The season of Advent is generally overflowing with our busy preparations for Christmas. And while this is a very different Advent and Christmas season, due to COVID-19, I imagine that we’re all still finding ways to prepare! There has been a flurry of decorating in my neighborhood as folks have put up Christmas lights, hung wreaths on their doors and placed candles in the windows. It feels as if people are needing, more than ever, a sign of that which is festive, hopeful…bright. I’ve started baking some of my favorite Christmas cookies! Online Christmas shopping, for many of us, is in full swing. I find that the preparations for Christmas are as enjoyable or even MORE enjoyable than Christmas itself.
And our scripture passages during Advent remind us about other important and meaningful preparations during this season…the preparation of our hearts and spirits, our individual lives and our world to receive God once again, incarnate – in the flesh – in the person of Jesus. Our scripture reading for this coming Sunday features John the Baptizer, often called John the Baptist in other Gospels. Mark, an action-oriented Gospel writer, highlights actions over roles! And John the Baptizer calls us to attention, inviting us to prepare for the coming of the One for whom people of that day yearned, the One for whom we yearn as well. How are we to prepare? According to John we prepare through confession and repentance of our sins. And while that may not sound as fun as hanging Christmas lights or baking cookies or online shopping, it is the preparation that can release us from old wounds and patterns, that can clear a space within us for the gift of God’s presence and transforming grace.
I hope you’ll join us on Sunday for our livestream worship at 9:00. Please know that all are welcome to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the scripture and sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Drop-ins are welcome! Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
“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.”
Consider these questions:
- Have you participated (perhaps in other faith communities) in rituals or practices of confession and repentance? How have you experienced them?
- Does repentance sound like a chore, an opportunity or something else?
- Do you have a sense of something internal, within you, that needs to be cleared away this Advent season in order to receive God anew?
- Do you have a sense of something external, in our community/world, that needs to be cleared away?