Psalm 95 is the reading for this first week of Advent—advent—“the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration” of the birth of our LORD Jesus. A couple of things jump off the page at me this morning. Reading in New Living. First, the focus on community in verses 1-6: Let us sing, let us shout joyfully, let us come to him with thanksgiving, let us sing psalms of praise, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our God, he is our God, We are the people he watches over. I guess this should not surprise me since God entered into our world to make community possible, fellowship first with the Father, Son and Spirit and then with others who bow in worship before Him. And then there is the community of all of humanity—all of those created in his image. A confession—community is not something I do well but then again, it is also something without which I cannot live well! So how will I involve community in my advent? The fact that I am even thinking about advent is a surprise in itself since advent is almost completely neglected in the church traditions that I have grown up with as a Christian.
Although I also now see the character of the one towards whom and for whom I worship together in community, the second thing I noticed about this Psalm this morning was the latter part beginning at the end of verse 7. As I read, “If only you would listen to his voice today” my senses become alert to what follows in 7-10. “Hardened hearts, tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did, hearts turned away from me, refuse to do what I tell them.” Advent calls me to reflect on my heart condition—and I suppose I need to work out a way to do this also in community?
My reading during this second week of advent has been focused on Psalm 72, Is 11:1-11, Mtt 3:1-12 and Romans 15:4-13. I have been struck by the beauty of the Coming One!
- defends the afflected
- saves the children of the needy
- crushing the oppressor
- enduring as long as the sun
- like rain falling on a mown field
- like showers watering the earth
- ruling from sea to sea
- delivering the needy who cry out
- mercy on the weak and needy
- takes delight in obedience
- does not judge by mere appearances
- nor does not make decisions on basis of hearsay
- treats the poor fairly
- makes the right decisions for down-trodden
- full of justice and integrity
- and the Spirit upon Him–a spirit that gives extaordinary wisdom, provides the ability to execute plans and that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord
Thinking about His glory among the nations–about how worthy he is to receive our worship and how that will one day happen. Deeply moved by his future ruling over the nations and His reception of deserved glory and honor
Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent–what our pastor said was that Advent helps us to focus on waiting, waiting not for the Lord Jesus’ birth but His second coming. Advent is the beginning of the year for the believer! Since we have not practiced the advent tradition much in our church, this makes me want to learn more about advent. We did some advent calendars with the kids when they were grown up, but it was more for the kids than for me. I don’t think I really understood. I have been using A Guide to Prayer and not surprisingly, it starts with the first Sunday of Advent. Actually, I began yesterday, a new reading guide, called Ancient Christian Devotional, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby. Each week, there is an OT reading, a Psalm, a NT reading and a gospel reading. Following these readings, various comments from the church fathers about the passages are given. Quite interesting. So far, I have liked the prayers most of all. The closing prayer this week was from Augustine.
O you who are everywhere present, filling yet transcending all things; ever acting, ever at rest; you who teach the hearts of the faithful without noise of words: teach us, we pray you, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
Ruth Barton from The Transforming Center sent out a nice piece on Advent. Here is one paragraph. Follow the link to her website and complete article. If any of you see other links or articles on Advent, let me know. Thanks
Advent, in particular, is a season that teaches us to do something that is very hard for us to do: wait. It teaches us how to wait for the Advent or arrival of Christ into our world, not just way back then in Biblical times, but now–in those places where we long for his presence and need his intervention.