Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To stay with you.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
First Sunday of Advent
The lectionary year takes us on a pilgrimage. The path circles like a labyrinth, weaving back and forth–near the edge, then further in, but always taking us to the center: the Great Story of God’s redemptive work in and through Jesus. Last week we ended the pilgrimage of what is called “Year A” in the lectionary readings. Today we begin the journey again – this first Sunday of Advent, first season in the Church Year.
The pilgrimage ends and begins with waiting. Lest we forget that the Great Story is held in the hands of God, and that God writes the final chapter, making all things new, the lectionary pilgrimage takes us last and first into waiting. Waiting for Jesus’ return. Waiting for God to make all things new; the same God who spoke all of creation into being “in the beginning.”
The world also waits. Waits for the economy to get better. Waits for more jobs to be created. Waits for election day so that we can oust one candidate and choose another – always in hopes that we will be rewarded financially. Never mind who might suffer in the process. After all, as TV commentators remind us, “It’s your money!” This is part of the world’s liturgy.
The invitation is for us to stay awake as we wait. As we have discovered during the last few weeks of readings, this is no easy task. The design of the world’s liturgies is to lull us to sleep, to forget who we are, to whom we belong. The world’s call to worship at this time of the year is all about buying – “because there are only so many shopping days left until Christmas.” The world worships production and consumerism. We get caught in the throngs on their way to “worship”, and find ourselves wanting more, shopping more, doing more. As one church member lamented, “It’s sad that Christmas comes at such a busy time of the year!”
It is this forgetfulness that marks the lectionary readings. Even as the people call on God to come and take care of all the problems of the nations, they confess that they have trodden other paths, paths which lead them away from God. No one calls on God’s name and no one tries to reach out to God. Even what people call right living is seen as a cover up – a covering of filthy rags. The prophet Isaiah knows that God meets with those who remember God and God’s ways. (64:1-9)
To remember is to stay awake.
The Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion – is a spiritual discipline which helps us remember. Jesus calls us to the table, again and again, and reminds us each time that as we eat the bread (symbol of his body broken and given for us) and as we drink from the up (symbol of his life blood poured out for us), we remember him. We remember his death until he comes again. This communal practice among the family of God helps us to stay awake, to remember.
This communal practice of coming to the table can also help us remember the hospitality of Jesus, the welcome he makes to his table, as we invite and serve others at our Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas tables. Stay awake. Remember.
First Sunday of Advent
- 11/21 Monday: Mark 13:24-31
- 11/22 Tuesday: Mark 13:32-37
- 11/23 Wednesday: Psalm 80:1-7,17-19
- 11/24 Thanksgiving Day: Deuteronomy 8:7-18; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; 2 Cor. 9:6-15
- 11/25 Friday: Isaiah 64:1-9
- 11/26 Saturday: Mark 13:24-31
- 11/27 Sunday: Matthew 25:32-46