Sunday 6 December – 2nd Sunday of Advent
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as
judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God.
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 for ever. 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 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
Post Communion Prayer
Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that, when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him
with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We wait for him, yet we go out into the wilderness to find him. We wait for him but we prepare the way for him. We can do nothing to force him to come, yet we must do everything to make ready for him.
Today we think specially of John the Baptist as the one who made ready for the coming of Jesus. The gospel writers see him as the one who fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah. He goes into the wilderness and prepares a way for the Lord. He went into the wilderness; he was sought out by many people who wanted a change; and he pointed away from himself to the Life-giver who would be coming.
He went into the wilderness. For the people of Israel the wilderness was a good but frightening place: it was where they had first met God, but in order to meet him they had to do without a lot of the creature comforts which they thought go with normal living. It is in the wilderness that we discover who we truly are. The externals are stripped away because it is in the wilderness that we come face to face with our true selves. John just spoke, saying people should repent. The Greek word metanoia, which we translate as repent means a re-orientation… a re-orientation towards God. The wilderness is an ideal place in which to re-orientate ourselves towards God because, having jettisoned those things which no longer matter… it brings us face to face with what actually is important in our lives. The wilderness can be a good place.
The Gospel writer doesn’t tell us how people got to hear about him out there by the Jordan, but they flocked to hear him.
The people who went to hear him wanted a change; they may have wanted all kinds of changes – in the way they were governed, in their financial circumstances, in their health: but they were willing to see themselves as the ones who had to change first. John had touched a chord in people’s hearts: they were hungry for something, and they sensed that in order to get whatever it was, they themselves needed to change.
Jesus too would attract a lot of people who knew something was wrong; and like John, only in a more encouraging way, he would give them hope that things could change, and indeed were changing. In our day people are hungry for God, without necessarily knowing it. They need to meet wilderness people – people who don’t seek popularity, people who live a life of trust in God, people who put love for God and for human beings above consumerism and other false gods. And like Jesus who was tempted in the wilderness but met people in their towns and cafes, we can find wilderness people in all sorts of ordinary places, not only the dramatic desert near the Jordan.
And those wilderness people… we point away to the one who is greater than us, who is God’s gift to the human race; we point to Jesus Christ. The way for us to lead people to God is to point to God. To point to God in all that we do and say and are. To live as people in whom others see something of the love of God.
“He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit”, said John. That is, he will make you new people, children of God, inhabitants of the new world which is coming to us as God’s gift. The special gift we will give to the world when we tell the good news about Jesus is the gift of hope; and that’s something the world needs to hear.