06 December 2015

God is always working for restoration and justice in our lives and in our world. In order to open ourselves to this gracious work of God, we need to be aware of the messengers who proclaim God’s coming, we need to be willing to do the tough work of heart preparation in order to be transformed by God, and we need to hear the call of God for us to become, in our turn, messengers – voices – of God’s Reign.

May our worship this week remind us of God’s constant, restorative coming, and may it give us a voice to proclaim the restoration and justice of God in our own corner of the world.

READINGS:
Baruch 5:1-9: A call for God’s people to cease their mourning and receive the dignity, justice and glory that God offers. God will ensure that God’s people are brought back together, and that they are lead by the light of God’s glory.
OR Malachi 3:1-4: God is sending God’s messenger to prepare for God’s coming, and God’s people and God’s priests will be refined and made pure.

Luke 1:68-79: Zechariah’s song of thanksgiving for God’s rescue of Israel, and his proclamation of his son, John, as the messenger who will prepare the way for God’s coming.

Philippians 1:3-11: Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the Philippians, his desire for them to grow in love and purity, and his assurance that Christ will complete the work begun in them.

Luke 3:1-6: John travels throughout the region of the Jordan River calling people to repentance and baptising them as a sign of their willingness to change, and of God’s forgiveness. In doing this John fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy of the voice in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
This week the focus is on prophecies of God’s coming, God’s restoration, and God’s justice and peace. Yet, in each reading there is a call to prepare to receive the promise in some way. In Baruch, the people are called to end their mourning and be ready to receive God’s restoration and glory. In Malachi, there is the purifying work that will happen when God’s messenger comes, and the people are to seek for, and take delight in, the coming one. In Zechariah’s song, John is to be the one who prepares God’s people for the coming salvation, and to lead them into forgiveness, which implies that they will respond to John’s message and follow him into the restoration he promises. In Paul’s prayer for the Philippians he expresses his desire for them to grow in love and wisdom, and to trust that God will complete the work that God has begun in them. Finally, the Gospel narrative of John’s coming speaks of John’s call to the people to repent and be baptised in preparation for the coming one. The message this week, then, is this: God is always coming, always available to God’s people, and always working for restoration. But, receiving God’s coming takes preparation, and so God sends a messenger to do this work, to prepare God’s people for God’s coming. The challenge is for us to embrace the work of preparation for ourselves – opening ourselves to God’s restoring, cleansing and disturbing work, and making our hearts ready for us to become, in turn, messengers of God’s restorative justice and mercy to the world.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
In a world where measurement happens on a quarterly basis, effective preparation is often sacrificed on the altar of expediency and immediacy. In areas from economics to climate change, poverty, AIDS and conflict we too easily seek “quick fix” solutions that either fail to address the massive systemic issues that really need to be changed, or that work in the short term, but cause other problems in the long term. It is hard to take a long view, to make sure that we get all the information we need, and to do the slow, consistent work of transformation, especially when things so often seem to get worse before they get better. It is hard to prepare carefully and thoroughly when we are constantly bombarded with information, opinions, and alternatives. It is tough to commit to long term solutions when we are suffering and want relief now. But, our need for immediate gratification does not help us or our planet. We need time to understand the systems we have created and to learn how to change them. And then, we need time to implement the changes. In this work of preparation, God’s people are called to be both the ones who are being prepared, and the ones who call others to preparedness. We are to be committed to work for God’s justice, but also recognise that this will take time, wisdom, and trust that God, who begins the work in us and our world, is the only one who can really bring it to completion.

Local Application:
How much of the day do we spend in reaction? So much pain and injustice is caused simply because we react in fear, anger, self-protection or simply impatience. However, if we can develop a prepared heart, we can more easily slow down, reflect and then act with wisdom and grace. Preparation – particularly of the heart – is restorative. It’s a proactive stance that frees us from our selves and our destructive or unhelpful patterns of behaviour and moves us into a life that more easily considers, serves and brings restoration to others. This work of heart preparation includes the constant discipline of repentance, the constant awareness of God’s forgiveness and transforming work, the patience to allow God’s work to unfold in a time frame that ensures thorough healing and restoration, and the openness to be a voice that helps others to see God’s work. In a world of suffering and conflict, it can be difficult to remember and cling to God’s promises of justice and restoration. This is why the work of preparation, both individually and collectively, is such an important and constant spiritual practice. Only when we make listening and watching for God’s messengers a constant discipline can we perceive what God is doing and cooperate with the Reign of God in our lives.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
New Days
Messengers
Preparing The Way

Hymns:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Love Divine All Loves Excelling
Hail To The Lord’s Anointed
Messenger
Clear The Path
Hark The Glad Sound!
God With Us (Link to YouTube video)
God Of This City (Link to YouTube video)
God Will Make A Way (Link to YouTube video)
Hear Our Praises (Link to YouTube video)
I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for Advent & Christmas

Video
:
Recapturing Advent
John The Baptist
A Voice In The Wilderness

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