The Season of Advent is a time for us to prepare our minds and hearts for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Except for a brief shift at the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, there is a progressively developed theme in the words of Isaiah and Matthew from Sunday to Sunday.
There is a series of FIRST READINGS. beginning with a kind of warning. Isaiah first alerts us to be aware that God’s Kingdom is one of peace among all peoples (nations). He urges us to anticipate God’s coming by being willing to take instruction from God. Isaiah goes on to describe God’s Kingdom in terms of opposites living together in trust and peace. By the 3rd Sunday of Advent Isaiah is making it quite plain that the weak, the feeble, the fearful – all those who have had to bear the brunt of abuse from the powerful and selfish — will be vindicated. On the last Sunday of Advent Isaiah appears a bit frustrated that we seem to require more than God’s promise and commitment to us — we need a sign — and he describes the virgin birth of Emmanuel as that sign.
As proclaimers of these passages we need to see Isaiah’s vision and understand his words as clearly as he did. His writing is not story; it is exhortation! Isaiah knows in his soul who God is and what He has promised to do. He believes in God’s promises and assurances in the very core of his being. He is convinced that if Israel will return to their faith in and commitment to Yahweh then God’s Kingdom will certainly come.
Be Isaiah as you proclaim these passages. Show your commitment to these concepts.
The SECOND READINGS on these Advent Sundays bring an “updated” view of Isaiah’s words. Paul is convinced and has taught those he could that we (Jews and Gentiles as well as 21st Century human beings) are God’s children and heirs who now eagerly await Jesus’ return. James’ letter on the 3rd Sunday continues this theme of anticipating Christ’s coming. Both writers, though, include cautions about right living since God’s Kingdom is established in people’s hearts and minds and not the material world around us. Lectors are called to proclaim these letters’ passages in a cautionary tone, as teachers of their fellow pilgrims. One cannot be an effective teacher if one isn’t sure of what he or she is talking about. Just as the Israelites are urged to understand, accept, and act in accordance with God’s ages-old promises, some 2,000+ years later, we who follow Jesus today should be striving to exemplify the kinds of attitude, values, and way of living that are called for by Isaiah, Paul and James. Perhaps more than ever in these few weeks lectors are indeed the instruments that Jesus is counting on to touch someone in the Assembly who most needs to hear His Word proclaimed to them.
The GOSPELS present Jesus as tying the prophecy of Isaiah to the reality (and prophecy) of His (and our) day. Proclaimers of these passages need to be convinced of Jesus’ words, thinking, and prophecy. That conviction cannot be an intellectual one, only. It needs to permeate the proclaimer’s being. That will then be reflected in how intensely the passages are proclaimed. It ultimately will be reflected in how well the listeners in the Assembly understand the expectation God has for us in the 21st Century.
Matthew begins this liturgical season with warnings from both Jesus and John the Baptist. The time has come to repent our failures to be in conformity with God’s will. The accounts are heavy with emotional weight as the two prophetically appeal to their fellows to return to God being in control of people’s lives and abandon their selfish, egotistical and self-serving ways. Matthew then turns to Jesus’ confirmation of John the Baptist’s mission. The season ends with the story of Joseph’s perceived plight with Mary’s pregnancy and his decision to listen to God’s messenger in spite of appearances and take Mary as his wife. Joseph is a very fitting example of what Matthew sees as Jesus’ teaching.
For more information on this season read a brief article at this website: www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html.
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