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A Scripture Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent

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by Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM | December 3, 2017

A Scripture Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017

Readings: Is 63:16B-17, 19B, 64:2-7,  Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19, 1 Cor 1:3-9, Mk 13:33-37

 

Commercial interests have inflicted on American culture a malady best described as "Christmas creep." The holiday season used to begin with Thanksgiving, but department stores and discount marts have been featuring Christmas displays and having Christmas sales long before Thanksgiving. Radio stations have been playing Christmas music. Some families have already mailed their Christmas cards and put up Christmas decorations in their homes. Even churches are not exempt. Prominently displaying an Advent wreath in the sanctuary makes the liturgical season of Advent appear to be the "countdown to Christmas." The liturgy, however, does not direct our attention to the mystery of Christ's birth until the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which falls on Christmas Eve this year.

There is nothing "Christmasy" about today's Scripture lessons. They direct our attention not to the past--to the memory of Christ's birth--but to the future, to Christ's return. The prophet asks God to hasten the day of the Lord's coming: "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down."The Apostle reminds us that we have "every spiritual gift as (we) wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."The gospel lesson reminds us of Jesus' advice to"be watchful! Be alert!" Advent is the time that the Church reminds us to be watchful and alert because Jesus is coming again.

What will Jesus' return mean for believers? I saw a bumper sticker once with this message: "Jesus is coming soon and is he angry," except it used a vulgarity for the word "angry." Actually, the Lord's return will be an occasion for triumph, joy, and happiness. Jesus is coming to complete his work on earth, but this does not mean that believers have no role to play as we wait for the Lord's return. The watchfulness of Advent is not a passive waiting, as if the transformation of this world is Christ's work alone. Advent is a time to get moving again--to reinvigorate--to recommit ourselves to the mission of God.

The Christian's commitment to the gospel involves participation in the mission of God to make of this world just what God created it to be. Faith in the certainty of the Lord's return gives believers the assurance that nothing they do to make this a better world is ever insignificant or done in vain. When Jesus returns, he will take our feeble efforts at transforming our world and join them to his own. He will then present a new world to God--a world of justice and peace--a world full of people who have been reconciled with one another--a world which conforms to God's will--a world in which sin and death will be no more.

Believers, then, can look to the future with confidence and assurance. The battle has already been fought and won. Our victory over sin and death is certain. That is the reason the Apostle "gives thanks to God on (our) account." He knows that God "will keep us firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." That is the reason we pray during Advent: Come, Lord Jesus!

The above image is from the Public Domain.

Rev. Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Author information Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM

Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies
M..A., Aquinas Institute of Theology; Ph.D., Northwestern University

Within the broad range of Old Testament studies, he has focused on Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Literature and on the social and economic conflict between rich and poor in ancient Israelite society. One result of his work in the latter area is There Shall Be No Poor Among You: Poverty in the Bible. He has participated in several archaeological projects in Upper Galilee and is the author of The Churches and Synagogues of Ancient Palestine. He has served as the Director of CTU’s Biblical Study and Travel Progams and has been the academic director of the Fall Program whose residence while in Israel is in Azariah, a village near Jerusalem. This experience has led him to write The Holy City: Jerusalem in the Theology of the Old Testament. He has written several other books and many articles in the area of Old Testament interpretation and biblical archaeology. His latest book is Isaiah in the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series.

He is the general editor of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly and has served on the editorial boards of Old Testament Abstracts and The Bible Today and as general editor of the latter. He is the associate editor of the Anselm Press Study Bible.

He has been a member of the faculty since 1981 except from 2005 to 2011 when he served as the Provincial Minister of the Assumption Province.

In addition to his service at CTU, he has been visiting professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

He is member of the Assumption Province, Order of Friars Minor and a Roman Catholic priest.

Email: lesliejh@ctu.edu

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