Watching for the Morning of December 8, 2019
The Second Sunday of Advent
Stunning words come to us this Sunday. Our reading from Isaiah will proclaim that “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.” The fallen royal line, named from David’s father, shall bloom again. “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him.” He will be filled with wisdom and girded with faithfulness to God and the people. And then come those sweet, ecstatic, words that under his governance:
6The wolf shall live with the lamb,
….the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
….and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze,
….their young shall lie down together;
….and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
….and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9They will not hurt or destroy
….on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
….as the waters cover the sea.
A world without violence. A world like Eden. A world restored to its primal innocence. A creation made new.
We look at the bloodshed on earth, the betrayals of allies, the enduring hatreds of ancient animosities, the violence of speech and thought, the violence that manifests itself even in schools and churches, and such words are sweet indeed. We can escape all this. There will be a day…
From Isaiah we will turn to the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah at the birth of his son, John – who we know as John the Baptist. We will hear Zechariah’s joy at the coming fulfilment of God’s promise.
68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
….for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69He has raised up a mighty savior for us
….in the house of his servant David,
70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
Zechariah will then sing of his son’s calling:
you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
….for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
….by the forgiveness of their sins.
78By the tender mercy of our God,
….the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
….to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Salvation, healing, wholeness, peace – God’s shalom is coming.
And we will hear John preach in the Gospel for the day. Coming in fulfillment of the prophetic promises, dressed like a prophet of old, out in the wilderness beyond the Jordan where Israel once waited to enter the promised land, John will call the nation to new beginnings, to preparation, to living in anticipation of that day when all things are made new.
It will carry the sound of warning. The ax is ready. Trees that bear no fruit will be cut down. But also promise. God is able to raise faithful children even from stones. The world is about to be awash in the Spirit.
The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.
The Prayer for December 8, 2019
Holy and Gracious God,
our breath of life and everlasting joy,
who gathers all things into your eternal embrace:
fill all creation with the light of your love
and the knowledge of your will;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
The Texts for December 8, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” – Like new growth from the stump of a felled tree, a new king shall arise from the fallen line of David, a king filled with the Spirit of God, who will govern in righteousness and bring all creation to peace.
Psalmody: Luke 1:68-79 (The Benedictus)
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.” – In place of the appointed Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, we sing the song of Zechariah, sung at the birth of his son, John, whom we know as John the Baptist, praising God and predicting his role as the one who “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.”
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9 (appointed, verses 4-13)
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Speaking to that fundamental divide between observant Judeans and those who had become thoroughly enmeshed in the culture of the Greek world, between ‘Judean’ and ‘Gentile’, Paul calls for the believers to live the reconciliation that has occurred in Christ, giving multiple examples from the Scriptures in support of God’s mission to gather all nations.
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” – John comes as a prophet of old, heralding the dawning of God’s reign and calling all people to ‘repent’, to turn and show allegiance to God.
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(If you are interested, daily reflections for this season are posted at Holy Seasons)
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© David K. Bonde
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Z_cyklu_Podivuhodn%C3%A9_krajiny_-_Japonsko_(1989).jpg Zdeněk Thoma [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D