Into the Neighbourhood - The Coming Kingdom of Hope

Here we have the fourth of the advent candle liturgies that we've been using in Belfast South Methodist Church derived from the Hope and History material. This is the only one that diverges from the current year's lectionary reading from Isaiah (we are using today's reading on Christmas Day)... By the way, today's illustration is one of the wonderful David Esler windows in our sanctuary entitled "Hope".

VOICE 1:      Behold, my servant, whom I endorse,
VOICE 2:      The one I chose, in whom I take joy;
VOICE 1:      My Spirit is in him and he will bring justice to all nations.
VOICE 2:      He won’t seek publicity for himself,
VOICE 1:      or raise the rabble with his speeches.
VOICE 2:      He won’t brutalise the bruised
VOICE 1:      or discount those who bring him no benefit,
VOICE 2:      But faithfully he will work for justice;
VOICE 1:      he will not let up or get down  until all things are set right throughout the earth.
VOICE 2:      In his rule these islands will find real hope.
VOICE 1:      This is what God, the ETERNAL I AM, proclaims—
VOICE 2:      he who stretched out the skies like a canvas,
VOICE 1:      he who sculpted the earth and formed all that comes from it,
VOICE 2:      he who breathes his breath into its people,
VOICE 1:      and gives the spark of life to all who walk upon it’s surface:
VOICE 2:      "I, the ETERNAL I AM, have called you to live right;
VOICE 1:      I will take hold of your hand so that you will walk with me
VOICE 2:      I will protect you, binding you to me for the sake of all people
VOICE 1:      As a beacon of hope for all nations
VOICE 2:      to open blind eyes and free prisoners from dark dungeons
VOICE 1:      to clear out the prisons  and release those who have become used to prison life.
VOICE 2:      "I am the ETERNAL I AM; that is my name!
VOICE 1:      I will not give up my glory to another  or share my praise with lifeless idols.
VOICE 2:      The past is the past, and now is the time for new things;
VOICE 1:      I’m giving you a taster before they come in all their fullness."
VOICE 2:      Sing to the LORD a new song,
VOICE 1:      Sing his praise all around the earth,
VOICE 2:      Sing it in the skies as you fly from place to place,
VOICE 1:      Sing it across these islands wherever your national loyalties may lie.
VOICE 2:      Let urban sprawl and rural idyll resound with raised voices;
VOICE 1:      Let shouts be heard on mountaintop and seashore
VOICE 2:      Let us give glory to the ETERNAL I AM
VOICE 1:      and proclaim his praise in these islands.
From Isaiah 42: 1-12
VOICE 2:      We lit the first two candles
 in anticipation of the coming of the kingdom of peace and justice,
and the third to mark the joy that kingdom would bring.
Now we light the fourth candle  
in testimony to the hope that is ours in Christ;
Not simply a hope of heaven but in the here and now,
as a symbol of our commitment
to be bringers of hope to this neighbourhood.

Glens of the north, rejoice;
river and moorland-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland, sing:
Christ comes, the promised Prince of Peace;
To rule and make all conflict cease. 
Hills all across the south
Welcome the coming king,
Hear the words of his mouth;
Justice and peace they bring:
He comes the humble poor to raise,
Let every voice proclaim his praise.
Lands to the east, awake,
soon you shall all be free;
the chains of slav’ry break,
and rise to liberty.
In all your towns, cold, damp and grey,
will dawn that promised joyous day.

Shores of the farthest west,
Land of the setting sun,
Welcome our heavenly guest
The hope of all has come;
He is the never ending light,
That triumphs o’er the darkest night.

We look forward with a sure and certain hope, O Lord
To your kingdom of peace and justice.
When history will come to its consummation,
And all anticipation will find its fulfilment.
Hope for the poor and powerless,
Hope for the ill and infirm,
Hope for the lonely and bereaved.
We humbly admit that in the past
we have offered little hope on this side of the grave,
pointing to a hope of heaven, a hope-deferred,
rather than anticipating the hope to come in the here and now.
We pray that you would forgive us
and fill us with the hope that supplants the pain of the past,
lifts our eyes to the bright new horizon of the future
and helps us to transform the present age
for we ask it in the name of your son Jesus Christ
And for the sake of his coming kingdom. AMEN

According to ancient Greek stories the first woman was Pandora, and as a wedding gift Zeus, the king of the gods, sent her a little box with a big heavy lock on it, but he made her promise never to open the box. He gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. But Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, and one day, when her husband lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box. And out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of the box. They flew away, out into the world. All except one… One tiny butterfly whose name was Hope…
In the Bible we read a different story. There the first woman is called Eve, but once again it is through that woman that  sin and sorrow and illness and death came into the world… But once again there is hope…All through the Old Testament the prophets said that another woman would give birth to a son… and he would bring in a new kingdom… of peace, justice, joy and HOPE… Not a cross your fingers and hope not to die sort of hope... But a sure and certain hope... Not simply hope of a better life in the hereafter but a hope that transforms the here and now because of our hope hereafter...

Closing Exhortation & Benediction
Go out into the neighbourhood
 to put flesh and blood on the hope that we have in Christ.
 May his kingdom come and his will be done
 in our neighbourhood as it is in heaven. AMEN


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