Iona Evening Prayer – Sermon 322

23rd December 2019 Off By Derek
  • Iona Evening Prayer
  • 6.30pm 1st Sunday of Advent
  • 1st December 2019

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Advent – the start of a new church year – and the beginning of the first season in the Church calendar

a season when we anticipate Christs coming as a child – into our world – and into our hearts –

The beginning of a new life and a new start –

but what’s perhaps – surprising – for this first Sunday – is that we join Matthew’s gospel not at the start – as we might have expected – but at the events leading up to the passion and death of Jesus – we don’t seem to look back to the beginning – but forward to the end

Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane overlooking the Temple – making his farewell address to his disciples –

He urges everyone to keep awake – keep alert to the changes – around them – and what they may mean for their own readiness and salvation –

Point 1

Jesus starts by making some predictions about the future – about the fall of Jerusalem – and about His second coming at the end of time –

The first level of meaning – is about the destruction of the Temple – and Jesus relates to the prophetic words of Daniel –

the book of Daniel was a popular book in the first Century – and described a series of stories and dreams of how God’s kingdom will triumph over the kingdoms of the world –

The ‘abomination of desolation standing in a holy place’ – described by Daniel – is about the abandonment of the Temple as a place of worship – and although it nearly happened within 10 years of Jesus’ lifetime – when a Roman Emperor tried to erect a statue of himself in the Temple – It was some years later – at around 40AD – that the Roman Legions finally surrounded the Temple and put their standards there.

The end of the Temple as a place of worship for the Jews – would be a signal God’s taking back of His ‘vineyard’ as Jesus described in His ‘parable of the wicked tenants’-

God the vineyard owner who sees His vineyard producing wild grapes – first sends his servants – and then His Son – to try and persuade the vineyard workers to change but they beat the servants and kill his son – and fling His body out of the vineyard –

Jesus would soon fulfill this prophecy – when they come to arrest and crucify Him – outside the city walls –

So what was the owner of the vineyard to do? – take back his vineyard – and give it to others – and the others in the first instance – would be the foreign armies – who trample down the vineyard – trample down Jerusalem –

and when this happens – warns Jesus – ‘those on the roof tops’ – ‘those in the fields’ – ‘women with children’ – must flee – it will be a time of great distress –

The tendency would be to stand and fight – but Jesus warns against this – they are to hurry at once – not go back for any possessions –

Before the end – there will be a great deception – imposters will come – promising rescue –but all will come to nothing – Jerusalem itself will be under God’s judgement –

The fall of the temple and of Jerusalem was to be a sign to the world – that God has vindicated Jesus as the true Messiah –

Point 2 The second coming

But Jesus’ message to his disciples was not only about the people of Jerusalem – it also has meaning for us today –

as we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ first coming – we must also be alert ourselves – to the significance of these words for His second coming –

His message for us – like the first century Christians – is to keep awake – keep watch – for the signs – and to stay alert – to what is happening around us –

He wants us all – regardless of how we solve the mystery of signs and timing – to be ready to receive Him – whenever He comes –

to keep His dwelling place – which is ourselves – in tip top condition – expecting His return –

He wants each one of us – to live each day – knowing that God is at work all around us – and that when He comes to us – He wants us to be  ready to meet Him –

Point 3        

Expectation is also on the lips of Isaiah – as he also calls us to keep awake – put on your strength – put on your splendid garments – celebrate – rejoice – good news is coming – Isaiah calls us to respond to the call of God –

The main audience for this would be the exiles in Babylon who were called to step out in faith and return to their land and God’s service –

No matter how bad the invasion and exile might have been – there was a future for Israel – and they should return to the land –

It’s an encouragement – that if they did – a remnant would return –

Today for us – this is a call to shake off the dust – of sin – and begin afresh –

Advent is – not just about counting the days to Christmas – its also there – each year to remind us – that we all need  to start afresh – in our relationship with Jesus – to rethink where we are – and what we must do to grow and strengthen the bond we have with Him –

To make sure that when we look again at the Christmas message and story – we look again at our own situation and our own relationship with God –

We have a God who is faithful – and unchanging

and because of faith – we are given His grace –

a grace without bounds – free and endless –

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect – but He does expect us to offer – our hearts – and lives – to Him – so He can reshape us and make us His own

We are in a season that is dark and cold – and we need to turn it into a time of light and warmth –

It is one of the busiest times of the year – presents to be bought – friends and relatives to see – church services to attend – but its also a time – when the Gospel message needs to be preached the loudest and the widest –  

We need to wake up – and wake people up to the message of Jesus Christ –

Jesus will sit at God’s right hand – and for those who will acknowledge Him and follow Him – there will be a new beginning – His word will reach out to the world – offering salvation for all –


Advent calls us back to the heart of what it is all about – to refocus our expectations on Jesus –

The Prophesies of Isaiah proclaim that God’s promises of a joyful departure from the bondage of sin and death have been fulfilled – and it’s time for us to revisit and renew our Spiritual service to God

The predictions and promises – that Jesus made – 2000 years ago – will come true – and we need to be ready – when He calls

Jesus brings new life on a worldwide scale – He has opened the way to salvation to all who believe in Him – 

Its time to wake up – not waste any more time – but look to Jesus

To make this Advent – the time when the Christ child really does become a new beginning for us all –