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Weekly worship: Sunday 10 December

Second Sunday of Advent

A woman and 2 young children sit on the floor wrapped in blankets at a displaced persons camp in South Sudan

The hope of return to a ruined homeland

Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 2:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

In true Baptist style, Isaiah’s first response to crisis is to put the kettle on. ‘Come for tea, come for tea, my people!’ Well, they say the old ones are often the best – but maybe not.

He does, however, offer powerful words of comfort to his people at a time of great distress. Second Isaiah was probably written towards the end of the exile in Babylon. More than two generations had passed since the destruction of Jerusalem and the wholesale exile of community leaders to a ‘strange land’. While they made their home there, they still held on to the hope of return and rebuilding of their ruined homeland.

Today, we as church read this passage through our Christian lenses and see a promise about the coming Messiah Jesus. Their reading would have been different. Their hope is based on God’s promise of a return to the land they once knew and crucially, that God himself would be with them. His presence would guarantee success. After all, he was their God and he would surely tend them as a shepherd tended his flock. This was their sure hope.

Prophetic action

Mark opens his Gospel with a powerful theological insight – the good news of God’s coming is first proceeded by a proclamation. This prophecy is ‘the beginning of the good news’. It is not a prayer for God’s presence, nor merely a promise about some future action; it is a sign that God is at work in the present. The good news about Christ’s coming has already taken its first step.

Prophetic action, therefore, is a key aspect of the church’s response to a world full of injustice. We may lament that our actions are small and insignificant, that the problems are so large that the little we do is but spitting in the wind. But we would be wrong to think this. Quite apart from the real change brought about in people’s lives, the work we do is a sign that God’s new creation is being birthed among us.

Prayer

Lord of comfort, we thank you that our actions for the poor are ushering in your new world. Inspire us daily in all we do. Even as we lament at the state of our world, we rejoice that through Christian Aid’s work, we proclaim the coming kingdom.

There are days when we are weary. The needs overwhelm us. Strengthen us with the sure hope that we partner with you, our well of hope and confidence.

Amen.

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