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Second Sunday of Advent (C)


"All mankind shall see the salvation of God."


The Word This Week


Again we hear about the coming 'Day of Christ', and meet the character of John the Baptist. Just as once before he "prepared the way"? for the coming of Christ, so today he does the same for us. Our hearts should be open to his voice, as he calls us to repentance, and asks us to make the way straight for the coming of our Lord. The imagery of this Sunday is particularly rich: the dominant image is of a vast population moving together - the return from exile in the first reading, the going and coming of the sowers in the psalm, the community of the Church preparing together in Paul's letter. We prepare for the coming of the Lord as His people - a community who cooperate to make the "processional way" of the Holy One - flattening the hills of opposition and ridicule, filling in the valleys of doubt and despair, so that "all mankind shall see the salvation of God."

Notes for Readers


First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9.

This marvellous, exultant hymn paints a glorious picture of a homecoming: the people of Israel coming home from their exile. It addresses the deserted city of Jerusalem, as if she is a mourning mother who has lost her children: the reading says "Get up - look! Here they come!" Picture a woman leaping up from her tears to peer through the windows - and imagine the joy when she sees her children marching towards her This is the tone you must capture in this reading. It is in three parts: first, the exhortation to Jerusalem to take off the mourning clothes and put on jubilant vestments. Then ("Arise, Jerusalem...") the invitation to see the homecoming - which is surely the most powerful part of the reading. Then ("Though they left you... ") is the description of the journey, especially highlighting the role of God, who brings them back. In your mind, highlight all the joyful words in this reading - really tell this story.


Second Reading: Philippians 1:3-6. 8-11.

Paul here encourages the Philippians not to give up in their preparations for the "Day of Christ", which offers perfect goodness and glory. As usual with Saint Paul (or his translator) the sentences are quite difficult to read with meaning - watch especially the sentence beginning "My prayer is that your love..." It's only by a careful use of pauses that this will come across to your listeners as anything sensible. Don't be afraid to use the word "you" in these readings. Paul's letters were written to be read out loud to a congregation gathered for worship, and so the "you" is quite deliberate. You are to be the vehicle of Paul's words, the messenger, delivering them to your Church today, just as someone first delivered them some 1,940 years ago. As an exercise, try reading this to a friend, using these words as your words - this will help you to get the pauses and emphasis right.