Advent: First Sunday


  • Morning Prayer
    • Isaiah 1:1-20
    • Matthew 24:1-28
    • Psalm 139:1-24
  • Evening Prayer
    • Isaiah 2:1-22
    • John 3:1-21
    • Psalm 140:1-13

THE ADVENT READINGS include lots of the Gospels and Psalms, but they also focus on the book of Isaiah. And not just the texts about “Immanuel” (Isa 7:14; 8:8), “light” (Isa 9:2), and “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6)—these bedeck our Christmas pageants—the readings cover the whole sweep of Isaiah’s message:

  1. “Judgment on God’s People and the Nations” (chs. 1-39).
  2. “Restoration of God’s People” (chs. 40-55).
  3. “A Future for God’s People” (chs. 56-66).

Need for Repentance

So our Advent readings open with Isaiah’s warning for rebellious Judah and Jerusalem (Isa 1:1-31) and then introduce the Lord’s future reign as a time of reckoning for their pagan ways (Isa 2). Only this reckoning for the house of God could prepare it to serve as a blessing to the nations, for which Abraham’s offspring were called in the first place (Gen 12:1-3).

Old Testament Call

Centuries before his incarnation, the Lord addressed Judah and and Jerusalem: “Why do you continue to invite punishment?” (Isa 1:5). His prophet said, “Listen, you leaders of ‘Sodom,’ … people of ‘Gomorrah’ ” (v. 9). He even said,

When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. (Isa 1:15–17)

New Testament Call

Surely the Advent we celebrate in song, prayer, and pageant must also be initiated in enacted repentance: Because God only blesses …

those who are poor and realize their need for him, … those who mourn, … those who are humble, … those who hunger and thirst for justice, … those who are merciful… those whose hearts are pure… those who work for peace… those who are persecuted for doing right.” (Matt 5:3–10)

Our Call for Repentance

Perhaps in this Advent season, some will indeed find themselves “persecuted for doing right”—for seeking justice and working for peace. And some may be numbered among the money changers whose endeavors the Lord overthrows and condemns (Matt 24). Nonetheless, my our Advent include this petition,

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:9–10)

Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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