First Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 80:1-7, 17-19; Is. 64:1-9; I Cor. 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
After three weeks in the hospital, our granddaughter Sydney was finally able to go home from the hospital on Monday – a wonderful prelude to Thanksgiving! In an email as they were getting ready to leave the hospital, our daughter-in-law Heidi expressed the parents’ feeling concisely:
“And we’re free! 🙂 Eating, growing and going home. :)”
For the first time during our four years in Jordan, we celebrated a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving with turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Friends from the Anglican Church we attend in Amman invited us to their home for a lovely evening with great food and conversation, and about a dozen guests. We began dinner by reading Bible verses about giving thanks.
In the region this week:
-Jordan’s King Abdullah visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, fueling speculation that Abbas is planning to step down.
-Later in the week Abbas met in Cairo with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal; the leaders jointly announced that they will hold elections in May 2012.
-The United States, Canada and U.K. announced fresh sanctions against Iran amid growing concern over Tehran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, one member of the Iranian Parliament announced that Iran might respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, effectively doubling the price of crude oil. Some 16 million barrels of oil go through the Strait every day. The official Iranian news agency also announced that Iran had captured 12 alleged CIA spies who were targeting Iran’s military and nuclear program.
-Dozens of demonstrators were killed by security forces in Egypt and Syria.
The Common Lectionary readings for this first Sunday in Advent are about waiting for God’s intervention in human affairs.
The psalmist reflects the people’s sense that God has abandoned them. “You have fed us with the bread of tears,” the people lament. (Ps. 80:5) “You make us the scorn of our neighbors.”(v.6) They plead for God to take decisive action. “Stir up your might, and come to save us!” they beg (v.2). “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (vv. 3, 7 and 19)
Isaiah longs for God to intervene in the affairs of nations. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,” he writes, “to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (Is. 64:1-2) Isaiah affirms that God “works for those who wait for him.” (Is. 64:4)
In the Epistle reading, Paul tells the church at Corinth that God is faithful and will strengthen them to the end. You “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he assures. (I Cor. 1:7)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus urges his followers to “Beware, keep alert (Mark 13:33) . . . “be on the watch” (v.34) and “keep awake” (vv. 35, 37) as they wait for his return.
So much of life seems to be about waiting — waiting to take an infant home from the hospital; waiting for God to guide our next steps; waiting for governments to change, for nations to be reconciled, for the occupation of one’s country to cease, or for violence to end. Sometimes the waiting feels interminable.
As we enter this season of Advent we pray that God will intervene in mighty ways for the healing of the nations. And that we will have the wisdom and courage to do our part.