The second Sunday in Advent (Advent II) continues on the path started in the first week by looking forward to Christ’s first and second coming. Advent II focuses on John the Baptist, the Gentiles being included in God’s family, Christ’s coming in judgment and peace, and the church’s hopeful expectation of the completion of his promises.
The Scripture and Theology of the Second Week of Advent
Whereas the Scripture readings for Advent I speak broadly about God’s promise to bring Israel out of exile, the readings for Advent II focus more specifically on the Messiah and what his coming will look like.
Old Testament Readings
Old Testament readings for Advent II reflect on the type of kingdom the coming Messiah will bring: one of judgment and peace.
Isaiah 11:1-10 says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (1–2). This is a beautiful image. From the dead, rotting, and decaying stump of Jesse (King David’s father)—a broken dynasty which was apparently going nowhere—God will unexpectedly cause new life to shoot forth. God did not abandon his people who had fallen into Babylonian captivity. Instead, in continuing his promise to Abraham, God works to bring new life out of death through a descendant of David. Where there is brokenness, God creates hope. Where there is darkness, God’s light shines forth.
The one coming in righteousness, with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, will bring a mix of peace and judgment. He will judge the poor with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4) and kill the wicked with the breath of his lips (11:4). This peace-bringing judgment will finally end the cycle of death begun by sin.
Isaiah 40:1-11 shifts to the prophecy concerning John the Baptist, who will come ahead of the Davidic King as a messenger preparing the way. He will “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). Then, in that day, when the glory of God will be revealed (40:5), the Anointed One will come with might (40:10), but as one who tenderly cares for his flock like a shepherd (40:11).
These passages portray both Christ’s first and second coming. While the reign of peace Jesus brings begins during the Incarnation, God’s kingdom will not be completed until Jesus returns again.
Readings from the Psalms
During Advent II, Psalms reveal the character of the coming Savior. Psalm 72 describes him as a just king and a righteous judge who defends the cause of the poor, crushes oppressors, delivers the children of the needy, and brings peace. Psalm 85 focuses on the peace that will accompany the coming of the Lord. Verses 1–2 recall how God restored Jacob’s fortune and forgave the people in the past by covering their sin. The Psalm shifts to the future in verse 8, saying, “he will speak peace to his people, to his saints.” God spoke peace in Jesus’s first coming, and that peace will once again be spoken when he returns for his people. His salvation is near to those who trust him, and in him “steadfast love and faithfulness meet” (85:10).
New Testament Readings
New Testament readings during Advent II remind God’s people to live in hope while they wait for the second advent of Jesus Christ. Romans 15:4–13 calls the church to endurance and hope, welcoming others into the family just like Jesus did. God, in his hospitality, included those outside the ethnic borders of Israel into his one covenant family. As a result of this hospitality, Paul exhorts, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (15:13). God’s grace makes Advent a season of hope.