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Wrestling with the Word, episode 49: First Sunday of Advent, Year C (November 29, 2009) November 12, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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First Sunday of Advent

The time of Advent calls on us to perform an unnatural act: wait. The word “advent” means “coming,” and the arrival we await is (1) the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, to become one of us and live among us, (2) Christ’s appearance at the end time (the Second Coming). The first two Sundays of Advent focus on the Second Coming of Christ. The third Sunday focuses on the announcement of John the Baptizer who pointed to the coming ministry of Jesus. The fourth Sunday centers on Mary who, as God’s faithful servant, waited for Jesus’ birth. The New Testament writings developed after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus but obviously before the Second Coming when all things will become new. The critical question from New Testament times until this very day is not really the apocalyptic question about how long must we wait. Rather the question for the church in any day is: what do we do with our lives in the meantime? How do we wait? For what do we wait? Why do we wait?

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 49: First Sunday of Advent, Year C.

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Psalm 25:1-10
This acrostic psalm is a lament in which a pious worshipper pleads that those who wait for the Lord will not be put to shame. Typical of a lament, the worshipper acknowledges a history of God’s mercy and counts on it in the present situation to forgive sins. Wrapped up in this divine mercy are God’s salvation (v. 5), steadfast love, and faithfulness (vss. 7, 10). Along with the petitions are examples of Wisdom as the psalmist prays for instruction to bear the present time in faithfulness. (The plea for forgiveness in v. 7 is repeated in vv. 11 and 18).

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Jeremiah 33:14-16
In the midst of disaster all around and in spite of Jeremiah’s own personal tragedy, God promises through that prophet the new day when God will establish a peaceful reign and set over the kingdom a Davidic ruler.

Context
At the time of Jeremiah’s call, Josiah was king of Judah (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was succeeded by Jehoaz who ruled only a few months. Then Jehoiakim, king from 609-598 B.C., was succeeded by Jehoiachin who was king at the time of the first deportation to Babylon (598-597 B.C.). Jehoiachin himself was among the first deportees, and so Nebuchadnezzar put on the throne Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah and changed his name to Zedekiah (“Yah is righteousness” or perhaps “Yah is legitimate”). This puppet king, not directly of Davidic lineage, reigned until 587 B.C. (Note: this passage is virtually identical to Jer. 23:5-6.)

Key Words
V. 14.  wahaqîmōtî ’et-haddābār hattôb = “and I will establish the good word”:  The word is the promise God made to David (2 Sam. 7). That there was now an uncle rather than a succeeding son makes Zedekiah, the present king, illegitimate.

V. 15.  ’atsmîach ledāwid tsemach tsedāqâ = “I will cause to spring up for David a righteous branch”:  The image of the royal family tree as roots and branches occurs at Isa. 11:1. The prophecy there interprets the future king’s reign as one on which he judges the poor with righteousness and even wears “righteousness” as his intimate apparel. Further, at Zech. 3:8; 4:12 the candidate for the royal office is the “legitimate” successor Zerubbabel.

V. 15.  mišpāt ûtsedāqâ = “justice and righteousness”:  “Justice and righteousness” are the means by which YHWH rules the world, “the foundation of his throne” (Ps. 89:14; 97:2), and so the Davidic king, as the representative of God, reigns with the same foundations (Ps. 72:2).

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1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
In anticipation of the coming again of the Lord, Paul prays for reunion with the congregation, for their abundance of love to one another and to all, so that the Lord might make their hearts unblamable in holiness before God.

Context
Cassander, a general in Alexander’s army, founded Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, in 316 B.C. When Macedonia became a Roman province in 146 B.C., Thessalonica became the capital. The city’s prosperity was due in large part to its location along the Via Egnatia. According to Acts 17:1-9 Paul visited the city (Acts 17:1-9), accompanied by Silas and perhaps Timothy (Acts 16:1; 17:14-15; 18:5; 1 Tim. 1:1). His letter, written probably from Corinth in A.D. 50-51, seeks to guide the congregation that he founded and had to leave prematurely. His teachings focus on the Second Coming of Christ, the glories it will bring, the ethical responsibilities in the meantime, and the unpredictability of its timing.

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Luke 21:25-36
In response to the concern about the sign for the Day of the Lord, Jesus tells of a variety of signs common to human existence, and he urges constant preparedness to stand before the Son of man on the last day.

Context
Whether or not the author of Luke-Acts was the Luke that traveled with Paul, he wrote some time between A.D. 70 and 90, probably in the 80s. The author addressed his work to an audience consisting primarily of Gentile Christians. He quoted the Old Testament in the LXX version rather then the Hebrew. He used no Hebrew words, as did the other evangelists. Further, the content of his writing betrays a broader, even universal, message than that of the other synoptic gospels. In his two-volume work, the author presents the history of salvation in three periods: (1) the time prior to Jesus Christ; (2) the time of Jesus; (3) the time of the church.

As he presented the passion story, Luke began his account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at 19:28. Jesus’ teachings in the city and the temple had, in the previous verses, prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (21:20-24), a subject raised earlier in the chapter (21:5-6).

Key Words
V. 25.  ēchous thalassēs kai salou = “at the roaring of sea and waves”:  The words recall the chaotic force of the sea versus the orderly reign of God (see Isa. 17:12-14; Ps. 46:1-3; in NT see Mark 4:35-41 and parallels).

V. 27.  ton huion tou anthrōpou erchomenon en nephelē = “the son of man coming in a cloud”: In Dan. 7:13, the source of the quotation, the direction is from earth to the heavenly throne of God.

V. 28.  dioti eggizei hē apolytrōsis hymōn = “because your redemption is near”:  Luke uses the expression “is near” in reference to the kingdom of God at 10:9 and at 21:31, and then connects the coming kingdom with Jesus’ coming near Jerusalem (18:35; 19:29, 37, 41). The nearness of the kingdom, of course, lies at the heart of Jesus’ own preaching (Mark 1:14-15).

V. 32.  hē genea autē = “this generation”:  In light of the date of Luke in the 70s or 80s, the author would know that many people in Jesus’ generation did pass away. Perhaps the expression refers to the kinds of people who seek signs, indicating it is evil (see 11:29).

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