Psalm 80:1-19 • Isaiah 64:1-9 • Mark 13:24-37 • I Corinthians 1:3-9
It is doubtful that there has ever been a time or atmosphere that has provided the perfect soil for the Advent season as has been the year 2020. Do you remember the devastating Australian wild fires that consumed the news in the early days of the year, what about Prince Harry and Meagan Markle stepping away from royalty, the impeachment trials, an airplane crash killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, or the swarm of over 40,000 bees attack on first responders in Texas? These plus many other world wide news events happened in the first two months of the year, most of which have escaped our memories as so much other news has not only captivated our attention but has very personally impacted our lives. It has been a year of waiting, waiting for a vaccine, a new president, a refreshed and energized stock market; waiting for a nation to recognize our no longer hidden racism, hatred, selfishness, and inability to Love our Neighbor; waiting for the faithful to understand what it is to be marginalized and victimized as opposed to being inconvenienced; waiting for a freedom to go out in public unafraid, to shake hands and embrace with hugs, to actually be together instead of on screen, and waiting until it is safe to listen to the news again – it has been a year in which we have been waiting for the year to be over.
Advent is about waiting, waiting for God to reveal himself, waiting for deliverance, waiting for the return of Christ. It is also a time when we focus on recognizing that, even in our sinfulness God is still there, he is still the potter and we are still the clay; a time to take hold of the sufficient resources God has given to give us strength, affirmation, and hope in troubled times.
Our usual context description will be limited this week as our passages are more about what God has done, is doing, and what God will do – they are a context unto themselves for this season of waiting. These readings take us to a recognition of our own unacceptable nature and our God who still accepts us, they are about the past, present, and the future – they are about the history, mystery, and majesty of God.
What a wonderful time for Advent! What a wonderful time to begin by looking at HOPE.
Our Psalm this week is an actual prayer written after the fall of Israel, it is a lament in which the Psalmist cries out about their sinful state, God’s redemptive response, and the hope of God’s restoration and redemption. It is the prayer of a sinful, desperate people, a God that does the unexpected and unpredictable, is is about the entire unexpected story of our deliverer, Jesus.
Our Isaiah passage could almost be laid on top of our gospel passage in Mark and the similarities would be visible as wall as the same yearning and longing of humans that is still seen. It is a people in darkness, in strange and unchartered times looking for God to ‘break in’ to their existence. What are the people crying out for? Deliverance, light, restoration, hope.
There are two things that make this an odd passage to kickoff Advent. First, Mark does not even have a birth narrative, this gospel begin with the story of John. Second, our passage actually takes place just days before the crucifixion. Still, there is the same longing in the hearts of the people. Christ is talking about being ready, ready for God to reveal himself, for the Messiah to appear, for deliverance to take place, for Christ to return….we are always longing.
I Corinthians 1:3-9
Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, who are also waiting. In this opening of the letter, Paul points out that the people have been given, by God, all the resources, all the strength, that is needed to carry them through the trying days of waiting.