I have always been excited by Advent! Although, if I’m honest about it, before I became an Anglican, it just meant that it was a buildup to a fairlylong stretch of holiday and time with family and stuff.
This year, I’ve been paying attention to the readings for the first Sunday of Advent. I wondered if they would be enough to sustain me until the Nativity itself, and I truly believe that there is sufficient material for reflection and prayer for me.
1 Thessalonians 3.9-13
All have a message for me about waiting expectantly and for perhaps how I might prepare for the nativity. Because that’s what advent is about for me, not the glossy, commercialised Christmas that the media and the secular world seek. I’m not decrying Christmas being a special time for people, but wonder how much of the story of the Nativity is drowned out in the hurrah of the seasonal festivities.
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day, when he shall come again
in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal…
In a nutshell, I see the reason for the Nativity, a reminder of the promises God made to us and what we have to look forward to in hope.
“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. 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. 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.’
“The Lord is our righteousness” What a wonderful name. The Greek translates for righteousness is dikaiosu/nh (which is all greek to me) but defined as:
- In a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God
- the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God
- integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
- in a narrower sense, justice or the virtue which gives each his due. Would that I could be described in that way!
The prophecy of Jeremiah is a reminder to me that God always keeps his promises. He did so by sending his much beloved son to die for us, but centrally, to live again for us through the resurrection. I pray that that I may live each day with Christ in me and for him.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame,
but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you have I hoped all the day long.
Remember, Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions,
but think on me in your goodness,
O Lord, according to your steadfast love.
Gracious and upright is the Lord;
therefore shall he teach sinners in the way.
He will guide the humble in doing right
and teach his way to the lowly.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Bible Gateway describes this Psalm as “an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet”. Poetry it most certainly is. But it speaks volumes of how God, is sending his messenger, Jesus Christ to bring us towards him.
I love poetry when it speaks to me in ways that resound and echo in my heart and mind. This Psalm does that. It lifts me up, it takes me to another plain. Just like much music in worship. I can submerge myself in the Words, allow them to be said slowly on my lips and to remain in my mind and heart as an echo of God’s love.
1 Thessalonians 3.9-13
“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 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. 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”
With this passage from Paul, urging the Thessalonians to thank God and to come back into God’s way.
It seems to me that God is giving me and us a huge gift, He’s going to bring us into contact with his Word, To increase our knowledge, to help us to grow and, through the Holy Spirit, to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. This points us towards holiness and leading a life walking in the footsteps of Christ. It’s about redemption through contrition and giving up the old ‘me’ for a new me in Advent. It’s a season for Sacramental confession and absolution. Preparing the way to receive Jesus in new birth at the Nativity.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 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”.
This passage seem to me to be Jesus setting the scene. He’s talking to the disciples about the Kingdom to come. The prophecy talks of what will befall the Jews and Jerusalem within the lifetime of the current generation. But, more tellingly, he points us towards being prepared for that second coming when all will be renewed.
My thoughts are on the earth that we are despoiling will be renewed and will become the new heaven and the Kingdom of God, where we will be joined with all of the Saints in that great worship of God. A wonderful prospect. Some people say that heaven would be on earth now, if only everyone accepted Jesus as their Saviour. I’m not sure that it’s that simple? But would love to think so. Hope is the thing that keeps me going, along with a trust that God’s will for us all, not just me is for us the best, not the worst.
These are just a few random thoughts on the first day of Advent. What fun I’m going to have with the daily Lectionary, let alone the Sunday readings!!