Advent 1B


Voice in the Wilderness: Chris Strickland

  • Chris Strickland a pastor’s kid and school teacher and UMC lay servant at St. Paul UMC Gainesville, Georgia

  • Twitter @chrisstrickla

Featured Musician:Bryan Sirchio


 Tasty Wafer:  New Year’s Eve- Watch Night Services

Featured Musician: Christopher Grundy

Exegetical Notes

Mark 13:24-37

Initial Thoughts

  • Let’s start the New year off with a BANG!

  • From Lutheran pastor Rob Myallis (, “Check your 2nd coming baggage at the ticket counter and preach the text!”

Bible Study

  • V. 24-”After the suffering of that time” - see Mark 13:1-23

  • Little Apocalypse- what it is referring to?

    • Resurrection?

      • possible- Jesus could simply be referring to his resurrection (cf. 14:62)

      • Curtain of the temple is torn in two

      • Luke and Matthew mention earthquakes and fear

    • Historical- 70 CE - response to the destruction of the Temple

      • Around the time when Mark was written

      • Answers the question of when these things will happen

      • Answers the “this generation” quandary

      • Earthquakes were and are still not that uncommon with major earthquakes occurring roughly every 90 years

    • Apocalypse - events which are reinterpreted and reapplied in each context - How do we do this faithfully?

      • Hyperbolic accusations undermine true prophetic witness - do not equate minor injustices to grand injustices (see Godwin’s Law)


        • Been interpreted to be predicting wars, cosmic and geological events throughout human history (see - warning you might need mental bleach afterwards)

        • Even Jesus does not know when the end will come

        • Not about watching and waiting passively, but actively bearing good fruit and bringing about the Kingdom

        • Remember the purpose of Apocalyptic literature is to INSPIRE HOPE not to sow fear

        • Things look (and perhaps are) bad, they may get worse - it does not mean God has abandoned us, forsaken us or “lost”

    • V. 26: Daniel - Jesus is referring directly from Daniel and who isn’t familiar with Daniel’s apocalyptic writings?.....most of us.

      • “Coming in clouds” is directly lifted from Daniel 7:13

      • Christopher Hutson (Feasting on the Word) “The basic message of apocalyptic visions is this: The rebellion against the reign of God is strong, as the wicked oppress the righteous. Things will get worse before they get better. But hang on just a little longer, because just when you are sure you cannot endure, God will intervene to turn the world right side up.”

      • 176 BCE the Seleucid Empire banned all foreign religions including aspects of Judaism. Daniel responds to this by drawing an analogy between the oppression of the Babylonian Exile and the Seleucid oppression

      • Mark is doing the same thing by using Daniel to compare Roman occupation to the Seleucid occupation

    • The elect?

      • Used 3 times in the Mark 13 (these are the only times Mark uses these words)

      • Used in other NT writings to signify the chosenness of Jesus and others (Romans 16:13, 2 John 1:1, 13)

  • Stay Awake (γρηγορειτε)

    • Appears three times: 34, 35, 37

    • Context: in the very next chapter the disciples will not be able to stay awake

    • This has a very different meaning three years later - what does it mean to be “Woke”?

    • Stay faithful in all things

    • God’s coming should be a reason for celebration not fear and woe- Heaven on Earth is coming!

    • Fig Tree- bear good fruit at all times, the busyness of the season is no excuse!

  • Apocalyptic Paradox

    • V.24-29 - here are the signs that the end is near

    • V.32 - but really no one knows when anything will happen- including Jesus

    • V.33 - Heed the words of Lil John and “Watch Out”

    • So am I supposed to know when the end is happening or am I supposed to prepare because no one knows?

    • Perhaps Mark is acknowledging both an imminent and future eschatology- one that is both here and also not yet- a culminating Kingdom which we must awaken to.

      • “First, read Mark 13:1-2, 8, 14-22, 24-30. The text flows smoothly, warning Christians to prepare for an imminent apocalypse. Now, read Mark 13:3-7, 9-13, 21-23, 32-37. Again, the text flows smoothly, but it offers counsel of another sort: believers need to dig in, stay faithful, and prepare for the long haul. The theory is that Mark had these two tracts in his possession and, rather than choose between them, decided to weave them together into the composite text we now possess...we need to live as though the end is at hand and we need to dig-in for the long haul because the eschatological timetable is known only to God.” - Mark Allen Powell,

  • For the Gospel of Mark- the End Is Actually Nigh - David Lose (In the Meantime)

    • V. 35 - when will the Master come? Evening, Midnight, at Cockcrow or at Dawn?

