Second Sunday of Advent – Stand as a Signal
December 4, 2022; Matthew 3:1-12, New International Reader's Version
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3In those days John the Baptist came and preached in the Desert of Judea.2He said, “Turn away from your sins! The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3John is the one Isaiah the prophet had spoken about. He had said,
“A messenger is calling out in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord.
Make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3)
4John’s clothes were made out of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea. They also came from the whole area around the Jordan River. 6When they confessed their sins, John baptized them in the Jordan.
7John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing. He said to them, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger? 8Live in a way that shows you have turned away from your sins. 9Don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones. 10The ax is ready to cut the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire.
11“I baptize you with water, calling you to turn away from your sins. But after me, someone is coming who is more powerful than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His pitchfork is in his hand to clear the straw from his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can’t be put out.”
Qwirkle (An alternative game of choice could be Connect Four. If you chose to use that game, substitute the game for Quirkle. The rules are similar and connection to message is the same. Connect Four might be a better choice for older children).
Welcome to week two of Advent. With each week, we build with anticipation toward Christmas Day. Did you get a chance to play Chutes and Ladders with your family this past week? (Allow children to answer.)
I have a new board game this week. How many of you have ever played a game called Qwirkle?
Do you know the rules of this game? The idea of the game is strategy. Lines are made up of six tiles, either all the same shape or the same color. Additions to the line can be made as new tiles are drawn.
Each player starts by choosing six tiles from the bag of tiles. No peeking! The goal is to add as many tiles as you can from your hand to the game grid. To start, the player with the highest number of same shapes or colors goes first. All players try to make a Qwirkle, which is a set of six tiles that all share the same color or the same shape. Placing tiles in incorrect places (a blue star doesn't go with the orange and green circles) makes sure that you follow a straight path. Whenever you get a Qwirkle, you earn six bonus points on top of whatever points you earn for your play.
Add up your score each turn and see who has the highest point total when you run out of tiles!
I love how this game allows everyone to work and play together!
This game reminds me of today’s scripture passage that comes from Matthew. John the Baptist was telling everyone to “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him,” which was from Isaiah the prophet. Remember Isaiah from last week? John also came before Jesus and prepared people for Jesus to come. He knew that Jesus was the Savior of the world. John told people to make a straight path and to follow Jesus. Just as when you play the game Qwirkle and make a straight path, John wanted everyone to work together and follow a straight path to Jesus.
To win the game Qwirkle, you must make straight paths and line up all the tiles in the correct way. This board game reminds us to prepare. We must prepare for our turn by looking at the colors and shapes on our tiles and get ready to place our tile in the row. John reminds us that we must prepare a way for the Lord. We need to make straight paths for him. The more you line up, the higher the points you receive. John reminds us to follow Jesus and turn away from mistakes and the sins of people. Following Jesus on the straight path will prepare you for a life with God. A life where God can fill you with the joy of God’s love.
This week, I invite you to play a game of Qwirkle with your family. As you do, discuss the story of John the Baptist and how he taught us to prepare a way for the Lord and to make a straight path for him.
God of Love and Joy: Give each of us the opportunity to prepare a way for the Lord. Just as John the Baptist reminded us to make a straight path for Jesus, give us each the opportunity to show (and tell) others about Jesus and the reason for this season. Amen.