Week 3: Deck the Halls
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal. (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have each participant answer the question, “How will your Christmas decorations differ this year from previous years?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
- The book of Isaiah is not short, and it covers a vast period of time. We can, however, note three broad movements: the first is a time of warning and impending judgment; the second is encouragement to the broken and desperate; and the third is a word of hope. The third movement is where this passage occurs. To those in exile, Isaiah’s direction is to decorate – “garland instead of ashes . . . the mantle of praise instead of a faith spirit . . . build ancient ruins.” In a period of darkness, Isaiah points to the light. The season of Advent also occurs during a period of literal darkness, as our daylight hours are getting shorter. More than mere positive thinking, we are trusting the faithfulness of God, which is the basis of our hope. How are you experiencing hope this Advent season?
- How does John the Baptist provide a model for discipleship? [He points to Jesus with his whole life (even with what he wears and what he eats!).]
- What does it look like to choose to live by hope and not despair?
- As we decorate, we wait. How is Advent a time of active waiting? [Through spiritual practices such as corporate worship, prayer, Scripture reading, and other activities, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness, and we receive confidence for our hope when all seems dark and chaotic.]
- What are other ways we can actively wait and be a witness to the one who will come and restore righteousness? [We do so through being hopeful, by helping others experience the hope of God, and by inviting others to experience God’s love.]
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Anointing God, empower us through your Holy Spirit to see beyond ourselves so that we might catch a glimpse of your glory. Give us new eyes to see the darkness others are experiencing and help us to be pointers to the light of your faithfulness, love, and grace. Amen.