Sunday Readings

Sunday Readings Commentary

Father Andrew Wadsworth offers a short commentary on this week's Sunday Lectionary readings.

To read the relevant Bible passage just click on the reference.

Before reading and reflecting on God's word you might like to use the following prayer:

O Lord,
who hast given us thy word
for a light to shine upon our path:
Grant us so to meditate upon that word
and follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Sunday of Advent

Each Advent Sunday begins with a reading from Isaiah, for Isaiah is the great prophet of the Messiah. This reading is taken from the latest part of the Book of Isaiah. After the return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon the Jews were passionately awaiting the coming of the Messiah. They were conscious that they had sinned and deserved their punishment, but still longed for the liberation from foreign interference which the Messiah would bring. After the coming of Christ we are in much the same position of waiting for the fulfilment of the sovereignty or kingship of God. Jesus brought the pledge of this kingship by his miracles of healing, his welcome to sinners, his teaching about the Kingdom, and above all by his Resurrection from the dead. We no longer have any reason to fear death. We are conscious of our own failings, of our co-operation with evil, and long for the strength and fidelity which whole-hearted membership of God’s Kingdom would bring us. How do I need to change to become a fully committed member of God’s Kingdom, to welcome the Messiah into my life?

Israel is a tiny country, the size of Wales, and yet from this small nation comes an extraordinary perception of the personal God who made the universe. It is in the book of psalms that this is particularly evident. Whilst this psalm expresses the vulnerability of Israel in the face of her enemies, the images of God are strong. God is described from the beginning as the Shepherd of Israel, but also he is above the Cherubim, a mighty Lord. He is also like a Gardener who transplants Israel a vine out of Egypt to the Promised Land. These images are positive and pastoral in essence and tell us what God is really like. A shepherd cares for his flock. Israel’s God cares for his people. This is a God who saves and rescues. A Gardener cultivates, tends and nurtures plants especially vines which produce fruit in abundance. So the God Israel cherishes supports and encourages his people. All this is in stark contrast to the idols of other nations which are violent in the devotions their priest’s demand. There is a reference to ‘the son of man whom you have raised up for yourself’ and the hand of God to rest upon him. The hand of the God, who is a caring Shepherd, a mighty Saviour and a nurturing Gardener, whom we know in Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father who comes to us as very God and very man for the world’s salvation. This coming of Jesus we remember particularly in this season of Advent and as we look forward to Christmas.

This reading from the opening of Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians is full of the excitement of the Spirit. The young community of Christians at Corinth was full of the activity of the Holy Spirit, not just extraordinary things like speaking in tongues, but healing and teaching and guidance. Even being a good member of a family (husband, wife, parent, child) is an activity guided by the Spirit. All this was preparing for the final coming of Christ, for all Christian activity, no matter how humdrum, is given life and vitality by the Spirit of Christ. There was a freshness and enthusiasm which is sometimes lacking in our Church today. Paul does not hesitate to tell them that they were ‘richly endowed with the Spirit’. So, of course, are we. But he is going to go on and tell them that their squabbling is damaging their service of the Lord. Let us ask at Christmas for a new infusion of the Spirit which will help us to burst the bonds which keep us back from full service to the Lord.

Jesus saw his mission to be the establishment of the sovereignty of God, the kingship and rule of God over the world, even in rebellious human hearts. Using the language and imagery of his time, he described this ‘earth-shaking’ event in terms of cosmic disturbances. The coming of God, the Day of the Lord, would constitute the end of the world as we know it. As Christians we must acknowledge that the death and resurrection of Christ utterly changed the world for ever; it was the Day of the Lord. And yet the world still continues, and we have still to prepare for the Day of the Lord, when we will come into that awesome presence. That meeting can be pictured only in terms of collapse and upheaval, our word turned upside-down. At death all our familiar realities cease, even the ticking of the clock. At death, time ceases to have meaning. We do not know, and have no need to know, when or how this will occur. For all it will come, for each it will be an individual meeting, but will it be all together or each individually? The Son of Man will gather his own, in great power and glory.