Advent 2 – The Gift

Readings for this week November 27 – December 1
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – The Only One Who Knows, But He Cannot Speak

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 1:5-25

For several hundred years heaven had been silent. No words from on high, no great prophets striding across the countryside as in days of old, no signs and wonders for the people from their God. Just silence. The world still needed putting to rights, sin and death and hatred still roamed the earth. But from heaven, nothing, not like before. Such a long silence would have perplexed many a God-fearing Israelite. Zechariah may well have been one such Israelite, although his disbelieving reaction to Gabriel’s announcement suggests either total unconcern with whatever God may (eventually) decide to do, or a dried up, dusty faith so long out of use that he simply has no strength left to believe God was about to act.

A great mystery had been unveiled to Zechariah; yet he had been so gobsmacked (Godsmacked?) by what had happened that he had refused to believe it. What do you think Zechariah did and thought for the entire time he was unable to speak? Did he ruminate on the nature of the God who had chosen to reveal himself in this way? Was he thinking about what this new movement of God was going to look like, and what it might mean for the nation? Was he questioning God, seeking God, pouring over the scriptures and searching back through the story he knew so well for any clues about what this startling announcement might mean? Or was he simply overwhelmed with the miracle of his impending fatherhood? Something was going to happen, something wonderful, something anticipated in scripture, and yet in so many other ways, something wholly unanticipated, unexpected, extraordinary. God was about to move.

Questions to Consider
Have you had times of silence? How was this preparation time for you?

Prayer
Father God, help me trust you in times when it seems nothing is happening. May I seek you and find deeper intimacy with you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Sharing the Gift

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 1:39-40

When we speak of Jesus as a gift – as the ultimate gift given to redeem humanity and reconcile us with God and each other – we must remember that even though this wondrous gift has been given to us, we must take this gift to others. We may be the recipients but we are not the only recipients, and part of the task of those of us who openly receive the gift is to pass it on to others, to make them aware of what has been given and to invite them to receive it.

“In the days that followed the Annunciation, Mary sensed that many things were changing. God had called her to the vocation of motherhood—the Motherhood for which all creation longed to see. God was also calling this young woman to leave the comfort zone of her Nazareth home and share the good news with her relative Elizabeth. This was no small thing. It was the first step in her lifelong journey of sharing Jesus Christ with the world.
Just as the apostles hurried to spread the news that the Lord had risen; just as they went into the world to announce the evangelium, the good news of the Gospel; just as the Blessed Mother traveled on her own two feet through the Jordan River Valley and the hills of Judea to share the good news for the sheer joy of it all before anyone else knew what was happening; we must take up the call to share this Lord with another person.”
Denise Bossert, www.patheos.com

Question to Consider
How will you share the gift of Jesus this Christmas?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the gift of your son, and thank you that you give gifts not based on the merit or worthiness of the recipients, but based on the worthiness of the gift and the need of your creation. May we give as generously and as widely as you have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Gift of Joy

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 1:41-45

Does Elizabeth know about Mary’s impending motherhood? Does she know about the circumstances surrounding this young woman’s pregnancy? As Luke presents the story, it would seem not. The angel only speaks to Elizabeth of her own son, and so Elizabeth is not mentioned as knowing anything about Mary’s pregnancy until Mary turns up on her doorstep; and so therefore also nothing about the story behind it, the angel’s visit, or the momentous promises made to Mary about who her son is and what he will accomplish for his people. But that doesn’t seem to matter. The moment Mary enters her house, we are told the baby jumps in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth immediately, spontaneously, unguardedly launches into a paean to the mother of the unborn king.

In Elizabeth’s spontaneous praise we see an impulsive expression of the joy that Mary’s news has given Elizabeth. Her own pregnancy would have been a source of great happiness to her, and to Zechariah, especially after such a long time, when her age may have resigned her to the fact that children had passed her by. Mary’s pregnancy is a further source of celebration and joy, and Elizabeth can’t help but explode with happiness when she sees – when she merely hears – Mary.

The coming of the king is the coming of joy – true, deep, unquenchable joy, a joy that spontaneously expresses itself, that cannot be contained, and that answers our deepest longings and heals our deepest hurts.

Questions to Consider
What brings you joy? How do you bring joy into the lives of others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are a God of joy, a God who delights in us, never more so than when we turn to you as our Creator and Redeemer. Thank you for your love and your joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Hope is on the Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah is old. He has lived a long life, seen and experienced much, some good, some bad. He has, like most Israelites, lived his life inside the story of God’s relationship with Israel; as a priest he has even enacted the rituals of remembrance and celebration that signify this relationship. He knows the story inside out. And he has known for a long time that the story is incomplete, that it seems to be stuck, that the people and the land and the world are not what they should be. Something is wrong – will it ever be put right? God has promised to rescue His people, to make them a mighty nation again, to right wrongs, proclaim justice and bring peace. But will He? And when?

And then Zechariah sees his new born son, and poetry just seems to flood from his lips. The song that he sings is a song that acknowledges the reality of a broken, hurting, waiting world, but that also speaks of the hope and joy that spring from the fact that God is acting at last. There is hope. As dark as the nightmare of exile and separation and oppression seemed to Zechariah, the birth of his son has revealed the coming end of the darkness, and the first distant glow of light dawning on the horizon.

There is hope. There is life. The gift of two little babies – first John and then Jesus – was the gift of hope. God was moving again. It seemed like God had been silent – just as Zechariah had been silent – but now His Word was about to break into the world, bringing hope and life to those who had been wondering if they would ever see either again. They would.

Questions to Consider
What gives you hope? How does having hope change how we live?

Prayer
Loving Father, you give us hope. Help us cling to the hope you offer us in this season, in this world. May we be your people of hope. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – You Are a Gift

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

When we think of gifts, it’s very easy to think only of presents, of something physical that we can wrap up and give to someone. It’s there, it’s tangible, it’s a gift; we give it to someone and it becomes theirs and they take it home with them. Or maybe, because we’re Christian, we think of spiritual gifts, those intangibles we have been given by God to use in service to others. When we read these words of Peter’s it is tempting to think about the gifts we have, that we possess, of whatever type. But we need to understand that we ourselves are a gift. We are a gift both to ourselves and to people around us. We were created to share the kindness, the love and the grace of God with others. We have seen how Mary and Elizabeth were gifts to each other, offering themselves to each other, giving their love and comfort and presence to each other.

There are times in our lives when the simple presence of others, and their giving of unconditional love and acceptance to us, is the greatest gift of all. In good times we celebrate together and encourage each other; in hard times we sit with each other and grieve. We should never underestimate the ways in which we can be a gift – these ways are often in small, seemingly inconsequential moments of friendship. God loves to give and he has given us the gift of ourselves. Realising this, we are able to become who we are meant to be, reflecting the image of God. Often we focus on the gifts themselves, rather than on the way we can use who we are to benefit others and show God’s love. We are gifts designed to share God’s gracious gift with others. You can be a gift for others.

Questions to Consider
How have others been a gift to you? What did you learn about God at these times? How do you see yourself as a gift for others?

Prayer
Loving Lord, help me be more open to seeing myself as a servant of others, and offer more of myself to those around me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)