Lectionary readings for December 4, 2011:  Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; 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.'”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from [all over] were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mark 1:2-5

This week’s Advent readings are about sin– of all things!–  and confession of sin as the necessary preparation for the coming of Christ.

Sin is not a popular topic these days and when we speak of it all, it is usually in the most euphemistic of terms. And yet, the Advent message is clear: there are obstacles in our lives and in our communities that hinder Christ’s coming—rough spots that need to be smoothed over with understanding, crooked places that need to be straightened out with truth-telling, molehills that have become mountains among us, valleys of misunderstanding and bad behavior that need to be raised up, acknowledged and confessed.

May God give us the grace to name these obstacles as the sins they are.  May Christ give us the courage to make our confession—to him and to each other—so we can find comfort and healing.  And may the Spirit enable us to grow in love so that the glory of the Lord can be revealed among us.

God help us find our confession;
The truth within us which is hidden from our mind;
The beauty or the ugliness we see elsewhere
But never in our ourselves;
The stowaway which has been smuggled
Into the dark side of the heart,
Which puts the heart off balance and causes it pain,
Which tips us in false directions and inclines us to destruction.
The load which is not carried squarely
Because it is carried in ignorance.

God help us find our confession,
Help us across the boundary of our understanding.
Lead us into the darkness that we may find what lies concealed;
That we may confess it towards the light;
That we may carry our truth in the centre of our heart;
That we may carry our cross wisely
And bring harmony into our life and our world.

Michael Leunig, The Prayer Tree (Victoria, Australia: Dove, An Imprint of Harper Collins, 1991).

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2011. Feel free to share this article using the buttons below; please do not reproduce and distribute without permission.

Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center.  A teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (June 2012) and Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.

What do you need to do to prepare the way for Christ’s coming into your own life?
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