This week’s worship marks the first Sunday of Advent and the first week of the new Christian year (year C in the lectionary which takes us through the gospel of Luke). Advent calls us to look back at the first coming of Jesus and look forward to the second coming of Jesus. It is both a celebration of what God has done, and a time of preparation for what God is going to do.
In our Hebrew Bible lection the prophet Jeremiah predicts the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about justice and righteousness for God’s people. Jeremiah prophesies that God will provide a righteous servant (a branch off the stump of David) who will accomplish this. It was to David’s throne that God promised an eternal descendant and an everlasting kingdom. The link to David is an important reminder of God’s faithfulness to God’s covenant promises. David stands as a symbol for a just and unifying rule. His reign and heart (a heart after God’s own heart) serves as a “type” for the reign and heart that will be exhibited by and present in the “righteous branch.” As we enter into the season of advent it is prophecies like this that remind us of what God has accomplished (in the unifying Davidic kingdom), and gives us hope for what God is accomplishing.
[It is also worth noting that David’s reign was far from “perfect” but that God is able to redeem the failings of humanity and see positive human accomplishments as setting a trajectory for the eschatalogical perfection of the Kingdom of God.]
Psalm 25 is a Psalm of trust. The Psalm opens, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.” The psalmist trusts that God will both remember and forget. God will remember God’s mercy and steadfast love and God will forget the sins of the Psalmist’s youth. In advent we likewise place our trust in God to remember God’s love and mercy, and to deal with the harm brought on by our sins.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
In our New Testament epistle reading Paul encourages the church in Thessalonica by telling them how grateful he is for their faith. He also expresses his hope for their continued development in the faith so they will be “blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Paul’s hope for the Christians in Thessalonica reminds us not only of the hope given us by the fact of Christ’s first coming, but also of the hope we have in his second coming. This text is appropriate for the season of Advent which looks back to Jesus’ first coming, and forward to his second coming.
Our gospel lection (our first lection from Luke in year C of the lectionary) is a call to readiness for the coming of the “Son of Man” in the clouds. Jesus warns his listeners to “not [be] weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.” This warning is desperately needed by us as we enter the season of Advent yet again! We struggle mightily to remain ready, at all times, and in all seasons. We are easily distracted by cares and worries, and see no imminent threat of God changing things. At the same time, the coming of Christ is not a worrisome thing–rather the coming of the Son of Man means that our ‘redemption is drawing near.’
Celebration of Worship
As you prepare for the first Sunday of Advent worship commit to a season of expectant waiting. Be on the edge of your pew. Something is happening in the world. As you fashion the words of your prayers, or consider your readings, remember both what God has done, and what remains to be accomplished. What is the first thing you hope God does when the kingdom comes in its fulness? What justice do you desire the most? Where would you most like to see the righteousness of God displayed? Be encouraged. Advent is upon us. Our Lord is coming.