The Second Sunday of Advent — 10 December 2023

While you are waiting for these things,
strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish. (2 Peter 3.14)

Cristofano Allori (1577–1621) John the Baptist in the desert, Palatine Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13

1 O Lord, you were gracious to your land:
   you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people:
   and covered all their sin.
8 I will hear what the Lord God will speak:
   for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful ones, whose hearts are turned to him.
9 Truly his salvation is near to those that fear him:
   and his glory shall dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth are met together:
   righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
11 Truth shall flourish out of the earth:
   and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 The Lord will also give us all that is good:
   and our land shall yield its plenty.
13 For righteousness shall go before him:
   and tread the path before his feet.

2 Peter 3:8-15

But 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. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish;and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him,

Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘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” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Advent Twist, by James A. Tweedie.

“Behold, I will send my messenger,
and he shall prepare the way before me:
and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple
. . . But who may abide the day of his coming?
and who shall stand when he appeareth?
for he is like a refiner’s fire
. . .” Malachi 3:1-2.

Can you hear him?
God is coming!
Great and terrible the day!

Don’t go near him!
Sin’s succumbing,
Death’s the price we have to pay.

Judgement, wrath, at
his appearing,
Purgative refiner’s fire.

We, like sheep that
God is shearing,
Burned upon an altar pyre.

Trumpets calling,
Nations shaking,
Fallout from God’s broken law.

Stars are falling,
Earth is quaking,
Be prepared for shock and awe.

Wrath expected,
But instead of
Doom we see what God’s plans are.

In the dead of
Night there shines a natal star.

Can you hear him?
God is coming,
As a child born in a stall.

Do not fear him,
Heaven’s humming
Hymns of “Peace, goodwill to all.”

Divine starkness,
Succor for our heart’s caprice.

God’s Salvation.
Light in darkness;
Christ is born, the Prince of Peace.

Collect from the Book of Common Prayer 1662 for the Second Sunday of Advent.

Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

"John the Baptist". The Christian Troubadours. Nashville, 2007.

Introit for the Second Sunday of Advent from the Graduale Parvum of the John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music. Chant by Rev Guy Nicholls of The Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.