It is Advent week 2 and our theme is Dare to imagine God’s embrace!  God calls us to a life of peace, of shalom, a life of wholeness. 
Here are the scriptures for you to consider this week…

Malachi 3:1-4          New Revised Standard Version
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Luke 1:68-79           New Revised Standard Version
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior[a] for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71     that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
    to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
    before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon[b] us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Philippians 1:3-11              New Revised Standard Version
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,[a] for all of you share in God’s grace[b] with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6                New Revised Standard Version
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler[a] of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[b] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler[c] of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Jesus comes to restore creation to its proper beauty and balance, but that same beautiful vision meets resistance from the powers of the world that thrive on oppression, division, fear, and chaos.
Reconciliation cannot happen unless we admit to and turn from all that we have done to harm our relationships with the earth, with each other, and with God. Mercy forgives, love heals, but in order to heal love also has to reveal the places where there is woundedness and brokenness.

It is this kind of preparation that Advent calls us to make. Starting inside of ourselves. Making what is crooked straight, setting what is turbulent at peace, and turn our focus so that it rests outside ourselves.
Changing our emphasis from doing Christianity to following the ways of Jesus.   That’s what we’re preparing for.  Peace will be visible to us, because it is coming in the form of a little, helpless baby, born in the middle of nowhere to parents who are nobodies. A little baby who shows us the spark of God inside us all, grounded in love, in promises made and kept, in love, peace, integrity and wholeness, this is what we understand shalom to be. 

Let’s talk about it on Sunday. 

Here is a video for the younger ones about John, who prepared the way for Jesus.

Attachments areaPreview YouTube video God’s Story: John the BaptistGod’s Story: John the Baptist