1st Reading – Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Jeremiah the prophet wrote this just after the northern kingdom (Israel) was conquered by the Assyrians but before the Babylonian exile. Jeremiah was actually a prophet from the southern kingdom (Judah). It was a time of destruction and confusion. There was a deep desire for a king from the Davidic line. In the ending of the book of Jeremiah as we have it, the future of the monarchy is open, continuation possible but not assured. Christian readers may read into this passage that it is a foreshadowing of Jesus. In actuality, Jeremiah and his audience were looking for a more immediate solution to their problem, (An Intro to the Old Testament, Brueggemann, 188). And yet, they hold on with great hope. How does this reading both comfort and challenge us this Advent? What do you make of, “The Lord our justice”?
Semah saddiq or ‘just shoot,’ also rendered as ‘righteous branch’ and/or ‘legitimate heir,’ had become a classic prophetic term for the messiah, the anointed one. Because of this promised shoot, a renewed Jerusalem would be renamed Yahweh Sidqenu, ‘The Lord, our Justice’. This new name for the capital city is a play on the name of Zedekiah, Judah’s king, a weak and vacillating man, whose reign had resulted in disaster for his people. However, under the rule of the just shoot of David, the new Jerusalem or Yahweh Sidqenu would flourish in peace and justice (Preaching Resources, 2003, 514).
2nd Reading — 1 Thessalonians 3: 12 – 4:2
This is the oldest New Testament piece of writing, dating from about
50-51 AD. It is the beginning of Christian literature. Paul’s preaching and the belief of Jesus caused so much unrest and turmoil in this city that Paul was forced to leave. He later writes this letter to his new community. In the midst of difficult times, what is Paul’s message? What is the message to us this Advent? How does this reading compare to our 1st reading?
The Gospel – Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
How is this gospel ‘good news’ for you? What words from this passage are most meaningful to you at this time?
Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said when asked about the future coming of Christ:
“The future is not in our hands. We have no power over it. We can act only today. We, the Missionaries of Charity, have a sentence we try to take to heart: ‘We will allow the good God to make plans for the future — for yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make God known, loved, served.’ So we do not worry about the future.”
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Dec. 2000:
Fearful living is not faithful living! While these readings may seem unnerving, they are meant to offer us hope – even in the midst of disaster. Jesus assures us that our salvation is at hand. ‘Be not afraid’ is one of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice in the New Testament. With Jesus, we have nothing to fear, even when our boat is rocking in a violent storm.
From Living Liturgy, 2004:
We are told to ‘stand before the Son of Man.” This is an image of such an intimacy with Jesus that he has already come for us – is present to us. This unity and intimacy comes from prayer; it is our source of strength. Such vigilance does involve a type of dying; it is the paschal mystery. Our focus cannot be only on our own wants and needs. We need to unite our desires to the presence of Christ in our lives. We need to pray to recognize Christ in others and to grow in this likeness ourselves. There is a dying and a rising to all of this.
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Dec. 2006:
During this season of busy-ness and “Jingle-Bell” tunes, let us keep our focus clear. Advent is about the coming of Christ – in the past, in the future, but even more so in the right-now. Justice is coming! Love is on its way! Don’t miss it!