Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, First Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 2, 2018
Lessons: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people look to God to show them a different way of living and being that leads to real and abundant life, as well as a compelling case
Key Scripture: Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:28
NOTE: This year’s Stewardship in Advent theme, “A Lasting Legacy,” is based on words from the Advent Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness (Sundays and Seasons, Year C) and the Advent prayer of the day. The weekly themes are SHOW us, TEACH us, LEAD us, and STIR us.
The lessons for the First Sunday in Advent invite us to look for signs that something new and different, a true messiah, is on the way. “’The days are surely coming’ says the Lord” begins the Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah (33:14-16). Luke’s gospel issues a call to be on guard and not caught up in the wiles and ways of the world, to be alert and watch as the Kingdom of God draws near. This clarion call is not for one to be a passive bystander but to participate in readiness and preparation. Psalm 25 reminds us to place our trust in God, to seek God’s teaching and wisdom. The psalmist shows us that the way of the Lord is the right way. Finally, in the epistle lesson, Paul writes to the Thessalonian church with gratitude and joy.
All four of these lessons have something to show us about what matters and how to live, both critical components to considering the kind of legacy one hopes to leave. Advent provides an excellent time to ponder such things as we wait, hope, and long for the child born in a stable, the child who will quickly become a refugee fleeing Herod’s minions, the child who will grow into an itinerant radical rabbi, the child whose life will end too early in a brutal death at the hands of the state, and the child who will conquer death and save this world. If that’s not the stuff of legacy, I don’t know what is; we certainly have a model in Jesus for how to make a difference.
This Sunday show with your words and your energy a compelling case for legacy-making and risk-taking as we enter Advent in anticipation and hope. Make a case for how we as Christians are called to be different—countercultural even—leaving our unique mark on the world for the sake of the gospel.
Lift up the ministries and mission to which your faith community is called. What would happen if your community was not around in the future to serve and love those in your neighborhood and world? Who would miss you? How can your people plan for the future by offering their time, talents, and resources? What are our dreams of a future where faith, ministry, and mission flourish in fresh and viable ways?
During the next few decades the biggest and wealthiest generation of Americans (the Boomers) will transfer some $30 trillion in assets. Much of this wealth will go to family members, but a sizable portion is likely to transfer to non-profits and religious institutions who have clearly made a case for why they exist. If you as a church leader (ordained or lay) have not considered how you will invite people to leave a lasting legacy, you are missing an opportunity to show and help people live generously and faithfully.
Remember, it’s not just about finances either. People who are generous with their time, their talents, and who are committed to a higher purpose also tend to be more generous with their financial abundance, no matter what their net worth.
Let us all be alert, awake, and on guard for how we as people of God can watch for the signs of Jesus breaking into our world, our lives, and our faith communities. Don’t underestimate how the Holy Spirit can work in, through, and even in spite of us to do great things with ordinary folks.
Above all, take a hint from Paul: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?” Love, trust, and relationship prepare and nourish the ground in which faith and generosity flourish.
In many non-profit s, legacy trees with engraved brass leaves highlight the gifts of donors who have helped move forward the vision of the institution. Consider making your own Lasting Legacy tree during Advent and invite congregants to place “leaves” on the tree with their hopes, dreams, and plans for a lasting legacy. Everyone, from the youngest child to the most seasoned senior has something important and valuable to contribute to your congregation’s vision for the future.
Give people an opportunity to share stories of how now deceased members left a legacy of love, of service, or of financial security. Highlight these stories with photos or a slide presentation as you invite congregants to ponder their own legacy.
Consider using the hymn “We are an Offering” in your worship today.
Taking inspiration from Paul’s introduction to the Thessalonian church, invite youth to write short notes of thanks to people who have been instrumental in helping form their faith. You might also want to spend time making small craft or food gifts for the congregation’s at-home members. Plan a time when you can deliver the gifts and sing some carols to them. Not only will you be bringing joy to folks who may be experiencing real loneliness, you will also be helping youth cultivate spirits of gratitude and generosity.
This week’s focus verse is from Luke 21:29-31:
Then [Jesus] 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.”
Talk to the children about how this week’s gospel lesson reminds us to be alert and watchful during the four weeks of Advent. Ask them what they notice different about the worship space this week. Some will note that the paraments have changed color or that Advent candles are in place. Share with them the ancient symbolism of the fig tree as a symbol of life emerging out of death. Fig trees are also the third tree mentioned in the Bible (in Genesis when Adam and Eve use fig leaves to cover themselves). Encourage the children to pay attention during Advent to what they see and hear. Whom do they encounter who need their help? What signs of change do they see in the worship space and all around them each week? How will they know that Jesus is coming? Finish by sharing some figs with them and offering a short prayer of blessing.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Advent calls us to pay attention, remain alert, and watch for the in-breaking of the reign of Christ. We are not merely passive bystanders; we are invited to be part of something much bigger than ourselves—to leave a legacy for future generations that ensures that the good news of the gospel and vital ministry continue. What do you hope that your legacy will be?
Stewardship at Home
Most of us are in full giving mode at this time of year. We’re planning for gatherings, looking forward to sharing our favorite foods, seeking presents for those we love and for whom we care, and wanting to make a difference in the lives of others. Spend some time this week considering how you can dedicate part of your time, talent, and financial abundance to the mission and ministries of your faith community. Might you make an extra offering before the end of the year? Are you able to make a gift of stock, insurance, or even collect spare change in a jar at the end of every day? Can you commit to serving in a new way or helping get a fresh ministry off the ground? Will you commit to pray daily for God to show you ways to make a difference and leave a lasting legacy?
It’s also easy to overdo it in December, filling calendars, buying too much, overspending, overindulging in rich foods, and sliding into Christmas exhausted and spent. Be sure to allow time to nurture your soul and spirit each day. Choosing a daily discipline like an Advent wreath or seasonal devotional may be helpful.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/11/stewardship-in-advent-series-give-thanks/
And here’s the 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/11/wait-wait%E2%80%A6please-tell-me/
Photos: Tauralbus, Jan-Helge Andersen, 401(k) 2012, and Anthony Masi, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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