Sunday 29th November 2020
1st Sunday in Advent (2020-2021)

Isaiah 64:1-9 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Mark 13:24-37 Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Advent is often described as a season of waiting. One in which we acknowledge both the hope that is ours but also the reality of human experience, as the world in which we wait can often be challenging and difficult. The reading from Isaiah is an acknowledgement that while the prophet speaks for those who long for God's coming, they are also responsible for some of the wrong that confronts them. Isaiah's sentiments are echoed by many of his contemporary prophets who were not afraid to call out acts of worship that did not result in God's values and justice being lived out in everyday life. Our participation in the world of work may well confront us with similar challenges today. This might provide an opportunity for members of a congregation to acknowledge some of the struggles they face through work and to seek to live as people of hope amidst them.

Psalm 80 speaks of reign and rule in the language of a shepherd, serving as a reminder of the qualities that are commended for earthly leadership. This could be used as a platform to pray for our world's leaders and to pray that, like shepherds, they might use their authority in a way that seeks the wellbeing of all.

Today's New Testament readings might serve as a reminder that Christians are not simply invited to await Christ's coming, but to live as those who are shaped by the message and values of Christ's Kingdom. The epistle commends these qualities, while also recognising that they are the fruit of Christ's presence in our lives. The Gospel reading impresses upon its readers the call to live in anticipation of Christ's coming and to seek the signs of God's purpose at work. The inclusion of a fig tree might serve as a reminder that such realities are part of the whole of life, thus a congregation might be encouraged to reflect on how these overarching principles are lived out in their own particular context, especially as they engage in the world of work and commerce.