Sunday, November 22, 2020

Advent 1B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Isaiah 64:1-9

The Book of Isaiah contains three related yet distinct voices.  First Isaiah (chs. 1-39) was written just prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the taking of many of the Jews into exile in Babylon.  Second Isaiah (chs. 40-55) is written near the end of the time of exile, announcing a homecoming.  Third Isaiah (ch. 56-66) is from the period after the return, during the re-founding of Jewish faith and society. Chapters 63—66 show signs of division within the community and a longing for unity and forward vision. The two strong metaphors at the end of this reading—“our father” and “our potter”—make clear that Israel must be totally reliant on God for their present and their future.

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Our psalm today is a communal lament, calling on God as Shepherd to deliver the people from their enemies, with the plaintive refrain, “Restore us, O God of hosts….” This psalm may very well have its origins in the period of exile in Babylon.

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
        shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
        stir up your strength and come to help us.

3 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
        show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4 O Lord God of hosts, *
        how long will you be angered
        despite the prayers of your people?

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
        you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
        and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
        show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
        the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
        give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
        show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:3-9

The first Sunday of Advent calls to renew our longing for what St. Paul calls, “the revealing of our Lord” and “the day of our Lord.”  What is necessary in the meantime is that we seek to be enriched and strengthened in our relationship with Christ, relying on God’s faithfulness, which we can best know in our fellowship with one another.  The word in Greek translated “fellowship” is one of the most important words in all of Paul’s writing:  koinonia (also translated as “communion, “participation,” or “sharing”). See also 1 Cor 10:16, Galatians 2:9, Philippians 2:1 and others.

1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 13:24-37

In the New Testament, apocalyptic imagery is present in each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) as well as in the Book of Revelation. Apocalyptic writing is about the end of time. It is usually heavily symbolic, and it often depicts a very simplistic picture of good vs. evil.  It typically arises in communities that are under great stress, whose identity and existence is uncertain.  Its ultimate intention is to give such communities hope.  This portion of Mark’s “Little Apocalypse” (13:1-37) includes two short parables, “the fig tree,” and “the man on a journey.”  They serve to remind us of the blessing that awaits us and our need to keep awake, be watchful, and ready.

13:24 Jesus said, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect and Psalm are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, , copyright © 2020.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with attribution.

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