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Advent 1, Cycle C

Advent, as the season of anticipation for the coming of the Lord, is unique within our Church Year in that during Advent each year we are encouraged to look forward to new and future acts of God, not only with all other Christian people, but with all who are theists throughout the world. Approximately 67% of all people alive at this time, i.e., virtually all Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, as well as most people whose religions are spin-offs of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hindu Religions, look forward in some way to new actions of God within their future. All of the other seasons of the Church Year are more specifically Christian, limited for the most part to God’s actions as perceived to have occurred in Jesus of Nazareth, whom we believe is raised from the dead by the power of God and is one with God within what we call the Trinity perception of God.

It would be appropriate for us, as least on this First Sunday in Advent, to recognize this broad perspective that the season of Advent provides as we study the texts appointed for this day and as we proclaim God’s Word for our time and place this coming weekend. It is within this broader perspective that the season of Advent provides that our Advent hope for peace and justice for all of the people of the world emerges.

Finally, it should be noted that the “Lord” in the texts appointed for this day does not refer solely to Jesus or to Jesus Christ. It refers to Adonai as Lord, as well as to Jesus as Lord. Therefore, if we have Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu friends whom we wish to invite to join with us in a Christian worship service, the service on Advent 1 will be the best time during the year to do this.

Psalm 25:1-10

This psalm is primarily an individual lament. It is an acrostic psalm, with each successive verse in Hebrew beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Because of this rather artificial form, the sequence of thought is somewhat irregular, as it would be if we attempted to write sentences beginning sequentially with each letter of the English alphabet.

Many of us may remember the use of this psalm in opening Sunday school worship services during our childhood. We may still cringe somewhat over its “Remember not the sins of my youth,” wondering whether for the sake of our young people should we not translate it more adequately as “Remember not my past sins,” at least when it is to be used by young people who can easily see that generally speaking young people are no more sinful than are the older people around them.

The psalm is a prayer to the Lord that with loving kindness the Lord would remember the psalmist. As such, it is a prayer for the present and for the future, that a person’s present and the person’s future may be lived according to the way of the Lord.

The portions of the psalm that are included in this lectionary selection can be used by any theists, especially when the Hebrew divine tetragrammaton is translated as “Lord.” It is the context and the community within which the psalm is used that make it specifically Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or Hindu.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The selection is a promise of fulfillment for Israel and for Judah, one of many Israelite expressions of hope for a political ruler in David’s line, one who will rule in a way that will give to Jerusalem a good name.

The larger section, Jeremiah 33:1-26, appears to be a redactional addition to the chapter 30-31 “Book of Consolation,” following in the Hebrew text the story about Jeremiah’s purchase of a field in Anathoth, his hometown. The section Jeremiah 33:14-26 repeats, redacts, and comments upon Jeremiah 23:5-6. The absence of Jeremiah 33:14-26 from the Septuagint text suggests that Jeremiah 33:14-26 may have been a relatively late addition to the Hebrew text of Jeremiah.

As Christians, we can use upper case letters for the branch, for the political messiah, if we wish, and we can see in Jesus the fulfillment of this expression of prophetic hope. There are some insurmountable problems with this interpretation, however, since we can hardly say with Jeremiah 33:16 that “in those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” The birth, life, and death of the Jesus of history and his resurrection as the Christ of faith have not made Jerusalem and Judah safe and secure. At no time since the time of Jeremiah has Judah been “saved” and at no time has Jerusalem “dwelled securely.” Certainly this is still a future hope, not one that has been realized, in spite of important new efforts to make this possible.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

The key portions of this text for use on Advent 1 appear to be 3:11-13 (a doxology that concludes with a reference to the “Advent” or “Parousia” of Jesus as Lord). In this portion the future emphasis predominates. The extension of the reading into 4:1-2 adds a segment of parenesis, sound advice in view of the coming Advent of the Lord.

Luke 21:25-36

As we read and ponder over the significance of these words for our own time and place, with the apocalyptic expectations in this text regarding the coming of the Son of Man, cosmic distress, the end of heaven and earth, and the continuance of the words of Jesus into the future, our emphasis in the use of this text should be on futuristic eschatology rather than on realized eschatology. Particularly this should be the case on Advent 1 when we stand with the Israelite people, with the writers of the Newer Testament epistles and gospels, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other theists and look ahead with joyful anticipation toward God’s new acts in the time that is still to come. We are now in a new Church Year, looking forward to Christmas once again, to new acts of God in the future in which we may participate, not looking backward to the past.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen