The First Sunday of Advent – 28 November 2021
Lectionary Readings: Jer. 33:14-16; Ps. 25:4-5, 8-10, 14; 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2; Lk. 21:25-28, 34-36
Theme: “Lead me in your truth and teach me”
A friend of mine was once called to the aid of an organization whose members, bitterly disagreeing over an important issue, had split into two hostile camps. She hoped to get them to the point where they could at least speak to each other politely. This proved to be no easy task. One of the members was honest enough to say to her: “It’s not that we don’t know how to deal with each other politely—we just don’t want to!” What relevance does this sad tale have to the readings for the first Sunday in Advent? Well, these readings are to help us set forth on the first stage of our Advent journey. And in order to start on this journey, we first have to want to make the journey. In his commentary on the parable of the bridesmaids, R.F. Capon imagined the lord saying to the foolish bridesmaids, “I never knew you—because you never bothered to know me.” (Capon, 500) We have to bother; we have to care about our relationship with the lord. So, in the Collect, we pray for “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at His coming.”
But most of us are all too familiar with making a resolution and then finding, as the Gospel reading reminds us, that life gets in the way—perhaps not as “dissolution and drunkenness” but “the worries of this life” are familiar to us all. But when we do feel able to start on our journey, how are we to know what steps to take so that we can offer up a harvest of righteous deeds? Teaching is a theme that appears in the psalm: “Make me to know your way, O lord, teach me your paths.” In the epistle, we are reminded “of the instructions [given] through the Lord Jesus Christ.” But might we not have got back to the beginning – with the folks who knew the rules of polite behavior but could not bring themselves to put them into practice? What can get us started on the path—and keep us on it?
We can find an answer in the very first reading, which is taken from that portion of the book of Jeremiah known as “the little book of consolation” or “the little book of comfort” (Jer 30:1-33:26). This reading, with its assertion that “The lord is our righteousness”, looks forward to Paul’s assertion that he did not have his “own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Phil 3:9) If we fear that even with all our effort our offering of righteous deeds will not amount to much, we need to remind ourselves that Christ is on our side, willing to accept as a great gift even an offering as small as speaking politely to someone with whom we disagree, even if we speak through clenched teeth!
For Reflection and Discussion: Reflect on these words of Luke Timothy Johnson, who sees this chapter of Luke as “good news. Those who endure, who bear witness, who remain alert in prayer, have nothing to fear from the coming of the Son of Man. For them, there is no confusion nor stress nor dread. For them, it is the time of ‘liberation’. And they can therefore stand up straight, hold their heads high in happy anticipation before the Son of Man.”
Bibliography: 1. Capon, R.F., Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids MI, 2002) 2. Johnson, L.T, The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville MN, 1991).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2010