Bible Study

Bible Study: Advent 2 (B) – 2011

December 04, 2011

Isaiah 40:1-11

The chapel of the Good Shepherd here at General Theological Seminary has a really sweet-looking Jesus with a lamb in his arms behind the altar. He is gazing into its little lamby face with gentle love. On the outside of the chapel, however, is another image of Jesus the Good Shepherd; in that one he is down on his knees pulling a lamb out of thorns. As much as I want to be that lamb safely in the arms of Jesus, I have felt so much more often like the lamb in the thorns. The good news of Isaiah that John the Baptist gets to “shout from the mountains” is that Jesus is coming and will get down on his knees and reach into the thorny places and pull us out.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

  • Do you think that having mercy and being right are somehow at odds with each other?
  • Is it “realistic” to offer mercy?
  • What kind of world has mercy as an equal value with justice?

2 Peter 3:8-15a

“Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

When my son was a very small baby, people would tell us “Oh, savor these times, they go so quickly,” and I would scream silently in my head while trying really hard to look like a good mom. Because the days would drag by, and sometimes an afternoon could last a lifetime. Now my son is seven and I am starting to understand. Not just with my intellect, which can easily grasp that children are precious and their development can be astoundingly fast, but to really get it in my bones that these days will never come again. That his whole life up until now fits in one hand of my memory.

This is how life is with God. Our little grain-of-sand lives are infinitely precious to the one who spoke time into being. …. Beloved, do not forget this.

Mark 1:1-8

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3).

Advent is a time of good tidings, but sometimes what God considers good news and what we consider good news can seem very different. The good news of God will change us and challenge us, and we are called to join in with the work of lifting our voices.

  • Where in the world most needs to hear “good tidings”?
  • What is holding you back from lifting your voice with strength?
  • Are we ready to hear that God is coming? Are we able to imagine an in-breaking of love that can transform the world?

I think sometimes we look forward to Christmas as a time when everything will be warm and safe, but the incarnation is as wild and terrifying as our locust-eating friend John the Baptist.

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Christopher Sikkema


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