Service of the Word for Advent 2, Sunday, 6 December 2020

Prelude – Andante from Sonata 4, by Felix Mendelssohn

Led by:          Revd George Mwaura

Preacher:      Revd Geoffrey Clarke,
Moderator of the URC East Midlands Synod

Introit: How beautiful are the feet

Opening Responses

In the beginning was the Word. Spoken. Creating the world.

Jesus; you are the Word of God.

The Word gives life. That life is light.

Jesus; the darkness cannot put out your light.

At the beginning of our time: Speak. Shake our worlds.

Jesus; we’re hungry for your words of life.

The Word became flesh and blood.

And moved in to our neighbourhood.

It’s time for us to put flesh on your word.

That we might be your hands and feet, in in the world.

So the world might see, and be transformed.

And praise you Creator God.



Good morning my sisters and brothers, wherever you may be tuned in or reading this service.
We are in the second week of Advent and we thank our faithful God
for even though we live in anxious and dark times,
we are confident he will shine light into our Advent.

This Sunday our reflections come to us courtesy of Revd Geoffrey Clarke,
the Moderator of the URC East Midlands Synod.
He is a friend and a colleague as well as being one of the presidents
of the Ecumenical Church of Christ the Cornerstone.

Let’s pause for a moment and gather our thoughts as we begin to worship. …

Let us pray…

Opening Prayers

Author of creation: in wisdom you brought forth all that is,
to participate in your divine being, and to change, adapt, and grow in freedom.
You make holy the matter and energy of the universe that it may delight you and give you praise.
We thank you for gathering all creation into your heart by the energy of your Spirit
and bringing it through death to resurrection glory;
through the One in whom all things have their being, Jesus Christ, your Wisdom and your Word.


Hymn: The advent of our King

The advent of our King
our prayers must now employ,
and we must hymns of welcome sing
in strains of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
incarnate deigns to be;
himself a servant’s form puts on,
to set his servants free.

Daughter of Sion, rise
to meet thy lowly King;
nor let thy faithless heart despise
the peace he comes to bring.

As judge, on clouds of light,
he soon will come again,
and his true members all unite
with him in heaven to reign.

Charles Coffin (1676–1749)
tr. John Chandler (1808–1876)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession

Lord of all creation, you have given us this day of beauty, full of your handiwork.
Open our eyes wide to see your Spirit’s artistry in all that happens.
Open our hearts to the surprising ways of your creative goodness.
Then grant us grace to reflect your glory,
through the transforming power of Christ, your Word,
who beckons us into life abundant.
But Lord, your Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.
Often, we are so blind playing the fool
that we cannot find our way through the mess we have created or even see our own errors.
Deliver us, Lord, from hidden faults!
Keep us safe, also, from wilful sins; do not let them rule over us.
Then we shall be blameless and free from the evil of sin.

Please take a moment and make personal confession.

Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.


Lighting the Advent Candle

Hope is a candle, once lit by the prophets,
never consumed, though it burns through the years;
dim in the daylight of power and privilege
when they are gone, hope will shine on.

Peace is a candle to show us a pathway,
threatened by gusts from our rage and our greed.
Friend, feel no envy for those in the shadows
violence and force their dead-end course.

Richard Leach (1994)
© Selah Publishing Co.

Prayer of the Week

We could become comfortable in creation,
using up the bounty and the beauty God provides.
Our over-indulgence just feeds other’s poverty.
Lord, we hold your world in trust for your imminent arrival.
Keep us busy caring, sharing and preparing it to be fit for you.


Bible readings

Genesis 1: 28 – 2: 1

Read by David Chapman

28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

29 Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.


This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: The Day of the Lord shall come

The Day of the Lord shall come
as prophets have told,
when Christ shall make all things new,
no matter how old;
and some at the stars may gaze,
and some at God’s word,
in vain to predict the time,
the Day of the Lord.

The desert shall spring to life,
the hills shall rejoice;
the lame of the earth shall leap,
the dumb shall find voice;
the lamb with the lion shall lie,
and the last shall be first;
and nations for war no more
shall study or thirst.

The Day of the Lord shall come
and judgement be known,
as nations, like sheep and goats,
come close to the throne.
Then Christ shall himself reveal
asking all to draw near,
and see in his face
all faces once ignored here.

The desert shall spring to life, …

The Day of the Lord shall come,
a thief in the night.
A curse to those in the wrong,
who think themselves right.
A pleasure for those in pain
or with death at the door.
A true apparition
for the prisoners and poor.

The desert shall spring to life, …

The Day of the Lord shall come,
but now is the time
to subvert earth’s wisdom
with Christ’s folly sublime,
by loving the loveless,
turning the tide and the cheek,
by walking beneath the cross
in step with the weak.

The desert shall spring to life, …

John Bell and Graham Maule (1987)
copyright © 1987 WGRG, Iona Community

John 1: 1–5

Read by Joy Chapman

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


This is the Gospel of Christ.
Praise to Christ our light.


