First Sunday of Advent (C)
"Your liberation is near at hand."
The Word This Week
As usual, the great Season of Advent begins, not by talking about Christmas, but about the Second Coming. Weve had this theme already for the past two weeks, but there is a slight change of emphasis in the Scripture readings offered for this Sunday: here the tone is positive: it is the promise of what is to come that we contemplate. Even in the Gospel, though it talks of the dreadful signs that mark the end times, we hear of a promise - liberation. For this we should stand erect and hold our heads high. The central theme is that we welcome the coming of a person - Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, and this is what links this Sunday to the coming feast of his birth: we are now preparing to celebrate how he once came: may these preparations also help us to prepare for him when he comes again.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16.
This passage is taken from a section of Jeremiah called the Book of Consolation. The prophet offers words of comfort and hope to a people destroyed by war and exile. It talks of a future - both Israels future and our future - when Gods promises will be fulfilled. Advent is about enthusiasm, as we await the Messiah. Therefore it is good to read with enthusiasm: See, the days are coming... is a call to people to share in the prophets vision, to share the enthusiasm he already feels. The poetic part which follows this introduction should be read carefully: it would be all too easy for the congregation to miss the basic idea: underline the key concepts: the virtuous branch, the fact that Judah shall be saved, and what Israel will dwell in: confidence.
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
This reading suffers from a severe lack of punctuation! Just reading the sentences as written will not enable people to understand them. The read will need to rehearse short pauses and longer pauses, as well as stress and emphasis, so that the meaning is clear. Take the first sentence as an example: May the Lord be generous/in increasing your love // and make you love one another/ (and the whole human race) //as much as we love you. Underline the reference to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - note that its when, not if - emphasise it accordingly. Also use words like urge and appeal to add colour and variety to your reading - allow your tone of voice to let Paul speak to your people. Dont ignore the use of silence in a reading like this: pauses after emphatic sentences can be very powerful: try one after the life that you were meant to live, before continuing with the words of encouragement.
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