He dreamt that he heard a voice- and he knew at once who that voice was. It was the voice of Jesus.
And Jesus said, “you have been wishing that you could see me” he said kindly. “Then look for me tomorrow-for I will visit you. But; look carefully...”
YOU MAY recognise these words, (very!) loosely taken from “Where Love is, God is”, by that giant of Russian literature, Leo Tolstoy. This year, it seems more relevant than ever to our times-a lonely, socially isolated old man reflects on painful times past, and longs for better times to come. And then he hears the voice of Jesus, reassuring him that he will visit him tomorrow.
The old man sits and waits; but there is no sign of Jesus. But his waiting is constantly interrupted by a series of knocks at the door, and visits from three uninvited guests...
Tolstoy’s story is a Christmas story-but it's also perfect for Advent. Because Advent is all about patiently waiting and hoping, looking for signs of light and hope, just as the old shoemaker did.
And over the next four weeks, the old shoemaker is you and me, all of us; and our Advent challenge is to light the candles at the very darkest time of year, and wait and hope, looking carefully for signs of the light of Christ in the surrounding darkness.
The beginning...and the end
IN OUR waiting hopefully for the end of the old and a new beginning, we are in very good company with our Biblical ancestors during Advent. (Perhaps far more so than usual, after the past year.)
Because there is a deep longing for the “end” in our Advent readings- the readings from Isaiah, Paul’s epistle and Mark's gospel today today aren’t just looking forward just to the end of a particularly difficult year- but to the end of the world as we know it!
I have found that a lot of Anglicans worry about this dark “apocalyptic” language in the Bible, finding it both disturbing and hard to relate to. But there is a very good reason for all the “end is nigh” language in scripture-these scriptures were written in dark times for the Jewish
people, times of conquest and persecution and the suffering of innocents. For those who lived at the time of Jesus’ birth, life was often very cruel, bloody and short.
And so in often extreme and apocalyptic language, scripture reflects this deep yearning and praying for the coming end of this unjust world-and for the coming of a new beginning, a new world; God’s reign, God’s kingdom, here on earth. Or as the prophet prays today, “Oh that you would tear down the heavens, and come down!” (64:1)
So yes, biblical apocalyptic writing is full of these frightening images of the “endtimes”-but these sacred writings also look forward with tidings of great joy, to “better times to come”. And at the end of such a painful year, so do we.
SO IN the meantime, let us shine light into the darkness, and look forward with faith,hope and love to the end of the old and the beginning of the new; a new world, transformed by God's love in Christ Jesus, the child of God.
The pain of our current moment is very real-but like our biblical forebears, (and like the old man in Tolstoy’s Christmas story) we will find that the Kingdom is not only coming- in some ways, it is already here.
All we have to do is look for it.
Light your candles; have courage; have patience, have faith; keep looking-a new world is coming.
Yours in Christ, Michael
AN ADVENT PRAYER
Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness; send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
(Henri Nouwen, 1932-1996)