First Sunday of Advent, Narrative Lectionary, November 27, 2016
Lessons: Daniel 6:6-27; Luke 23:1-5
Theme: God’s faithful people wait on the Lord, ready to respond no matter what situation they find themselves facing, trusting that God will never desert them.
Key Scripture: Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” Daniel 6:21-22
The story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den may be a classic Sunday school tale that brings shivers and wonder to many a little mind and body, but it’s also a potent and timely story given our own struggles for power and justice in the 21st century. This story also works well for our entrance to Advent, where we are called to wait and watch and set our “houses” aright for the coming incarnation of God.
As a stewardship story, Daniel’s fierce allegiance to God is an exemplary reminder for modern day disciples and stewards of God’s abundance to keep focused on the one true source of power—God, the Creator of the Cosmos. While clamorous voices around us sing a siren song urging us to put our faith in the power and persuasion of worldly leaders, earthly economies, conspicuous consumption, and all else that glitters and sparkles, we can follow Daniel’s example as trustworthy even in the face of persecution.
Our allegiance and our very lives belong to God, no matter what powers collide or seek to dissuade or even crush us. In times of uncertainty, this is very good news. The story of Daniel and his time in the lions’ den reminds us that it is possible to be faithful amid adversity and anxiety, that we can follow in the footsteps of faithful folk like Daniel and saints from many ages and places to keep our eyes fixed on God.
While much of the world is rushing headlong into the season of shopping, decorating, and celebrating, this
story from the apocalyptic book of Daniel challenges us to wait on the Lord and trust that God will see us through—no matter what and no matter the cost. Instead of rushing with the tide into this season of stress and spending, take a deep, long breath and share this story of faith and perseverance.
Look for stories of faith in your own congregations or communities. How and where have people chosen to put God first in their lives despite earthly pressures? How might sharing these stories and faithful witness strengthen the entire community? What acts of defiant faithfulness might you embrace during Advent?
Consider inviting congregants into daily prayer. Create simple disciplines around lighting the Advent candles or using an Advent calendar to mark this time and wait on God. Spend time with friends and family rather than feeling pressured to make a “perfect” Christmas season. Connect with one another through social media AND face-to-face social interaction around the disciplines of prayer, worship, study, and service. Give and love lavishly in a world that sings a song of scarcity.
Shut the commercial, political, and cultural lions’ mouths with a counter-cultural celebration of Advent that puts waiting on God at the center of every action and choice you make. Speak aloud King Darius’ decree proclaiming the power of the living God who “works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth” and who “delivers and rescues.” Our world desperately needs to hear and embrace these words of hope, and you and I can help equip one another to share them. Blessings on your faithful teaching and preaching.
Work Darius’ decree (Daniel 6:26-27) into a Litany of Sending, empowering congregants to go out in good faith knowing that God saves and is at work in the world, stirring things up to usher in the reign of Christ.
What must it have taken for Daniel to be so faithful even to the point of breaking civil law? He was, after all a teen, a smart young man, when he was taken into Babylonian captivity and placed in the Royal Academy with some of his friends. Discuss how we can use our knowledge and learning to make a difference and how we can encourage one another to stand strong in the face of wrong and injustice by remaining focused on God and trusting our Lord to lead us and equip us. Share some modern day examples of those who have used adversity to work for what is right.
Stir It Up!
In Advent we pray for Jesus to “stir up” his power and come. We want Jesus to come and bring his love, peace, and saving grace to all the world. We look forward to a different kind of king in Jesus, one who comes as a homeless, helpless baby not as a powerful ruler in a castle. We look for Jesus to come and love ALL people, not just the popular and powerful ones. Our Jesus “stirs things up” because that’s not how the world works. We still look for power and might, not a little bitty baby. And here’s the thing: We are all called to stir things up, too! We are called to love and serve ALL people and to share Jesus’ good news. We can share this good news by “stirring up” a sweet treat to share. (Make some of these simple sweets to share in advance, and give the children the recipe to take home and make with their parents. Encourage them to share the sweet treat and the good news of Jesus love with someone during this Advent season.
Easy Matzo Toffee
Combine 1 stick butter, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown (305 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Arrange three sheets of Matzo side by side on a large buttered, foil-lined baking sheet; pour the sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Chill until firm; break apart. You can also drizzle melted semi-sweet chocolate over the toffee for an even sweeter treat.
Stewardship at Home
In the Anglican tradition, the final Sunday before Advent is called “Stir Up Sunday” and marked the day that the Christmas puddings were put together. Consider the Lukan gospel lesson for this day when Jesus stands before Pilate and the people insist on his death, claiming “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place” (Luke 23:5). Consider also that our Advent prayers for each Sunday begin with the words “Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.”
Celebrate that Jesus stirs up the world to make it right by making a traditional Christmas pudding to share. It’s a treat worth waiting for, and it provides an opportunity to teach about Advent as a season of waiting and readying. Be sure to find a way to share your pudding with others when it is finally ready. You can find recipes and more information here and here.
Photos: Victor Imung, gilliu00, and Ged Carroll, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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