Today’s Readings: AM Psalm 61, 62; PM Psalm 112, 115; Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25
A Reflection from Helen Spence of St. Christopher’s, Springfield
Don’t you just LOVE Advent? I do. As a lifelong choir member, I love progressing through the season from “Come, thou long expected, Jesus,” through to the Magnificat. It’s December 23, and by now, most of us are ready for the first service of the Christmas Season tomorrow evening – whatever form that takes. But today’s lessons remind us Advent isn’t over QUITE yet!
I read today’s lessons in the order in which I would hear them on a Sunday – Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, Gospel. Imagine my delight as the first words I read were “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” I’ve been doing nothing BUT singing aloud for weeks now – rejoicing and exulting as I prepare for the birth of my Lord. So I thought, “Well, GOOD! SINGING!” Then I moved on to the Psalms. “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer,” begins Psalm 61. The psalmist goes on to call on God to hold us close as we praise His name and sing His praises. More singing – I like more singing. Psalm 62 begins, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” What? Silence? Everyone who knows me, knows I don’t DO silence! Where’s the singing? The psalmist asks me to remember that God is my salvation; that all power belongs to Him and my love belongs to Him. Silence has its place in our preparations, and I need to be reminded of that, more often than not. Psalms 112 and 115 go back to praising the Lord – but in a more restrained way than in the writing from Zephaniah … so maybe we’re getting back to more singing. I’m hopeful.
And then we meet the Apostle Paul. After his lengthy salutation, Paul tells Titus, “I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done.” I’m pretty sure Paul is NOT talking about making sure all the baking is done; the gifts wrapped; the meals planned and the house decorated. No, he goes on to give some very specific instructions to bishops – and to the rest of us as well. He really spoiled my mood, and I didn’t feel like singing at all. However, this is what Advent is all about – putting things in order. It’s about making certain that our hearts are prepared for what is to come in the next few days. And just to further remind us that it’s STILL Advent, Luke’s Gospel recounts the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth – the things that happened before Gabriel appeared to Mary. How Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth, who was barren and elderly, would give birth to a son, John. How when Zechariah questioned the validity of what he had been told, he was silenced! No singing (or speaking) for Zechariah at all until the birth and the naming of John.
As you move through today, the last full day of Advent, I invite you to hear the message of these lessons. Put in order what remains to be done. Listen for your instructions and do not doubt what God asks of you. On this, the day before the first celebrations of Christmas, Wait; Repent; Watch; Rejoice; Praise God. And if you feel like it, SING! I certainly will.