Those who bring good news

Today’s Bible readings are Isaiah 52.7–10; Psalm 19.1-6; Romans 10.12-18; Matthew 4.18-22.

Loving God, who seeks and saves the lost:
I thank you today for the followers of Jesus by whose words and deeds I have learned about you.
Help me, in my turn, so to live and speak that others might be drawn to you.
Help me to be a a follower of Jesus,
a bearer of good news,
and a fisher of people;
that I, even I, might make a difference for others,
and restless souls might find their rest in you.
Amen.

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many from east and west

Today’s Bible readings are Isaiah 4.2–6; Psalm 122; Matt 8.5-11.

Yesterday’s reading from Isaiah 2.1-5 saw the nations streaming to Jerusalem to worship God. Matthew sees this occurring in the ministry of Jesus. For now, in Matthew, it is only a hint but the centurion displays a level of faith unseen among the traditional people of God. Jesus points to the centurion as one among the many who will come from east and west to eat with Israel’s ancestors in the kingdom of God. I don’t know about you, but I am not entirely confident in the strength of my own faith. I am confident, however, in the generosity of God made known in Jesus. And if God can be generous toward me, there is hope for anybody! When I read these verses, I marvel at the faith of the centurion but, much more, I rejoice in the generosity of God. I feel challenged too to be generous in all my dealings with others.

First Sunday of Advent 2010

Today’s Bible readings are Isaiah 2.1–5; Psalm 122; Romans 13.11–14; Matt 24:36-44.

During Advent, Christians try to put themselves in the shoes (well, sandals) of those who, thousands of years ago, waited and longed for the coming of a Messiah. In a way they look forward to Christmas like those awaiting the Messiah. Today’s Gospel reading reminds them that they are not really waiting for Christmas but for God. For what they really wait for is the return of Jesus, who in his life, death and resurrection made God known and, in his return, will set right all that is wrong with the world and establish the reign of God in all its fullness. They live between the first advent and the second; between the birth and the return of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God.

When read in this light, the oracle of Isaiah 2 and the song of Psalm 122 take on new significance. While we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we await the complete fulfilment of our prayers in ‘the new Jerusalem’ that comes down ‘out of heaven from God’ (Rev 21.2). In the meantime, we see an intimation of the peace and justice yet to come in the community life of the people of God. We work for peace in our communities and in the world as we bear witness to the peace of God made known and yet to be made known in Jesus Christ. Or at least we will do if we allow the message of Advent to have greater sway in our lives.

Psalm 122, however it is interpreted, is a favourite of mine. Set to music famously in Parry’s magnificent ‘I was glad’, it provides the text for a Jewish song I am particularly fond of:

Lemaan achai vereai,
lemaan achai vereai
Adabra na, adabra na,
shalom bach.
Lemaan bayt Hashem Elohaynu
avaksha tov lach
Lemaan bayt Hashem Elohaynu
avaksha tov lach

For the sake of my relatives and friends
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will now say, I will now say,
‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

See / hear it performed here.

Advent

The season of Advent begins tomorrow (Sunday 28 November). For the churches that observe it, the season is one of hope, expectancy and waiting as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. At Didsbury Baptist Church we will concentrate on Advent themes and light candles on the Advent Wreath Sunday by Sunday. Many of us will also participate in a daily Bible-reading scheme. As we read, we will pray, listen and open our hearts to what the Spirit may be saying to us. On Wednesday evenings we will meet together to discuss what we are learning, hear Advent music and sing some Advent songs, and pray for each other and for the world. The season offers an opportunity to stop and be quiet, to resist some of the frenzied activity associated with the run up to Christmas and listen for the voice of God.

You can join us in our Advent journey here. Each day of Advent, I will upload the Bible readings for the day with a short reflection. (If you would like to see the readings in advance, download them here.) I invite comments and responses of your own. You can leave these in the comments area below each post. I hope other members of the Church might provide some of the articles and perhaps some artistic responses to the daily readings along the way.

Daily Advent reflections can be found on other Internet sites too; see, for example, hopefulimagination.

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