Two millenia ago, many people who were longing for peace came to the Jordan River to hear John the Baptist. The longing for peace continues at the Jordan, even as many pray for the peace of Jerusalem, of Syria, of Ukraine, of our home towns and cities.
The lectionary texts for second Advent feature John the Baptist. This photo of the Jordan River was taken a few years ago by Doug Klassen, part of the 2014 Advent writing team. The experience of touring Israel and Palestine was still strongly with him as the team developed the worship materials that are now available in Menno Media’s Leader magazine. Through his stories, the deep hopes and anguish of that corner of the world impacted the whole group. Here is the responsive prayer, adapted from Isaiah 40, that emerged out of that setting.
Leader: Come, let us worship in faith the God who is here and desires our worship [pause] Redeeming God, work in our hearts, so that we, your people, would share in your peace.
All: Oh, that you would reveal your peace to us, O Lord
Leader: The paths of our world are not straight; the ditches are littered with our friends.
People: Still, we listen for the voice in the wilderness, “Prepare a way for the Lord.”
Leader: Behold, our God is coming.
People: God speaks peace into our noisy world.
All: “Comfort, comfort, my people,” says our God.
Confession [Turn off lights and observe a minute of silence]
Leader: Today, in this safe but dark and holy place, we become aware of your presence, God. We look inward at wrongs we have done against others in our family, our neighbourhood, our workplaces, and our churches. Sometimes we were paying back, sometimes just being mean, and sometimes we didn’t realize the wrong we were doing.
People: We desire John’s baptism of repentance, confessing our sins.
Leader: We ask you, Lord, to take our sin, including our inward secrets, and make us new.
People: Forgive us our trespasses.
All: Restore our peace, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
[Observe a minute of silence. Sing the words, “Come, forgive me, Lord, come forgive me, o Lord” to the tune of “Come! Walk in the Light.” Turn on lights.]
Leader: God speaks peace to us his people. In peace, we proclaim God’s comfort to each other; reassuring one another of God’s forgiveness.
All: God is patient with us; God walks with us, helps us deal with the sin that bogs us down and gives us the gift of peace.
May you know this to be so in this Advent season.