Scripture Studies, December 3, 2017 First Sunday of Advent

December 3, 2017 First Sunday of Advent

This Sunday we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. The Advent Season is a four week preparation for Christmas but not in the usual sense. Advent is a time to reflect with John in the desert and to think about the various advents or comings of Jesus into our lives and our world. Jesus came to us in the historical incarnation that we will celebrate at Christmas. He will come to us as the returning glorious King of Kings at the end of time. But perhaps most visibly He comes to us quietly every day in the interactions we have with each other. Every expression of love and care that passes between two people has Jesus in the middle of it. This is the most common and maybe the most miraculous of the advents of Jesus. Each day He comes to us in and through each other.


First Reading: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64: 2b-7

63:16 [for you are our father.
Were Abraham not to know us,
nor Israel to acknowledge us,]
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.

17 Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.

[18 Why have the wicked invaded your holy place,
why have our enemies trampled your sanctuary?

19 Too long have we been like those you do not rule,
who do not bear your name.]
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,

64:1 [As when brushwood is set ablaze,
or fire makes the water boil!
Thus your name would be made known to your enemies
and the nations would tremble before you,]

2 While you wrought awesome deeds we could
not hope for,

3 such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,
any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.

4 Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;

5 all of us have become like unclean men,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
We have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.

6 There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
For you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.

7 Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.

NOTES on First Reading:

The sections in brackets [] are left out of the reading. * 63:16 Although Isaiah carried on his ministry in the eighth century B.C., chapters 40-66 are generally thought to be from a later date. This portion of Isaiah begins in the style of a psalm of lament. The writer is expressing the sense of loss felt by the first returnees to Jerusalem when the exile ended (Fifth Century B.C.) and they faced the mass destruction that had befallen the city. The writer stresses that God is the Father of Israel and the One Who saves them. See 64:7; Exod 4:22; Hos 11:1.

* 63:17 The “servants” mentioned here are the faithful disciples of Deuteronomy and Trito-Isaiah ( Isaiah Chapters 56-66).

* 63:19 The second half of verse 19 as given in the NAB is often placed in verse 64:1 by translations that follow the Masoretic (Jewish) verse numbering. Regardless of the verse number, the meaning is clear. The writer is asking for a theophany like the one at Sinai (Exod 19; Deut 4:32-36; see Mark 1:10) but even more wondrous.

* 64:1(2) In Exodus fire is a symbol of God’s presence and protection, here it is a sign of anger.

* 64:3 (4) This is the Old Testament background for 1 Cor 1:9.

* 64:4b-6 God appears to have abandoned Israel to their guilt.

*64:5 (4) The term, “polluted rags,” actually refers to cloths used during a woman’s menstrual period and implies cultural shame and ceremonial uncleanness (Lev 15:19-24).

* 64:7-11 The reading gives us only the first verse of this desperate appeal that expresses both an emphatic urgency and a stubborn faith.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, 6 as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ). 9 God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

NOTES on Second Reading:

* 1:3 This is the last verse of the common introductory formula for the greeting and thanksgiving with which Paul usually begins his letters.

* 1: 4 The basis for Paul’s gratitude is the gift of God mediated by Jesus, which must be made manifest in our lives.

* 1:5 This verse suggests that the Corinthian Church was endowed with spiritual gifts. Such a suggestion would have flattered the Corinthians but it was meant, at least partly, as a rebuke in the form of faint praise. In other communities grace is described as being manifested in their faith, hope, and love, or partnership in the gospel. These are all qualities that were conspicuously missing among the Corinthians who were suffering from a serious problem of pride in the possession of the spiritual gifts and lacked evidence of the love that should be evident among members of the Body of Christ.

* 1:6 In the word, testimony, Paul is referring to the purpose of his mission (see also 1 Cor 15:15 and 1 Cor 2:1). His testimony took the form of oral preaching and instruction, his letters, and the life he led as an apostle. Very much the same thing should be true of us. Some translations read “mystery” in some of the places where Paul uses this Greek word, “marturion.”

* 1:7 Because of the Corinthian preoccupation on the present, Paul reminds them that full manifestation of the kingdom is reserved for the future when the Lord will return.

* 1:8 The reception of a favorable eschatological judgment is due to God’s assistance or grace.

* 1:9 God will not abandon what He has begun. An early Christian term for members of the church was “the called ones.”

Gospel Reading: Mark 13:33-37

33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

NOTES on Gospel:

* 13:33-37 This passage is a call to watchfulness. This type of language where hearers or readers are urged to stay on guard was common in the early church. Jesus is definitely coming back but as he told us in the previous verse, we can’t know exactly when it will happen. Therefore we must be prepared at any time. The question is not will we have to wait for Him but how will we spend the time during the wait.

* 13:36 This is a warning that the reckoning will occur.

* 13:37 This verse emphasizes the need for patient endurance.</p

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