Year C

The Second Week in Advent

What's ahead in the Bible readings
The Second Week in Advent
December 6 to 12, 2018

Next week I hope to have ready a review of The New Living Translation of the Bible, which has many useful features. Alas, my moving took up too much of my time to get it done for this week.

John the Baptist and Waiting

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This week's readings tell us something of John the Baptist's coming into the world. Our canticle for the time of preparation is Zechariah's, from the first chapter of Luke. Zechariah and Elizabeth had not been able to have children. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah while he was ministering in the sanctuary and foretold John's birth. He also said that John would have the spirit and power of Elijah and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. Zechariah questioned whether what Gabriel could be true because both he and Elizabeth were old. (Can you imagine questioning an angel?) Gabriel told because of this questioning he would be unable to speak until these things came to pass. The words of the canticle are the first ones Zechariah spoke after John's birth. None of this backstory is in our readings, but one of our readings make reference to it. On Wednesday, Isaiah says “the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” Many other references to John are included. On Saturday, the Hebrew prophet Malachi says that Elijah will return before the great and terrible day of the Lord. In the Sunday reading, Malachi says “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” And of course, the Sunday Gospel, John is out in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism for the repentance of sins. Adding a theme of waiting, the Monday Epistle reading is about how all of creation has been groaning in labor pains.

Spreading the Good News

Spreading the Good News is a related theme. In Saturday's Gospel reading, Jesus sends out his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. On Thursday, Paul says his imprisonment has allowed the whole Imperial Guard to know the Gospel, and that the brothers and sisters have been emboldened to speak the word without fear. The same reading continues on Friday, when Paul is bold enough to say “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”

Malachi

Four of our Hebrew Scripture readings are from the prophet Malachi. His book is the last one in Christian versions of the Hebrew Scriptures. (Jewish Bibles are arranged differently with Torah first, then the Prophets, then what are called Writings, which is everything that doesn't fit into the first two categories.) Malachi means my messenger in Hebrew, which describes his role. He made his prophesies in Jerusalem after the second temple was built but before Nehemiah's reforms. Things were not going well in his time, and he had much to say against the priests and the people. At the same time, he holds out a message of hope, a hope we Christians believe was fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah.

Expanding Our Audience

We want more people to have access to God's word through our website, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets. The best way to do that is to advertise on Google. Google gives grants to non-profits; the requirements are more than I can manage along with doing 99% of everything else that happens to make this work. Luckily there are companies that will manage the grants, but you have to pay them, and you can't use grant money to pay them. We need to raise about $4,500, and so far we've only raised $195.

If getting these readings helps you in any way, please make a donation. Do it now, while it's on your mind. I will be grateful and perhaps a bit less frustrated. Follow this link: Make a contribution to the Google Grant Campaign.

May you find many blessings in this Advent Season. Thank you for all that you do to advance the reign of God.

Mike Gilbertson

Summaries and Links for the next seven days

Thursday to Sunday Canticle Luke 1:68-79 Zechariah's song on the birth of his son, John the Baptist.

Monday to Wednesday Psalm 126 Prayer for restoration

Thursday: Preparation for the Second Sunday in Advent
Malachi 3:5-12 The people are urged to return to the Lord of hosts.
Philippians 1:12-18a To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Friday: Preparation for the Second Sunday in Advent
Malachi 3:13-18 The reward of the faithful
Philippians 1:18b-26 Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed.

Saturday: Preparation for the Second Sunday in Advent
Malachi 4:1-6 The great day of the Lord
Luke 9:1-6 The Twelve are sent forth.

The Second Sunday in Advent
Baruch 5:1-9 The return of scattered Israel
or Malachi 3:1-4 I will send my messenger.
Philippians 1:3-11 The harvest of righteousness
Luke 3:1-6 Prepare the way of the Lord.

Monday: Reflection on the Second Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 40:1-11 Make straight in the desert a highway for God.
Romans 8:22-25 We wait.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Second Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 19:18-25 All nations shall praise God.
2 Peter 1:2-15 Support your faith with mutual affections and mutual affection with love.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Second Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 35:3-7 God's advent will change everything.
Luke 7:18-30 John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus.

Image of John the Baptist courtesy of www.LumoProject.com.

The First Week of Advent

A special request

We are raising money to allow us to expand our advertising on Google. If you have not yet contributed, please do so now. Follow the link and you will see more details. If we are unable to raise the money for this project, I will ask the board to reconsider the future of this effort. Make a contribution to the Google Grant Campaign.

