With the third Sunday of Advent we add Mary's voice to the litany of stories in our season of anticipation and expectation.
In fact, "expecting" takes on a whole new meaning this Sunday with Mary's story. After all, she is the one who is "expecting" (literally) with the Christ child.
It makes her song of joy (known as the Magnificat) all that more remarkable, and even stronger testimony of faith.
Luke 1:46-55 Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
You are in for a pleasant surprise when you step into the Sanctuary this Sunday!
Thanks to our wonderful Hanging of the Greens Crew the Sanctuary (as well as other spots all over the church campus) have been thoroughly transformed for the Advent and Christmas Season here in the life of the church.
Honestly, I can’t thank the Hanging of the Greens Crew enough for their hard work. Last Sunday we had 30+ people stick around after Worship and Fellowship Hour. They made quick work of all the projects and have truly turned our sanctuary into something special.
We did things a little bit differently this year, and I dare say that it really worked. Usually we do all of our decorating on the Saturday before the First Sunday in Advent, but this year the Worship Team decided that we would help folks embody the spirit of anticipation and preparation that mark the Season of Advent. So we purposefully stripped the sanctuary bare (did you notice that we didn’t have any cloths on the pulpit or lectern and that I wasn't wearing a stole last week?) so that the explosion of colors, wreaths, lights, and flowers really would be a physical transformation emblematic of the spiritual transformation we are undergoing.
An extra word of thanks to Dorothy and Carrie (our Worship Team Co-Chairs) for getting everything to ready, to our “behind the scenes workers” who came in midweek to get out all the right boxes, and to Don and Kay for coming early to set up the Fellowship Hall.
This week in worship we will celebrate The Second Sunday of Advent, which is the Sunday of Peace.
Our assigned scripture readings this week are interesting pair.
Isaiah 11:1-10 makes perfect sense. This is the prophet's foretelling of the Peaceful Kingdom where the wolf will lay down with the lamb, the lion will eat straw like the ox, and a little child shall lead us. It contains the promise that there will be no more war or fighting and that our lives will be defined by righteousness and knowledge of the Lord. For the Sunday of Peace there couldn't be a better text to guide us.
Our second text is a bit trickier of a fit. But I suppose that was always the case with John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:1-12 introduces us to John the Baptist. Throughout the Season of Advent we are introduced to these important characters who helped set the stage for the mission and ministry of Jesus. That is certainly John the Baptist's role. While he might not have the most peace-filled tactics for sharing the message (calling people a "brood of vipers" and warning of an "unquenchable fire"), sometimes you have to mix things up so that they can be made ready for the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 11:1-10 The Peaceful Kingdom
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The 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.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They 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.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Matthew 3:1-12 The Proclamation of John the Baptist
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’