• 32°

HUMBLE: Thoughts as we approach advent

M

any Christians set apart the weeks beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and leading up to the Christmas celebration as a time to read and to meditate on biblical promises of Jesus’ coming, both on his first coming as a human baby to offer himself for the life of the world and also on his second coming when he will return as king of the whole creation.

These Scripture readings are valuable reminders of past events and are pointers toward what is yet to come; however, their greatest value is that they can challenge the way we are living now and help us to posture ourselves in the time in which we live.

In this series, I will share some of my own thoughts on the Sunday readings for the Year B Advent season from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Advent readings for Nov. 29, 2020:

• Isaiah 64:1-9

• Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

• 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

• Mark 13:24-37

Crying out to God in times like these

Oh, that You would tear open the heavens and come down,

That the mountains would quake at Your Presence—

… To make Your name known to Your Adversaries,

That the nations may tremble at Your presence!

—Isaiah 64:1-2

A lament in the Bible is a poetic prayer for help, an expression of deep pain. The reading from Isaiah 64 is one such lament, a prophetic prayer expressing the grief of God’s people after the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and carried most of the people away into exile. It is a cry for God to look upon them once more with mercy and forgiveness:

… You have hidden Your face from us

And have surrendered us to the power of our wrongdoings.

But now, Lord, You are our Father;

We are the clay, and You our potter,

And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord,

Nor remember wrongdoing forever.

Behold, please look, all of us are Your people. (64:7c-9)

The prayer hearkens back to God’s awesome power and presence in the Exodus when he had delivered the people from slavery and tyranny, had made covenant with them at Sinai,and had brought them safely into promised land.

Psalm 80 is another such lament, addressed to God their Shepherd King during a period when, because of their sins, God had allowed them to be invaded and the land to be devastated. Their cry is “God of armies, do turn back; look down from heaven and see…” (80:14) and the repeated refrain is “God, restore us and make your face shine upon us and we will be saved” (80:3, 7, 19).

And how would this long-anticipated salvation come? The psalmist prays,

Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,

Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.

Then we will not turn back from You;

Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. (80:17-18)

Early Jewish rabbis believed this “man of God’s right hand” would be the promised Messiah King and they called on God for salvation through dark centuries of oppression.

Then Jesus came. His followers recognized that he, the Son of God, is the Son of Man who came from heaven to be born of the virgin, who defeated our enemies on the cross and who rose from death to reign at God’s right hand over heaven and Earth.

Jesus will come again to set up his throne on Earth and set the world right.

Right now, all is not yet right. The poetic picture of Psalm 80 brings to mind the rubble of broken Judeo-Christian foundations seen everywhere around us in the nations that were once considered to be Christian nations. Tragically, it also brings to mind the tragic failure of the church in the western nations to be God’s light in a dark world. Many who claim to be among God’s New Covenant people (Christians) in actuality serve gods of materialism (Money), sexuality and power.

We are not unlike the church in Corinth, which Paul called a carnal “community,” where there were factions, sexual immorality, confusion in marriages and lawsuits against one another.

Even their worship was polluted. Their “love feasts” (the weekly gatherings during which they shared a meal and celebrated the “Lord’s Supper”) had become opportunities for selfishness, gluttony and drunkenness. They were using spiritual gifts as tools for self-exaltation and pride rather than to encourage and to edify one another.

Still, as there was hope for the church in Corinth, there is hope for us. Paul was able to give thanks for them knowing that Christ would confirm them to the end for God is faithful. He who is the same yesterday, today and forever is able to make us stand as well.

Jesus has left us to watch over his world. We are “the servants” left to watch over the house until the Master returns (Mark 13:33-37). But not servants only, for we are his adopted sons and daughters, called to carry on his work of love and service and justice in the communities where we live.

As God’s royal priesthood, we are called to cry out in prayer to heaven for a world beset by tribulation in these dark days of COVID and of turmoil — in this time when hatred, violence, conflict and evil seem to be prevailing.

It is right for us to lament in prayer for the world and for the church, even as we cry out with hope, “Come, King Jesus!”

Steve Humble has been an elder at Winchester Covenant Church since its beginning in 1991. He can be reached at 771-7138 or by email at steve.humble@twc.com.