November 25, 2019
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art,
dear desire of ev'ry nation,
joy of ev'ry longing heart.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #254]
The assigned lectionary readings for December 1, 2019, The First Sunday of Advent, are as follows:
Welcome to Advent!
It has become increasingly evident that Advent is becoming a lost season in our society. I would dare say the majority of the general public has no clue as to the meaning of this season of waiting, of excited anticipation.
Maybe I'm reflecting my age, but when I watch television or listen to radio, I notice that Christmas commercials have begun to appear much earlier and more frequently. I listen to satellite radio in my car, and I heard an announcement recently that there are 12 - count 'em, TWELVE - satellite radio channels that are programming Christmas music...and we haven't even gotten to Thanksgiving yet!
What the Church knows as the season of Advent has become society's season of consumerism. A few years ago, we were introduced to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, designed to lure bargain hunters into retail businesses with the promise of drastic markdowns in prices. But in a stunningly rapid turn of events, the scenes of shoppers stampeding through the aisles of stores has given way to online shopping as the order of the day. People no longer have to leave their homes to take part in the mayhem. We even have pre-Black Friday sales that begin weeks in advance of Thanksgiving.
My thoughts on this madness can be summed up in a comment I heard years ago by late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert, "
We are once again spending money we don't have on things we don't need to give to people we don't like."
This year, like every year it seems, Advent comes as the world is in the midst of war: conflicts and struggles flare and threaten to flare all over the world, in Syria, Turkey, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Venezuela, not to mention in our own cities and neighborhoods, our homes and workplaces, and our relationships with one another.
Consumerism acts as a balm to protect us from having to think about such things. It's like the saying on an old bumper sticker: "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!"
The consumer cult has its theology of supply and demand.
But God calls us to look forward and see a different reality: a kingdom of God that is ruled by a babe in a manger.
Advent is the expectant waiting, the hopeful anticipation, and cheerful preparation of God breaking into our lives. Advent is preparing for Christ's return and welcoming God into our lives every day. It can be compared somewhat to getting your house ready for an honored guest. There is much to do; everything must be made ready. Advent prepares us for these events and reminds us that there is joy in waiting.
In our Gospel reading for this First Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns his disciples to, "Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." [Matthew 24:42]
To live in hopeful anticipation of the future coming of Christ does not mean that we give up on the present world, filled as it is with sickness and starvation, pollution and poverty, warfare and waywardness.
On the contrary, the reason Christians work so hard to rid the world of such things is because we know that the same One who will finally defeat the powers of darkness at the end of time is already moving with mighty power against them even now.
We may feel cynical and see the world as a material and spiritual wasteland around us. But if we believe that our risen Lord will come again, then we - the Church - far from lifting ourselves out of the world, ought to go back into the world with renewed confidence and conviction.
And as we pray daily in the prayer that Jesus taught us: thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
That is our hope on this first Sunday of Advent. That is our expectation. No one can be sure exactly when the Second Coming will occur. But in the meantime, we keep moving. We keep working, and praying, and serving, and loving one another. Because who knows? Maybe the more we do, the greater the possibilities that God is able to do something through us.
God is at work in the world even now and will bring to pass that day when the Son of Man comes. We may not know when that hour is coming, as Jesus says, but we know how it is we are supposed to wait: living out the reality that we expect to be fulfilled among us. Living lives of peace, not of violence and division. Lives that transform division into unity, destruction into hope for prosperity and plenty.
Tuesday I will join several other faith leaders at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland as we celebrate our annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. The worship begins at noon. Trinity Cathedral is located at 2230 Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland.
The Lutheran Center will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and Friday, November 28-29. We will reopen on Monday, December 2.
This week and always, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:7]
With my sincerest wishes for a Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!
+Bishop Abraham Allende