Advent – Angels

Readings for this week December 17 – 21
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – God With Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 1:49-51

Jacob was on the run. He was alone and had nothing. His life was a mess. One night he lay down to sleep and he had a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven, upon which angels were going up and down. God himself was there and promised Jacob that one day he would return him to his home, and that “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Genesis 28:10-15). Even in his loneliness and extremity, in the midst of his ruined life, God was with Jacob, reminding Jacob of the promises he had made him. Jacob called the place Bethel (‘God’s house’), and it became one of the great sanctuaries of Israel – after Jacob had returned to his home and his descendants were in possession of the land.

According to N. T. Wright, verse 51 is a way of saying, “Don’t think that all you will see will be one or two remarkable acts of insight, such as when I showed you that I knew about you before I even appeared. What you’ll see from now on is the reality towards which Jacob’s ladder, and even the Temple itself, was pointing like a signpost. If you follow me, you’ll be watching what it looks like when heaven and earth are open to each other. You won’t necessarily see the angels themselves, but you’ll see things happening which show that they’re there all right.” (John for Everyone: Part One, pp. 18-19.) Jesus is with us, and when we’re with him, it’s like worshiping in the Temple, it’s like seeing the angels coming and going – it is like God’s presence right there beside us.

Questions to Consider
What remarkable things have you seen God do in your life and in the life of those around you? What do you still pray for him to do?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your commitment to us and to your world. Your presence with us is what gives us strength and hope. May we always look to you first in all we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Stirrings of Hope and New Life

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:3

A year ago, in our Christmas Eve services, it was announced that the government was implementing a pilot scheme for Community Organised Refugee Support – a scheme calling for community groups to volunteer to support newly arrived refugee families – and that SWBC was intending to apply to support three such families.

A year on from this announcement and these families, two from Syria and one from Iraq, have been living with us now for five months. Three of our neighbourhood communities have committed to supporting them and walking with them, while people from all over the church, and the wider community and the city, helped enormously with preparation as we awaited the families’ arrival.

New lives are being slowly forged. New friendships are being made. It has not been an easy journey, especially for the families themselves. Whatever issues have arisen as they have begun the process of adjusting to life here pale in comparison with what each family has been through before coming here – the trauma, the fear, the uncertainty, the pain – but  adjustments are being made, and we have seen the growth and development of new hope for the future. There is much work still to do, a long road still ahead, but together we will walk it and together we will help each other thrive and grow. God is doing a new thing in us all.

Prayer
Loving Father, we pray for the three families who have come to our neighbourhoods. We ask for your blessing upon them. We ask that you would help them adjust to life in Christchurch, to the new and strange ways of doing things that we have here. Help us to love them and support them in the best way possible. Help us share with each other and love each other and learn from each other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Hope

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Our People, Our Stories

One of the families we hang out with a lot has three teenage kids. Because of their mother’s new employment and steady income, they are now able to gain the highest education of anyone in their family history. Despite growing up amongst domestic abuse, the kids’ lives bring hope to many. They are incredibly caring, and watch out for neighbour’s kids and run tuition classes for them to ensure these kids work hard and do well at school so they can get jobs.

-Tim, in India

In a country where many do not have personal health insurance, what can be done for those who are sick, and for their families when Dad can no longer work? Much, through the love and care of the body! Last year 40 year old Mr. Young in an animistic minority mountain village, developed cirrhosis (hardening of the liver) and was destined to die, leaving his family and his soul behind. But through the financial support for his children’s education and for his surgeries, provided by those who cared, his heart began to believe in the One whose love was even greater than theirs. It’s a miracle he is still alive today, but he is. Though he still cannot work, he now has a greater hope than ever before for himself and his family.

-K, in East Asia

Questions to Consider
What is hope? Why is it so important? How do we bring hope to others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are the God of hope, the one who offers light in times of darkness and who works wonders from seemingly impossible situations. We praise your name. Thank you for all you do. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Stories of Transformation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:4-6

Our People, Our Stories

One thing I find hugely encouraging here, compared to five years ago, the streets are so much cleaner. Five years ago, when I had rubbish to throw out, you’d literally just chuck it whilst you were walking. An awful thing to do, but that’s how it was done. Then the street sweeper would come every morning and sweep the rubbish scattered streets clean. Whereas now, we have rubbish bins and carts on most streets where people will collectively pile their daily rubbish together.

What I find so encouraging about this is that the country is moving forward. Yes, it isn’t as developed or as clean as other countries -but it is taking steps to strive to be better. And I find it encouraging that there are other people – both local and in government who are working at making this country progress.

School is now free and accessible all throughout India, there is a big movement to look after the environment, there are many good people tutoring kids for free and supporting kids in education. There are laws coming in restricting use of fireworks and a push to protect rivers. I find it encouraging that it isn’t just us who are making a difference here. Regardless of how we do, India is moving forward and becoming a better place to live in. Regardless of whether we ‘fail’ or ‘succeed’, God is working through many, many people to make this world right.

-Lissy, in India

Question to Consider
How are you bringing transformation to the people and places near you?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for the hope you bring. Thank you for what you are doing in the lives of people all around the world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Prayer of Hope and Praise

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 15:13

Almighty Loving Father,

May this Advent season be one of transformation in us, and in our lives: transformation that compels us to give hope to the world, to go to the people and places where you are most needed, and to offer ourselves as embodiments of the love you have for all people.

Advent celebrates your saving movement to us. May Advent move us to new ways of being and new ways of loving your world. You are the light and you ask us to be conduits of your light to the world. You bring peace and ask us to be peacemakers in a world tearing itself apart and tearing itself further away from you. You came to give us life and hope. May we go to give others life and hope too.

None of this comes without pain. None of this will become a reality without the steadfast obedience and willing sacrifice of the people you have called and chosen to be your agents of love and grace in this world. Bless us with the strength to carry on so that we can bless others.

We praise you for your sacrifice and seek your strength to aid us in ours. We honour and praise you for your goodness, kindness and love. You are mighty beyond our understanding and gracious beyond our deserving. You are the one we have chosen to follow, the one whose call we commit ourselves to again. Give us the strength to follow you faithfully through this Advent season and beyond.

Glory be to your precious and wonderful name. We praise and honour you, our Lord, our Saviour, our King.

In the wonderful, beautiful, powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)