Sunday 6 December Advent 2

This Sunday we are pleased to be returning to public worship.

There will be a service of Holy Communion at 9.30am at All Saints’ Church Westbury led by Rev’d Rebecca Harris and 10.30am at Holy Saviour led by Rev’d Melanie Otto.

There will be a Gift Service at 10am on Zoom led by Rev Caroline Husband. To find out how to join the service contact us or sign up for our e-newsletter

Collect for The Second Sunday of Advent

Almighty God,
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again
as judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God. Amen

Readings

Isaiah 40: 1 – 11

 Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall 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 grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
    lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
    ‘Here is your God!’
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85: 1 – 2, 8 – 13

Lord, you were favourable to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you pardoned all their sin.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people,
    to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
    righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
    and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 The Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
    and will make a path for his steps.

2 Peter 3: 8 – 15a

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. 

Mark 1: 1 – 8

(c) Jill Kemp & Richard Gunther FreeBibleImages

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.’

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reflection

Mark 1:1-8

Mark’s gospel begins in a rather abrupt way, announcing the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The scene is set in the wilderness, not the place you might expect to hear about the coming of the Messiah. It would be like an important visitor arriving in the UK and turning up on Dartmoor, or the Scottish Highlands, rather than Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street. Yet Mark’s gospel is full of the unexpected.

Then we have this strange character, John, with his weird clothes and diet, urging people to get ready for the Son of God.  People flock to the wilderness to hear him preach and to be baptised. It’s all very strange. Why does John the Baptist turn up in the wilderness, rather than in the temple in Jerusalem?

This is an important question, because it makes us think about where we would expect to meet with God?

You could say that we have been going through a wilderness time ourselves over this year. OK, we have just come out of a second lock-down, but not an awful lot has changed. We  can now meet in a limited way in public, but we can’t meet in each other’s homes, meet up with our friends socially or have the large scale services, meetings or events that we would like to have at this time of year. We know that for many people this time has been one of deprivation in many ways: of company, of work, of worship in public and for some the basic necessities of life like money and food.

All this doesn’t mean that we haven’t been able to meet with God. Many people have found that they have met with God in the most unlikely and unexpected places: in front of their computer screen, at home, with their Bible, on their own or with other family members.  Or perhaps walking in the countryside or in the garden. You don’t have to come into the church building to meet with God.

And this beginning of Mark’s gospel shows how Jesus’ life was going to be lived. Jesus was one who made friends with people on the margins of his society, he mixed with tax collectors, fishermen, sick people, and prostitutes.

You may think that a wilderness time is a bad thing, and for many people it probably has been; but there have been some advantages. Some people have been able to slow down a bit, get off the treadmill and pressure of a busy working life. Some people have been able to spend more time with their families and appreciate the simple things in life. Some people have been able to re-assess their priorities and have turned to God and found more meaning and purpose in life.

John called the people to make themselves ready to meet the One who was coming after him. During this season of Advent, how may we be preparing ourselves to meet with Christ, not only at Christmas, but when he comes again, in all his glory? I hope we may be able to hold on to at least some of the wilderness that we have experienced, and realise how much this period may have refreshed our souls and helped us to appreciate what we may have taken for granted before.

With every blessing for a holy Advent.

Revd Rebecca Harris