Malachi 3:1-4: God is sending God’s messenger to prepare for God’s coming, and God’s people and God’s priests will be refined and made pure.
Luke 1:68-79: Zechariah’s song of thanksgiving for God’s rescue of Israel, and his proclamation of his son, John, as the messenger who will prepare the way for God’s coming.
Philippians 1:3-11: Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the Philippians, his desire for them to grow in love and purity, and his assurance that Christ will complete the work begun in them.
Luke 3:1-6: John travels in the region of the Jordan River calling people to repentance and baptising them as a sign of their willingness to change, and of God’s forgiveness. In doing this he fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the voice in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME
This week the focus is on prophecies of God’s coming, God’s restoration, and God’s justice and peace. Yet, in each reading there is a call to prepare to receive the promise in some way. In Baruch, the people are called to end their mourning and be ready to receive God’s restoration and glory. In Malachi, there is the purifying work that will happen when God’s messenger comes, and the people are to seek for, and take delight in, the coming one. In Zechariah’s song, John is to be the one who prepares God’s people for the coming salvation, and to lead them into forgiveness, which implies that they will respond to John’s message and follow him into the restoration he promises. In Paul’s prayer for the Philippians he expresses his desire for them to grow in love and wisdom, and to trust that God will complete the work that God has begun in them. Finally, the Gospel narrative of John’s coming speaks of John’s call to the people to repent and be baptised in preparation for the coming one. The message this week, then, is this: God is always coming, always available to God’s people, and always working for restoration. But, receiving God’s coming takes preparation, and so God sends a messenger to do this work, to prepare God’s people for God’s coming. The challenge is for us to embrace the work of preparation for ourselves – opening ourselves to God’s restoring, cleansing and disturbing work, and making our hearts ready for us to become, in turn, messengers of God’s restorative justice and mercy to the world.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1.78-79)
Beloved, I am your early morning dark,
your deep blue sky, shadowed neighborhoods,
velvety darkness, thirsty for light.
I am your prison cell where someone lonely waits,
looking at the little window.
I am not alone. We are all a vast plain
waiting for the lifting of the blanket,
humanity is a beautiful bride waiting for the lifting of the veil.
And you are our dawn.
We are the vessels of your light,
pitchers ready for your dawn to pour in
from the well of you
and carry out into the world.
In the shadow of death, mine
and those I abet,
my soul sits, waits,
watches the dimming stars.
Now, tender mercy, now.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
Thanks for the Prophets
God who calls to us,
We give thanks for prophets;
Those who call us to your truth, Word, will and way;
Those who speak from the margins;
Who stand in the freedom of the wilderness, able to question culture, society and tradition;
Who make us uncomfortable because they call us on our failure to live rightly;
Who break with the norms and conventions of the status quo;
Whose radical message call us back to the essentials of justice and righteousness;
Who serve up judgement on our selfish and shallow ways;
Who seek to open us up to God that we might be changed and transformed.
May we not baulk at their message, but consider it and reflect upon it.
Forbid it, that we not write them off as crazy or extreme.
May we listen for you and your call to us.
May we turn and return to following your way.
May we act and move and work harder for the common good.
May we join with you to better ourselves that we might better the world.
God who calls to us,
Christ, Word of God,
We give thanks for prophets.
May we join with them that we may better be your disciples.
May the prophetic ever be so.
(Source: Jon Humphries)
Come, now, long-expected Jesus – a hymn for Advent and Christmas
New words by Sarah Agnew Dec 2018
Come, now, long-expected Jesus,
born to set creation free;
from our deepest fears release us,
into love and liberty.
You our rest and consolation,
hope and light for all, you bring;
peace between us and our nations,
joy for every heart to sing.
Born so unexpected, Jesus,
not a king we’d recognise:
yours a realm of peace and justice,
welcome for the smallest lives.
With Creator, and with Spirit,
unify our diverse hearts;
grace and love we do inherit,
one within your Holy Heart.
(Words: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story; Tune: Stuttgart (a reimagining of Charles Wesley’s ‘Come, thou long-expected Jesus’)
Readings with commentary: COCU2C.Advent2C.RCL Readings
Mid week services: COCU2C.Advent2C