A ministry of reconciliation

The lectionary readings for today are Malachi 3.1–4 (or Baruch 5); Philippians 1.3–11 and Luke 3.1–6. I am going to ignore the selection for today and read Luke 1.39–80 (in two parts) instead. One of the problems (probably for quite a few churches) as Advent  advances is that the church schedule is given increasingly to nativity, carol services and all-age events so that a serious reading of the Gospel text becomes all but impossible. It is not that I am against the carol services and such like. Frankly, I quite like them but they do put pressure on the schedule. At Didsbury Baptist Church, we have our all-age festival service on the fourth Sunday of advent so we would not get to hear so much of Luke 1 if I did not sneak a bit more of it into the earlier weeks of Advent. This morning, then, we will hear both the benedictus and the magnificat. I am particularly fond of the closing words of Zechariah’s prophecy:

By the tender mercy of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1.78–9)

The conflicts all over the world today bear witness to the fact that we still have a lot to learn about the way of peace. Perhaps true peace will allude us for as long as we believe that violence and war have the capacity to solve the world’s problems. I think we still need a reconciling ministry like that of John the Baptist ‘to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’ (Luke 1.17).

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