The Third Sunday of Advent 2020
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the year of the Lord's favour!
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11Gaudete! Rejoice! Invitation!
1The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
8For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
The third Sunday of Advent sometimes is called Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday from the opening of the entrance prayer in the Latin rite. Taking a joy-filled break originated when Advent was mostly penitential rather than our contemporary season of hope.
Assuming we'll be meeting together on campus by Advent 2021, would anyone like to research and present a history of Advent? Maybe we'll even meet in person for Lent. In that case, any offers to assemble a history of Lent in Western and Eastern hemispheres? Whenever we begin a new liturgical season I always provide a quick overview, but It's always about current Western churches—Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and other traditions that follow the ecumenical calendar. I know that information well, but I know close to zero about non-Western churches and about the overall timeline of how the church year evolved.
God of grace, God of unmediated presence, you don't need another news bulletin. You already know what's been happening on earth—you've been in the midst of it. Blue is advent's color for the hope of newness and rebirth; blue sometimes is advent's color because of sorrow. Grief. Loss. Hopelessness.
As we wait for daylight to increase and to celebrate Jesus' birth, we've considered scriptures that promise everything that hinders life will be turned around, upside down, redeemed, and restored. A planet beginning to heal? Ethnic and economic justice? The end of COVID-19? Food and shelter for everyone? The eventual death of death? All that and more!
God of the covenants, God of love, God of resurrection hope, please help us shine as your light your love and your hope for our neighbors who long for morning, our friends who yearn for resurrection.
In the name of Jesus, Light of the World, amen.
Isaiah, Prophets, Jesus
Again this week God speaks through Third Isaiah, offering challenge, comfort, and hope to the southern kingdom Judah after some exiles returned from Babylon to rebuild infrastructure, community, and traditions. He (it probably was a guy) also spoke to people who'd stayed behind and never left Jerusalem.
Prophets speak against the political, economic, social, and religious status quo. Prophets call people to repent, to turn around, to re-direct their lives. But more than anything, prophecy announces God doing a new thing, the inbreaking of the reign of heaven on earth, resurrection from the dead! This week's particular proclamation is exactly that: urban rebirth; rebuilding from ruins, blight and devastation; turning upside down the community's sorrow, grief, lack of initiative.
Does that sound like what we need right now?
in Luke's gospel, reading and affirming these promises initiated Jesus' public ministry.
16…Jesus went to [his hometown Nazareth] synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." … 21Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4
Does that sound like something we need right now? Does it sound like the ministry God has called us to?
Fun feature: Isaiah 61:11 uses the word sprout three times: earth sprouts; garden sprouts; righteousness and praise sprouts.
Questions for Advent 3
In any other year, either Advent 2 or Advent 3 would be Lessons & Carols. On Advent 3 or Advent 4 during more normal years we've discussed favorite Advent and Christmas memories, music, and practices.
• Are you ready for Christmas music? Have you been listening to carols or singing them? I haven't yet.
• Have you "attended" any virtual holiday concerts, either mostly religious or mostly secular events? Or maybe you're waiting for closer to December 24th? I've enjoyed several semi-holiday themed TV specials.
• Are you ready with a list of favorite winter (since we reside in the northern hemisphere) holiday songs and traditions? On Advent 1 I listed some of my brightest and best songs and will add more next week.
• Has the release and approval of two COVID-19 vaccines given you hope? Or are you still mostly in the depressive blues aspect of Advent? I'm feeling both/and.
• Do you truly dwell in hope the new year 2021 will be different, better, and life-giving rather than life-negating? Or are you in wait-and-see mode?