Above: The Swords into Plowshares Statue at the United Nations
Image Source = Melesse
God With Us
DECEMBER 1, 2013
NOVEMBER 27, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many people shall come and say,
Come let us go up tot he mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his paths.
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD!
Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):
I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go to the house of the LORD!
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem–built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks for the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones of judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say,
Peace be within you.
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
Romans 13:11-14 (New Revised Standard Version):
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Matthew 24:36-44 (New Revised Standard Version):
Jesus said to the disciples,
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Happy New Year! The First Sunday of Advent opens the Western Christian Year. (The Eastern Orthodox churches keep a different schedule.) About four weeks from the First Sunday of Advent falls Christmas day. So, in Western Christian sacred time, this is a time to begin preparing for Christmas, much as Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. I encourage you, O reader, to give Advent its full due attention, not rushing to Christmas Day. In fact, I prefer to hold off on “Merry Christmas” greetings until about December 24. The rest of the time I wish people a “Holy Advent.”
The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” This summarizes the readings for this day. They speak of the God who is present with us, what this deity will do at some unspecified time, and the responsibilities the faithful must execute in this context. These lessons tell us that God loves us, expects us to behave ourselves, and will establish justice on the earth in the future.
No mere mortal can predict the future with perfect accuracy. Science fiction scenarios look dated with the passage of time. Think about the computer technology in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), for example. The computers are SO BIG compared to what they were in 2001, much less 2010. And since shortly after the time Jesus walked the earth people have predicted his return many times, often with specific dates. One of my favorite thrift store finds is a small paperback book, Christ Returns by 1988: 101 Reasons Why, by Colin Hoyle Deal. I feel safe in claiming that 1988 came and went without Jesus returning.
Let us not become so preoccupied with reading the news in hopes of identifying the Antichrist or other apocalyptic indicators that we give short shrift to or ignore signs of God’s actual activity around us. Alleged Antichrists have come and gone; they are ranged from Adolf Hitler to Joseph Stalin to Ronald Wilson Reagan–the latter for having three names, each with six letters–666. All politics aside, I propose that to become caught up prophesy is a fool’s errand, and that we Christians need to focus on the present constructively. God is active all around us; do we not see it. If we look with spiritual eyes we will see Jesus in friends, strangers, and even in those we dislike. We will witness divine activity in places we expect the least or do anticipate at all. So we will know more deeply that God is with us and will remain with us, and that this fact makes certain demands upon us.
As for the rest, the details will be what they will be. And any of us could be wrong about our predictions. Sometimes a belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is near has become a reason not to seek social justice or not to conserve part of the natural world. Yet we humans have a mandate to care for creation and to seek social justice. So let us live faithfully in the present tense, leaving the future to God.
P.S.: The Episcopal Church has adopted an Advent lectionary. My practice regarding Advent is as follows: I use the designated Year A readings, according to the Revised Common Lectionary and the lessons which are part of the Episcopal lectionary for Advent. This lectionary designates Monday-Saturday lessons for the first two weeks of Advent, Monday-Friday readings for the Third Week of Advent, and dated lessons for December 24. I will provide devotions for all of these, including Friday in the Third Week, which will fall on December 17 in 2010 and December 19, which will double as the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year. My intention is that these devotions will roll over from year to year, adding Year B Sundays next year and Year C Sundays the year after that, and changing dates on blog posts as necessary each year.
So I invite you to accompany me on this faith journey.