Reading to Survive
Advent is much more than a time of getting ready for Christmas. In a way, Advent isn’t about Christmas (the 1st coming), so much as it is a time of awakening to what Christmas means within the big picture of life and how it is connected to Easter, (the 2nd coming). So now that this heavens and this earth are clearly in trouble, we are invited to to listen with our hearts to announcements of comfort in bumpy places, visions of mercy and truth meeting, righteousness and peace kissing, and care for nursing mothers.
- Which 1-2 sentences here best capture how you are this week at the beginning of Advent, a new church year, in the midst of difficult days?
- What is the overall direction of these Advent texts? Where do they point? Why?
- How do the “comfort and tenderness” fit into a setting of distress, bumpy roads, withered grass, and faded flowers?
- Where do you see righteousness and truth kissing?
- Rather than being a cause to give up, the 2 Peter reading considers the coming of the “day of God” to be the basis for holy living and a sign of God’s patience. What do you make of all of that?
- 6How are you helped through this week by these readings?
- To what is God calling you in these readings?
- What is your prayer for this week?
Opening Prayer: Hymnal # 67 Comfort, comfort ye my people Johann G. Olearius (1611-1684), trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)
Comfort, comfort ye My people, Speak ye peace, thus saith our God; Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load; Speak ye to Jerusalem Of the peace that waits for them; Tell her that her sins I cover, And her warfare now is over.
Hark, the voice of one that crieth In the desert far and near, Calling us to new repentance, Since the kingdom now is here. Oh, that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way! Let the valleys rise to meet him, And the hills bow down to greet him.
Make ye straight what long was crooked, Make the rougher places plain: Let your hearts be true and humble, As fits God’s holy reign, For the glory of the Lord Now o’er the earth is shed abroad, And all flesh shall see the token That the word is never broken.
Holy One, as we “sit in darkness mourning ‘neath our sorrow’s load”, or sometimes missing the marks you’ve set before us, you speak tenderly to comfort us. You hold out images of Repair and Hope — mercy and truth meeting, righteousness and peace kissing, and bid us to help you prepare the Way for the New Heaven and the New Earth. Amen.
Isaiah 40:1-11 Jewish Publication Society
Comfort, oh comfort My people!
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and declare to her
that her term of service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid, (her iniquity is expiated).
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins!
3 A voice rings out:
“Clear in the desert!
A road for our God!
Level in the wilderness
A highway for our God!
4 Let every valley will be raised,
Every mountain and hill be made low.
Let the rough ground become level,
And the ridges become a plain.
5 The Presence of God shall appear,
And all humanity, as one, shall behold —
For God himself has spoken.”
6 A voice rings out: “Proclaim!”
Another asks, “What shall I proclaim?”
All flesh is grass;
All its goodness is like the flowers of the field:
7 Grass withers, flowers fade
When the breath of God blows on them.
Indeed, people are but grass.
8 Grass withers, flowers fade–
But the word of our God’s is always fulfilled.
9 Ascend on a lofty mountain,
O herald of joy to Zion!
Raise your voice with power,
O herald of joy to Jerusalem–
Raise it; have no fear;
Announce to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God comes in might,
And his arm wins triumph for him.
See, his reward is with him
His recompense before him.
11 Like a shepherd, God pastures His flock;
Gathers the lambs in his arms
And carries them in his bosom;
Gently, Gods guides the nursing ewes.
Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
1 You have been gracious to your land, O God, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.
2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins.
8 I will listen to what you are saying, *
for you are speaking peace to your faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to you.
9 Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you, *
that your glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 You, O God, will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before you, *
and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.
2 Peter 3:8-16 J.B. Phillips New Testament (adapted)
8-10 But you should never lose sight of this fact, dear friends, that time is not the same with God as it is with us—to God a day may be a thousand years, and a thousand years only a day. It is not that the Holy One is dilatory about keeping his own promise as some seem to think; the fact is that God is very patient towards you. The Holy One has no wish that anyone should be destroyed. God wishes that all people should come to repent. Yet, it remains true that the day of the Lord will come as suddenly and unexpectedly as a thief. In that day, the heavens will disappear in a terrific tearing blast, the very elements will disintegrate in heat and the earth and all that is in it will be burnt up to nothing.
11-13 In view of the fact that all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? Surely people of good and holy character, who live expecting and earnestly longing for the coming of the day of God. True, this day will mean that the heavens will disappear in fire and the elements disintegrate in fearful heat, but our hopes are set not on these but on the new Heaven and the new earth which God has promised us, and in which nothing but good shall live.
14-15a Because, my dear friends, you have a hope like this before you, I urge you to make certain that such a day would find you at peace with God and one-another, clean and blameless in God’s sight. Meanwhile, consider that God’s patience is meant to be our salvation, …
1 Principio del evangelio de Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios[a].
2 Como está escrito en el profeta Isaías:
He aquí, yo envío mi mensajero delante de tu faz,
el cual preparará tu camino.
3 Voz del que clama en el desierto:
«Preparad el camino del Señor,
haced derechas sus sendas».
4 Juan el Bautista apareció en el desierto predicando el bautismo de arrepentimiento para el perdón de pecados. 5 Y acudía a él toda la región de Judea, y toda la gente de Jerusalén, y confesando sus pecados, eran bautizados por él en el río Jordán. 6 Juan estaba vestido de pelo de camello, tenía un cinto de cuero a la cintura, y comía langostas y miel silvestre. 7 Y predicaba, diciendo: Tras mí viene uno que es más poderoso que yo, a quien no soy digno de desatar, inclinándome, la correa de sus sandalias. 8 Yo os bauticé con agua, pero Él os bautizará con el Espíritu Santo
Mark 1 1-3 The Message
The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you; (Malachi 3:1)
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight! (Is 40:3)
4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
7-8 As he preached, he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”