As we prepare for Sunday morning…
Sunday, December 10
Word & Eucharist Liturgy – 8:30 & 11 am
with Healing Prayer
Faith formation for all – 9:45 am
We began observing the themes of Advent in our Sunday liturgy on November 12. In some early church traditions, Advent was a longer season of preparation much like Lent, giving more time to emphasize the themes of preparation, repentance, and hopefulness. Since the traditional four weeks of Advent usually begins Thanksgiving weekend when many are traveling, and the fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmastime, we have little time to share a season with a more quiet, contemplative listening for how God is speaking to us in our waiting. We hope our longer Advent season gives us space to appreciate the Advent season together more fully.
Sunday, December 10 (Year B, Second Sunday of Advent)
In grand, poetic lines, the prophet announces that the exile of God’s people in Babylon is over. The Lord will deliver Israel and will care for her as a shepherd cares for sheep. This word can be trusted, because the only enduring reality in life is the word of the Lord.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
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 be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
The Gospel of Mark does not begin with a story of Jesus’ birth but with the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
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,’ ”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Comments from the Cloud of Witnesses
The way to freedom runs through the wilderness. Hence the first message is that the people must prepare a way, more accurately a street, straight through the wilderness. From Babylonian hymns and from archaeological evidence we know that the high street in Babylon was rather like the Champs Elysees in Paris, leading to the Arc de Triumph. Isaiah wants such a highway for the Lord, running through the wilderness and leading to the temple in Jerusalem, which was to be rebuilt. However, God’s glory is not revealed in splendid cavalcades on great streets or in processions with imposing effigies, but only in everyday history, and above all in the event of the liberation of his people from slavery, through the difficult journey through the wilderness, back to the freedom of Zion. That, Isaiah says, is the way in which God’s glory is made manifest and revealed to all. That is where God’s jealous honor is to be found: in the exaltation of the insignificant, the poor and the lowly, those who are oppressed.
[Edward Schillebeeckx, in Homilies for the Christian People, ed. Gail Ramshaw (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1989), 78-79.]
Sunday Advent Prayer: Hurts, Healings, and Hopes
The season of Advent is traditionally a time of reflection, self-inspection, and preparation for God to be born again into our world. It is a time to look both backward and forward, a sacred “interim time” as we pass from the old to the new Church year.
In all years, Advent reflections bring awareness of the brokenness of our world; illness, economic issues, war, conflict, and disasters are perennially present. The past year in this country has been unusually challenging on many levels; for many among us it has been deeply distressing.
Yet God also calls us during Advent to be aware of the world’s vibrant beauty and resilience, and to look and listen for ways to help bring healing to it and to all of God’s people. The year 2017 has been no different in this respect; amid great distress we have also seen significant acts of caring and healing, hope and recovery.
We come before God who welcomes us to name our hurts, our need for healing, and our hopes for what is to come. Our assembly will take time to reflect on both the past year and our visions for the coming church year with a different question to contemplate each week. We are invited each week to write or draw our responses on prayer ornaments that will be provided for that purpose. The prayer ornaments will placed on the communion table and then added to our tree beginning this Sunday. Responses will be collected and shared, and will help in discerning where God is calling us to minister in the coming year.
The prayer questions for each week are:
Week one: During the past year, what did you find hurtful, troubling, or fearful (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?
Week two: During the past year, what did you find healing, or where did you see a need for healing (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?
Week three: During the past year, what has given you hope or brought beauty (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?
Week four: During the past year, what practices or actions did you take in response to the things you found hurtful, healing, or hopeful?
Week five: In the year to come, what change do you hope to see in God’s world?
Week six: What ministries or activities of our church community were helpful or healing (for you or the world) during the past year?
Week seven: In the year to come, what existing, different, or new activities or ministries might God be calling us to for the healing of the world and its people?