Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Rom. 16:25-27; II Sam. 7:1-11, 16; Ps. 89:1-4, 19-26; Lk. 1:26-38
This week, Cindy traveled to northern Iraq along with Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah, an adjunct professor at Eastern Mennonite University, who is leading a peacebuilding workshop for MCC partners.
Daryl accompanied a group of MCC partners from the northern part of Jordan on a bus trip to visit the Prince Hussein Benevolent Society, an MCC partner in southern Jordan. It was fascinating to watch the partners interact with one another and to discuss the respective ways that they are working to develop their communities.
The Prince Hussein society has used MCC grants to build infrastructure to pump water from several underground springs to the greenhouses and fields where they grow cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and watermelons.
A lunch of goat, rice, peppers and yogurt was served in traditional Jordanian style. Abu Atef, the leader of the Prince Hussein Benevolent Society, gave each visitor a crate of tomatoes to take home. The three-hour bus ride each way was filled with spirited conversation; and the trip home involved stops at many roadside stands to purchase egg plant, corn, green beans and potatoes.
In the region this week:
-The United States officially declared an end to the war in Iraq, even though 4,000 U.S. soldiers have yet to be removed over the next two weeks.
Several thousand protesters marched in Amman, calling for government reforms and an end to corruption. Meanwhile, there were scattered reports that several hundred NATO troops are massing on the Jordan-Syria border, as the situation inside Syria continues to worsen.
Iran rejected an appeal from U.S. President Barack Obama to return a U.S. spy plane that went down inside Iran, saying the U.S. should apologize for the incident which “endangered world peace.”
The Common Lectionary readings for this fourth Sunday of Advent focus on those things that last forever.
In the Old Testament reading, David wishes to build a house for God. Instead, God determines to build a house for David. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep,” says God, “to be prince over my people. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (II Sam. 7:8, 16).
The psalmist repeats God’s promise to David: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” (Ps. 89:3-4). God continues: “My hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.” (v.21) For this reason, the psalmist declares: “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever.” (v.1)
In the Gospel reading, in the angel’s announcement to Mary, God’s promise of establishing an eternal throne is shifted from David to Jesus. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,” the angel promises Mary about the son she will bear, “and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33)
In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that God is able to strengthen us to bring about the obedience of faith. (Rom. 16:24-26) Accordingly, we are to give glory to Jesus Christ forever (v.27)
Great empires rise and fall; powerful people come and go. But, in Jesus Christ, God has established a kingdom that will have no end. Especially in this Advent season marred by the violence of nations, we wait for that kingdom to come in its fullness. And we pray that, in some small way, our lives are in sync with the kingdom God is establishing.