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The First Sunday of Advent
Today is the first day in the Church – or Liturgical – Year: the way of seeing life through the lenses of the story of God’s people. Ironically Advent begins not in joy but in a note of despair. While the theme of the first Sunday in Advent is always HOPE, there is a realistic tinge to it. We have hope in Christ. Christ is our hope. We are called to live into hope. We act from hope. Yet in that belief we also recognize that humankind has reached the end of our hope. Despite all our schemes for self-improvement, self-reliant intent to get ourselves out of messes, we are at an impasse. We cannot save ourselves. We have only to look at the anger and despair in Ferguson this week, and how it spilled over into other places – our own city of Oakland – to see how only God can save us.
While that can sound depressingly dark, it’s a reminder for us that from the beginning our hope has always been in God. We too await expectantly the long promised Messiah. The promised One has come – it’s what we celebrate at Christmas – it’s the story we retell during Advent – and yet….the promise is also that the Messiah will return. It’s this definitive and triumphant second coming that we anticipate and celebrate in Advent. The Coming of God will override the stuck places in our world, right the wrongs that hunger for God’s justice, curb the desperation of our brothers and sisters, and bring a peaceful end to division, destruction and death. We begin Advent in looking not to ourselves, but in naming that God alone is our hope, that God is always on our side, inviting us to life.
As you read the scripture chosen for this auspicious day, how do you hear our invitation to wrestle with these themes? As you read Isaiah – pay attention to the change in tone. When does it happen? Look at what God does and what we – people do. Which images or metaphors in this prophetic poem speak most to you?
In the salutation of his letter, the Apostle Paul begins by reminding the community of believers in the ancient city of Corinth that they live into hope. How do you hear it? What then are the implications for how we shall live our faith and hope as a community? For that is what Paul is going to transition to in his letter of pastoral advice.
Questions for going deeper: