NOVEMBER 29, 2020 SUNDAY
Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Stephen’s,
In just two days — Happy New Year! It’s Year B, already and again. It’s Advent – the season of slowing down and waiting. We wait differently this year – and with maybe a deeper yearning for God to come and make right what’s wrong.
Light and dark are themes of our Collect. We are moving toward the darkest and shortest day of our calendar year. The Incarnation is celebrated in the darkest season of the year, corresponding with the Winter Solstice. We wait and pray for a spiritual experience of light – the light of God’s love. Regardless of the depth of darkness, it still shines. Especially in this year, with all the fear, facing our mortal natures head on, divisions, anger and violence that divide us, and other nations, maybe even more we yearn for that day, however you imagine it, when the Risen and Ascended Lord, will once again descend to uncover his hidden presence within and among us all along. May we cast away our inner darkness to put on the light of his armor now.
Isaiah’s writings play a prominent role in our Old Testament Lessons for Advent in Year B. Isaiah’s words are prayer – speech, calling upon God to act again for his people Israel. He expresses our present yearnings, as does the Psalmist, for God to break silence, remove sin – to draw us more into God’s hope. Lent is not the only season we are called to repent and yield our lives as clay into the Divine Potter’s hands. The Psalm echoes Isaiah’s words.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians begins with thanksgiving, calling forth the best in and from the young church. They await the final revealing of Christ – the second coming. We, as they, in this in-between time, can become aware of our failures – and pray for Christ’s healing, and our redirection. God’s promise is sustain us, so we can be presented, blameless unto God. Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in the Lord’s love and mercy. God provides. God is faithful. God has you covered — assurance.
In Mark we read what is called “the little apocalypse” – scary, foreboding language that fires the imagination. It is metaphor for the disruption of this present world. It frightens, displaces, dislocates. It is dramatic language to grab our attention. No one knows when the second coming will be – not heavenly, cosmic beings, nor humans on earth – regardless of what some say or write in books. Our mission is not to fret and be anxious – but to focus on God – divine love, orienting our lives for God, and loving as Jesus loves. One way to think about “delay” is not for the future, but now – to align ourselves with Jesus, and follow him more fully. To stay awake this way, is to wait with the love and hope God gives freely. We yearn and strive to be faithful to the God who is first faithful to us. Then we live in peace, held in the assurance of eternal, everlasting divine love. As we grow in love, we also grow in becoming more like Christ.
Read the texts – several times. Listen to the words and what begins to stir within – in your waiting. Pray your responses — and then listen for what God may gently “say” to you. Maybe as we are forced to slow down as stores, ads, and catalogues push us toward Christmas, we can be countercultural, take more time this Advent to prepare for Christ’s birth anew within our hearts.Blessings — and see you this Sunday, Fr. Steve
First Sunday of Advent – November 29, 2020
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Isaiah 64:1-9O 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 iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-181 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; * shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim. 2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, * stir up your strength and come to help us. 3 Restore us, O God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. 4 O Lord God of hosts, * how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; * you have given them bowls of tears to drink. 6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, * and our enemies laugh us to scorn. 7 Restore us, O God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. 16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, * the son of man you have made so strong for yourself. 17 And so will we never turn away from you; * give us life, that we may call upon your Name. 18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. The Epistle
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 spiritual 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 him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.”