Advent 3: People of Peace

While the second Sunday of Advent calls us to be people who who make straight that which is crooked and who set an example of an alternative way of life, this week’s lectionary readings focus on peace (from inner turmoil and anxiety, as well as within our community living) as the pinnacle of kingdom-life:

  • Zephaniah 3:14-20 paints an almost contradictory picture of our Mighty-To-Save-God who quiets us with love, who calms our fears, and gathers together those who have been scattered, fragmented. Likewise, in becoming people of peace there is a need to hold together strength with gentleness, justice with compassion.
  • Isaiah 12:2-6 is a joyous expression of our safety and security as we draw from the endless well of God’s salvation.
  • Philippians 4:4-7 reminds us to bring our anxieties and cares about anything and everything to God in prayer that the peace of God may guard our hearts and minds from that which would lead as astray from real life and abiding joy.
  • Luke 3:7-18 continues the story of John the Baptist as he preaches the need for repentance into the specific context of people, righting relationships and bringing about the restoration of the image of authentic community. From those who have much, he asks mercy for those who have little. From those handling money, he asks for honesty and justice. From those who wield power over others, he asks for integrity and contentment with what they have. From all who repent of how they have been living, he asks that they produce fruit as evidence of their sincerity and transformation.

Call to worship (based on the Isaiah reading):
God, You are our strength and our salvation:
We will trust in You and not be afraid.
We will dwell with You beside quiet waters:
We will draw with joy from the wells of Your salvation.
There will be in our hearts a glad song:
We will tell the whole world of the glorious things You have done.
So raise the roof and shout aloud:
Our Great and Glorious God is among us.

Prayer of praise and pardon (based on the readings from Zephaniah and Philippians):
Lord, we rejoice in You:
our Strength,
our Song,
our Salvation,
for You alone are faithful,
You alone will never let us down.

Though, at times, we are afraid that You have abandoned us,
Though, at times, we tremble at the evil and the wickedness within the world,
Though, at times, we worry about those who wield power over us,
we will never give up on the peace and the hopefulness
that comes with Your presence in our midst –
a mighty warrior bringing victory,
creating calm and quiet with Your love,
removing our burdens and care-fullness,
restoring songs of gratitude and joy.

For You deal with all that oppresses us;
You rescue the lame and the weary;
You gather up those who feel fragmented, broken and lost.
You change our shame into glory;
You restore our fortune and full life;
You bring us back home into the shelter of Your love. 

Forgive us, O Lord,
for when we have allowed anxiety to silence our praises
and fear to make our hands fall in inaction and despair.

*a moment of silent confession can be offered*

Don’t be anxious about anything
but bring your petitions and your praises to God in prayer
and Christ will displace the sense of worry at the centre of your life
with his enduring peace.

So may the peace of the Lord be with you:
and also with you.

*the peace is shared*

The Benediction (based loosely on the Gospel reading):
The coming of Christ turns the world upside down:
despair into hopefulness,
sorrow into singing,
fear into peace.
Come into our lives, Lord Jesus,
that our honesty, integrity, justice and mercy

may proclaim Your goodness
more powerfully than our lips and upraised arms do.
Amen.

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