By Revd Geoffrey Clarke,
Moderator of the East Midlands Synod
of the United Reformed Church

Seeing through the eyes of the creator

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

John 1: 3a

(Thank you for the invitation to offer a reflection for Living Stones. I am delighted to do so alongside other Presidents; and I’m delighted, too, that the source of your series is a resource produced by the United Reformed Church. My designated theme, however, is that of the ultimate Source – the One through whom ‘all things came into being’.)

Advent is a season in which we are invited to discern and recognise the signs of God’s presence among us as we join our voices with those who in every age, in every Advent, have asked: where is God? Where and when can we expect to encounter the Promised One?

In today’s verse from St. John’s Prologue we are invited to consider, as an answer, the affirmation that God is Creator: all things came into being through him. I offer three points by way of reflection.

1        The creative potential for words …

The authors of Genesis offer the classic narrative of the six days of creation. As such, the opening scene of God’s relationship with the cosmos and its people, is one in which ‘formless void’ and the ‘darkness [that] covered the face of the deep’ is transformed by God as Creator to become Paradise. Each successive day’s creative act is effected by God’s utterance: And God said, ‘Let…’: ‘Let there be …’; ‘Let the waters … be gathered …’; ‘Let the waters bring forth …’; ‘Let the earth bring forth …’; ‘Let us make humankind in our image …’ (Genesis 1: 3, 6, 14, 20, 24, 26). God speaks creation into being. The creative power of God as Word.

Words have creative potential but, all too often, destructive power too. I can still recall a conversation when I was at Primary School, aged, probably about nine years old. The theme was Ancient Egypt and together we made a model that filled a large table at the front of class. At playtime one day someone said to me, ‘What did you make?’ I pointed to one of the sphynxes to show him what I’d made. ‘That’s rubbish!’ he replied. Nothing within me felt able to challenge his assessment of my creation, so I responded by smashing it to pieces, leaving the broken sphynx in its place on the table. Partway through the next lesson the teacher spotted the damaged sphynx and asked the class, ‘Can anyone tell me how this got broken?’ I put up my hand and said, ‘I broke it, sir!’ He retorted by asking the obvious question of why I had broken it. ‘Because Sam said it was rubbish, sir!’ Both of us were then reprimanded – one for the destruction of the model and the other for destructive words that prompted it.

Although I have never, to my knowledge, intentionally broken anything I’ve made, I have remained convinced of the destructive power of words. I would challenge the adage, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ Words can and do hurt. Words can intimidate and destroy. But they can also, of course, build up, affirm and encourage. And that is a worthy challenge for us: to what extent are those we encounter enabled to see and know God through our words? Do we use our words, as best as we can, to create – or destroy?

2        The presence of God evoked by creation’s beauty …

In his recently published book, Keeping Alive the Rumor of God, Martin Camroux cites Sir Alister Hardy, formerly Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Oxford, as someone exploring the nature and frequency of religious experience. As a schoolboy, Hardy had such an experience:

There is no doubt that as a boy I was becoming what might be described as a nature mystic. Somehow, I felt the presence of something which was beyond and yet in a way part of all the things that thrilled me … Just occasionally, when I was sure that no one could see me, I became overcome with the glory of the natural scene, that for a moment or two I fell on my knees in prayer – not prayer asking for anything, but thanking God, who felt very real to me, for the glories of his Kingdom and for allowing me to feel them.

David Hay, God’s Biologist, cited by Camroux, op. cit., p. 51

The eighteenth-century hymn-writer, Joseph Addison, contemplating the mercies of God, speaks in a similar vein:

transported with the view, I’m lost
in wonder, love and praise.

Rejoice and Sing, 109: 1

Most memorably, the Psalmist acclaims, in Psalm 8: 3–4:

When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars
that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them.

Little wonder that research, undertaken by the Religious Experience Research Unit at Manchester College, Oxford, in exploring the question, ‘Have you ever been aware of or influenced by a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, that is different from your everyday self?’ revealed that the third most common cause, for those saying they had such experience, was ‘natural beauty’. Some 122.7 cases per thousand experiences were attributed to natural beauty (with ‘depression or despair’ ranking highest and ‘prayer, meditation’ second above it). It is significant – but perhaps not surprising – that ‘natural beauty’ ranked higher than ‘religious worship’. After all, folk religion insists: ‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.’

US Franciscan and founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation, Father Richard Rohr, has caused a bit of a stir by suggesting, ‘The first act of divine revelation is creation itself. The first Bible is the Bible of nature. It was written at least 13.8 billion years ago, at the moment that we call the Big Bang, long before the Bible of words.’ He quotes from Romans 1: 20, Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and divinity – however invisible – are there for the mind to see in the things that God has made …. Rohr may be claiming more than some may want to, but he makes a valid point in reminding us that God’s presence is evoked by the beauty of creation. It begs the question, of course, as to how we can continue to sense God’s presence in those parts of creation we might describe as eyesores, ugly or broken? And such questioning ought to spur us on, wherever it is possible for us to do so, to work and witness to the beauty and light of God in the midst of ugliness and darkness. Precisely, dare I suggest, the Advent seasonal setting.

