First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

JEREMIAH 33:14-16

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

PSALM 25:1-10

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

1 THESSALONIANS 3:9-13

9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

LUKE 21:25-36

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. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Devotion

The season of Advent is a time of both remembrance of things past and anticipation of things to come. In the readings for this First Sunday of Advent, the prophet Jeremiah foretells of a “righteous Branch” (vs. 15) who will execute justice and rescue the people of God. We can look back and see the fulfillment of this prophetic word in the first coming of our Lord Jesus. We live in the reality of that prophecy and experience the salvation and restoration that only Jesus can provide.

As the psalmist prays in Psalm 25, so also do we: “You are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (vs. 5). We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for us. In both of these Old Testament Scriptures we look back; we know that Jesus has entered our world and has begun his work of redemption and restoration. We can remember God’s faithfulness in sending his Son to rescue us.

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the emphasis is on the anticipation of things to come, that is, “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). As in Psalm 25, here too, we find a prayer. The apostle prays that the Lord would make the Thessalonian believers “abound in love for one another and for all” (vs. 12). He also prays that the Lord would strengthen their hearts in holiness that they would be blameless at Christ’s return. The apostle’s prayer for these early believers is a prayer for us as well: a call to live watchful and lovingly in God’s present, even as we await his return.

In the Gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus’ own admonition to “be on guard” and to “be alert at all times” (vs. 34, 36) as we anticipate the day of his return. Jesus uses an illustration from nature, how the sprouting of leaves on the fig tree is a sign that summer is near (vs. 29-30). He then declares, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (vs. 31).

To quote one author: “The good news of Advent is not simply that Christ is coming, but that his coming means we can hope, despite all that is falling apart in our lives, our communities, and the world around us. Just as the leaves on the fig tree offer hope in late winter that summer is coming again, so God’s word, in Jesus, promises us new life. Advent offers us expectation and hope for something new.” (Kathy Beach-Verhey)

May we live alert, on guard, and wide awake during this Advent season. May we pray that God’s kingdom would break forth as we remember and anticipate the Prince of Peace - the little baby and the risen Lord.

Questions for Further Reflection

1. What expectations do you have for this Advent/Christmas season? How can God’s word help reorient you in the midst of busyness and cultural distractions?

2. How does God characterize the way believers are to live in light of his second coming?

3. Where do you see God’s kingdom breaking forth in your own life? Our church? Our community?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, during this Advent season,
fill us with anticipation and direct our way to you.
May we, your people, increase and abound
in love for one another and for all,
just as we abound in love for you.
Strengthen our hearts in holiness
that we may be blameless before you
when you return. Amen.