On the first Sunday of Advent, the church begins a new year of grace. Happy New Year!
Every year Advent opens with a splash of apocalyptic scripture, signaling the end of the world as we know it. No more status quo, the beginning of a new way of living and being—the world is about to turn. Some time during this Advent, we'll probably sing Canticle of the Turning that's based on Mary's Magnificat.
Blue, the color of hope, is the official color for Advent. Although it includes a theme of repentance, the season of Advent is especially about hope. In Spanish esperar/espero means wait, hope, and expect. We hope for and anticipate not a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays as the rest of the world sincerely might wish us; we hope for the incarnation of mercy, grace, and love. Instead of the rest of the world's irenic peace that's more or less a temporary cease-fire, we hope for, wait for, and expect the fullness of shalom the Prince of Peace brings us. We hope for the dawn of the new creation the death and resurrection of the Prince of Peace will initiate.
This is Revised Common Lectionary Year C, Luke's year. Luke is a synoptic gospel that views Jesus' life an ministry in a similar manner to Matthew and Mark.
Luke is the only Gentile, non-Jewish writer in the entire New Testament. Luke was a highly educated physician, but think "bronze age" in terms of sophistication. Luke wrote a two-volume account, a gospel and the book of the Acts of the Apostles. We often refer to Luke-Acts as one word.
Luke's particular perspective includes an emphasis on:
• world history and Jewish history
• Luke brings us Jesus' genealogy that ends with Adam, son of God. Luke's human Jesus and divine Christ both minister to each one's body and spirit.
• presence and activity of the Holy Spirit – the HS has been prominent throughout the Bible's witness, but Luke-Acts brings a fulfillment of God's reign in the Spirit
• marginalized people of every class and type, the underclass.
• table fellowship.
• neighborology – the word about the neighbor! During Year C the lectionary includes quite a few readings from jeremiah and Deuteronomy that also emphasize the neighbor, the other, living together faithfully in covenantal community.
• Starting with John the Baptist down by the riverside counseling people to share what they have with others in order to prepare for the arrival of God in our midst, we find a lot of "social gospel" throughout Luke,. However, this isn't let's see how many good works we humans can accomplish on our own; it's always about the indwelling and outgoing power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke includes three psalm-like songs or canticles based on Old Testament sources:
• Mary's Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord; he has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly..." – Luke 1:46-55
• Zechariah's Benedictus, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; he has visited his people." – Luke 1:67-79
• Simeon's Nunc Dimittis: "Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace; mine eyes have seen they salvation, which thou hast prepared..." – Luke 2:29-32
Uniquely in Luke we find:
• Sermon on the Plain – Luke 6:17-49, which emphasizes the physical re-distributive justice and material well-being. Matthew's parallel Sermon on the Mount is more about spiritual well-being.
• Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
• Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 11-32
• Stones cry out Luke – 19:37-40
• Emmaus Road in Luke's post-resurrection account takes us back to the Maundy Thursday Upper Room and to Luke's many accounts of Jesus' table fellowship with all comers – Luke 24:13-35
We concluded class by reading the first section of the assigned gospel for Advent 1C. Rather than coming from the beginning of Luke's gospel, this is Jesus speaking toward the end! We hear about signs and symbols coming alive in nature/creation; we'll soon celebrate the birth of Jesus who is not a god in nature, but God and Lord of nature.
25"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."