Materials for Worship on the Second Sunday in Advent

Nerys writes: Today we light the candle of peace and listen to the words of God’s messengers as they call on us to prepare a way for the Christ who is here and still to come.

Gracious God, you prepare a way in the wilderness,
a table for our sustenance,
good things for our journeying.
You call us to prepare a way in our hearts.
Meet us in this place,
speak to us through the words and the silence,
touch us with your healing love
that we may share your peace
in and though Jesus, the child who is to come.

In our first reading today, Malachi 3.1-4, we hear the voice of the prophet Malachi, the author of the last book of the Old Testament and the most mysterious of all the prophets. We know nothing about him for certain. Even the name given to him which means ‘my messenger’ in Hebrew, was probably not a proper name. He must have been writing at a particular moment for a particular audience, but we can’t now easily tell when that time was. Luke, however, in his introduction to the words of John the Baptist, Luke 3.1-6, makes a point of fixing the last of the prophets in a particular context with his detailed account of exactly when and where he appears. John is a prophet with a difference and yet, as the quotation from his predecessor, Isaiah indicates, he is the last of a long line of messengers sent by God to shake up his people and prepare them for the coming of his Word.

Jane Williams in her commentary on these passages points out that in Malachi’s time and in the time of John the Baptist, the people have made themselves unable to recognise God, because they are trying to make him meet their standards rather than trying themselves to meet his. Malachi, clearly writing at a time of discontent and disappointment in Judah, voices the people’s scornful question, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ The response is that a messenger will be sent who will draw them back to their covenant relationship with God. They are to be purified and refined by fire until they recognise God’s justice again. Luke presents John as that messenger, and Jesus as the coming King. Neither John’s ministry of repentance for the forgiveness of sins nor Jesus’ life, marked with mercy and compassion, correspond to the expectations of the prophets. Instead, they have caused what the prophets said to be read with new eyes. The Lord has come and continues to be at work in and through us, his followers, to bring in his kingdom of justice and of peace.

As you prepare to pray, I invite you to read or to sing a new Advent hymn by Pat Bennett which calls us to watch out for and proclaim the coming of Christ. (The tune is ‘Little Conrad’ which we use for ‘Hills of the North rejoice’.)

Watch – though the length of night
makes courage fade and fail:
God has sent out his Word –
darkness will not prevail!
As softening sky announces dawn
Emmanuel comes – hope is reborn.

Watch – though the bleak of day
leaves spirit bruised and numb:
God has sent out his Word –
healing and peace will come!
as steadfast hearts hold on through pain
Emmanuel come – joy flows again.

Watch – though the winter’s chill
binds all with barren cold:
God has sent out his Word –
death cannot keep it hold!
as frozen earth turns quick and green
Emmanuel comes – new life is seen.

Lift up the Advent cry,
shout for the world to hear:
‘God has sent out his Word –
hope, joy and life are near!’
Those watching will not wait in vain –
Emmanuel comes to bring God’s reign!

Today at the end of our Whole Church Service, we will be taking the light of peace from our Advent candle out of the church and into our homes, our community and the wider world. Please join us as we pray this week for the light of God’s peace to shine amidst the darkness.