A few years ago I went to a restaurant that had earned a wonderful reputation. Once seated, I learned that I had no decisions to make because the restaurant served one standard eight-course tasting menu. When the first appetizer courses arrived, one at a time, I was taken aback by the small portions.
Determined to enjoy the experience anyway, I slowly savored each course, grateful for each bite, as well as the good conversation and beautiful surroundings. When the server placed the final entrée before me—a gorgeous beef tenderloin grilled to perfection—I had to concede that the chef knew exactly what he was doing. The first four delectable but not fully satisfying courses had perfectly primed my palate to enjoy the centerpiece of the meal.
During the Christmas season, I find myself wanting everything to be perfect now—the presents wrapped just right, the cookies flawlessly arranged, the decorations warm and sparkling. For many people, the Christmas season brings out the highest and lowest human emotions, the simplest joys and the most complicated feelings. And while we need to be fully present to the love, the beauty, and the brokenness we may experience during the season, John reminds us that all of this is but an appetizer.
During long-anticipated family homecomings, John still whispers, “This is a foretaste of what is to come.” When perfect facades no longer hold back the mounting stress, John reminds us, “There’s more to the story.” When we feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems, the promise of Advent is simply, “This is not the end.”

God, in the most beautiful and the most painful moments alike, help me find joy and peace in the promise of your kingdom and in the Prince of Peace who is coming to reign forever. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 1:6-8, 19-28

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Lectionary Week
December 11–17, 2017
Scripture Overview

In Isaiah 61, the Anointed One declares a message of liberation. Justice, righteousness, and praise will blossom as new shoots of growth in the garden of the Lord. Psalm 126 remembers a time in the past when God’s mercy broke forth in an unparalleled manner. The character of the community and of the individual members will be transformed. The First Thessalonians text voices a yearning for the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” yet the promise of the Second Advent has kindled great hope and gladness in the heart of the Christian community. The reading from the Gospel of John also raises the issue of the mood of expectancy that characterizes the period of time between promise and fulfillment.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. If “the spirit of the Lord GOD is upon” you, what does that mean for the way you live day by day?
• Read Psalm 126. Have you experienced joy in a time of brokenness? How do you understand the seeming contradictions?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Which of the disciplines Paul speaks of in verses 16-22 do you faithfully practice? Which might you cultivate further?
• Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. John not only knows his role; he knows who he is not: the Messiah. In this time of Advent waiting, consider who you are not. How does that consideration simplify your life? What may you release?

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