The First Sunday of Advent (B), November 27, 2011

A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (64:1-9)


O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence — 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! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 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. 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. 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. 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. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 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


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 God of hosts; *

      show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.




A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1:3-9)


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



 The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark (13:24-37)


 Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 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. 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. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 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. 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, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”





by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer


Friday, September 2, was a warm day; it felt appropriately like part of late summer.  I had stopped at a local department store, looking for something, but I found that I was pretty much left on my own in locating it.  There were no store employees in sight.  When I finally spotted them, I was a little surprised to see why they were apparently too busy to wait on customers: they were all busy decorating Christmas trees.  That was their focus, even though it was still three days before Labor Day.


Nearly two months later, on the morning of November 1, even before all the candles in the Halloween jack-o-lanterns had gone out, one of our local radio stations had switched to an all-Christmas-music playlist.  It is one that they continue each year for nearly two months, until we get to Christmas Day.  Then, all signs of Christmas quickly vanish.


We are, it seems, a people who are always looking ahead, looking toward the future – except, of course, in those places that we should be planning for the future and asking about the consequences of our actions for future generations.  Our culture, it seems, is one that is always getting ready for the future, but that never seems to know what to do with it when it arrives – except, of course, for moving on to the next future thing.


That future-focused attention can sometimes be beneficial.  But often it comes at the expense of living in the present.  At times, we seem to use our focus on what-will-be as a smokescreen to avoid looking at what-is: to shield ourselves from having to do what we need to do right now, in the present.


People will look, for example, at the needs of the community in which we live and at opportunities to help others.  But to avoid actually having to do anything, they take refuge in the future: “Someday, when I get more time, I’m going to do some of those things.  I’ll volunteer my time and help others – yeah, someday, in the future.”  They forget that God’s call to us is now and that the time for us to respond to that call is now.  They need reminders, such as those found in today’s readings, about God’s call to live our faith in the present.


Some of the early Christians seem to have needed a reminder as well.  St. Paul, in some of his letters, and Jesus, in the gospels, direct their hearers’ attention toward the ultimate goal: to the great Day of the Lord, when God will bring everything to its completion.  But they also include a “but now” in their words.  “Yes, this is the ultimate destiny of all creation; but now, here is where you need to be focusing and here is where you need to be working to bring about the coming of the kingdom of God.


Advent is about preparing for the future; but Advent is also about living in the present.  And Advent is the season in which we live our lives: preparing for the coming of the reign of God in all its fullness.


Scripture scholar and bishop N.T. Wright points out that, if we were to eliminate Christmas from the Bible, we would lose three chapters (one in Matthew and two in Luke); but if were to eliminate Advent, we would lose half of the Old Testament and most of the New.  The scriptures of both covenants look forward to the coming of God, but they do so in a way that clearly addresses that coming’s impact on the present and on the way that we live in the present.


As we begin this Advent season and, with it, Church Year 2012, what are we doing to live in the reign of God here and now?  How do we, on a week by week basis, proclaim “by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” as we solemnly promised to do in baptism?  How are we preparing, not just ourselves, but the world for the coming of our God?