During Advent many churches closely follow and use the scripture passages found in the Revised Common Lectionary, even if they do not use the lectionary during the rest of the year. The fourth reading each week is usually from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
Since the first Sunday of Advent is November 30th you might wonder why I have started to post these Advent commentaries and reflections the week before the first Sunday of Advent. It is a common practice, regardless of the time of year, to study and reflect on scripture passages during the week for the coming Sabbath/Sunday. During the days that lead up to the weekly communal worship we prepare ourselves by reading and pondering on the scripture passages that will form the basis and be part of the worship – if the worship service does follow the lectionary cycle.
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:24-27)
The passage from Mark also talks about preparation – preparation for the coming of the “Son of Man”. In verses 24-27 creation itself is preparing for what is to come. Sometimes preparations are times of joy and celebration. But other times preparing for what is to come involves hard work and endurance. And the timing of the preparations are important too.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:28-31)
Some changes are temporary and fleeting. We respond to new conditions and then return to older more familiar ways. Other times the change is permanent, or is a series of changes that take us from one point in our lives to another one. Often this change comes upon us when we are unaware, and we scramble and hurry to incorporate new ways. And we may need to abandon or leave behind what is familiar, and embrace newness and change.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Verse 32-37)
It may seem unusual to look at scripture passages that we have read before, and expect them to tell us something new or prepare us for change. But as our understanding and knowledge of living a Christian life changes and grows, we may respond and react to scripture passages differently. In this way scripture lives and grows within us. But we must make the effort to continue reading and studying, if we are to grow in our Christian faith. Then when change comes, we will be ready – stronger and deeper in our faith.
May you remain awake and alert in your faith, beloved reader. And it is my hope and prayer that your first week of Advent is preparing your for the growth and change that our Lord has planned for you. Selah!