are, the last day of the month of November. Thanksgiving is now past,
although some of us still may have family to gather with and more turkey
to eat. Our church calendar, however, tells us that this is the
beginning of the season known as Advent. It is a season that has been
observed by the church, in one form or another, for more than 1600
years. The earliest record we have of the celebration of Advent comes
from Spain around the year 380 when a law was passed prohibiting anyone
from being absent from church between December 17 and January 6, the day
of Epiphany. Eventually, the season was extended to include the four
Sundays prior to Christmas Day, December 25.
we may know when Advent is, we aren't always sure exactly what it is all
about. I looked up the word "advent" in the dictionary and found this
definition: "The coming or arrival, especially of something awaited or
momentous." That definition immediately raises a number of questions
for me. What is it that arrives during this Advent season? What is
coming? What momentous event do we await?
The simple answer to this question is that Advent is the time of waiting
for Christmas. But this is not an answer that I find completely
satisfactory. Why do we need to spend four weeks waiting for one
day? On the other hand, why start waiting now when Christmas
decorations have been up in stores and carols have been playing at the
mall for a whole month now?
Our two scripture texts for this morning are both addressed to people
who, unlike us, were accustomed to waiting. The Isaiah passage
most likely was written during or immediately after the time of the
Babylonian exile. The people of Israel had been utterly defeated,
their leaders taken away as captives to a foreign land, their cities
destroyed and their temple ransacked and burned. And even after
their oppressors were defeated and the nobility were allowed to return
home, they were still not an independent nation, and it was some time
before the temple was rebuilt.
So the people waited. They waited for the restoration of their
once proud glory as a sovereign kingdom...
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