Advent begins the liturgical year of the church. The season focuses on what God does to bring creation to its fulfillment. It builds on the anticipation of Jesus’ birth long ago to suggest what God will do in a future that we do not yet know. In the passage for today from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself as coming in judgment as the powers of this world melt away. In today’s passage from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul’s charge to the community of believers in Thessalonica articulates the Advent theme that expectation of God’s action in the future demands ethical engagement in the present. Psalm 25 joins in the living sense of a current connection with God. The Scriptures of Israel are accorded special consideration during Advent because they articulate promises that Jesus and the New Testament insist are in the process of being realized. In today’s first reading, Jeremiah envisions the reconciliation of the peoples of Israel under a descendant of David; the Gospels portray Jesus as that son of David.
The First Reading
A Promise of Future Restoration
In this reading, the prophet reassures those experiencing the trauma of exile that God’s word of promise is reliable. Despite the inevitability of the humiliation they are facing, the people can count on God’s promise to bring justice and vindication to both the northern and southern kingdoms of biblical Israel through a true, future descendant of King David.
Look! Days are coming—word of the Lord—when I will establish the good thing that I have promised to the House of Israel and the House of Judah. In those days, at that time, I will make a true branch sprout for David, who will realize justice and vindication for the country: in those days Judah will be rescued and Jerusalem will rest in safety. So it will be called: “The Lord is our vindication.”
A Prayer for God’s Protection and Compassion
Psalm 25 alternates between petitions for God’s compassionate forgiveness of sin and pleas for the divine wisdom to ensure the psalmist will avoid future transgression. This reading is particularly appropriate for Advent, a time of self-correction and instruction.
- For you, Lord, I yearn with all that I am!
- My God, in you I place my trust.
May I not suffer humiliation;
let not my enemies exult over me!
- May those who eagerly await you not suffer humiliation;
let those who act treacherously be humiliated!
- Declare your paths to me, Lord;
teach me your ways!
- Lead me along your paths of truth;
teach me, for you are the God of my deliverance;
I have always eagerly awaited you.
- Remember your compassion, Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they are eternal.
- The transgressions of my youth and my sins remember not;
in keeping with your steadfast love, remember me,
on account of your goodness, Lord.
- Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore God instructs sinners in the correct way.
- God leads the disadvantaged with justice,
teaching God’s path to the impoverished.
- All the ways of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness
for those who keep God’s covenant and decrees.
The Second Reading
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
A Prayer for the Believers in Thessalonica
Paul’s prayer for the believers in Thessalonica is an encouragement and example to pray for God’s strengthening of their faith as they continue to love one another, especially in anticipation of the Lord’s arrival.
What thanks can we possibly give back to God for you in Thessalonica, for all the joy in which we rejoice before God because of you? We pray earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and provide what is lacking in your faith.
Now, may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus guide our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we do for you, in order to establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the arrival of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
The Human Being Coming in Judgment
Luke’s Gospel balances two factors in its presentation of Jesus’ speech concerning his coming in judgment. From the outset, Luke insists in Jesus’ name that the powers of the present world are to be set aside. At the same time, this disturbing prospect accompanies the fundamental ground of hope that God’s unfolding intervention in the world signals the vindication of those who are righteous. Keen anticipation of this result encourages prayerful observation and alertness.
Jesus continued to say: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on earth, torment of nations in anxiety at the roar of the sea and the waves, people fainting away from fear and dread of the things coming upon the inhabited world, because the powers in the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall see this human being coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, straighten up and lift your heads, since your redemption approaches!”
And he offered them a comparison: “Look—the fig tree and all the trees. Once they have put forth shoots, you see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. In this same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass until all things happen. Heaven and earth will pass, but my words shall not pass. So take heed of yourselves, so your hearts are not loaded down with depravity and drunkenness and everyday worries and then that day bursts upon you, like a trap. For it will come upon all those who dwell upon the face of all the earth. Rather, stay alert at every moment, praying that you are strong enough to flee all these things that are about to happen and to stand at the end before this human being.”