Another View on Another Advent

The expectation of both the birth of the Christ child, and the second coming of the Messiah echo through the liturgical year.  Advent is ever present in the local news as televised German news broadcasts have Advent wreaths burning just off to the sides of the newscasters desks.

While Advent brings the new liturgical year there are somethings that remain constant.  I’m glad to say that things are beginning to repeat themselves and I don’t feel like I am climbing such a steep learning curve.

The learning curve isn’t declining for all people however.  My final (I hope) language and integration class was spent trying to moderate the religious freedoms represented in Germany.  Being the only person that has had opportunity to read a lot of different scriptures from a variety of faiths it made some sense that I would navigate the final discussion on faith and religion.  With even a wide variety of Christian denominations and traditions being represented, along with followers of Islam, Buddhism and an Atheist the discussion was curious as people seemed to discover a new curiosity.

The first Sunday in Advent had Bishop Robert Innes presiding over the Eucharist and Confirming three of the youth in the Anglican Church in Freiburg.  Bishop Robert was able to speak about confirmation as a commitment.  This commitment is certainly true, and is contrary to many feeling that confirmation as a ‘graduation’ for many youth to now leave the life of church community.

While we continue to wait with pregnant expectation this Advent, I also hope that we might rediscover the curiosity of those who are witnessing the freedom of religion in a new country.  As I write, the church is preparing a two day Advent Prayer Path where several members of the church have creatively made prayer stations that will certainly awaken our Advent curiosity and help us not to hear an ever fainter echo of Advent, rather a resounding renewal of what it means to see Advent with renewed passion and commitment.

The Bible and the World

As I prepare for entry into my new position I’ve learned that in the busy calendar scheduling that there has been a double booking between a Bible Study and a meeting to discuss the churches involvement with the refugees in Freiburg. We have chosen to meet about the refugees and to have the Bible study in two weeks. However, I wonder if both could be possible, just in a different format. Perhaps this is a chance read scripture into the current situation, a “both / and” opportunity. While the meeting happens maybe others might look at what is here as a form of Bible study.

The reading for the Sunday coming are:

Philippians 1. 3-11 and Luke 3. 1-6

I would like to look first at the gospel reading.  Keep in mind that we read this in Advent which is a season of expectation. We experience two paths of expectation, one being the birth of Jesus; the other being the return of Christ.  I suggest reading the passage a few times to yourself and finding something that sticks out either because it interests you, or it is something that really challenges your faith.  Also, as background it is important to look at what takes place before and after this short reading, as this helps set things in context.

You might want to look at particular names, such as those who are listed in the first couple verses. What do you know about them? Who are they, and what roles did they have in society?

How about John? If you picture in your mind the passage playing out like a movie, where would you be? What would you experience? When John speaks of “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” what does this mean for you? How do you and your family prepare for Christmas? Is this preparation a preparation for Jesus, or is it something else all together?

In verse 6, what do you think it means to “see salvation”? What does that look like, or how do you experience it?

Remember that Bible study is not purely academic, but that it is part of our growing in relationship with Jesus; therefore, verse 10 has an excellent question for all of us when the crowd asks, “then what should we do?”  Ask yourself this, but don’t stay there, why not ask this question with your family, or your church community? What should we do to prepare for the Lord? Reflect on your day, and pray that what you have read and studied might be to God’s use, and that in your study you would be moved closer in relationship to Jesus.

If you would like to go further and look at the reading from the Epistle the questions below might be a jumping off point for more discussion and thought.

Paul is thankful in this first part of the letter, where do you find it easy to foster a thankful spirit in your life? Where is it a challenge to be thankful? Paul also offers prayer to those for whom he writes.  How is this short prayer useful in your own life? Do you pray like this, or is do you pray in a different way? What is unique about this prayer from Paul? What does he mention, and what does he omit? Equally, what do you mention, and what do you omit in your own prayers?

Now after having some time to look at both of these passages from the Bible, how do you think the readings might shape your interactions with others? Where is the church called to ministry in Freiburg especially in the light of the refugee meeting? How will we prepare and pray during these situations?