Third Sunday of Advent (December 14, 2008)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 64:1-4, 8-11; Ps. 126; I Thess. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
This week we visited a number of MCC Jordan partners who are engaged with peacebuilding projects, hosted a delegation from Washington, D.C., and enjoyed a Christmas party with the MCC Jordan staff.
Each year, MCC sends several Jordanians to the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University. On Sunday, we met with several alumni of that program to talk about how they are using that training in their current jobs. On Monday, staff from the Middle East Council of Churches described the outcomes of a young-adult conference between Western and Eastern youth. On Tuesday, we talked with church leaders in Anjera and Wahadneh about plans to increase positive interactions between Muslims and Christians.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we set up appointments for members of Churches for Middle East Peace – a coalition of 22 church groups who do advocacy in Washington, D.C. – to talk with Jordanian leaders about Jordan’s role in the Middle East peace process. Consistently, the Jordanian hosts emphasized a more regional approach for peacebuilding, the importance of engaging groups like Hamas in the process, and the necessity of developing civil society actors.
On Friday evening, we hosted the MCC Jordan staff for our annual Christmas dinner. It was a delightful time of sharing food, stories and songs. We are grateful for our colleagues.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about transformation.
The prophet Isaiah describes remarkable changes that are on the way. Good news will come to the oppressed (Is. 61:1c); the wounds of the brokenhearted will be bound up (v.1d); liberty will be come to the captives and release to the prisoners (v.1e); comfort will come to all who mourn (v. 2b); there will be garlands instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of faint spirits (v.3); ancient ruins will be rebuilt and ruined cities repaired (v.4); God’s people will receive recompense and will be well-known among the nations as a people whom God has blessed (vv.8-9). Finally, God “will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations”(v.11c).
The psalmist writes of fortunes that are restored (Ps. 126:1,4); mouths that are filled with laughter and joy (v.2); and tears and weeping that are transformed into shouts of joy (vv. 5-6).
In the Epistle reading, Paul gives pithy and practical advice to the church at Thessalonica: Rejoice always (I Thess. 5:16), pray without ceasing (v.17), give thanks in all circumstances (v.18), do not quench the Spirit (v.19), do not despise the words of the prophets (v.20), test everything (v. 21a), hold fast to what is good (v.21b), and abstain from every form of evil (v. 22). This kind of transformation is possible because the God who calls us is faithful to set us apart and to keep our spirits, souls and bodies sound and blameless (vv. 23-24).
In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist gave testimony to God’s transforming light that was about to come (John 1:6-8). John was clear that he, himself, was not this light. But he was the one whom God had called to prepare the way for the light of Christ that was about to shine forth in the world.
In this season of Advent, may our world experience the kind of transformation spoken of in these ancient and beautiful Scriptures.