Advent 3: Sunday, December 14

Readings: Psalm 126   /  1 Thessalonians 5:16-24   / John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent 3: In this third week of Advent our minds turn to joy. There is no greater joy than an authentic, personal, conversation relationship with God. He created us for, and desires such a relationship with us. Our Gospel reading this week says that John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus by “making straight the paths for the Lord”. Sabbath rest has that effect on the human soul—it prepares a way for the Lord to be especially present to us.

But Brueggemann rightly holds before us the ever-present pressure and compulsion to produce more, perform better and consume more. This coercion surrounds our lives, kills our joy and makes the paths in our hearts crooked.

Pharaoh is dead; Jesus defeated “the powers”. Why then are we still so often imprisoned? Who or what is your equivalent of Pharaoh?

Brueggemann writes: “People who keep Sabbath live all seven days differently.” What do you think he means—what vision does he mean to offer?

Brueggemann writes: “Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms.” Can you envision how daily and weekly pauses that are rooted in a growing trust of God might transform your whole person? 

Advent Readings: Sunday, December 7

Readings: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8

Advent 2: In week two of Advent we set our attention on peace. Our Gospel reading this week offers the peace implied in a life that is “full of the Holy Spirit”. But peace is hard to grasp and even harder to maintain in our workaholic, anxious and fear-driven world. Brueggemann contrasts the “endlessly anxious presence of Pharaoh” and Yahweh who “setting limits on production by a weekly pause in work, nullifies Pharaoh’s entire system of anxious production.”

The practice of Sabbath rest does not produce anything—but it “creates an environment of security and respect and dignity that redefines the human project…” This is the real deal: “God is not Pharaoh. God does not keep jacking up production schedules. To the contrary, God rests, confident, serene, at peace.”

  • As an analogy for the modern workplace, references to work under Pharaoh might seem extreme. How would you characterize the over amount of work and pace of your life? If it is not as you want it, and if there is no Pharaoh in your life, what is driving you?
  • What is at the center of your life: the disquiet of restlessness or the peace of restfulness? Why? Talk to God about the things you recognize about yourself and your life.

Ask God for creative ways to experience change or to help you make life-giving choices for rest and refreshment.

  • Have you ever thought about fullness of the Spirit as a source of peace (See Gal. 5:22)? Ask God now to fill you with his Spirit, his peace!