A Reading for the First Sunday of Advent
Not all churches participate in Advent readings or candle lightings, and among those that do there is a wide variety of significance attached to the particular candles (even within similar traditions). As I looked at available readings, I didn’t find any that corresponded very closely to the focus of our Advent series through Matthew 1-2. So I did the next sensible thing: I wrote a new one.
Check that; I am writing a new one–a week at a time as I prepare each sermon. So if you’re looking for readings for the 2012 Advent season, you’ll find no help here. But if you’re looking for an opportunity for further reflection (or perhaps planning ahead for next year), I’ll be posting each reading following that particular Sunday of Advent. Today’s reading was for the first Sunday, corresponding to the sermon text of Matthew 1:1-17.
First Sunday of Advent: Jesus fulfills Israel’s story
The word “advent” means coming. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ in his incarnation, and also look ahead to his final advent at the end of time, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and authority and power. By lighting a candle each week of Advent, we remember God’s great promises to Israel and to the world, we recognize our need for God’s mercy and grace, and we prepare to rejoice in the birth of Jesus, our Savior and King, who will come again.
With the first candle we remember how Jesus fulfills the story of Israel. Isaiah 9:2-7 tells us that God would not leave his covenant people in the dark, but would make good on all his promises by sending them their long awaited king. This king would come not only to reign on David’s throne over Israel, but to be a light to the whole world, bringing justice, righteousness, and peace to broken people living in a dark place.
Isaiah 9:2-7 says:
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Light the first candle.
We light the first candle of Advent to remember that Jesus is the hope of Israel and the true light of the world, who gives light and life to all men.
You promised your servant Abraham that you would bless all nations through him.
You called your people, Israel, to walk in faith and hope in your promised fulfillment.
You fulfilled those hopes through Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of David.
May we rejoice in your faithfulness, and be obedient to your call,
Ready to receive your Christ, our King, the light who is coming into the world.