Thursday of this week is Thanksgiving, and the following Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is my favorite season of the church year. Partly that is because, like a child, I love Christmas and I love looking forward to Christmas – planning, decorating, wrapping, etc. (I think I’m almost as excited to find out “what’s in the box” as the children who come forward for Time with Children.) But the other part of the reason I love Advent is its mood of mysterious, awesome, unpredictable hope. The Old Testament lessons for each of the Sundays are all over the place; but the one thing they have in common is the realization that the present-time, which humankind has created, is not according to God’s will, and further, that God will act in history to make things better. The various New Testament and Gospel lessons also often have that same feel. I am going to share with you the texts we will be using on the Sundays of Advent this year and a little bit about how we feel they are leading us. We will also be lighting an Advent Candle each Sunday.
Sunday, November 27. Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-37. The Isaiah text is a plea to God and it begins this way: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence … The writer admits that the people have denied God and brought their suffering on themselves: You have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet the writer believes – probably against all the evidence – that God still cares and will act on behalf of the people: Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Even in the face of despair, the writer continues to believe and to hope.
Sunday, December 4. Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8. The Isaiah text is quoted in the Mark reading, and the author of Mark applies it to John the Baptist: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah: “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The author of the Gospel of Mark is quite sure that the one to whom John the Baptist points is the Messiah, the one for whom the people have been waiting. Communion will be celebrated in worship. Hanging of the Greens and the Advent Workshop follow worship this day.
Sunday, December 11. On this day, we will celebrate all the work that has gone into the Reach and Renew capital campaign. Two or three of the leaders will speak. We will also look at the work of the campaign in light of our two scripture readings for the day, Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, and Luke 2:8-10, 15. The Isaiah text is the one Jesus uses in Luke 4 to begin his ministry. The verses in Luke 2 describe an appearance of an angel to shepherds in a field outside Bethlehem, announcing good news of great joy. There will be special refreshments served after the service.
Sunday, December 18. Our reading this day will be the story of Mary, Luke 1:26-56. This reading includes what is called the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel is sent to Mary to tell her that she will conceive and give birth to the Son of God, and that she will name him Jesus. Rather than questioning this incredible announcement, Mary simply says: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. The reading also includes the Magnificat (so-named because of the first word of the Latin translation of the Greek text). It is here that Mary, having met her kinswoman Elizabeth, pregnant with the one who will be called John the Baptist, speaks those fantastic words of hope: God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. How much do we need to hear, believe, and hold on to those words, to that promise, in our world today?!
Posted on November 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm in Featured Content.