What's Tony Thinking

Advent II Vespers, Sunday Dec. 10


Great to have so many of you log-in for our first Advent Vespers last Sunday. Thanks. Look forward to seeing those who can make it this coming Sunday, when my meditation is titled “The Comfort of the Gospel.” As joyful as these weeks before and of Christmas can be, they also tend to be emotional minefields. So comfort is needed. I will explore the particular kind of comfort that the gospel is and brings to us this Sunday.

The flow of the service will be essentially the same as the first week. Moments of silence as we gather, lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath (if you have a wreath of your own handy, light your candles as well), reading of Scriptures, meditation, moments of silence following the meditation, a time of prayer, and a closing benediction. After the benediction there will be time us for those who would like to say hello and/ or comment on the meditation.

On the front end, I will welcome you but will have the general mute on. We can save our comments and questions. as well as just saying “hello,” for after the benediction. And I will start on time (or at least try to, at 4:00 PST). Though I will, of course, admit those who log-on a bit late.

I encourage you to read the scripture passages for this Sunday prior to our gathering. You might ask yourself, “what words strike me or speak to me?” Wonder why. If you like, jot down thoughts or questions that occur to you.

Here are a few notes on these readings for Advent II.

As last week, we have another prophecy from Isaiah, this time chapter 40, verses 1 – 11. These verses will sound familiar because so many of them show up in Handel’s Messiah. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 40 marks a huge turn. The time of exile in Babylon is at an end, the people are to be led home by their God. The prophet is  called to speak words of comfort to the discouraged. “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” This will be the principal text for my meditation.

The epistle lesson is II Peter 3: 8 – 15a. I mentioned last week that the season of Advent actually positions us between two Advents, between the once and the future coming of Jesus Christ. The first coming of Jesus Christ, born in manager, and the glorious return of Christ at the consummation of history.

I know “the Second Coming” has been largely ignored by mainline Protestants (leaving a vacuum often filled by speculation and fear-mongering). I see the theme of the Second Coming as saying there is an end to history, and the end will be the fulfillment of God’s will and love fully revealed in Christ. We live toward this horizon of hope. Based on this confidence that God wins, Desmond Tutu often said, “we are prisoners of hope.” Peter addresses how followers of Christ are to live between the times, between Advents.

Each time we celebrate communion we testify to our living between Advents. We say, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Past, present and future —  all three dimensions caught up in those words, all of life held in the presence of the One who is Alpha and Omega.

The gospel reading is Mark 1: 1 – 8, the first of two featuring John the Baptizer. Unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of Mark plunges right into the ministry of Jesus as an adult, heralded by John. That is to say, there are no birth stories, as in Matthew and Luke. No manger. No Mary and Joseph. No animals. No shepherds. Only Hairy John out in the wilderness crying “Repent.” Among the intriguing things about John is that he heralds one whom he does not know. He only knows, as goes the song in West Side Story, “Something’s Coming.”

See you Sunday. To join click on the link under the Advent Vespers announcement, bottom right of this page.


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