Tuesday 1st December 2020 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Island Methodist Church Bible Study - Tuesday 1st December 2020

 

Introduction. 

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent when we were pleased to welcome Ms Susie King at Canvey Island Methodist Church and to hear her challenge that this is a period for us, as followers of Jesus, to watch, to wait and to work.  

 

Our Bible Study this week has been prepared by Cathy and it looks at the origins of this season of Advent in the Christian Church through the lens of the Bible readings set for this first week of Advent 2020. May God bless and encourage us all as we reflect on His word.

Thankyou Cathy.

 In Christian Love

 

Colin 

 

Bible Study 1st week of Advent

 

A simple dictionary definition of Advent is: A coming into place, view or being-arrival.

To us in the Christian Church it's a bit more complicated than that. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus meaning 'coming' translated from the Greek word parousia.

Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for baptism of new Christians at the feast of epiphany-the celebration of God's incarnation represented by the Magi to the baby Jesus Matthew 2v1. His baptism in the Jordan river by John the Baptist John 1v29 and his first miracle at Cana John2v1to . During this season of preparation Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer and fasting  (no chocolate Advent calendars here then!) to prepare for this celebration. Originally there was little connection between 

Advent and Christmas.

By the 6th century Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the coming they had in mind was not Christ's first coming in the manger at Bethlehem but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the middle ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ's first coming at Christmas.

 

 Advent is the period before Christmas and it commences on the Sunday nearest to the 30th Nov. Each Sunday represents a different thing as do the candles on the Advent wreath.

The first Sunday is for God's people and the candle is for hope.

The second Sunday is for the Old Testament prophets and the candle is the candle of peace.

The third Sunday is for John the Baptist and the candle represents love.

The fourth Sunday represents Mary the Mother of Jesus and the candle is for joy.

In the Anglican Church three candles are purple and one is pink. In our tradition the candles are red with the centre one white representing Jesus.

Advent is a balancing of remembrance and anticipation. The first two Sundays look forward to Christ's second coming and the second two to Christ's first coming. Midst all the busyness and rush of Christmas prep its difficult sometimes to slow down and watch and wait for our Saviours coming.

I like this prayer by Matthew Kelly:

"God of hope I look to you with an open heart and a yearning spirit. During this Advent season, I will keep alert and awake, listening for your word and keeping your precepts. My hope is in you."

 

Advent Old Testament Reading 

 

Isaiah 64 v1-9

 

[a]Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
    and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
    you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
    or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to[b] our sins.

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
    do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
    for we are all your people.

 

Comment:

As we have already said Advent means coming, this picture of God literally tearing open the heavens and coming down to earth as a tiny, vulnerable baby juxtaposes his amazing power and might with his voluntary setting aside of this power. He chose to live as we do, experience our world and work out our salvation through his death on the cross for our sins.

The startling thing to note is that this prayer is being spoken even as Isaiah is aware that God's face has been turned away from them and is hidden (v7). It takes great faith to pray when one believes that God isn't listening, and so Isaiah dares to remind God of some responsibilities (v8) and asks that God's anger would not be excessive (v9). 

 

Advent New Testament Reading 

 

Mark 13v24-37

 

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[c]

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[e]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Comment:

This reading gives us apocalyptic imagery that is reminiscent of Isaiah 34 v4. Scholars speculate that this is because the background to Marks gospel was the Judean revolt against Roman rule (AD66-70). For many living in Judea at this time it felt like the stars had fallen from the sky (vv.24-25). they had to try and maintain hope for the future in such circumstances. Knowing that Caesar was also known as both Son of God and Son of Man means that the darkness is deepened in a dramatic way. They must have wondered who was it that was coming in the clouds. The Saviour or a destroyer.

It may seem strange to be reading this dark text at the beginning of Advent and yet even at the darkest time of year (or in the grip of a pandemic) there is hope to be discerned-if we are attentive. Jesus turns to the symbol of the fig tree again, He holds out the possibility of it putting out shoots that would signal the end of the darkness of winter and herald the coming of summer. We are encouraged to be alert and stay awake in order not to miss the signs.

In such dark times the tender shoots of a fig tree and the promise of summer may not offer much comfort. Jesus emphasises that the shoots are not the rescue only the promise of it. It is near, at the very gates, but the gates not open yet. But if we can be sure of imminent release maybe we can hold on for just that bit longer. This is the importance of the signs, they enable us to hold on even when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

God Bless us all in this season of Advent, may we find time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and focus on him who is coming and who is already with us our saviour and Redeemer.

 

In Christian Love

 

Cathy