Above: The Visitation, from an Illustrated Manuscript
DECEMBER 15, 2013
DECEMBER 11, 2016
FIRST READING: Isaiah 35:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
RESPONSE (TWO OPTIONS):
Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Version):
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose help is the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD!
Canticle 15 (The Magnificat), from The Book of Common Prayer, page 91:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
SECOND READING: James 5:7-10 (New Revised Standard Version):
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
GOSPEL: Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version):
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
Jesus answered them,
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:
What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you
who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
The Third Sunday of Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, from the opening words of the collect. The prayer asks to God to send divine power among us , to help and deliver us, who cannot perform either task on our own behalf. The readings for this Sunday tell of what happens when God’s power is unleashed: deserts bloom, the mighty fall, the humble are exalted, and exiles return home. All this is wonderful, except from the vantage point of the mighty whom God has cast down from their thrones.
When I ponder these readings, especially the Magnificat, I cannot help but wonder how certain politicians and pundits with whom I disagree profoundly might handle the content. Might they accuse the texts of engaging in class warfare? Well, class welfare is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that matter, an unregulated or barely regulated corporate economy contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, from the Hebrew Prophets to Jesus. I cannot escape the fact that the Bible teaches nothing less than Christian Socialism.
Here I stand; I can do no other.
A NOTE CONCERNING THE SUBSEQUENT DEVOTIONS FOR ADVENT
The Episcopal Church’s lectionary for Advent lays out sets of readings as follows:
- The First Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
- The First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
- The Second Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
- The Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
- The Third Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
- The Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday)
- December 17-24 (Readings designated per date)
- The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
There can be as many as 29 days in Advent. Consider the following facts:
- The First Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than November 27 and no later than December 3.
- Ergo the Fourth Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than December 18 and no later than December 24.
So the following statements are accurate:
- In all years the first fifteen days of Advent will fall according to the pattern: First Sunday of Advent–First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Second Sunday of Advent–Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Third Sunday of Advent.
- After that the variations begin to occur. One might read all or some or none of the lections for the Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday), depending on the dates of the Sundays of Advent. Also, at least one Sunday will fall within the December 17-24 timeframe.
I will write and publish 29 (the maximum possible number) Advent devotions on this blog. Some days will have two devotions, then, but that can only be good.