Summary: Justice requires confession, forgiveness and a healing of the past. Jeremiah promised that God was working for justice. Today, we can see even small signs of justice as a shoot coming up from the ground, giving us hope for full justice in God’s time. We should commit ourselves to our own work of shining the light on injustice, of confessing, of forgiveness, of healing the past as we look toward God’s future.
Summary: For something as cosmic as the return of Jesus, you’d better be alert — but keep in mind that the biblical meaning of watchfulness is working for the kingdom. So remain watchful. Besides, if we’re not looking, we might even miss something as obvious as Christmas.
Summary: When the Bible speaks about the return of Christ and the end of history, people often ask the question “When?” But Jesus’ words about “the coming of the Son of Man” don’t try to answer that question. Instead, they urge us to stay alert. We are to be at our posts, whether the end be near or distant.
Summary: Jesus concludes his discourse to his disciples about the future with a brief parable and the lessons they are to draw from it. We are to be alert, knowing what is going on in the world and thinking God is there. We know something that those first disciples didn’t realize at the time: that God’s work of new creation has already begun with the cross and resurrection of Christ. Knowing that, we are to watch for the signs that God is completing that work.
Juggers, police say, are thieves who rob you while you’re shopping, withdrawing cash at an ATM or filling up your gas tank. Most of us would never consider being petty criminals like juggers. Yet Jesus suggests that unless we’re vigilant, we too might be jugging time and our responsibilities in the kingdom of God — especially if we think we can get away with it!
Summary: Many self-proclaimed prophets have predicted the end of the world and the date of the Second Coming. But that’s a fool’s game. The job of Christians is to watch with Christ and respond to the wounds and needs of people, trusting that we can leave the ultimate fate of the world to our loving God.
Summary: Crowds at the mall doing Christmas shopping include people who change direction without warning to look at merchandise as well as people who cruise slowly down the concourse five abreast. Both types force the rest of us shoppers to stay alert to avoid collisions.
In a similar way, the words of Jesus about the Second Coming occurring without warning remind us to so live that we are always ready to “travel.” Living heedfully doesn’t necessarily mean doing different things than others, but it does mean tending the life of the Spirit within us.
Summary: The First Sunday of Advent is a day for taking stock of the pain of the world, for recognizing that the world is still far from the reign of God. On this day, we begin again our long vigil for the return of Christ. But in the midst of this wait, the apostle Paul offers words of grace and peace that place our suffering within the context of God.
Summary: Even though the church celebrates Advent as a time of hope and anticipation, we realize that the world does not change much. Luke teaches us that God will act in all creation, and the ministry of the church is to bear witness to God’s coming redemption of the creation.
Summary: There are at least three understandings of “keeping awake,” as Jesus and his disciples would have understood it — waiting, watching and tending the fire. All three apply to Advent and have implications for us today.
Summary: Expectation is a major theme of Advent. Because of Jesus, Christians expect peace with God, healing of the soul, to never walk alone, for God to be closer to us than our breath itself. We expect Christ to return and bring the kingdom of God in all its fullness. We expect eternal life. None of that is expecting too much or too little, for these things are backed up by the promises of God.
Summary: Culture has co-opted the meaning of Christmas. But with the four vignettes about “that day” in today’s reading, the church can begin to reclaim its mission to interpret what the birth of Jesus and the return of Jesus mean. These vignettes remind us that we anticipate not only grace but also judgment. This reminder of judgment dissipates our complacency and shatters our obliviousness to God’s presence.
Summary: Waiting is the task of Advent. But prophecy and imagination fuel our faith, hope and love until the glad day when all waiting is ended and we see our Lord Jesus Christ triumphantly reigning over all creation.
Summary: By focusing our attention on feelings evoked by the hope of the second coming of Jesus, we are able to understand the longings felt by those who waited for the first Advent. Discovering these feelings will help us celebrate the Advent season in a deeper, and more profound way.
Summary: Like Judah and Jerusalem, we are aware that God has called us to be his people. Still, we lose our footing ― we choose to stay at the bottom of the mountain instead of climbing to the top. Jesus comes to us, showing us the way. He provides us with instruction and teaching on how to climb to the top of the mountain with God.
Summary: In every canonical gospel, John the Baptist, Jesus’ mysterious cousin and harbinger of God’s gift, steadily points away from himself and toward the one who is to come. As such, he willingly plays the role of “second banana” to the Messiah in God’s great salvation drama. He also serves as a model for the times when we are called to take a supporting role in someone else’s life.
