Week 2 Sunday December 4 – Saturday December 10
This passage from Isaiah marks a break in the message of the book, where the focus is less on the iniquities of Israel and the subsequent punishment and more on the comfort that God brings to the people. In this passage God speaks to the people, telling them their “penalty is paid” and redemption is near. For a number of years, while the Israelites lived in exile after their Temple was destroyed, many believed God had left them and fled to the wilderness. This passages calls for a return of God to land of Israel as their redemption is near. In this time, God will make all things new and right. In this time of Advent, how do we see God absent in our world? In what ways is God returning? How can we work to “prepare the way” of God back into our lives and our world?
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
The theme of assurance is a popular and important one for the season of Advent. Though we wait for God to arrive in our world, our waiting is not in vain. We do this with the assurance that salvation is coming. In this psalm Israel is assured shalom (peace) and hesed (steadfast love and loyalty) for God’s people when they trust and fear God. A Christian view of this psalm would be to read the promise of God’s peace and love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In what ways does the advent of the Christ child speak to your hope for peace and love on earth? What is it about the Christmas story that sends this hope to the world?
2 Peter 3:8-15a
The second epistle of Peter ends with another reference to the coming reign of God, something for which the early Christians must keep a look out. Again, it instructs the people to follow in the footsteps of Christ, so that when the day comes, their hearts will be ready. By the time of 2 Peter’s writing sometime in the early second century, the early Christians had lived a number of generations since the death of Jesus and we still waiting his return. The author provides some comfort for the people, possibly very frustrated with the delay, that gives the reader insight into the nature of God. As we wait for Christmas, what does it mean for our world if, for God, “a day is like a thousand years?” What does God’s message of hope and justice mean if God’s sense of time is so expansive and transcendent? How do we live in light of this?
John the Baptist plays a central role in the early portion of Mark’s Gospel. John is portrayed as a prophet, quoting Isaiah and living an eccentric lifestyle with his clothes and diet. In his role as prophet, he calls the people to “prepare the way” for Jesus who will bring God back out of the wilderness and baptize with the Holy Spirit. With such an introduction to Mark’s Gospel, the author is letting the reader know that things are about to change! Exciting things are coming as the reign of God takes over the land! Last week we talked about God working in quiet, uneventful ways. What are some larger, more exciting ways that God is moving in your life? How do you see God’s reign making noise around the world? What major shifts must we see to realize God’s reign?