Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
Narrative Lectionary: Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles, 29:1, 4-14 (John 14:27)
Happy New Year! We have come full circle and a new year has begun in the Revised Common Lectionary, year C.
We begin with the promise of God as told by the prophet Jeremiah, a promise that will be fulfilled to Israel and Judah. God will cause “a righteous branch to spring up for David,” a fulfilment of the promise that David’s reign would endure forever. The rest of this passage includes a promise for Judah and Jerusalem, the safety of the great city. Jeremiah witnessed its destruction, but also declared God’s promise of hope and restoration.
Psalm 25:1-10 is a prayer of trust in God. The psalmist calls upon God to make known God’s ways, to lead them away from the path of sin. The psalmist prays that their enemies and those who are astray from God’s ways would know shame, but not for those faithful to God. Instead, the psalmist prays for wise instruction from God, that their own sins from their youth would be forgotten. God teaches in humility, and God is faithful to those who keep God’s ways.
Paul prays a blessing and thanksgiving upon the church in Thessalonica in preparation for Christ’s return in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. Paul prays that they would be strengthened in their faith, in their love for one another, and in their hearts, as they prepare to be in the presence of Christ when he comes again.
Jesus’ final words to his disciples before he celebrated the Passover were about the signs of the times before Jesus’ return. We must remember that the Gospel According to Luke was written after the destruction of the temple, so some of the words of Jesus had already taken place by the time this Gospel was shared. In 21:25-36, Jesus follows a pattern of other writers and prophets, declaring that there will be visible signs of disturbance in the skies and on earth, but the disciples (and the readers/listeners) are to be ready. Jesus uses the example of a fig tree, how it grows leaves at the appropriate time of the year and people understand what season it is by the leaves on the tree. For those who believe, they will understand that God’s reign has drawn near by the signs they see in the world. Believers are called to be alert and ready, not weighed down by the worries and participation in day-to-day worldly living. Instead, pray for the strength to withstand, and be ready for the day of judgment with Christ.
The Narrative Lectionary also focuses on Jeremiah, but a few chapters earlier. In chapter 29, Jeremiah wrote a letter to those from Jerusalem were taken in the first exile to Babylon, before the destruction of the temple and the fall of their city. To these exiles, who may have contemplated rebelling against their captors, Jeremiah encourages them instead to go on with their lives in exile. The prophet urges them to build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children and grandchildren. Jeremiah asks the exiles to pray. Though there are some who desire to return home, the prophet knows that it will be generations before they will—yet God has plans for a future with hope. The people are called to seek God right where they are in exile, not longing for a dream of what once was.
In John 14:27, Jesus reminds the disciples that his peace is not the same as the world’s peace. Jesus encourages the disciples to not be troubled or afraid. Paired with the passage from Jeremiah, this continues a theme of encouragement in the midst of the world’s troubles.
A tradition of Advent, that no one is sure when it began or where it came from, is that each Sunday the candles symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love. There’s nothing that says we have to use that tradition, but hope is a theme we often look to in this time of year. Advent is the season of watching and waiting for signs of Christ’s return in our world and our lives in a new way. We practice traditions in the hope that something new will happen, rather than clinging to something old. Jeremiah reminds us that we can look to the past, but we can’t be beholden to it. Jesus reminds us in Luke’s account of the Gospel that the signs are all around us that God is doing something new, even when the world is falling apart. Be encouraged! Something new and wonderful is at hand.
Call to Worship (from Luke 1:28, 30, 37-28)
The angel said to Mary,
“The Lord is with you.
“Do not be afraid,
“For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary said to the angel,
“Here I am, the servant of God,
“May it be with me,
According to the word of God.”
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of the Hopeless, we confess that closing in on two years of living in a Covid world we have lost hope that things will return to normal. We are reminded, like Jeremiah reminded the exiles, that we cannot go back to the way things were. Instead, we must build in a new way, knowing that You are with us now. As we build a new way of being church, of being faithful in the world around us, of following You, remind us of the assurance that You are always doing something new, and always preparing for us a future with hope. In our despair and dejection, renew and restore our hearts. In the name of Christ, who is returning to us, we pray. Amen.
Jeremiah told the people that a shoot would rise from the stump of Jesse. Jesus taught us that something new rises out of what must die. God continues to teach us that all things are made new. There is hope to be found in this world, if we seek it, and if we be it. May we be living hope to one another, forgiving and loving one another, restoring and repairing the world. Go, and live into the Good News, and be good news for each other. Amen.
God of Advent, Coming into View, You are like the sun just before dawn, when twilight is fading. You are like the first star at night before all the stars blaze into glory. You are the moon rising, and the new moon, about to be born. We see everything differently by Your light and Your darkness. May the wonder and surprise of this season take root in us, though we know the old story. May we be caught up in the excitement and joy even when we repeat old traditions. May we be inspired by You, O God, even as the seasons turn as they always do—for they turn in a new way in this new year. Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Amen.