Nov27SunNovember 27, 2016
Happy New Year!! It may be that this is the greeting Christians should give each other on this Sunday. This is the Sunday that begins the new liturgical year and marks the beginning of a renewed journey of faith, ministry, and witness.
The Advent season begins each year with the Sunday that falls closest to St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th). It might seems curious to some that the Christian year begins not as some might expect with the birth of its founder, but with the anniversary of the call to the first of Christ’s disciples, Andrew. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who overheard him call Jesus “the Lamb of God,” and decided to follow him. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus and it seems was always in one way or another connecting or bring people to Jesus. Most religions, institutions, even nations, mark their beginnings with the birth or some other event associated with its founder; but not Christianity!
The four Sundays leading up to the birth of Christ hint that there is more going on here than just the anniversary of the birth of the founder. The Collects and Readings for Advent in the Book of Common Prayer cause us to realize two things. Firstly, that the birth of Christ was neither an accident nor a singular event. His birth, character, and mission were foretold, prophesied in the Bible. The prophets of the Old Testament exhorted the people of their time and the generations to come to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus, the Bible tells us, came in fulfillment of the Laws and the Prophets. Secondly, it becomes clear that we are caught up in a divine destiny where life and immortality and eternal reward are to be realized. This destiny is contingent on knowing and believing in the Word of God incarnate in Christ Jesus. This message challenges us to step out and act in faith, with integrity and love; following His example.
As we reflect on the Gospel event we can see that Christ and his ministry did not take place in a vacuum, but within a specific (some might say predetermined) historical, linguistic, cultural, religious and cultic tradition. Both the events that shaped the Jewish people of the first century and the contemporary conditions of the era when Jesus engaged in his earthly ministry directly impact the meaning and significance of his mission and passion. Because of these clear and defined conditions, the meaning of these events, His life and passion, can be understood by those in every generation. The events of His life find fuller meaning when seen through the eyes of history as reflected in the contemporary Greek world of the first century.
But the fact that Advent and not Christmas mark the beginning of the Christian’s year hints at something else. The significance of the Gospel message is not about Jesus. Its really about you and me and the way we respond to the knowledge of God’s Truth and the call of Christ. In a way there is a new Christian beginning, a new birth, for each of us when we hear Jesus say, ‘Come, follow me.”
The Christian journey is a personal story, not just about Andrew, and Peter and Philip, and Nathanael. It is a personal story about you and me from the moment we hear His call and make the decision to follow Jesus. The Prayer Book Collects and readings for Advent are your invitation to “Follow Jesus” into a brand new day!