Advent 1B – Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37

Content

In the first reading, Isaiah describes how way the people of God are separated from the ways of God, confessing their misdeeds and transgressions. Isaiah pleads with God for reconciliation, for God to “tear open the heavens and come down,” and for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Isaiah reminds God of their relationship as creations saying, “we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

The second reading is a short passage from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul emphasizes that the grace of God has been given to the people of Corinth in the person of Christ and that Christ will strengthen them “to the end” so that they will be faithful “on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage from Mark is part of a conversation Jesus has with disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before his passion. In this conversation, Jesus shares with his disciples an apocalyptic vision of the tribulations and suffering that will come before the Son of Man’s return and the kingdom of God is established. He urges them to preach the gospel, remember his teaching, and be vigilant of false prophets. This passage particularly emphasizes Jesus advice that the disciples be alert and stay away, lest the Lord of the house come home and find them sleeping. Jesus tells them, in other words, that they are called to do more than passively wait for the kingdom of God to come. They must continue to do the work of God, preaching the Jesus’ word and living into his teachings.

Context

Each of these passages invite the reader to mediate on the relationship between God and creation. In Isaiah, we see a people separated from God because of their transgression and iniquities, yearning for restored relationship and pleading for reconciliation. Paul counsels the Christians and Corinth that they will find the strength and the grace to be faithful in Christ. And, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus calls on the disciples to be alert as they await the kingdom of God, continuing to do God’s work and heed his teachings. In their treatment of the Creator-creation relationship, each of these passages emphasizes action. God’s people in Isaiah transgressed against God. Christ will strengthen the people in Corinth to be faithful. Jesus tells the disciples to be alert, continue living out his teachings, and actively await the kingdom of God.

Preaching Word

In this season of Advent, we too are reminded that the anticipation of Advent is is not dormant. On the contrary, the Advent scriptures repeatedly implore the reader to “Beware, keep alert” (Mark 13:33) and to examine one’s behavior, living as if Christ were to return at any moment. The scriptures suggest that living in such a way involves seeking and embodying the love, peace, and justice that Christ’s return will entail. In the anticipation of Advent, Christians are invited seek, actively participate in, and embody the justice, reconciliation, and peace that God’s reign will bring about. Christians are called to ready themselves for God’s return by following the example of John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph and preparing the way for the Lord.

It is in the spirit of hoping for and participating in a more just world that faith communities are invited to take part in the National Weekend of Prayer for LGBTQ Justice during the first week of Advent. Many LGBTQ people are in a constant state of Advent, longing for a time when justice righteousness will be at home on this earth, yearning for a day when they will not have to wonder if they will face discrimination, violence, or injustice because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The season of Advent calls Christian communities to prepare the way for Christ’s return, helping to create a society where God’s justice prevails, where neighbors live together in harmony, and where the marginalized and the lowly are lifted up. Faith communities that wish to live into this call in our present moment cannot be silent as the Supreme Court determines whether or not religion can be used as a justification for discrimination. Advent, a season of longing and striving for justice, is precisely the right time to engage with questions at the heart of what it means to create a more just society.

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