Lessons for Advent I, December 3, 2017

Isaiah 64: 1-9

In earlier poetic expression, Isaiah calls upon the Lord to look carefully at the condition, the dangers facing Israel.  Now in these verses Isaiah escalates his appeal to come down from heaven to show Israel’s enemies what his power can do.  Isaiah reminds his Lord that he can create safety for Israel if he will confront Israel’s enemies as he has done before. Perhaps to emphasize his needs, Isaiah inserts a confession of bad conduct and unworthiness.  Maybe God will move more decisively if Israel lays itself open.  In conclusion Isaiah makes clear that he and his people are ”the work of your hand” and thus can only be saved by his coming.

I Corinthians 1:3-9

In these opening lines of Paul’s letter to the new church in Corinth, he seeks to fortify their faith in Christ Jesus.  Corinth was a difficult place to plant a church.  It was a thriving city economically; it had a prideful culture of superiority yet it was beset by inequality of treasure, by male dominance, by devotion to Greek gods and the Roman emperor and by bitter local politics.  All these factors naturally impressed themselves on the fledgling Christian community.  How do you live, learn and work in such a society and convince people of the power and grace offered by Jesus Christ? So here Paul is gentle and thoroughly positive in his hope for Corinth’s Christians, assuring them of grace and safety on the Day of the Coming of the Lord.

Mark 13: 24-37

 The gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, records the great anticipation that Jesus will return to earth, the hope promulgated in today’s teaching by Jesus.  Because we remember both the first coming the incarnation at the birth, and the second at the resurrection , over and over in our liturgical order, the promised second coming of Mark’s  Gospel may seem out of order at the seasons of Advent and Christmas.  Yet the contemporary themes of our Advent, of anticipation and wonder, mesh in part with the day-to-day yearnings of the first century.  The expressions of a sun being darkened and the stars falling may well have come from the apocalyptic book of Daniel, used to exemplify the importance of hope in Jesus’ return to earth.  Jesus’ glorious return cannot be known as to the date and time and thus the Gospel implores us to be steadily awake and thus consistent in our faith in the Lord.