ISAIAH 64:1-5, PSALM 80:1-2, 17-19
1 CORINTHIANS 1:4-9, MARK 13:24-37
First Sunday of Advent - November 27, 2011
Rev. Dr. David Breeden, Minister
Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
‘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.
‘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.32‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It 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. 35Therefore, 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, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
The lectionary readings for this first Sunday of Advent reflect the human response to waiting. And it isn’t pretty:
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence,” the prophet Isaiah thunders. “Stir up your might, and come to save us!” the Psalmist conjures. Paul bucks up the Corinthians who find themselves still waiting: “He will also strengthen you to the end . . .” In the gospel reading, Mark has Jesus in prophetic mode, beginning with a mash-up of the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel—darkened moon; falling stars; angels—it is quite a cosmic scenario, this coming of the Lord. Yet this is not the cosmic event Christians await in this season of waiting. Rather, we await the great scandal—God incarnate, embodied, among the poor and voiceless. Among those the empire has abandoned. The voice of thunder has turned to a baby’s cry. No shaking heavens. No CNN coverage.
Yes, it is still a scandal that the Lord’s voice is in the street, not in the towers of concrete and steel; in the janitor's closet, not the board room; in the bar—as often as not—rather than the cathedral.
Why this should be remains the question; why should it be that the truth resides among the voiceless when the powerful have such efficient means of spreading their message?
Why no thunder? Why no CNN? Why is it that “Silent Night” continues to be a more appropriate announcement of the Day of the Lord than “Onward Christian Soldiers”? Why is it that the injunction of Jesus—“keep awake”—has nothing to do with staying up past midnight or getting up at four am on Black Friday for the latest specials? Why is it that, as the poet W.B. Yeats put it, "twenty centuries of stony sleep / Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle"?
We have enough questions to keep us awake in this season of expectation. As we light the first candle of advent, one of expectation and hope, may we remember the words of Jesus, “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Prayer: May we keep awake.