First Sunday of Advent (Year B)
Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37, Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Isaiah 64:1-9 – Isaiah gives a condensed, but precise description of sin, reminding us sin is habit-forming and provokes the anger of God (v.5). Sin defiles us, making it impossible to approach God. It corrupts our character, and even the best we can do is contaminated by base motives. Sin is destructive, shriveling us up from within and creating circumstances that sweep us away (v.6). Sin alienates us from God, creating an aversion for the Lord that prevents us from calling on His name. Ultimately, sin causes God to hide His face from us and to judge us (v. 7).
Yet, despite all that sin does to us, by faith, Isaiah relies on God’s mercy to extend forgiveness (v.8-9).
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 – Paul bluntly confronts the church at Corinth for its flaws. However, he also affirms their strengths. No congregation is perfect, nor is its situation so bad that there are not some qualities to emphasize. Paul desires to encourage these believers, offering them hope.
He admonishes them to be: “Strong to the end” (1:8). In other words, Paul wants them – and us – to recognize that despite our faults, God is faithful to preserve His own and will keep on working in us to present us blameless when Jesus returns.
Mark 13:24-37 – Many of the first Christians expected Jesus to return in their own lifetime. The people reading Mark’s Gospel must have wondered if Jesus would come to save them from their suffering and persecution. Mark helps them understand why they have to wait and watch .
Jesus says it is impossible to predict or calculate when he will return. This is a date which only God the Father knows. For Christians, the best advice is to be ready -like servants waiting for their master to come home.
This first week of Advent is all about Light and the revelation the Light brings. The prophet Isaiah references the darkness of God’s people when God hides His face. In contrast, the psalmist lyrically laments, “show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”
Imagine the power these words held as saints of old lit the first candle of the Advent season. In the days before electricity and central heat, the light of even a single candle was powerful – enough to push back the darkness of the room and warm the hearts of its inhabitants.
In spite of our modern conveniences of forced heat and halogen lights, our world still lives in darkness. In this spiritual midnight, even the smallest light is powerfully seen and felt. As we light the first candle of Advent, remember that our own lives pierce the darkness, shining the light of Christ, warming hearts with His love. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …
Prayer when lighting the first candle of the Advent wreath
– “God of hope, let Your grace shine on and through me, casting away the works of darkness, putting on the armor of light, bringing Your light of hope to a world darkened in sin. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”
*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B