Week 2: Stand as a Signal
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering and Opening (10 minutes). In groups of two or three, discuss the following: “What were some of your family’s favorite Advent/Christmas traditions?”
- John provided a stark critique to the religious elite. It would have been taken for granted, by most, that to be an Israelite was to be an ancestor of Abraham. Said differently, they took for granted that they were part of God’s promised covenant community. What is John implying by noting that God could raise children of Abraham from stones? [Biology is no guarantee of being part of the community.]
- What might the ax lying “at the root of the trees” be referring to? [Israel is often pictured as a tree in the Old Testament (examples include Jeremiah 11:16-17, Ezekiel 15:6). To imagine an ax next to the tree is to see judgment at hand.]
- What might John’s emphasis on “bearing good fruit” imply to this rebuke? [It is not enough to have right ideas.]
- In keeping with this theme of judgement, “fire” in both verse 11 and verse 12 is a fire of judgment. So, what might this fire of judgment say about how John the Baptist envisions the ministry of Jesus? [Jesus’ ministry will be a call to bear the fruit of righteousness.]
- How does John’s message provide an appropriate Advent challenge? [It is a reminder of the vision and promise of hope with which we are called to anticipate and live.]
Read Romans 15:4-13.
- What might it look like to truly “welcome one another…just as Christ as welcomed you, for the glory of God” this Advent season (and beyond)?
- How might the prayer that Paul offers in Romans 15:13 be a way of life for us this Advent?
Read Isaiah 11:1-10. Have whoever reads the passage emphasize the word “shall” for effect.
- How did emphasizing the word “shall” help the passage be experienced as a word of hope? [It is a promise that will be realized, not merely a fanciful vision.]
- Which image from verses 6 to 8 do you find most reassuring? Why?
- Does this vision seem unrealistic or too fanciful?
- How do the promises envisioned by John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and the prophet Isaiah bring you hope for life’s journey?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following or a similar prayer:
God of Hope, enlarge our imagination that we might glimpse the height, depth, and width of the beauty of your coming kingdom. May the hope that comes from you not be an escape from the realities of this world; instead, may it help us to encounter those realities while trusting in your promises to work on the redemption of the world. Amen.