Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
December 7, 2014
Therefore beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as Salvation. 2 Peter 3:14
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Mark 1:2-3
“Hurry up and wait! Hurry up and wait!” It seems we spend a lot of time doing this, whether it’s waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store, waiting for that college admission or scholarship letter to come, or waiting to hear the results of an unsettling medical test. For children, waiting for Santa Claus or a birthday can make time appear measured in eons rather than hours, days, and weeks. Anticipation and anxiety often runs high during times of waiting.
The church lives in a season of waiting, not only in Advent, but also between the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and his second coming, when all things will be restored and made right in divine time. So we hurry up and wait. But is that all? Of course not! The lessons for the second week of Advent encourage us to prepare, to make ready, and to be active in our waiting.
Interestingly, the model we are given for such preparedness is John the Baptist. He certainly doesn’t fit the Boy Scout template of survival skills and model behavior. John is a prophet and a rebel. He doesn’t go with the first century flow, instead he listens to the words of the prophets, interprets signs of the times, and warns people to get their collective and individual acts together. We could probably use a few more John the Baptists today to call us to action, to repentance, and to faith.
What might such prophetic action and vision look like in our current age and culture? Certainly John the Baptist knew how to draw a crowd and how to move people to passionate response — all with benefit of a Dale Carnegie or assertiveness training course. In meditating on these eight short verses from Mark’s good news, these suggestions come to mind:
1. Go to the margins. Go to the strange places. Go where you aren’t necessarily comfortable. Get out of the zone and into God’s Kairos environment.
2. Be yourself and be true to your calling. Don’t just try to fit a popular image or mindlessly toe the company or party line. Maybe camel’s hair and leather belts aren’t quite the ticket, but perhaps a more countercultural approach would be apropos to the message you are called to convey.
3. Know and live the message you are called to convey. Ever heard Michael Frost’s phrase “marinate yourself in the gospel,” or as Eugene Peterson says in The Message “steep yourself in God reality”? Be deeply invested and fully engaged in your Christian identity.
4. Know whose you are and why you do what you. John was quite clear that he was called to point the way to Jesus, that he was not worthy to tie Jesus’ shoe. He also understood quite clearly the difference in his message and what Jesus would be about.
5. Finally, be bold. Hurry up and wait doesn’t cut it. Do something. Take the writer of 2 Peter’s message to heart and be active peacemakers who strive for that which is worthwhile and right and pure.
Never forget that prepare is a verb. It implies, even demands, action. This Advent as we watch and keep awake we are also expected–all of us–to be active participants in preparing for Christ’s coming among us in the Day of the Lord.
Consider this week working some of the action messages of the psalm, the gospel, Old Testament, and Epistle lessons. Why not write your own sending? Go ahead, don’t be afraid to make it longer and bolder. Invite worshipers in the congregation to read parts of it. The important thing is to emphasize that this week we are sent to prepare the way. We are sent to make this world ready. We are sent to prepare all people for a place where, indeed, “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet” and where “righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”
Adding to your Advent Visual Wall: The Path
Invite worship participants to take a “paver” made of gray, tan, and light brown construction paper. On each person’s paver, have them write one way they can help to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight the path for his coming into our world. You may wish to “seed” the process by preparing “pavers” for congregational ministries already in action, such as mitten and hat trees, food collections, a well project, Christmas “giving” trees for local social service organizations, etc. It should be fun to see the many ways your faith community is and or pledges to prepare a better way in this world.
December 1 marks the anniversary of the day in 1955 when Rosa Parks stayed in her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Her action, her choice, helped spark a movement for civil rights. This week in Advent we are called to prepare. How can we make choices that will prepare the way for justice, for mercy, and for hope for all people? Consider reading the poem “Rosa” by Rita Dove. Click this link to hear Dove read the poem and to access the text. What national and international events call for a response, for us to prepare a better way?
You will need a wooden skewer, some potting medium, a piece of floral foam, three flower pots, some sod or grass with its roots, a flower with roots, and a small Bible. You may also need a few days of prep time.
In the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah we hear in verse 8: “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.”
In one pot plant some grass. If you have a patch of dead grass in our lawn, plant that in the pot. You’ll also need a faded flower to plant in the next pot. If you don’t have a brown thumb specimen in your collection, ask a greenhouse or floral shop for a wilted, potted flowering plant (violets work well for this). For the third pot, you will want to affix a small, pocket size or miniature Bible or New Testament to the skewer and stand the skewer in the floral form in the third pot. Stabilize it so that it stands firm and appears to be “blooming” from the pot. Next photocopy this week’s readings in very large print, double-spaced if possible and landscape printing orientation rather than portrait. Cut the words into thin strips and use the strips as “potting medium” for the blooming Bible–hence, God’s word stands forever. Be sure after showing the children the three pots, that God’s word doesn’t literally grow in a pot but instead takes root in our hearts and minds so that we are able to live as children of the light and share the good news with others. End with a short prayer.
Photos: /\ \/\/ /\, Ged Campbell, and Brian, Creative Commons. Thanks!