Prayer #1 — Prayer for the 1st Sunday of Advent (BCP 211):
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Prayer #2 — A Prayer for Mission (BCP 100):
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.
Prayer #3 — Confession of Sin (BCP 79):
Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. And so that we may prepare ourselves in heart and mind to worship him, let us kneel in silence, and with penitent and obedient hearts confess our sins, that we may obtain forgiveness by his infinite goodness and mercy.
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
Prayer #4 — “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (Charles Wesley):
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne. (Lyrics & Music)
Thanks to HymnSite.com for providing this public domain midi file and text.
Reading #1 — John Wesley on “The Lord’s Prayer”:
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” — As nothing but sin can hinder the bounty of God from flowing forth upon every creature, so this petition naturally follows the former; that, all hinderances being removed, we may the more clearly trust in the God of love for every manner of thing which is good.
“Our trespasses:” — The word properly signifies our debts. Thus our sins are frequently represented in Scripture; every sin laying us under a fresh debt to God, to whom we already owe, as it were, ten thousand talents. What then can we answer when he shall say, “Pay me that thou owest?” We are utterly insolvent; we have nothing to pay; we have wasted all our substance. Therefore, if he deal with us according to the rigour of his law, if he exact what he justly may, he must command us to be “bound hand and foot, and delivered over to the tormentors.”
Indeed we are already bound hand and foot by the chains of our own sins. These, considered with regard to ourselves, are chains of iron and fetters of brass. They are wounds wherewith the world, the flesh, and the devil, have gashed and mangled us all over. They are diseases that drink up our blood and spirits, that bring us down to the chambers of the grave. But considered, as they are here, with regard to God, they are debts, immense and numberless. Well, therefore, seeing we have nothing to pay, may we cry unto him that he would “frankly forgive” us all!
The word translated forgive implies either to forgive a debt, or to unloose a chain. And if we attain the former, the latter follows of course: if our debts are forgiven, the chains fall off our hands. As soon as ever, through the free grace of God in Christ, we “receive forgiveness of sins,” we receive likewise “a lot among those which are sanctified, by faith which is in him.” Sin has lost its power; it has no dominion over those who “are under grace,” that is, in favour with God. As “there is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus,” so they are freed from sin as well as from guilt. “The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in” them, and they “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (from John Wesley, Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount — 6 [Sermon 26], III.13)
Reading #2 — Wesley on Matt 1: Jesus as Christ/Messiah:
“The husband of Mary – Jesus was generally believed to be the son of Joseph. It was needful for all who believed this, to know, that Joseph was sprung from David. Otherwise they would not allow Jesus to be the Christ. Jesus, who is called Christ – The name Jesus respects chiefly the promise of blessing made to Abraham: the name Christ, the promise of the Messiah’s kingdom, which was made to David. It may be farther observed, that the word Christ in Greek, and Messiah in Hebrew, signify anointed, and imply the prophetic, priestly, and royal characters, which were to meet in the Messiah. Among the Jews, anointing was the ceremony whereby prophets, priests, and kings were initiated into those offices. And if we look into ourselves, we shall find a want of Christ in all these respects. We are by nature at a distance from God, alienated from him, and incapable of a free access to him.Hence we want a mediator, an intercessor, in a word, a Christ, in his priestly office. This regards our state with respect to God. And with respect to ourselves, we find a total darkness, blindness, ignorance of God, and the things of God. Now here we want Christ in his prophetic office, to enlighten our minds, and teach us the whole will of God. We find also within us a strange misrule of appetites and passions. For these we want Christ in his royal character, to reign in our hearts, and subdue all things to himself.” (from John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, Matthew 1:16)
Reading #3 — Wesley on Matt 1: “Jesus, Emmanuel”:
“Jesus – That is, a Saviour. It is the same name with Joshua (who was a type of him) which properly signifies, The Lord, Salvation. His people – Israel. And all the Israel of God. // They shall call his name Emmanuel – To be called, only means, according to the Hebrew manner of speaking, that the person spoken of shall really and effectually be what he is called, and actually fulfil that title. Thus, Unto us a child is born – and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace – That is, he shall be all these, though not so much nominally, as really, and in effect. And thus was he called Emmanuel; which was no common name of Christ, but points out his nature and office; as he is God incarnate, and dwells by his Spirit in the hearts of his people.” (from John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, Matthew 1:21, 23)
Reading #4 — Wesley on the Nature of True Saving Faith:
“What faith is it then through which we are saved? It may be answered, first, in general, it is a faith in Christ: Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper objects of it. Herein, therefore, it is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished from the faith either of ancient or modern heathens. And from the faith of a devil it is fully distinguished by this: it is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart. For thus saith the Scripture, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” and, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. // And herein does it differ from that faith which the Apostles themselves had while our Lord was on earth, that it acknowledges the necessity and merit of his death, and the power of his resurrection. It acknowledges his death as the only sufficient means of redeeming man from death eternal, and his resurrection as the restoration of us all to life and immortality; inasmuch as he “was delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.” (from John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith” [Sermon 1], I.4-5)
Reading #5 — Dr. Timothy Tennent, “Why Is Jesus Returning to Judge the World?”:
Video #1 — Gospel and Work
Video #2 (Song) — Brandon Heath “The Harvester”
Covenant Group Guidelines:
1. What was your devotional life like this week? How did God use the Scriptures in your life? What prayers or readings were significant for you?
2. When did you feel closest to Christ this week?
3. Who is my neighbor? How have my relationships been this week? Have I done all the good I could and done no harm?
4. How did you fail Christ as his disciple this week?
5. What story could you share of growth and faithfulness in following Jesus?
6. How could we best pray for you regarding your walk with Christ as his faithful follower?