Week 3 Sunday December 11 – Saturday December 17
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
This passage from Isaiah is a conversation of three speeches, from a priest, a government official, and God. Each of the speeches addresses the return of God to Israel and the role each plays in this return. The priest will preach good news to the poor, the Persian government will rebuild and work the fields, and God will reward the people and renew the covenant. This passage highlights the work that is involved in the coming of God’s reign. It is not something we simply wait for but a task before us. We must work with others, those of our own faith and nation and those of others, to realize God’s dream. In the last year, how have you worked with others for love and justice? In what ways to you witness people of different faiths and cultures working together in your city, country, and around the world?
This psalm uses the power of memory to sends its message of hope and renewal to the people. It speaks of a time when Israel rich and full, with laughter, joy, and dreams. The psalmist asks for God to return Israel to this time; to bring back the fortune and joy. Use this time of Advent to remember a specific time of joy and love in your life. How was God present in all of this? Where did you see God working in your life at this time? Was God’s work obvious? Or subtle?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Paul ends his letter to the church in Thessalonica with some final instructions for living a life in the imitation of Christ. Rejoice, give thanks, and pray are easily understood as guidelines for new Christians. But Paul also teaches the people to keep a sharp mind. He tells them to test all the teachings and prophecies they hear and to always be open to the life of the Spirit. This is not an easy task today, in a world where messages are coming at us from all directions. How do we “hold fast to what is good” when so many people say their message is the truth? In this time of Advent, let us focus on keeping a discerning mind, one that can identify the teachings of truth, love, and justice in our world and the courage to speak out against those messages that do not.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Like Mark’s Gospel, John begins with the story of John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Jesus. John the character is shrouded in mystery in this passage. He is not the Messiah. He is not Elijah, who Malachi foretold would come in preparation for the Day of the Lord, nor the Prophet foretold in Deuteronomy. Yet John is important enough to be questioned by the Jewish leaders about his baptizing. In answering their questions, John remains ambiguous, speaking not of himself, but of “the one who comes after me.” What message was the author of John trying to send with all these vague answers from John the Baptist? Many times the answers we seek about faith and God are just as ambiguous. In what ways do you work in discerning God’s message? What do you do when the answers aren’t so clear?