O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ
comes again as judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God. Amen.
Blessed are they who have not walked
in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.
Their delight is in the law of the Lord
and they meditate on his law day and night.
Like a tree planted by streams of water
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,
whatever they do, it shall prosper.
As for the wicked, it is not so with them;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement,
nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to the crowds, ‘To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
Can you remember how confusing the world was when you were young? Everywhere you looked there seemed to be contradictions. The most obvious early memories of this sort are often rooted in the way that adults seemed to be able to do things that were forbidden to children. The nature of this confusion changed as we got older but even in later life there seems to be a ‘Them and Us’ rule that is both unwritten and universal. Jesus refers to that level of inconsistency in today’s reading. When talking to the crowds, Jesus speaks of the contrariness of those who consider themselves to be members of the religious elite. John the Baptist abstained from worldly pleasures and was described as being possessed by a demon. On the other hand, Jesus reached out to share the hospitality of those considered outside the accepted norms of decent society and was described as a glutton and a drunkard.
Whilst we may have considered the world as being a confusing place, with its contradictions and unwritten rules, what have we done to make it a better place as we have got older? Jesus advocated change. Jesus wanted to see the old ways abandoned and God’s plan for humanity enacted everywhere. This was too much for the religious and political authorities of the first century. They used their assumed knowledge and expertise to maintain a social order in which they were securely situated at the top of the pile.
We can so often be guilty of that type of social manipulation. If we consider someone to ‘not understand’ the ‘proper’ way of behaving or doing something we are all capable of criticizing them and ostracizing them. Often without speaking a word we communicate our feelings with such good effect that others join us in isolating the ‘offender’. But, as we impose our self-created rules of ‘decent’ behaviour we rarely pause to question our own motives or the outcomes of our ways of carrying on. We are just as guilty of causing confusion and exclusion as those who made the world such a bewildering place when we were young.
Jesus described the generation in which he was living out his earthly incarnation as children sitting in the market places. That is, children playing games. What is more, he describes them as children playing games that cause pain and upset. Sadly, we can be just like those children. We can even find a justification for behaving in this way: It was done to us, so why shouldn’t it be done to them. That non-argument usually concludes with the phrase: It never did us any harm.
Well, here is some distressing news. It did do us a considerable amount of harm. It made us immune to the feelings and needs of others; it distanced us from the teachings of Jesus and, ultimately, it distanced us from God.
Let us use this time of Advent, this time of waiting and preparation, to cleanse our thoughts and practices of these un-Christian ways. Let us be consistent in our faith and let us model that faith in order that others might join us in striving to become effective heralds of God’s own Son.
Prayers of Intercession
Watchful at all times, let us pray for strength to stand with confidence before our Maker and Redeemer.
That God may bring in his kingdom with justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may establish among the nations his sceptre of righteousness, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may seek Christ in the scriptures and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may bind up the brokenhearted, restore the sick and raise up all who have fallen, let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of God’s coming may dawn on all who live in darkness and the shadow of death, let us pray to the Lord.
That, with all the saints in light, we may shine forth as lights for the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us commend the world, which Christ will judge, to the mercy and protection of God.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform;
he plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
he hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.
William Cowper (1731–1800)