Welcome to the second Sunday in the season of Advent! Today’s Gospel lesson brings us the story of John the Baptist, baptizing believers as they confessed their sins, shouting accusations at the Pharisees and Sadducees, and prophesying the coming of the Messiah. With whom do you relate most closely this week – John, Jesus, Pharisees and Sadducees, or those confessing their sins? With whom can your people most closely relate? There are so many angles to take when addressing John’s ministry – preparing the way of the Lord, baptism for repentance, accusation of the authorities, prediction of judgment to come. Which perspective will you take this Sunday?
The Revised Common Lectionary also offers Isaiah 11:1-10 – a shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, righteousness will be around his waist, the lion and lamb shall live together and a little child will lead them. Beautiful imagery. How can it be applied to the world today? Perhaps each one of us could take on the role of the shoot from Jesse’s tree, guided by the values of righteousness and equity. Psalm 72 follows the same theme with a king who judges in righteousness.
Romans 15 encourages us to live in harmony with one another, and to welcome one another, including (or especially) the Gentiles. Most of us are preaching to congregations filled with Gentiles. As those who have been warmly welcomed in to our faith tradition by others, what is our obligation to people who are on the margins of society today?
Additional discussion on the RCL readings can be found on this page. You might also check out Karolyn Lewis’ reflection on the place of John’s prophesy on Working Preacher, or the call to prophetic preaching at ON Scripture.
In the Narrative Lectionary, the prophet Joel calls us to return to the Lord, to rend your hearts and not your clothing, so that God’s spirit might be poured out upon all people. Traditionally reserved for Pentecost, this passage can bring new meaning to the season of Advent. How do you interpret Mary’s song, knowing that God’s spirit may be poured out upon her? Does the meaning of the incarnation change if you consider the possibility of God’s presence within all people? Additional NL discussion can be found here.
During Advent, some churches are working on a Christmas program with the Sunday School kids, or following a topical preaching series. Your worship order may have changed to accommodate the lighting of the Advent wreath or a new Communion liturgy. Following an idea that I stole from an online colleague last year, my congregation will be collecting baby items throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, to be blessed on Epiphany and then donated to the local domestic violence shelter. What is important in your community at this time of year?
Wherever you are in your preparation, welcome to the party! Pull up a chair, settle in for some writing, and share the virtual snacks. Blessings in your worship preparations!
canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a certified canoeing instructor, occasional hospital chaplain, aunt to the best kids in the world, and a devout Star Wars fan. Katya is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and blogs periodically at Provocative Proclamation.
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