Advent Sunday December 3rd 2023 Advent 1
Last week, on the feast of Christ the King, I looked at how the image of ‘Christ Pantocrator’, the all-powerful and all-knowing God who sees all things, knows all things, and judges all things as the supreme ruler and judge of all can instil feelings of both reverence and fear in those who behold him, and this imagery continues this week in the words of the prophet Isaiah, who reminds the people of Israel how the very mountains would quake and the nations would tremble when God tore open the heavens to reveal himself to his adversaries.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not recall a specific event recorded in the Old Testament where this actually happened, and it seems more likely that Isaiah is talking here about natural disasters in this earthquake prone zone which he and most other people of the time, would have attributed to divine anger or wrath for the transgressions of the people which had made them unclean in God’s sight. He compares this uncleanness rather graphically to a menstruating woman, for that is exactly what his reference to ‘a filthy cloth’ means in the original Hebrew, though this metaphor is deeply steeped in the patriarchy and suspicion of women’s’ bodies so redolent of the time.
Isaiah knew that under the traditional purity laws of Israel, even the most righteous of deeds performed by a person who was unclean for any reason was unacceptable in God’s sight, which is why ultimately, it is not our deeds which make us righteous before God, or even our prayers according to the psalmist writing in Psalm 80; but God’s own mercy and forgiveness as one who will remember - Isaiah hopes - that we are only fragile vessels made of clay by God’s own hand, for it was he who fashioned us as we are, in all our frailty.
This notion of divine judgement is one of the traditional themes of Advent, as we are called to remember and reflect upon our own unworthiness to receive the one who came not only as a swaddled child in a manger, but as he who will come once more in all his glory at an unknown time in the future. This could make us unduly anxious, were it not for the reminder of God’s loving kindness for all whom he has created, so that the ‘bread of tears’ will turn to joy when he comes once more to gather his people to himself. Our duty then, is simply to repent, and faithfully watch and wait for his adventus or coming; so that we are ready for him when he comes; and pray continually, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’
Collect and Readings for Advent Sunday 2023.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities,
like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name
or attempts to take hold of you,
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember our iniquity forever.
Psalm 80:1-8; 18-20
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. O LORD God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it...
...Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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 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 whom you were called into the partnership 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. “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It 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. Therefore, 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, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
This Week’s Events
Faithfully LGBTQI+ MK Advent Eucharist, 3pm St Laurence Church.
Advent Carol Service, 6pm St Laurence Church.
(John of Damascus, monk, and teacher of the faith, c749)
Bell ringing at 7.30pm in St Laurence. Contact Jan for more information on 07835 461361.
Julian Prayer Group 8pm by Zoom. ID: 996 4332 0665 and password: Julian.
Zoom In Morning Prayer on Tuesday at 9am. Meeting ID: 748 9970 4493 Password: Trinity or contact Didier on [email protected]
Daytime Bible Study Group contact Paula on 07803 942 687 for more information. Evening House-group contact Jo on 07803 942 687 for more information.
(Nicholas, bishop of Myra, c326)
Morning Coffee from 10.00-11.45 in the St Laurence Room.
Midweek Holy Communion on Wednesday at 12 noon in St Laurence Church.
(Ambrose, bishop, and teacher of the faith, c397)
(Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Junior Choir at 6.30 pm followed by full Choir Practice at 7.30pm. Do contact Derry on [email protected] if you would like to join in this term.