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© Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

235 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8EP

020 7240 0544

A registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation, no. 1174891

  • Ruth

Waiting for Christmas


God of light and hope,

of stars and surprises:

open our eyes to your glory

and our hearts to your presence,

that we may respond with joy to the angel song;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We come to wait for Christmas; we have been waiting through Advent; a time that helps us pay attention to waiting, to noticing what it means, to live in its tension. Traditionally, the church has marked advent through its four weeks by means of four candles, and we will use these to lead us through the moments until midnight, when the fifth candle, the Christ candle, the one that symbolises for us the light that comes into the world will be lit….we speak a lot about not rushing through Advent, letting it take its time in us, and learning from its refusal to rush, to shorten the time, to leap over now to the not yet. But if we are realistic, for most of us, advent has been full of rush, has not had much in the way of stillness and waiting, and as a spiritual discipline has been overwhelmed by life.

So, we will take advantage of these moments to retrace that journey

And we light our first candle to remember that God is a God who comes to us.

God comes to us. It is the theme right through Scripture, right through the history of God with people – that form the first moment of calling us into being, God has reached out for us. We seek, we look, we try all sorts of ways, methods and procedures, being good, worshipping in a certain way, trusting forms of prayer or action, running after the latest promised technique – or we give up because none of it works. But here is the truth, the promise, the discovery of Advent and the fulfilment of Christmas; that God comes to us…

Take some moments to reflect on where and when you have seen God’s presence – especially those moments that have surprised you.

Advent God, we worship you: the God who comes.

You are not remote from the world you have made,

but each day you come to us,

blessing us with your presence.

You came in creation itself,

as your Spirit moved over the waters of chaos.

You came in Jesus Christ,

made flesh in our world of weakness and need.

You came in power to raise him from death,

a mighty promise for all creation.

Each day you come, by your Spirit,

gently and powerfully working

in the lives of men and women.

At the end of time you will come,

in power and righteousness,

in mercy and redeeming love.

Grant us the grace to welcome your coming.

Inflame our love to yearn for your presence.

Enlarge our vision to recognize your coming day by day.

We greet you, Advent God.

We light our second candle to remember that God is a God who communicates to us, in many and various ways. There are so many words and images in the world around us; communication is a science studied, analysed, picked over. It is a practice used and refined in order to gain profit, power, personal identity and presence in what feels like an increasingly complex world. You can do course on how to communicate well – face to face, to a crowd, by social media, in the way you dress. We are encouraged to discover how to communicate with our partners, how to get our message out there, how to decode and distrust what is communicated to us.

At its heart, communication is simple – a communicator, a receiver, a message. And the promise of Advent is that there is a message that matters and that will be offered to us in as many and as various ways as it takes to get it through to us, to cut through all that overwhelms us, all that distracts us, all that we try to hide behind. And that message is complex in its simplicity – a straightforward message with unfathomable depths; that God is for and with us, in love and life.

Take some moments to remember times when you have known God speaking, when you have been aware of God’s intention to help you understand who you are and how much God loves you.

God of revelation,

we thank you that you are not a silent God,

isolated from humanity,

leaving us to guess and speculate

about the things that matter.

We pray for those who serve you

by studying manuscripts and clarifying texts;

for scholars and preachers

who wrestle with the words of life

for the building up of your Church;

for linguists, translators, and publishers

who continue to serve the cause of your gospel

by making the Bible available to more

and more people.

Lord, create in us a hunger for your word,

a thankfulness for your gospel,

and a faithfulness to your commands;

through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Our third candle is the reminder that the way was prepared – and must still be prepared for the coming One; God invites us to be part of what God is doing in Incarnation and the coming of the Kingdom.

This can be a tricky one to take on board; how do we balance knowing we don’t have to do it all, with knowing that God gives us the privilege of joining in.

Part of it is knowing, daring to trust, that the kingdom will come with us or despite us – and therefore, we can let go of feeling overly responsible, while joining in joyously. Christmas will come whether we are ready or not, and the Kingdom is the same. But Christmas is fun when we have done some preparation, and shared it with others. And it is the same with the Kingdom. There’s stuff to do that is challenging, that is demanding, that is worthwhile – and it is not the Kingdom, nor the whole of what God is doing. But it can be part of what God is doing if we offer it and trust the Kingdom, the God of the Kingdom more than we trust our own efforts.

