COMING WHEN? – First Sunday of Advent, Year B

December 3, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 (4)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

Christmas is coming. The clues are everywhere—the decorations, the music, the shopping, the excitement—and of course, the exhaustion and anxiety. There is little doubt that Christmas will arrive on December 25.

Yes, Christmas is coming soon, but when is God coming among us to heal this wounded and violent world? When, we might ask, will God put an end to mass shootings and other forms of gun violence? When will Black men be safe from unjust treatment by law enforcement? When will God bring peace to war-torn places where children are dying and people are living in fear? When will humans heed the warnings of climate disaster? When will there be a just distribution of food and the world’s resources?

In a world where there is so much injustice and pain, today’s Scripture readings proclaim hope that God is indeed coming among us to bring an end to human suffering. The reading from Isaiah is a cry to the Holy One on behalf of a people that has experienced destruction and exile: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Is 63b, 64:1). The prophet pleads confidently to a God who has come in the past with power to save and restore.

In the opening verses of his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives thanks for the ways in which God has already come in the life of that early community of believers. They have been greatly enriched by many and diverse spiritual gifts that empower and strengthen them. Although he will spend a significant portion of the letter that follows rebuking the Corinthians for their competitive attitude toward these manifestations of the Spirit, Paul acknowledges that they “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [they] wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7). God has already come among them and equipped them to make a difference even now as they prepare for Christ’s coming again.

We are all too aware that Christmas will be upon us in just a few weeks. On the other hand, although there have been many predictions of Christ’s return—all of them mistaken—Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel reading that no one knows the day or hour of his return. He calls us to wait patiently and faithfully, remaining watchful and alert.

Christian hope requires patience and alertness. Like the prophet in today’s Hebrew Scripture reading, we are to place our trust in God who has acted in the past while making use of the gifts that have been given by the Spirit to build up the human community, to serve others, and to alleviate human suffering.

A Hymn for Today: “Advent Begins in the Darkness of Night”

This hymn by pastor, professor, poet, and Hymn Society member David Bjorlin offers a fresh, even startling, expression of Advent lament and hope—prominent themes in the Scriptures for the First Sunday of Advent. Former Hymn Society President Benjamin Brody has set Bjorlin’s poetry to a tune that matches well the spirit of the text. Listen here.

Advent begins in the darkness of night,
waiting and watching for signs of a light,
walking in faith that a path will appear,
daring to follow in spite of our fear.

Advent begins with our dreams yet deferred.
Love sounds ridiculous: prayer seems absurd.
But in the midst of life’s centerless maze,
we lift together our protest of praise.

Advent begins in oppression’s domain,
marked by the cries of confusion and pain.
Yet hope is kindled where justice is done,
mercy is nurtured and peace is begun.

Advent goes on till the promised dawn breaks,
tyrants are toppled, and God’s dream awakes.
Hope is perfected and faith is made sight.
Love is our center and Christ is our light.

Text: David Bjorlin, b. 1984. © 2017, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Solar Eclipse from Mount Santa Lucia, Carleton E. Watkins, 1889, Getty Center, Los Angeles

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

To receive these weekly reflections by email, please send a message to and type “Lectionary” in the subject line.