Sunday of Advent (cycle b)
Call to Worship (responsively)
Leader: Christ, Gods gift to the world, shall come:
People: For those who feel despair will know hope.
Leader: For those who are oppressed will know freedom
People: For those who are lonely will know love.
Leader: For those who are suffering will know inner peace.
People: O Christ, Lord of the world, your time is now!
All: Fill our hearts with joy!
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Isaiah 64:1-9 &
by Richard Gehring
Here we are, the last day of the month of November. Thanksgiving
is now past, although some of us still may have family to gather with
and more turkey to eat. Our church calendar, however, tells us
that this is the beginning of the season known as Advent. It is a
season that has been observed by the church, in one form or another, for
more than 1600 years. The earliest record we have of the
celebration of Advent comes from Spain around the year 380 when a law
was passed prohibiting anyone from being absent from church between
December 17 and January 6, the day of Epiphany. Eventually, the
season was extended to include the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day,
But while we may know when Advent is, we aren't always sure exactly what
it is all about. I looked up the word "advent" in the dictionary
and found this definition: "The coming or arrival, especially of
something awaited or momentous." That definition immediately
raises a number of questions for me. What is it that arrives
during this Advent season? What is coming? What momentous
event do we await?
The simple answer to this question is that Advent is the time of waiting
for Christmas. But this is not an answer that I find completely
satisfactory. Why do we need to spend four weeks waiting for one
day? On the other hand, why start waiting now when Christmas
decorations have been up in stores and carols have been playing at the
mall for a whole month now?
Our two scripture texts for this morning are both addressed to people
who, unlike us, were accustomed to waiting. The Isaiah passage
most likely was written during or immediately after the time of the
Babylonian exile. The people of Israel had been utterly defeated,
their leaders taken away as captives to a foreign land, their cities
destroyed and their temple ransacked and burned. And even after
their oppressors were defeated and the nobility were allowed to return
home, they were still not an independent nation, and it was some time
before the temple was rebuilt.
So the people waited. They waited for the restoration of their
once proud glory as a sovereign kingdom...
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