The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. John Murray
Sunday 6 December 2020: The second Sunday in Advent
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is little wonder that this fabulous passage from Isaiah appears every Advent. How better to anticipate the birth of Jesus, who for Christians fulfils the appearance of the glory of God, who brings with him comfort and joy, who bears in his tiny body the hope of the nations? What Isaiah is heralding is a new way of perceiving life, a life lived by the magnificent, consoling comfort of God, a comfort that has the power to lead people out of their despair and darkness and exile, into the marvellous life of a promised new home. And John the Baptist was created by God to announce this new way, who is Jesus. Listen again to Isaiah’s word of comfort, and allow it this week to transform your spirit and to prepare you again to witness the glorious birth of our Messiah.
Isaiah 40:1-11: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will 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 like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Holy Lord, may we hear that voice in the wilderness, our wilderness, preparing the way for your son to arrive in this world and in our hearts. Prepare the world and our hearts to receive your son and help us to prepare for his coming. Amen
The opening of Mark’s Gospel reminds us of God’s good news, which is found now in surprising places. This Good News goes beyond the boundaries of where we thought God was supposed to be. We find ourselves not in the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem but outside of her city walls, in the margins, on the side-lines. The good news of God brings hope to those who find themselves in the peripheries of our world, and it also belongs there, advancing into the traditional. God’s good news of grace announces God’s presence on the fringe, God’s love that goes beyond the boundaries of where we thought God was supposed to be, and God’s promise that there is no place on earth God will not go or be for us. Wonderful.
Mark 1:1-8: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
None of us can see what a year will bring, far less our lifetimes. Here, the long years of waiting are almost over- what Isaiah preached of, is becoming specific in the coming of Jesus. Come Lord Jesus, come.
God of faithfulness and truth, you sent your servant John the Baptist to preach in the desert and summon people to repentance. Make us and all things new, that in the wilderness of our hearts we too may prepare a way over which your Son may walk, and walk right into our lives.
Let us give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness.
For the opportunity to meet in worship, in person or online… Thanks be to God
For what has been good for us and others during this past week … Thanks be to God
For those who provide for our needs, and especially for the sick and disadvantaged … Thanks be to God.
For those who give leadership, in church, in State, in community … Thanks be to God.
For friends and family, for companions in the way of Christ … Thanks be to God.
For all that makes life beautiful, and interesting, and worthwhile … Thanks be to God.
For the ministry of John the Baptist, and all who direct others to Jesus … Thanks be to God.
May the coming of the day of God be your earnest desire: and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you and those dear to you, this day and every day that remains to us
How is your hearing this Advent 2020? Ps 85:8-13
8 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
See how the Psalm uses words which speak of God’s active participation in the world. Yet how amazing that God should share humanity in such a way as happened at Christmas.
2 Peter 3:8-13 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the LORD a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The LORD is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the LORD will come like a thief.
…and in Jesus Christ not only does the reality of God touch human life, but the reality of human life touches God. Verse 10, where the day of the Lord will come like a thief, ties up closely with a passage like Mark 13, which we read last week, where Jesus underlines three things: the troubles that will come to the earth and its people, our ignorance of divine timing, and the need to keep on the watch. Remember in Advent we are thinking also of the Second Coming, and adjusting our hearts to its prospect.
A new thing
As we consider what presents we might like to give, imagine the divine thought which lies behind the background of the story of the first coming of Jesus (and the second one), and pause and thank God for the perfect gift, delivered at just the right time. As we see the Christmas lights this year, may they speak to us of this perfect gift: free to all.
And be thankful
You could make a list of things for which to be thankful, and put them into a box, and then at the end of the week take them out and count and think about them.