Day by Day

December 1st, 2019 The 1st Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s readings: Living with Promises

Psalm 122:1-9, Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44

In the Old Testament, there were three pilgrimage festivals that the people observed at the temple in Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. There were things to buy, food to make, and travel plans to arrange. It was a long hard uphill trek to Zion and you had to be there on time to worship God and celebrate. Yes, life was busy in ancient Israel. It’s a lot like today as we prepare for Christmas on this first Sunday of Advent.  Similarly, as we have our Christmas music, they had special songs that they sang for the occasion as they journeyed on their way. They were Psalms 120 through 134, the songs of ascent. These Psalms, like our Christmas carols, prepared the pilgrim in worship and reminded them of the promises of God for their lives. They made the season merry and bright.

Today’s Psalm of ascent reading, Psalm 122: 1-9 and our reading in Isaiah 2:1-5 have common themes. The people are enthusiastic in worshiping together (Psalm 112:1 and Isaiah 2:1-3). They rejoice in the righteous government set up by God (Psalm 122:4-5 and Isaiah 2:3-4). Finally, peace (Psalm 122:6-9 and Isaiah 2:4-5). The pilgrims in the Old Testament, despite their current turbulent circumstances, can revel in a blessed hope of what they sing about because the prophet assures them of their reality to come. We are to celebrate the assurance of the Christmas promises of peace on earth and good will to men by their fulfillment in the coming of our Lord, Himself, the Prince of Peace. We need to look to the future in anticipation. The best way to receive the future is to prepare for it.

In our reading in Matthew 24:37-44, Jesus uses the time of Noah as a warning for us to keep vigilant concerning His return. It took Noah about a hundred and twenty years to build the ark. During that time, he warned everyone about the coming flood and urged them to repent (2 Peter 2:5). Because of the length of time involved, if any listened at all, they fell away; they lost focus and heart. Year after year went by. One day was always like another…until it wasn’t. The flood took them by surprise and the calendar ended for all of them. Paul echoes Christ’s advice in today’s reading of Romans 13:11-14. In it, he reminds the church at Rome that each day brings them closer to the Lord’s coming. “Therefore,” the Apostle says, “Let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” He then recites a litany of sins that needed to be dealt with. It’s an embarrassing list for any congregation and sadly, all too true for many of us. We should determine not be ashamed when we meet Him.

So, in the spirit of Advent, let’s take the opportunity to examine our life, confess our sins, and get back to walking with our God. Let’s keep our focus on the Lord during our pilgrimage to Christmas and not let the world’s distraction get us off course. In our carols, let’s rejoice in the history of promises fulfilled by the Christ child and celebrate the expectation of those predictions to be realized when the King returns. If we carry a worshipful attitude as our focus, then everyday can be a Christmas Day in life’s journey and we can say as the Psalmist in today’s song of ascent, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” It’s a good road to be on.

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