Introduction to the readings for Advent Two, Peace,  December 7, 2014

Our readings from scripture today provide a rich a contrast in images.  First, from Isaiah, we have a beautiful picture of the everlasting nature of God’s word woven into a message of consolation for his listeners; a community of folks coming to the end of their lengthy exile in Babylon, the site of modern day Baghdad.  This reading is offered in contrast to a reading from the first chapter of the gospel according to Mark with a portrayal of a very different kind of prophet with a brash and abrasive sounding message about repentance. 

In keeping with our Peace Theme for the second Sunday in the season of Advent and in keeping with our focus on conflict in the Holy Land, we invite you to hear both of our scripture texts from a contemporary perspective.  Bridging our two readings, we will share together in a responsive Psalm found in our Voices United hymnbook.

 “In the midst of bombing in Gaza in the summer of 2014, mothers and fathers still sang songs at bedtime, rubbed backs, and made (with limited provisions) comfort foods for their children.  Peace begins from within, when we choose to be a comfort to people in the face of dire situations.  The comfort of peace is that our God, who brings life from death in the world, is with us!”

A Reading from Hebrew Scripture:  Isaiah 40: 1-11 Comfort, O Comfort, my people

Words of introduction to the Psalm:  “For the Holy One will speak peace to God’s people.  As we hear the urgent cries on the news, we know that God both comforts the oppressed and challenges us to act with faithfulness by following God’s way.  Old ways of anger and hate will be washed away and peace will be possible.”

+Responsive Reading:   Psalm 85 and Refrain (VU p. 802)

Words of Introduction to the gospel:  John, the Baptist, thought to be a messenger of God aligned with both Isaiah and Elijah, and as one paving the way for the Messiah, calls the community to act justly and to promote peaceful relations within, between, and among peoples.  Listen now for his call to all gathered to be changed through baptism in the muddy waters of the Jordan River and imagine this:

Baptism is the act of washing clean.  In our world, and for many centuries, soap has accompanied ordinary washing.  When we repent for hurtful actions committed and loving actions omitted, we are cleansed.  We come to know peace and we are ready to follow.”

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark 1: 1-8 The preaching of John the Baptizer

Response:  Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. 

                   Thanks be to God.

(note the words offered in quotation marks come to us from the United Church of Canada’s Advent Peace Box Resources, Worship and study materials for your congregation’s Advent Journey, copyright 2014. http:/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ca; the other words of introduction come from the heart, hands, and mind of our in house clergy, the Rev. Liz Bowyer)