The Start of the Church Year

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Advent is the start of the church year. We get a head start on the secular world! Much of the church (along with Daily Lectionary Readings) uses a three year cycle of readings; each year of the cycle makes primary use of a different Gospel. Tomorrow begins Year C, the year of Luke. Many (although not all) of the Sunday and weekday Gospel readings will be from Luke's telling of Christ's story. Luke was a physician who accompanied Paul on many of his journeys. He is also the author of The Acts of the Apostles, which we usually just call Acts. The two books are one continuous narrative, with the Gospel covering the life of Jesus and Acts covering the beginnings of the church after the resurrection. Both are also addressed to Theophilus. If you take apart the Greek, you get Theo-, a prefix referring to God (and from which our word theology comes) and -philus, meaning friend or lover. It's the root in Philadelphia, my adopted home town, which calls itself the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).

Advent is a good time to renew your commitment to the values of the Gospel. Here are a few words from the introduction to Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals that might help some of us.

Movements throughout history have gone to the desert, to the slums, to the most difficult places to follow Jesus. For some of us that means remaining in difficult neighborhoods we were born into even though folks may think we are crazy not to move out. For some of us that means returning to a difficult neighborhood after heading off to college or job training to acquire skills—choosing to bring those skills back to where we came from to help restore the broken streets. And for others it may mean relocating our lives from places of so-called privilege to an abandoned place to offer our gifts for God's kingdom.

Are you such a person? Thank you! Do you know such a person to whom you could offer prayerful, and perhaps other, support? If not, ask your pastor to help you find someone who is living out the Gospel values in a difficult place and offer that person support.

What's ahead in the Bible readings for this week?

In the northern hemispheres, we're in the season where darkness seems to prevail. Several of our Scriptures this week have reminders that light will come again and bring fresh leaves. In the Sunday Hebrew Scripture God promises through Jeremiah that a righteous branch to spring up for David, which we take as a sign of Christ's coming. In the Monday Hebrew Scripture, God is tiring of the mumbling of the elders and provides a sign of Aaron's office: Aaron's staff blooms overnight, but none of those of the other elders does. And in our Sunday Gospel, Jesus tells us that the time of the coming of the Son of Man will be as obvious as the fig trees blooming.

Our lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures during the time of preparation come from the Book of Nehemiah. However, it is actually Ezra who is speaking. Their books, now divided, were once a single book. Ezra recounts, through twenty-five verses, how God remains gracious to the people despite their turning away again and again. Our God is a patient God, who waits for us to repent. As our Monday Epistle lesson says, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Two of our Gospel lessons, on Saturday and Sunday are from Luke's twenty-first chapter. They concern signs of the coming of the Son of Man. The Sunday lesson suggests that it will be as obvious as the leaves budding out on fig trees. Our Epistle lessons on Thursday (from Paul) and Monday(from Peter) both say that the day of the Lord will arrive like a thief in the night. I don't think we have to resolve every apparent contradiction in Scripture, because sometimes they are there to provide a tension that keeps us thinking. In this case, though, I don't think there is a contradiction. How often do we fail to notice what is right in front of us? Suddenly a friend expresses anger that's been building for weeks, but we just haven't noticed, and it feels like the anger is coming out of nowhere. I suspect it that the coming will be like that.

The Friday lesson, which in the text follows right after the Thursday lesson, suggests that we ought to be doing things in the here and now. Here's what Paul says:

Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

May your Advent be a special time with our Creator. Thank you for all that you do to further the reign of God.

Mike Gilbertson

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this blog post to that person? Here is a link that leads to the sign up form: Sign up link If you don't make a donation to the Google Grant Campaign, you can do this to help expand the number of folks exposed to God's word.

Links and summaries for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalm 25:1-10 I lift up my soul to you.

Thursday: Preparation for the First Sunday in Advent
Nehemiah 9:6-15 God's help to the Israelites
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

Friday: Preparation for the First Sunday in Advent
Nehemiah 9:16-25 God did not abandon the Israelites, despite their disobedience.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 Paul urges the Thessalonians to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing.

Saturday: Preparation for the First Sunday in Advent
Nehemiah 9:26-31 The people are regularly disobedient, but God did not put an end to them or abandon them.
Luke 21:20-24 Jerusalem will be devasted.

The First Sunday in Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16 God promises that a Righteous Branch will sprout from David's line.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Paul prays that the Thessalonians may abound in love for one another and for all.
Luke 21:25-36 The signs of the coming of the Son of Man

Monday to Wednesday Psalm 90 Prayer for life from God

Monday: Reflection on the First Sunday in Advent
Numbers 17:1-11 Aaron's staff buds, but those of the other elders do not.
2 Peter 3 With God, a thousand years is like a single day, and a single day is like a thousand years.

Tuesday: Reflection on the First Sunday in Advent
2 Samuel 7:18-29 David's prayer for his progeny.
Revelation 22:12-16 Jesus is the fulfillment of David's line.

Wednesday: Reflection on the First Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 1:24-31 Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
Luke 11:29-32 No sign will be given to this generation of the coming of the Son of Man except the sign of Jonah.

The links become active at 3:05 a.m. on the designated day. Of course you can look the readings up in your Bible if you want to read ahead.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

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