Friday, November 30, 2012

First Sunday in Advent

The season of Advent is one of both anticipation and preparation. The anticipation is the aspect we associate with joyous celebration. Israel had a history of being oppressed by other countries and now she was under the thumb of the most powerful country in the world. Israel wanted, hoped for, release from her oppressor - and some of her own people who cooperated with  the occupiers. Israel yearned for and anticipated the day that her salvation would come; the day her God would rescue her from her torment. So Advent recalls  Israel’s anticipation of her deliverance, and through Israel, the world’s reception of her Creator.

Israel’s history though, also provided the reason she was being oppressed—she was guilty of not having sufficient faith in her God; of not following him, and not embodying his character. So, Advent  includes not only anticipation of salvation, but also a realization of why she and we needed rescuing. Advent includes self reflection, or examining our own responsibility in Jesus’ ultimate coming to earth. 

And so, as we celebrate our God’s coming to rescue us, of becoming like us and living among us, we also take this time to re-center and refocus ourselves on our calling as his people; as his children. Are we ready for our God to come to us? Will he find us faithful and watching, or will he find us hopelessly off track?

Over this and the next three Sundays, take some time to allow yourself to feel the excitement, and feel the tug of circumspection. Take this time to not only rejoice, but to return your focus to God’s priorities and the call you have accepted.

This coming week, set some time aside to read Luke’s account of the Annunciation, and Jesus’ birth. Slow down while you read Mary’s  exchange with the angel and her song of rejoicing. Mary is asked to bear both a great grace, and a great burden. She has been selected to give birth to the Creator, and yet will suffer through his humiliation and death. 

Have you considered the burden you have been asked to carry? What does it look like in your life? Do you try to avoid it, or do you accept it for the glory of God?

When you read Mary’s Song, what ideas seem to stand out for you? How do or might those ideas apply to your own life?

Mary rehearses God’s history with Israel and she seems to see herself as part of Israel’s history. These are, after all, her own people. How do you see your life in the history of God’s work? Do you feel isolated in the present time, or do you see yourself as a participant in God’s on-going work in the world? How do you perceive the difference between these two views of your place in history? How might one or the other affect the way you live your life?

The coming of God into the world is reason for rejoicing. In what ways do you have reason to rejoice with his coming? 

Here’s a prayer for you: Our Father,  you have promised to save your people and I rejoice in your offer of grace for me and for the world. I know though, that I am imperfect , often distracted, and inconsistent in living the faith I have in you. I trust in your love and in your mercy toward me and I rejoice that you have come to us as one of us—to save us from ourselves. Thank you, amen.

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