Take some moments to give thanks for those who have helped you understand faith, and to pray for those for whom you are and can be a promise and presence of the Kingdom

Living God,

as we remember John the Baptist

who by his integrity prepared the way for Jesus,

and every other faithful witness

who has stood by your truth

whatever the cost,

make us faithful

to the truth we know,

so that by our integrity

we may prepare the way for Jesus

into many lives,

to the honour of your name.

God our deliverer,

whose approaching birth

still shakes the foundations of our world:

may we so wait for your coming

with eagerness and hope

that we embrace without terror

the labour pangs of the new age,

through Jesus Christ.

Our fourth candle, traditionally pink, to represent the theme of rejoicing, is a memory of Mary, her faith and her involvement.

All Mary did was say yes, and then live out the consequences of that. It’s that simple, and that absolute.

Take a moment offer your own yes to God

Life-giving God,

we thank you for calling Mary

to be the mother of Jesus.

In a world where men were in control,

you chose a young girl

to nurture the Saviour of the world.

In a world where power is sought,

you turned our values upside-down

by inviting Mary to share in the great work of redemption.

We thank you

that still you call women and men

to share in your saving actions.

You call us to live and serve in the way of Christ,

uncertain of the future but trusting in your faithfulness.

Sometimes your choice surprises us,

the way you seem to point daunts us,

and your faith in our possibilities awes us.

Help us to say ‘Yes’ when you call.

Enlarge our vision,

strengthen our resolve

and increase our sense of your all-sufficient grace,

that we might be used mightily

for your glory and for the serving of your world;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And so, the world waits; waits for the coming day, for the Coming Christ, And as the world waits, so we are part of what God is doing. Let’s take part as we bring our prayers and offer ourselves to be the ways God answers our prayers and the prayers of others.

Lord, prepare us for your Advent coming.

In our prayers today

we try to come to you,

sure that you will come the rest of the way.

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the church.

Clean out the unnecessary clutter of our church life,

the piles of dead habits,

the cupboards full of prejudice,

the cobwebs of compromise

and the sad rotas of forgotten dreams.

Open our church to the free flow of your refreshing Spirit.

Give to our churches you vision and hope.

We want to belong to you.

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the world.

Come, drive away despair from our politics;

revive our dreams of justice;

restore our passion for what is good, right and true.

Establish your just and gentle rule in places like Yemen, Israel-Palestine, Nigeria, Sudan…..

where peace has been powerless

and violent people have had their day.

Set a flame to the fuse of justice in places like N Korea, Myanmar, our own nation…where too often self-serving and vested interest hold away.

Guard well the new springtime of hope where peace has come like a gift,

wrapped in reconciliation and gladness.

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in our communities.

In the problems of our locality

help us never to forget the supremacy of love.

May love motivate our care for our neighbourhoods.

May love heal the social ills which drag us into despair.

May love inspire our citizenship to rise beyond mediocrity.

We name in our minds the problems locally of which we are aware

and pray that love, gracious and practical, will find a way.

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Lord prepare us for your coming – in those in need.

Give us eyes to search the face of the stranger

and there to see the face of the saviour.

Give us sensitivity to hear the doubt and hesitation,

and there, with that person, to share the confusion and futility.

There are those we know who are ill now,

struggling today to handle the pain.

As we pray for them, you come to us in them,

and you ask for our love.

We give that now, as we name them and love them, in our hearts.

What we have promised in love and prayer,

let us never forget to do.

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Advent Lord, come ever nearer.

Come to rejuvenate our faith.

Come to fortify our social conscience.

Come to open wide our eyes of wonder.

So that when the Saviour comes,

he may steal into our heart – and find them ready.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

And so we light the Christ candle;

The light that enlightens everyone has come into the world The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Yea, Lord we greet thee,

Born this happy morning,

Jesus to you be glory given

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing…

O come let us adore him,

O come let us adore him

O come let us adore him

Christ the Lord.

Blessing