November 29, 2020 The First Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Advent is a wakeup call
What happened to God’s chosen people was a real shame. It was bad enough that the country split during the height of its glory after the death of King Solomon, but that was nothing compared to the situation we find in today’s reading, Psalm 80:2-3;15-19. After centuries of idolatry, God used the Assyrians to carry the ten northern tribes of Israel away in a devastating judgement. The southern kingdom of Judah met a similar fate with the Babylonian exile about one hundred and fifty years later. During this time, their identity as a nation had been a train wreck of humiliation and persecution. The Psalmist appeals to the Almighty to end it and restore them back to their homeland. He remembers his history. How when the Lord raised up Moses and with miracles of great power, the Almighty freed them from the Egyptians. They conquered Canaan and the Lord established them there in the Promised Land as His own. God’s working in the past gives him hope for the future and the faith to pray for a Savior. Unless God acts, all is lost.
O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here…
With his prayer for restoration made, all that is left for the Psalmist to do is wait…well, not quite.
Our reading in Isaiah 63:16-19; 64:2-7 takes matters to a more personal level. He reminds the Almighty that, since the time of Abraham, God has been a Father to every one of them throughout the generations. Isaiah sees that the nation’s predicament stems from personal sin. The children of Israel broke faith with the Lord. They ignored His commandments and pursued their own desires. This hard-hearted abandonment of their relationship with Jehovah landed them in dire straits. When you find yourself in a hole…stop digging! The prophet intercedes for his people with a national act of contrition. After acknowledging their unrighteousness, their weaknesses, and their desperate standing before a holy God, he knows that only their Father in heaven can redeem them from their duly deserved fate. Isaiah begs the Lord to do something totally awesome and unexpected to save the day.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give us victory o’er the grave.
With his confession finished, all that is left for the prophet do is wait…well, not quite.
Many hundreds of years after the time of the Psalmist and Isaiah, the Messiah was born. He came into the world as if out of nowhere. He healed the sick, taught in the Temple, and lived as the light to dispel our darkness. Jesus Christ fulfilled His mission to save His people from their sins and establish the kingdom of God. Now, with hindsight, the Apostle Paul sums up the believer’s state of affairs in today’s epistle, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. The Almighty has given us grace in Christ. God has enriched us in the knowledge of Himself. By His Holy Spirit, we lack nothing that we need to serve Him. Our Father who has called us into fellowship with His Son is faithful to the end. God gives us every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and it all became real at the Nativity. We mark that Christmas day with celebrations and songs.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
With all that the Lord has done for us, all that is left to do is wait…well, not quite.
Besides waiting, the Lord has another especially important command for us, and it’s found in today’s gospel, Mark 13:33-37: WATCH! STAY ALERT! BE READY! When we pray, God acts behind the scenes. There are parts that are out of our hands and we just have to trust Him. However, there are other parts where He wants you to partner with Him to be an answer to your own prayer. That’s where watching, alertness, and preparations are essential. If the Psalmist prays for the restoration of Israel, he must labor toward that goal and, in anticipation, make ready for him and his family to go. We can pray like Isaiah, the prophet, for forgiveness, but we must also change our ways. The chief priests in Jerusalem were waiting for the Messiah, but did nothing at their critical hour. In the meantime, the Wise Men were looking for the Lord’s Star and were ready to go and meet their king when it came. Today, with the Lord’s coming closer than ever, we need to be living like we have a clue!
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
There are marvelous things ahead! In staying with our first week of Advent theme of restoration and forgiveness, there is at least one thing that the Lord wants us to do here and now and it’s found in 2 Chronicles 2:14:
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Let this Advent be our wake-up call! Watch! Be Ready! Always live, work, and pray in the anticipation of meeting Jesus at any moment, either in death or…at His Second Advent.