1st Sunday of Advent, Year B
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 (4)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
November 29, 2020
Our passage from Isaiah today comes from a time when the Babylonian Exile was ending and the Jews were returning to Jerusalem. They found the Temple in ruins and their lands pillaged. It was difficult to see.
Thus, they lament. Yet, as they lament, they realize that Israel fell because they had ceased to follow the Lord’s ways. They cry out, “Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants.”
Why did God let them wander? Why does He let us wander? Can’t God stop us from wandering from his ways into sin?
Yes, He could stop us. To do so God would have to take away our free will. When we see evil in the world, it might seem like a good thing for God to take away our free will. However, while taking away our free will could take away our ability to sin, it also takes away our ability to love. To love requires free will so we are able to choose to love.
What are we to do?
We can choose to surrender our free will to God, “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.” We cannot save ourselves but God can save us.
When might we do this? When might we change our ways and surrender our lives to God?
When some people decide to make changes in their lives, they choose to do it on January 1st as a new year’s resolution. Many do not succeed because they lack commitment or the strength to carry out their resolutions.
Today we begin a new year in the church with our celebration of the First Sunday of Advent. How about making a “new year’s resolution” now and asking God to be part of it? God will help us as we seek to follow him.
What we want is to have God come more fully into our lives. We call this season “advent.” The word Advent means “coming.” This season of Advent calls us to think about both the first coming of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas and the Second Coming at the end of the ages.
Our readings this week point us to the Second Coming. Are we ready? If the Lord was to come today, would He “meet us doing right”? Would the Lord find us mindful of his ways?
Or would He find us a sinful and unclean people, withering away in sin?
How are you doing in waiting for the Lord? Are you keeping “firm to the end”? Or are you dozing off?
Jesus himself tells us to “Be watchful! Be alert!” Why? Because, “You do not know when the time will come.” In fact, while today’s gospel is just five verses, Jesus tells us twice to keep watch and that we do not know when the Second Coming will happen.
Jesus says, “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” “Sleeping” here is not a matter of physical sleep. He is speaking of spiritual sleepiness, meaning we have grown lax in following the Lord’s way. We have sinned.
How are we to change?
I go back to our psalm response, “Lord, make us turn to you: let us see your face and we shall be saved.” We need Jesus to save us.
Our passage today from Isaiah ends with the people saying to the Lord, “we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”
How much time do we spend trying to make ourselves be who we want to be? We think we can and/or should do it on our own. We cannot nor do we need to. We are the clay. We need to let God shape us into what we are meant to be.
Picture the clay. It starts as a lump on the potter’s wheel. If we try to shape ourselves, we work the clay but struggle to become something good. When we sin, we lose the goodness that God has made us with.
How do we start over?
We throw ourselves onto the true potter’s wheel and let God reshape us. We confess our sins. We turn our lives over to him so that He might save us.
The Lord is coming. Let us turn to him and be saved.