Second Sunday of Advent (B)
The Word This Week
Throughout the first three weeks of Advent our focus is very clearly on the Second Coming of the Lord - not so much on the run up to Christmas (until the last week). If we view Advent as a preparation for Christmas these readings will make little sense - and neither will the figure of John the Baptist who appears today: if its about the preparation for Christmas, then John the Baptist, preaching after Jesus was born, is a confusing figure: but his role is to preach to us, as he did of old, and to prepare us for the (second) coming of the Lord. Today we have a very graphic reference to the end of time and the Second Coming in the reading from Saint Peter; it is a frightening picture, and so the first reading offers tender words of comfort to help us understand who is coming, and why we should be ready to meet him.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11.
A long but rewarding reading, full of comfort and hope: the coming of the Lord is a wonderful thing, a cause for rejoicing and gladness. Use the paragraph breaks in the Lectionary to divide the reading. The first paragraph is one of warmth, forgiveness and comfort for the heart of Jerusalem - take your time, and read with gentleness. The second paragraph is about building excitement - until the statement then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. The third paragraph is about the joy of the one who sees the Lord coming, who comes to share the wonderful news with the people of Jerusalem. There should be a great sense of triumph in the words Here is your God - think about what they mean, and how those words alone sum up this reading. Finally there is a calmer section, where we see the picture of the victorious Lord coming with all the gentleness of a shepherd. A great image to end a great reading.
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14.
All the readings today paint pictures for us - and this is a particularly vivid picture! You must be very careful not to go over the top with the description of the elements melting in the heat and so on. The central message in this reading (which can easily be missed with all the pyrotechnics surrounding it) is The Lord... wanting nobody to be lost... The Lord of the First reading, gathering the lambs against his breast, is the same Lord who is being patient with us all. Make sure when reading that this message is brought out. Also remember, as has been said here many times before, when you proclaim a reading like this it is real here and now: so when you say you to the congregation, it is a real address. So the phrase you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait is what the Lord, through Peter and through the reader, is saying to the people sitting in front of you in Church. Dont ignore the wonderful words which sum up the waiting of Advent: What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heaven and the new earth. Allow your tone of voice here to encourage the people to imagine and dream about what that new heaven and earth will be!