PROMISES, PROMISES – First Sunday of Advent, Year C

November 28, 2021

Revised Common Lectionary
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36


Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14 (1b)
1 Thessalonians 3:23 – 4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Sometimes encouraging words are hard to hear. When you’ve just received a cancer diagnosis, your spouse has asked for a divorce, or your child has been seriously injured, it can seem hurtful and even a bit cruel to hear someone promise that everything will be all right in the end.

The Scripture readings for Advent begin with three short verses from the book of the prophet Jeremiah that offer encouraging words to a nation in upheaval. During Jeremiah’s time, kings were deposed, intellectual and professional leaders were taken away into exile, and even the Temple was destroyed. Much of Jeremiah’s message is a condemnation of that very society that had strayed from the Sinai covenant and was now suffering the consequences of its infidelity.

Still, Jeremiah proclaims on God’s behalf a message of encouragement even amid these shocks to the national identity: God’s promise will at last be fulfilled and a “righteous Branch [will] spring up for David” (Jer 33:15). The days to come, however, will bring not so much a restoration of the upended society as the formation of an entirely new people known by a new name: “The LORD is our righteousness” (33:16).

A new liturgical year brings with it the promise of a new humanity. As we hear frightening news of climate change, deal with the day-to-day impact of inflation on our households, witness the suffering of refugees and migrants, and hear of starvation and suffering in war-torn nations, God today speaks a word of encouragement to the church and to the world. The readings from both Jeremiah and Luke proclaim the divine promise that the old order will at last be destroyed as God’s rule is established once and for all. The time of fulfillment is unknown to us, but we are to remain alert and ready.

In our eagerness to get on with the Christmas celebration, it can be tempting to bypass today’s focus on Christ’s future coming. This Sunday’s reading from Luke suggests, however, that watching and preparing for the coming of God’s rule are far more urgent than the tasks of decorating, shopping, and sending cards. Only if we open our eyes and orient our lives to God’s promised reign of righteousness and justice can we be prepared to celebrate the mystery of God’s coming among us in the birth of Christ.

A Hymn for Today: “Lord, I Gladly Trust”

The Psalms appointed in the Lectionary for each Sunday of Advent provide a scriptural key for believers to respond in song to the call of this season. On this First Sunday of Advent in Year C, Psalm 25 expresses expectancy and trust in divine promises and seeks guidance in shaping one’s life in God’s ways. This metrical paraphrase was created by British hymn writer Martin Leckebusch (b. 1962). Among his hundreds of texts are contemporary paraphrases of all 150 Psalms.

LORD, I gladly trust in you:
let me not be put to shame.
As I look up toward your throne
make your gracious promise known:
God my refuge and my hope,
your protective care I claim.

In your hands I place my past:
all my sins you know so well.
Your forgiveness, LORD, I need,
for my guilt is great indeed;
even greater is your love—
mercy more than I can tell.

Teach me what is true and good;
let me hear and understand!
In the choices that I make
show my heart the way to take,
so that I may always tread
on the path which you have planned.

When my troubles multiply
you alone can bring me through;
so with all your saints I say,
“Be my strength and shield today.”
Since I know you hear my prayer,
LORD, I gladly trust in you.

Text: Martin Leckebusch, © 2006, Kevin Mayhew Ltd. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tune: REDHEAD 76

Image Credit: Slow but Sure, Trey Everett, 2018

“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.

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