The First Sunday of Advent (Yr B) November 30, 2014


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 Lord 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


For the church’s first three hundred years, it did not celebrate Christmas.  Even in the fourth century, when different parts of the Christian community began to embrace that observance, the practice spread slowly, and the feast came to be accepted only gradually.


Today, we take it for granted that Christmas is one of the most important days of the church year.  It is this season of Advent that tends to fade into the background, serving merely as a minor prelude to what is to come.  But maybe this season deserves another look.


N.T. Wright points out that if you cut Christmas out of the Bible, you lose only three chapters (one from Matthew and two from Luke).  If, however, you cut out Advent, you’ve lost half of the Old Testament and almost all of the New.  The first Christians may have had it right all along, as they lived, to use Tom Wright’s words, “within and by the story of God’s order appearing within the world’s confusion, God’s fiery light burning away the shadows.”


We have no idea what day or even what time of year Jesus was born.  When Christians first began to celebrate a feast in honor of his birth, they chose December 25 to coincide with the Roman feast of the Unconquered Sun: a celebration of the winter solstice, a celebration of light breaking into the deepest darkness.  Christmas, with all its glitz and commercialization, has long lost that mystique; but Advent has not.


The very sense that God and God’s presence are not very far from the world as we experience it is central to the vision of many of the mystics and contemplative movements in church history.  Some of them speak of the “thin veil” that, only very temporarily, separates the two.  The liturgies of Advent briefly pull aside that veil and provide us with a glimpse of the One who is never far away, whose light is never far away, and whose new creation is never far away.  That is a vision that we need in every age.


In the culture in which we live, darkness no longer has the same power that it once did.  Countless billions of sources of artificial light illuminate our homes, our places of business, our houses of worship, and even our streets.  They provide us with the illusion that we have somehow overcome darkness; but an illusion is all that it is.


The far deeper darkness and confusion and sense of helplessness that human beings have experienced throughout their history are just as pervasive today as they ever were.  Natural disasters, and wars, and violence in our cities, and the possibility of unexpected and life-threatening illness, and economic uncertainty, and so many other uncontrollable aspects of our lives can leave us feeling like the people of Judah who long ago heard the words of today’s first reading.  They leave us crying out to God, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Isaiah 64:1).  Come again into our darkness.  Come again into the chaos of our lives.  Break through the veil and show yourself again to be present as the God who saves.


With them and with the people whom Jesus addresses in our gospel reading, we wait: wait for the coming of our God.  But we don’t wait passively.  We can’t because God has given us work to do during this time of waiting, during this time of Advent, during this time of our lives.


Lamar Williamson, in his commentary on Mark’s version of the gospel, tells a story of waiting.  It seems that, in pre-Revolutionary War New England, a colonial legislature was meeting when, much to their horror, a solar eclipse occurred.  Recalling today’s gospel description of the coming of a time when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,” many of those in attendance decided that the end of the world was at hand.  They panicked, and several called for the gathering to adjourn immediately.  But one of the representatives stood up and insisted, “Mr. Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools.  If it is the end of the world, I should be found to be doing my duty.  I move you, sir, that candles be brought.”


Is this the end of the world?  Probably not, although some of the major crises that we have to endure in life might make it seem at times like our world is ending.  But instead of panicking and throwing up our hands in despair, maybe we should consider following the example of that wise colonial legislator.  Maybe we, too, should use the Advents of our lives, the times of darkness and chaos and uncertainty, to do the work that God has given us to do.  And maybe we, too, should call for candles to be brought: the candle of the life-giving word of God, the candle of hope in the promises given to us in Jesus, the candle of love and compassion extended by true believers to those in need, the candle of the vision of the world as God wants it to be: the world as God, through us and our fellow believers, is making it to be.


Darkness still covers the earth at times, just as it always has.  But darkness does not have the last word: it never has, and it never will.  Instead as St. Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 4:6), “the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” … has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  It is that candle, the candle who is Jesus Christ, who still shines in the darkness and who, through all of our Advents, calls us always to walk as children of the light.