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.

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