Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, First Sunday of Advent, Year B
December 3, 2017
Lessons: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people enter Advent with eyes wide open in anticipation of seeing Jesus; we are stewards of this season of waiting and hoping and longing.
Key Scriptures: “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” – Mark 13:37
Helping our communities connect to the urgency in this week’s lesson from Mark’s gospel is key to understanding and embracing this Advent season. The world for Mark’s hearers was truly a mess, and there are certainly elements of similar messiness and despair in our own time. It won’t take much of a stretch to set a contemporary stage for Jesus’ words.
Chances are that people in our pews are feeling stresses and concerns that may feel apocalyptic in nature. Whether it is the pain and strain of world affairs and natural disasters, or personal life stresses, or holiday melancholy, many of our sisters and brothers are hungry for counter-cultural opportunities that Advent presents in a fast-paced and frenetic world.
Paul’s words to the Jesus followers at Corinth are meant to reassure and comfort those who longed for their Messiah to come again. Some 2,000 years later we still wait in that already-and-not-yet tension, longing for the world to be made right and wondering what’s taking so long, so these words are a sweet balm for our weary souls, too.
Advent calls us to be fully present, alert for signs of Jesus’ inbreaking into our lives and neighborhoods, and holding to the hope that is promised to us. Unfortunately, there are plenty of distractions all around, temptations to give in to the false gods of our day and time, and pushes and pulls on our finite time and resources.
Perhaps the biggest gift we can impart to those with whom we serve and live is to give one another permission to slow down and embrace our imperfections so that God can work in and through and with us. As the prophet writes in our lesson from Isaiah, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (v. 8). We are people in process — not there yet, but becoming. God continues to mold and shape us for ministry and mission. We are “little Christs,” the hands, feet, and eyes of our Lord, so dearly beloved.
If we can recapture some of the wonder and simple joy of children during this time, to slow down and savor, to live fully in each precious moment (or at least in some of them), then we can make space for Jesus to come and dwell among us and within us again.
Look around. See the face of Christ in the tired mother wrangling little ones through the big-box store. Witness Christ’s love in a simple and random act of kindness on a busy street. Experience Jesus in the beloved community gathered to worship and feast at the Eucharist. Hear the love of God in the musicians using their talents on the street corner, and taste a bit of heaven in an impromptu potluck meal shared with friends. Our time is not God’s time — thankfully. The time we do have is now, so dearly beloved, steward it well this Advent. Breathe. Hope. Love. Above all, keep awake and watch. You will see Jesus.
“It’s a beautiful heartbreaking imperfect world. And it’s a gift to be alive in it.”– Linford Detweiler, songwriter for Over the Rhine
As we enter the season of Advent this Sunday, take the time to slow the pace of worship down as much as possible. Encourage those serving in worship to breathe deeply and allow extra space in the liturgy. You might even invite worshipers into a short breathing exercise before worship begins or as part of the sermon. You can find examples here.
Consider having worshipers write down their biggest fear or concern about the world on a small card. Then, on the other side, invite them to write down one beautiful thing they see in life or one place where they have seen evidence of Jesus during the week. Have them take these small “gift cards” home with them to use as a reminder during the week that whenever the difficulty and pain of life seems too great, there is the flip side of beauty and hope, of Jesus. Advent helps us clear the space for Jesus and fling wide the doors of hope.
The term “woke” has taken on new meaning in the last few years, especially in reference to being aware of what’s going on the world around one in the areas of social injustice and racism. What does it mean to “keep awake” in the context of the lesson from Mark’s gospel? What might it mean to be “woke” as a follower of Jesus today? What was Jesus talking about? How do we walk “awake” in the world? Can we live without really being fully awake and alive to what is happening around us? What signs of Jesus present and active in the world have you seen this week?
Consider buying party-size cups of PlayDoh. Make a sticker for the inset lid to fit the lesson from Isaiah. Perhaps you could include the words “Child of the Potter” and Isaiah 64:8-9. Talk to the children about what it means to have God form us and fashion us for service. It is a process, one we undergo all of our lives. If you don’t want to use commercial play clay, make your own from simple kitchen ingredients, place a handful in a baggie along with the recipe and references to this lesson. Click here for recipes. Remind children that in God’s hands they are wonderful, creative works of art–fearfully and wonderfully made.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This short season of Advent is well worth careful stewarding. Take time in the midst of the hustle and bustle to savor the spare light of winter, the earth sinking into rest, and the season calling us to rest, watch, and wait. This is a gift to relish as we draw near to Christmas.
Stewardship at Home
To be alert one must be fully present in the moment, something that can be tough to do in our world of multi-tasking and myriad priorities. So many things and people vie for our time, attention, and resources. With Christmas fast approaching, the pace picks up even more. This is why the season of Advent is so important.
Advent calls us to prepare, but also to wait, to hope, and to long for the world to be made right in Jesus. Take time this week to savor short breaks and to spend time with family, friends, and your faith family. Look for signs of Jesus in the world. Be creative and lavish time to draw, paint, dance, write, sing, play an instrument, take a walk, or whatever else feeds your passion and brings you joy and life. Laugh. Be silent. Experience Advent as time that transcends our frenzied human notions of time. Christmas will be here soon enough. Slow down and live.
Photos:Cat Branchman and lel4and, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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