The First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 64:1-9 | Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 | Mark 13:24-37 | 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
What is the crying at Jordan?
Who hears, O God, the prophecy?
Dark is the season, dark our hearts
and shut to mystery.
Who then shall stir in this darkness,
prepare for joy in the winter night.
Mortal in darkness we lie down blindhearted,
seeing no light.
Lord, give us grace to awake us,
to see the branch that begins to bloom;
in great humility is hid all heaven
in a little room.
Now comes the day of salvation,
in joy and terror the Word is born!
God gives himself into our lives
oh let salvation dawn!
Carol Christopher Drake © 1971
To Listen: What Is The Crying At Jordan
Advent Meditation by Ginger Blake
I have listened to this every advent season. It is the opening song on my favorite album, and it begins my celebration of advent. Celebration is perhaps the wrong word; journey would be more appropriate. We travel through the dark toward the light which is the coming of Christ at Christmas. This coming is announced through Scripture readings of the prophecies, collects, and music which are all designed to lead us thus. It is a journey in darkness toward light. This year I find the darkness so much darker. There is the world’s darkness; the pandemic, an unprecedented divisive political situation, and undealt with racial tensions, and I have had personal loss; my mother, beloved friends, and my vocation in an industry that is completely shut (theater and live performance). I want to find the light in all this, the hope, the Hallmark movie cheer. And yet I may need to walk in this darkness for a while.
I have been studying with a group, the book of Isaiah, perhaps the most well-known of the prophetic books. We know much of it from Handel’s Messiah. “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light,” Isaiah 9:2, “I will give you as a light to the nations” Isa 49:6, “Arise shine for your light has come” Isa 60:1. But in between these prophecies of light and redemption are some of the most dire and destructive passages in the Bible. Some are against the enemies of Israel, but many are punishments against her own people for turning away from God. And as we studied them, sometimes we heard echoes of our current situation. It was a bit unsettling; what is God saying to us? I have no answer, but I may need to walk with this for a while.
The third stanza asks for grace, to see a branch, a little room; it comes on slowly and in increments. If you turn off the lights in your room, you are in complete darkness for a moment or so, then your eyes adjust, you see shadows, objects appear in the dark and slowly the room takes shape. Darkness is also where seeds germinate. We need darkness to see the light. God has promised he is with us in the valley of the shadow. I will take Him up on that.
And salvation is in the Word. In John’s gospel Jesus himself is the word made flesh. What is the word we long to hear? John 3:16 is of course one. “God so loved the world….”. I prefer John 3:17 “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Today is the feast day of St Andrew, brother of Peter, a fisherman who left his nets and followed Jesus. Andrew asked where Jesus was staying, and Jesus replied “Come and See.” (John 1:39). Today I take that as an invitation of this Advent season; to come and see.