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Youth Ministry Resources - 2nd Sunday in Advent

Year B: Mark 1:1-8 - Make straight the paths of the Lord - 2nd Sunday of Advent

The evangelist Mark wrote the shortest and most direct gospel, so when we hear Mark's words we are aware of his priority for the essence of the Good News to be presented to his community. Many ancient sources describe Mark as the interpreter of Peter in Rome and so Mark's writing is authoritative and became an important source for later evangelists. This gospel was probably written in the late 60sCE in an atmosphere of impending persecution as Jewish and Gentile Christians were not safe in Rome.

Mark wants it clear from the outset that while John the Baptist was an incredibly outstanding prophet he was not the Messiah and that Jesus was the Christ so he places the words in the Baptist's mouth that he is "not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals". At the time of writing this Gospel, there remained a significant number of disciples of John the Baptist so Mark decided it was essential to assure his community that they were right to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

We hear that John was the voice "in the wilderness proclaiming baptism by water of repentance for the forgiveness of sin". While so much of our world has been urbanised many of us are unfamiliar with the wilderness described here. However, our urban areas are often an experience of wilderness because people become lost in the disinterest and alienation of large cities and that is why we have people living on the margins and many slip through into the wilderness of homelessness.

Sometimes change can seem like a wilderness because what was known is changed and we face an unfamiliar landscape and this can be most unsettling to many people. So whatever wilderness we face it is important to keep in focus our belief in Jesus as the Christ, the one who is showing us the way to God through our baptism in the Spirit. We have been provided with all that we need it is up to us to believe in what has been promised to us and then act confidently as people of hope.

The role of John the Baptist is vital today especially his call to conversion which is an ongoing process. There is today "the beginning of the good news" for those who do not know Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15-18 reminds us to "always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that is within you". You and I are called to "prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight" and Advent is the perfect time to be doing this so go with hope and trust that God has given us all we need to show people "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit".

Cate Mapstone

Year C: Matthew 3:1-12 - John the Baptist: Prepare the way of the Lord - 2nd Sunday in Advent

John the Baptist is one of the key figures in Advent because his urgent message to "Prepare the way of the Lord" sums up so much of what Advent is about. This is a time of preparation, not a time for buying Christmas presents or cooking but for preparing our hearts and minds to accept the message that God is coming.

Advent is first recorded as being celebrated in the Fourth Century because the message of preparation and being alert for the coming of God has been a significant part of the Church's history.

John wears the clothes of a prophet, it is not often that clothing is described in the Scriptures and so it is important to note the emphasis on John's role as a prophet in the style of Elijah. John does not waste his words, in a way he is reminiscent of old time preachers who thumped the ambo and pointed their fingers at the congregation to unsettle them.

John is determined to unsettle his listeners and in fact he is rather accusatory of the Sadducees and the Pharisees - "brood of vipers." During the time that Matthew was writing for his mostly Jewish community, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were the main opponents of Christianity.

John also warns those who think they are saved simply by being descendents of Abraham - salvation is not hereditary, it is not that simple. Salvation requires active participation and conscious decisions and choices made in our lives determine our salvation.

John also speaks of trees being cut down that do not provide fruit. We too are asked to consider what fruit we have produced. Too frequently our worthiness is assessed by our employment or our income or position in society, all of which has little to do with our worthiness as a person - that cannot be purchased. What fruit do we produce? Do we nourish those around us or do we spend our days criticising or being jealous of what other people have or do?

How are we preparing the way of the Lord? Will God find hearts ready and welcoming? Will our 'manger' be softened by the straw of good works and kindness? Will the Incarnation remain a good story for children or a reality that we experience everyday?

Cate Mapstone

YOUTH ANGLE: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths

Advent is about waiting. But not that idle just hanging about waiting like you do for a bus. It's an active let's-get-ready-for-this waiting. When John said to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight - he means for us to straighten out what is crooked or wrong in our lives.

If you have some VIP coming you don't want them to have to deal with ditches, rough patches and obstacles in the road. You want a smooth path for them to travel. And so we have to be really serious about this: what are the obstacles, ditches and rough patches in our lives? Often it's between people. Think about the people you need to "straighten out" your relationship with during advent - this preparation time.

It is no use coming to church and saying peace be with you and then fighting with your sister, ignoring your brother, not saying sorry to a friend you hurt, holding a grudge against your dad, not wanting to listen to your mum.

It's Advent and we're waiting. And as we wait lets check the list - who do I need to straighten things out with? How will I show love, forgiveness, caring and healing?
And do it - before Christ comes.

Manuela Macri

Youth Ministry Resources 2nd Sunday in Advent
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Youth Ministry Resources 2nd Sunday in Advent