Summary: Prophets aren’t so much people who predict the future as people who give us the hard truths about the world we live in. They are the ones who tell us how it is and help us repent and turn back to God so we can be more open to the transformation God brings to us through the incarnation.
John the Baptist, as portrayed in the beginning of Mark’s gospel, gives us a model for what active, generative waiting looks like. It’s waiting with hope that comes from outside of us, hope that transforms us, hope that points us toward where the spirit of the living Christ is active in the world, asking us to join him in helping to heal the world.
Summary: When Isaiah spoke of predator and prey dwelling in peace together, it was a way to symbolize the kingdom of God. But animals also have some things to teach us about living in the world this side of the kingdom ― matters of interconnection, stewardship and the goal of a world at peace.
Summary: The phrase “the terror of history” might make us think of how we feel before taking a history exam in school. Its deeper meaning, though, refers to the unease that comes just from being historical creatures in a world where things begin and pass away. Many cultures and religions try to escape from that terror. But today’s gospel sets us down squarely in history with some names, dates and places and prepares us for the coming of God’s Son as a historical figure to correct the course of history and turn it back to God’s intended goal.
Summary: John the Baptist instructs the Pharisees and Sadducees to do more than simply witness the baptisms taking place in the River Jordan. They are to change their lives and produce fruit. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we also need to let go of our regular routines and current lifestyles and respond to God’s presence in our lives. This is how we prepare for the Lord during this season of Advent.
Summary: The proper mood for Advent is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is not merely a feeling, but it is a commitment. It is allowing God to possess us. For many, that enthusiasm will demonstrate itself in some emotional expression, but it is also seen in persistence, in perseverance, in stepping up to the plate, in showing up, in the things we gladly spend our energy on and in the depth of our commitments.
Isaiah’s description of “the peaceful kingdom” is a beautiful picture of a world where the Messiah has entered. Peace and harmony and righteousness are in full bloom. Even the animals are at complete peace. However, we all know the work of the Messiah in our world is not yet fully realized. We are called, as God’s people, to work toward that vision of things to come.
Summary: When we try to juggle too much, it all comes crashing down. Advent calls us to decide what is important in life and to give priority to the things that matter, the things of faith. It also gives us opportunity to keep growing into the people God calls us to be.
Summary: The highway image is useful for reminding us that we need to strengthen and improve our connection with God. For many of us, that connection already exists, but it’s like a winding old highway that goes through every town along the way and pokes along behind a lot of hindering traffic in no passing zones. Our task is to improve, straighten and widen the existing spiritual road
Summary: Isaiah offers a profound and poignant vision of hope to ground God’s people to live as ambassadors of God’s future abundance to the world. Isaiah’s words inspire all, especially those who may presently be struggling, to find renewed hope and purpose in God.
Summary: When the ways of the world are chosen over the ways of God, the road to God becomes crooked. John the Baptist is not the only one called to straighten the road, fill the valleys and level the hills that stand between God and those who claim to believe in God. The events in our nation and our world constantly challenge us to either accept that call or to separate our faith from the decisions we make. The choice we make in this matter will determine the legacy we leave our children.
Summary: Throughout history God has employed road builders to head us in the right direction. John the Baptist was one of those road builders, and he was constructing a highway to heaven. His message helps us find that road, but we have to go to the “desert” to hear him. And part of what we hear is about repentance.
Summary: John the Baptist and Jesus were singing the same joyful song, though perhaps in different keys. The song proclaimed that we can live in the kingdom of heaven starting right now and right here, and we don’t have to wait until after we die.
Summary: Peter writes a word of encouragement to beleaguered followers of Christ. He exhorts them to persevere in faith by rooting themselves in the promises of God, by giving thanks for the patience of God and by living as the people whom God created them to be. In so doing, God’s people not only persevere but also advance the cause of Christ in their day.
Summary: When we feel ourselves in the wilderness, hungering and thirsting for God, God will be there for us. And when we are feeling strong and refreshed, God calls us to move out into the world to serve others in need, all in the name of Jesus Christ.
Summary: Having lived through the 2020 pandemic, and as we continue through Advent, we are reminded through the ancient words of Isaiah that God is bigger and stronger than anything we may face in our lifetime. Add to that the knowledge of God’s desire for us to be comforted, and we find hope in new and unexpected ways.
Summary: It’s difficult to be cheerful when there’s so much left to do this holiday season, especially when we’re trying to make up for all we missed last year due to the pandemic. The last thing we need is someone telling us not to worry — unless it’s the apostle Paul, writing to Philippi from death row in Rome — whose message of joy should serve us as well now as it did 2,000 years ago! Don’t worry. Rejoice!