Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
December 10, 2017
Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people prepare for the reign of Christ by reordering their lives and priorities, making space for God in their hearts and homes.
Key Scriptures: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.’” – Isaiah 40:3-4
Enter stage left: John the Baptist. Yes, on this second Sunday of Advent we are back at the beginning of Mark’s gospel where he sets the stage for the amazing and grace-full story of Jesus. Our setting is the wilderness, and we are told that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him” to confess their sins and receive a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And that’s it for the lesson. One verse later Jesus shows up to be baptized.
John makes it clear that he is NOT the one who is coming, and that he is not worthy to perform the act of a servant for the Messiah. He is there to prepare the way, and he sure doesn’t shrink from the task. True, John may dress like a rustic, forage for his supper, and minister on the margins, but he is no dummy. The spot that most folks believe Jesus was baptized was actually a major route crossing the Jordan. There would have been significant traffic. John went where the people where — or at least where they would be passing through.
There’s a lesson here for those of us who want to share the gospel in the twenty-first century. Get out of the building! Go where the people are! Don’t be hung up on doing ministry the way the cool kids do it. Be your authentic Jesus-follower self. Prepare the way of the Lord as only you are equipped to do it. But most of all … do SOMETHING.
Unlike John, we have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story. While he was an eyewitness, we have the benefit of a couple of thousand years’ worth of the story being handed down and shared; it’s a story that has certainly withstood the test of time and is still amazing and life-changing. We understand that Mark’s gospel account started at the beginning and ended on a note of fear and uncertainty that has befuddled and somewhat embarrassed folks. Yet here we are still bearing this good news to a beautiful, beloved, and broken world in need of a savior. Like John, we are not worthy to tie his sandals, but he has loved and redeemed us anyway, naming us and claiming us in baptism and gifting us with the Holy Spirit to be heirs to his reign of righteousness, mercy, and justice.
What does this have to do with Advent? A lot actually! Advent is a time to prepare, reflect, revisit, and remind ourselves both whose we are and who we are awaiting. We are people who proclaim that “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Advent gives us the opportunity to make good on that claim. We know that Christ comes again and again into our lives in many and varied ways: The more we look, the more we see him in action. Advent prepares us to embrace the Messiah who is “God with us” incarnate in helpless human flesh and sweet baby breath. Advent is a time to reorder our priorities and our life, to step out of our comfort zones, and to journey with John outside the box, the building, and all that prevents us from being among the people Jesus loves and comes to save.
Go ahead, fellow Jesus-follower. Get on out there and appear in the wilderness areas of your neck of the woods. Prepare the way! You never know. Jesus might just show up in the next chapter of your life, too, inviting you to follow him into the streets and byways of your city or town.
Today’s psalm is a truly lovely one with the image of steadfast love and faithfulness meeting, and righteousness and peace kissing. Invite worshipers to identify ways that love and faithfulness meet in their lives. Have them consider the image of righteousness and peace kissing. Why is it important for the two to be commingled? How might we envision this playing out in our own lives?
You might want to consider using Marty Haugen’s setting of Psalm 85 “Lord, Let us See your Kindness” as part of worship today.
While you are waiting … do something, anything as a Jesus-follower. The message in our epistle lesson this week is clear that we aren’t simply to wait on some pie-in-the-sky future world but rather to hasten Jesus’ coming through our actions and actively seeking peace. What do you think this looks like? How can you wait and act at the same time? If Jesus is waiting for all to come to him in repentance, what is our role in serving God and loving our neighbors? What one thing can you do this week to hasten Jesus’ reign?
If you have Boy Scouts in your congregation this would be a good Sunday to invite them to talk with the children about their motto “Be prepared.” Invite the children to consider how we as the church might use this motto to prepare for the arrival of Jesus on Christmas day?
Alternatively, bring a collection of cleaning supplies, a broom, and a mop, and talk with the children about cleaning the church for the celebration of Christmas. If your sexton worships with you, have him or her talk about how they prepare for big festival services like Christmas Eve. Then make the connection between cleaning our worship space and cleaning our space in our lives and hearts for Jesus to inhabit. Finish with a simple prayer for clean space and open hearts and minds to receive Jesus.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Both the prophet in Isaiah and John the Baptist call us to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. Faithful stewards allow time and space to make their hearts and homes ready to welcome the King of Kings. What are you doing to be prepared for Jesus?
Stewardship at Home
This week at home, spend some time in deep cleaning and preparation for the coming of Jesus. What do you need to do to be ready? Instead of becoming stressed or worried by long to-do lists and work around the house, try to be prayerful about your preparations. Allow time to welcome Jesus into your heart as well as your home. Make sure to allow time for family and friends this week.
Photos: Eduard Marmet, sblezard, and cap_tain tom, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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