By Barbara Klugh
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Our readings this week have to do with Christ’s Second Coming at the end of history.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and begins a new liturgical year. It is the season of expectant waiting and preparation. We prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus Christ in three ways: for his first coming which we will celebrate on Christmas, for his second coming in power and great glory, and for his continual coming into our hearts.
This Sunday we begin Year C in our three-year Sunday lectionary cycle, which will highlight the Gospel according to Luke. This Sunday also begins Year Two of the two-year daily office cycle.
Jeremiah 33:14-16: About 2600 years ago, Jeremiah was called to be a prophet during a troubled time in Jewish history—the defeat of Judah and exile in Babylon. Jeremiah had been warning for years of God’s coming judgment upon Judah for their sins of idolatry and injustice. As Jeremiah prophesied, punishment came by way of an invading army. Yet, into these dark days comes a message of hope, looking toward the end of exile and the restoration of Israel and Judah.
In this week’s reading, Jeremiah foretells the reign of a divinely chosen king, a “righteous Branch” from the line of David who will come and “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” When the Lord restores his exiled people, he will remember his covenant with David, and his descendant will save Judah and he will be called, “The Lord is our righteousness.” As Christians we see Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Psalm 25:1-9: Attributed to David, this week’s psalm is a prayer to God for protection from enemies and for guidance and forgiveness. “Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.”
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13: First Thessalonians is considered to be Paul’s earliest letter, usually dated c. 51 AD. Indeed, it is considered to be the oldest preserved Christian writing. Paul, along with Silvanus and Timothy, founded the church during his second missionary journey. Paul wrote the letter to instruct and encourage the faithful and suffering young Christians to grow in love and service, in anticipation of the return of Christ. They believed that the final reign of Christ would occur in their lifetime.
In this week’s reading, Paul expresses his thanksgiving that the Thessalonians are growing is faith, and he prays that God will allow him to see them again. He also prays for the church, that the Lord will make them “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” Paul prays that they will grow strong in holiness that they “may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints.”
Luke 21:25-36: This week’s reading takes place in Jerusalem during the last week of Jesus’ life. Almost all of chapter 21 is comprised of Jesus’ discourse on the end of history. Our reading is part of this discourse and focuses on the return of the Son of Man.
First, Jesus tells the disciples of the strange events and signs that will occur in the heavens—the sun, the moon, and the stars. On earth, there will be “distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” People will faint from fear. “Then they will see ‘The Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” This is good news for people of faith. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Next, Jesus told them the parable of the fig tree. In winter a fig tree looks dead, but when it begins to sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. So also when people observe the cosmic events and signs, they will know that the kingdom of God is near. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Jesus encourages his followers to remain watchful and alert, and not to be weighed down self-indulgence and worries. Instead, live with integrity and pray “that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
As disciples of Jesus, we shouldn’t think of the end as a calamity, but the world’s final deliverance from evil and the restoration of God’s creation. And in this in-between time, Jesus calls us to work to bring more love, more peace, more forgiveness, more wisdom, and more justice in the world. Sounds like Grace.