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The First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36
Our society hurdles itself – and us – towards Christmas and all that it represents. The race now often begins, at least in stores, in August. Christmas comes at the end of the season of Advent: 40 days marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The word Advent means coming, arrival or emergence. It’s a season of waiting and watching. A season of two orientations: We look to the past, listening to the story of how God’s responded to the longing of men and women for the long-promised Messiah. We also look to the future in an attitude of expectancy of what God has yet to complete in the life of humankind- in our story.
This first Sunday of Advent is rooted in the radical hope of the Christian faith put int a God whose faithfulness is often not necessarily what it appears to be. In Hebrew faithfulness and mercy are the same word. It’s also the word that means “womb.” God’s love is like that of a mother for the baby she carries in her womb towards the completion of birth. A baby in the womb can’t see her mother. He can easily misperceive and have a clouded vision of life, love and the future. The readings for this Sunday wrestle with such love.
Jeremiah writes of the day of the Lord, when we will know firsthand God’s faithfulness and mercy. Yet historically this expression referred to a day of wrath, anguish, devastation and judgment. (Zephaniah 1:15 among many others). Here though this moment in the future is portrayed as one of redemption and joy. Like a felled tree, seemingly dead, from which springs forth a new branch, God is alive, working, redeeming, completing, healing and giving life. Where there appeared to be no hope as the kings of Israel had been defeated, God is working wonders, keeping the divine promise to continue the kingly line of David with a new ruler to bring justice and righteousness.
Luke tells us of a saying of Jesus. Loaded with references to this same perception of God’s judgment on the Day of the Lord. Heavily laden with apocalyptic images, it’s written in a language that’s larger than life. It’s an invitation to us to keep awake, to stay alert, not allowing our vision to be clouded by things that are worthy of attention and/or those that are trivial.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation