Stand up and raise your heads! On this First Sunday of Advent we always read from one of the “apocalyptic” chapters of Matthew, Mark or Luke. Apocalyptic writing is writing about the end times, the time of revelation, the time of justice, the consummation of the Kingdom of God.
1st Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
“The days are surely coming…” signifies talk of a frequent topic of the Jewish prophets: the day of God’s judgment. But here, Jeremiah (of all the prophets!) speaks a word of future hope: “he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Christians have always seen this “righteous branch” which has “sprung up for David” as Jesus.
33:14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Our psalm is an acrostic poem (each line beginning with the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) that is a prayer for deliverance from enemies. The psalmist recognizes that such deliverance depends on the gift of both wisdom and repentance.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3 Show me your ways, O Lord, *
and teach me your paths.
4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.
6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.
9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Paul has written to the Thessalonians based on a report he has received about them from Timothy. Here he expresses his desire to visit them and bolster their faith. This desire, as well as the faith of the Thessalonians, is in the context of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (both Paul and the Thessalonians would have believed that this was to be soon, although some Thessalonians were beginning to wonder—see 4:13—5:11). Paul never talks about the coming of Jesus as a threat, but rather a time of revelation, the revelation of faith.
3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Gospel Reading: Luke 21:25-36
On this First Sunday of Advent we always read from one of the “apocalyptic” chapters of Matthew, Mark or Luke. Apocalyptic writing is writing about the end times, the time of revelation, the time of justice, the consummation of the Kingdom of God. The threatening signs of the end are actually a patchwork of Old Testament sayings and phrases. In one sense there is nothing new here that the prophets haven’t already said before. In the face of a world in crisis, Jesus’ advice is to “stand up and raise your heads,” and pray for strength. Fear is unnecessary.
21:25 Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. . All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.