1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Psalm 122
This morning we lit the first Advent candle – the candle of Hope. Advent means “coming toward us”, and as Christians we live in hope that what is coming down the track toward us is a bright light – something really good – and not a train about to run us down!
Perhaps a better analogy is that of our Advent hymn – hope is a star – leading us on till the morning is bright – a star in the dark hours before daybreak – leading us on to a brighter day.
Advent is a time of waiting – of being willing to wait for the coming of that light at daybreak – symbolized for us at Christmas by the birth of a child – the Christ child – the light of the world.
Yes, we need to learn patience – we need not to be distracted – we need to stay awake and alert to the coming of that light. But there is a certain predictability built into that imagery of daybreak, isn’t there? After all – daybreak always comes, morning always follows night, the light explodes upon the darkness, and the darkness retreats – always.
Isaiah says, in our reading this morning, “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord”. Isaiah the prophet speaks of a future time when God’s people will “beat their swords into ploughshares” – and when they shall no longer learn the ways of war. We don’t know when that future time of peace and harmony will be. Our job is to walk in the light – in the ways of the Holy One. And we have made progress – most of us no longer need to learn the ways of war.
Our Psalm 122 this morning also speaks of a future time of peace. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Peace be within your walls. Peace be within you.” Our job is to keep peace within our walls: in our families, our churches, our communities, and most especially within ourselves.
Hymn VU p.820 “Make a Joyful Noise”
2nd Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8
“Are you ready?” a Starlight Story by Catherine MacDonald.
I knew John when we were children. We were inseparable for years. He was the son of a priest, and you know how people expect great things from the sons of priests.
I heard that he studied scripture and was all set to follow in his father’s footsteps and take his rightful place in the the temple.
And then I heard nothing more of him, except that his father was embarrassed when John went into the wilderness.
The wilderness is where you went if you were stirring up a new agenda.
Was it true what I was hearing about him? That he wore strange clothing and ate weird food?
And what was this message of repentance I was hearing about?
I’m not sure what drew me there, to the wilderness to look for John. I wanted to see my childhood friend. I wanted to hear for myself.
Well, some of the things I had heard about him were true… he did look a little crazed….he had fire in his soul and stars in his eyes…he looked right at you and you couldn’t look away…he was calling people to change their ways. Now…because the beloved community was at hand….
My friend John saw himself as a messenger from God. No wonder people thought he was crazy! But John was also charismatic…if he wasn’t, people wouldn’t have listened to him for more that five minutes…but the crowds kept getting larger…and the crowds wanted to be baptized by him, water-drenched with new intention.
You could see his religious upbringing when he quoted the prophet Isaiah: “This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out, in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
He said more than that…he told them to get ready because there was someone more powerful than he coming…someone who would baptize them with fire and the Holy Spirit…
The words disturbed me…yet compelled.
I am an old woman now…and I lived to see Jesus…always coming, always calling us deeper into the realm of God, a way opening by the mystery of fire and spirit.
So my friends, starlight blessings on you as you prepare to celebrate the birth.
Are you ready? Is your heart prepared?
Hymn #2 VU “Come Thou long-expected Jesus"