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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
Second Sunday of Advent
… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
Peace on each one who comes in need;
Peace on each one who comes in joy.
Peace on each one who offers prayers;
Peace on each one who offers song.
Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,
Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.
Come, O come Emmanuel,
you are the way, the truth and the life;
Come, living Savior
come to your world which waits for you.
Hear this prayer for your love’s sake.
The Gospel Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler 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.'”
Poem: “Isaiah 40:3-5”
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
John the Baptist lives in the popular imagination as a wild and wooly outsider who eats bugs and dresses in skins. But when John appears in Luke’s gospel, the writer invites us to focus on his mission, not his person. In contrast to the Emperor Tiberius and his underlings, Pontius Pilate and Herod and the other “rulers of this world,” all firmly fixed in the territories where they have been placed by imperial power, John the Baptist “appears” in the wilderness, the place of revelation. He proclaims a change that will turn the world upside down. The change John announces is the repentance that leads to forgiveness – a change of heart that restores our relationship with the Holy.
John, like Jesus, grounds this renewal and reconciliation in the promise of the prophets. The words of the prophet Isaiah – impossible for many of us to hear now without Handel’s music sounding in the background – offer us a vision of change that encompasses all of nature. Our relationship to the natural world is different from that of our ancestors in faith, and we may have a hard time celebrating the flattening of mountains and the filling in of valleys. But if we move beyond the details to contemplate the wonder of nature responding to the word of God, perhaps we can see these words in a new light.
Questions for Reflection
“Repentance” is a difficult word for many of us to wrap our minds around. “Turning around” and “change of mind” or “change of heart” are ways of understanding repentance that may be more congenial for us. When have you experienced a change of heart that restored a relationship, with another person or with God?
What memories or associations do you have with the words of Isaiah, so familiar to many of us from Handel’s Messiah?
We bring before God someone whom we have met or remembered today
We bring to God someone who is hurting tonight and needs our prayer
We bring to God a troubled situation in our world
We bring to God, silently, someone whom we find hard to forgive or trust
We bring ourselves to God that we might grow in generosity of spirit, clarity of mind, and warmth of affection
We offer our thanks to God for the blessings in our lives
We name before God those who have died.
Gracious God, you hear all our prayers: those we speak aloud, those we hold in our hearts, and those prayers for which we have no words. Hear the prayers of your people, and grant them as may be best for us, for the sake of your holy name. Amen.
Accept our thanks for all you have done, O God. Our hands were empty, and you filled them.
May Christ’s holy, healing, enabling Spirit be with us every step of the way, and be our guide as our road changes and turns, and the blessing of God our Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be among us now and remain with us forever. Amen.
Poem and Reflection offered by: Rev’d Elizabeth Randall