3       Creation is ‘a work in progress’ …

In his commentary on John, Barnabas Lindars notes that the activity of the creative Word has not stopped: there was an initial act of creation, but creativity continues. Through God all things came to be; and through God all things continue to be created. (Lindars: The New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of John) Creation is ‘a work in progress’. Genesis affirms, among other things, that humankind is tasked with the stewardship of creation – a task that never ends. A task that currently demands that we take seriously how fragile and wounded our planet home is.

God’s creative work in us is also ‘a work in progress’ – that we might become increasingly the people God would have us be. As St Paul prays for the readers of his epistle at Colossae:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

Colossians 3: 15–17

One of the Collects from The Book of Common Prayer puts it this way:

Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us in your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share our divine nature,
so we may be partakers of his divine glory …

May we use Advent to reflect anew on the creative potential of our words; discern the glory of God in the beauty of creation; and open our hearts and lives to God’s ongoing creativity in and through us.

I conclude with a prayer by Thom M Shuman and three verses of an Advent carol:

Come, God-with-us: who braves our rejection and hurt, who holds us in acceptance and love.
Come, God-for-us: who whispers in our ears that we – each of us – are beloved children.
Come, God-under-us: who cradles us in arms that never grow weary;
whose lap has room enough for all.
Come, God-over-us: who watches in the long silence of the night, that we might rest in peace.
Come, God-beside-us: who steadies us when we falter, who lifts us up when we fall.
Come, God-behind-us: who picks up all the faded dreams we drop along the way
and patches them into hope.
O come, O come, Immanuel: and we will rejoice for ever!


© Thom M Shuman

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see:
evermore and evermore.

By his word was all created;
he commanded and ’twas done;
earth and sky and boundless ocean,
universe of Three in One,
all that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
all that breathes beneath the sun:
evermore and evermore.

Let the heights of heaven adore him;
angel-hosts, his praises sing;
powers, dominions, bow before him,
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert sing:
evermore and evermore.

Prudentius (348 – c. 413)
tr. J.M. Neale (1818–1866) and H.W. Baker (1821–1877)
Rejoice and Sing: 181: 1, 2 & 5

Musical Reflection: Canite Tuba



By David Moore

God of justice and lasting purpose, focus us, at the core of our being,
with all that you are;
so that deep in the mystery, we name as your love,
we may breathe, inhale and enjoy moments focused upon you.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

We pray this day for all people locked in the loneliness of their own company.
May our prayers at this time embrace, comfort, heal and kiss all those who are alone.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

As we prepare to celebrate once again the story of the birth of the Christ Child,
open the eyes of our hearts, that quietly and whole-heartedly
we may bless the name of Love Divine – the God of mercy, peace and healing.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

We celebrate with wonder the strength and dedication
of all those whose work to save lives –
on land, on sea, in the air, or in operating theatres

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

May we take a deep breath into our consciousness.
We celebrate the wonder of birthing and of healing;
and the continual comfort from all our life-affirming public services.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

We especially pray for those women and men
who are distanced from those they love the most,
during this season of celebration.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

Lord Jesus Christ,
we have such a treasure-trove of your storytelling embedded in our own history.
Help us, at this unusual but poignant moment in time,
to refresh our memories of love, of family and indeed of sadness and great loss,
so that the wonder and joy embedded in the Christmas story
may bear fresh fruit to delight, comfort, and affirm us all at this very difficult time.

Lord hear us,
mercifully hear us.

May we find, dear Lord, a fulsomeness in our celebration
and a restrained modesty in our consumption,
and the usual cheating when it is time to play.


The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory

are yours now and for ever.


Hymn: Hills of the North, rejoice

Hills of the North, rejoice,
river and mountain-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland sing.
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.

Isles of the Southern seas,
sing to the listening earth,
carry on every breeze
hope of a world’s new birth:
in Christ shall all be made anew,
his word is pure, his promise true.

Lands of the East, arise,
he is your brightest morn,
greet him with joyous eyes
praise shall his path adorn:
your seers have longed to know their Lord;
to you he comes, the final word.

Shores of the utmost West,
lands of the setting sun,
welcome the heavenly guest
in whom the dawn has come:
he brings a never-ending light
who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

Shout, as you journey home,
songs be in every mouth,
lo, from the North they come,
from East and West and South:
in Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest.

Editors of English Praise (1975)
based on Charles E. Oakley (1832–1865)

Blessings and Sending out

May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is the source of all goodness and growth,
pour his blessing upon all things created, and upon us his children,
that we may use his gifts to his glory and the welfare of all peoples.

And the blessings of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
rest and remain upon us all now and for ever.


Postlude – Monologue No 1 Con moto, by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger