Second Sunday of Advent Reflection

There is a lot of hurt and destruction, but, in the peaceful kingdom Isaiah prophecies, not on God’s Holy mountain. On mountains, prayer is often a constant as I attempt to keep up with (or not fall too far behind) my son as we scramble up familiar and beloved Welsh mountains and hills, it keeps me going. Being together, checking our footsteps and handholds on loose scree slopes, sheltering, getting over a larger boulder, listening to the wind ‘They will not hurt or destroy / on all my holy mountain’; these are healing places. 

Paths and panoramas sometimes busy with others are sometimes deserted, peaceful, isolated. Painted pink by the sunset we have been halfway up a path and headed for a night under the stars before walking down the next morning. In times like this, I have plenty of time to contemplate how hindered I am, as the collect prayer for today reminds me, by my sins. Time also, as the collect reassures, to see how I am also raised up and comforted by the grace and mercy of God.

The collect makes me think (or helps me pray) about the Holy mountain, approaching, hoping to climb it. The collect reminds me, as if I need it, that my sins and wickedness grievously hinder me from running the race set before me, but God’s grace and mercy speedily helps me. Prayer seeming to connect the hindrance, with the grace and mercy. Grace making possible all that is opposed to hurt and destruction. As well as the collect today and as well as Isaiah 11:1-10 with the visionary knowledge of a mountain where peace, loving, kindness, creation not destruction, all reign, there is also Matthew 3: 1-12. John the Baptist saying ‘prepare…make his paths straight’. All three texts take me to much-loved landscapes, those mountains, but home and flat fenland field boundary drovers’ paths alike. They connect up with the presence of God. They connect to the gratitude that God is so near. Connect the grace that makes straight all that would otherwise would grievously hinder.

Today’s collect:
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power
and come among us,
and with great might succour us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness
we are grievously hindered
in running the race that is set before us,
your bountiful grace and mercy
may speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honour and glory, now and for ever.

The Rev’d David Sheppard, Curate at St Mary the Virgin, Ware.

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