    • “When it was evening”- Mark 14:17-Last Supper

    • “He found them sleeping” - Mark 14:40 - in the middle of the night

    • “At that moment the cock crowed” Mark 14:72 - the denial of Peter

    • “At daybreak” - Mark 15:1 - Jesus is handed over to Pilate

      • “Darkness came over the whole land” - Mark 15:33 - Crucifixion

      • “The curtain of the temple was torn in two” - Mark 15:38 - death of Jesus

    • “whenever Jesus may come again – whether in the imminent or distant future – all of our anticipation and preparation of Jesus’ second advent should be shaped by his first advent in the form of a vulnerable infant and as a man hanging on a tree. More than that, I think Mark is inviting us to look for Jesus – even here, even now – in similar places of vulnerability, openness, and need.” - David Lose

    • Just as Mark rejects the false dichotomy of imminent or future eschatology- perhaps it is time for us to reject the false dichotomy between Advent and Christmas and invite a participatory Advent: “our task this week is to invite people to look for Jesus in the need of those around them and to be awake to God’s presence in response to their own need.” David Lose

Preaching Thoughts

  • we need to live as though the end is at hand and we need to dig-in for the long haul because the eschatological timetable is known only to God.” - Mark Allen Powell,

  • Just as Mark rejects the false dichotomy of imminent or future eschatology- perhaps it is time for us to reject the false dichotomy between Advent and Christmas and invite a participatory Advent: “our task this week is to invite people to look for Jesus in the need of those around them and to be awake to God’s presence in response to their own need.” David Lose

  • Wake up? If anything people need to rest, not to stay awake during this busy season. Begs the question- what do we need to wake up to? God, simplicity, love, grace, forgiveness, gratitude

  • Jesus is coming! Everybody look busy...No- stay busy focused on love and grace.

  • Active waiting- like actively waiting for guest to arrive

Isaiah 64:1-9

Initial Thoughts

  • “Contrary to the manner in which it is often celebrated in the churches, Advent begins not on a note of joy, but of despair. Humankind has reached the end of its rope. All our schemes for self-improvement, for extracting ourselves from the traps we have set for ourselves, have come to nothing. We have now realized at the deepest level of our being that we cannot save ourselves, and that, apart from the intervention of God, we are totally and irretrievably lost.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 1)

Bible Study

  • Historical Context

    • Cuts off the text mid sentence, which separates the words from the historical context. These few verses appeal specifically to the effects of exile and the ruined state of the cities.

    • “These verses are a prayer to God by a people that is powerless and under oppression. The prayer exhibits the two main features of genuine Advent hope: on the one hand, a deep sense of desperation about a situation out of control… On the other hand, a bold and confident trust in God is voiced, addressed to a God who can intervene (if God will) to make life peaceable and joyous” (Walter Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 2)

    • Part of a larger section from 63:7-64:12 which is a lament.

    • Appeals to the warrior God, who has the power to intervene..

  • V. 1-5a Appeals to the power and might of God.

    • There is only one God.

    • All quake before God

    • When God is doing God’s thing, no one questions.

  • V. 6-9 Confession and appeal for mercy

    • Moves to relationship over power.

    • Punishment of “silent treatment.”

  • Brueggemann’s take (From Texts for Preaching, Year B. p. 1-3)

    • Prayer begins with petition asking God to “come down.” This suggests that God is far off, and needs to do something drastic to intervene.

    • Intention of coming God is to assert God’s authority that will override the destructiveness of the nations (“hallowed be thy name”).

    • Recalls past experience with God as a sign that God can do it again. God “came down” once - during Exodus - God can do it again.

    • V. 5 provides change of tone: Israel has sinned, so God may choose not to intervene

    • Refers to the uncleanness of Israel - the unworthiness.

      • Menstrual rag - so unclean no one would approach.

      • Withered leaf - so fragile and frail the lightest wind can scatter it.

    • V. 8 - “Yet” (this is always an important transition word).

    • For the first time the text names Yahweh - reinforcing the relationship between Yahweh and Israel.

    • Potter and Clay imagery appeals to relationship

      • You are our potter. We are all the work of your hand.

      • You made us. You own us. You are responsible for us. We belong to you. We are your responsibility, your burden, your problem, your treasured possession.

    • “Israel’s deep trust in Yahweh is matched by Yahweh’s deep obligation to Israel” (p. 3)

  • Who’s fault is it, really?

    • “But you were angry when we sinned;”

      • “Or ‘But you were angry and we sinned.’ In the Hebrew, the relationship between divine anger and human wrongdoing is unclear. Because of the accusation of divine responsibility in isaiah 63:17 and 64:7, many scholars believe the poet is implying that God’s wrath led to their sin.”

      • This idea is that the people started sinning because God “hid himself.”

      • If God is potter, then can we be blame for the faults in the pot? Who is responsible for a flawed pot? It is the fault of the potter.

      • “Don’t hold our sins against us forever” - Because it’s partly your fault.

      • If parents left a bunch of toddler and puppies at home for a few hours and the house was a shambles when they returned - would we blame the puppies and toddlers for making the mess or the parents for leaving?

    • Then, in verses 10-12, an appeal is made to God to come back. The cities are destroyed, your house is a shambles - because you left it! Now come back, and do something about it.

    • We cannot clean up this mess, we need you!

Preaching Thoughts

  • “We are your people, we belong to you and you cannot disown us. We have no other source of help. The prayer for God’s coming, which began in bombast, ends on a note of needful, pathos-filled intimacy. In the end, Advent focuses not on God’s massive power, but on God’s family sense of solidarity, the same sort of solidarity that causes parents to do irrational caring deeds for wayward, beloved children.” (Brueggemann, p. 4)

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Initial Thoughts

  • A part of Rethink Church’s “Checking, Decking, and Dashing” Advent series.  This week: Checking into peace.

  • Song of lament seems like a strange way to begin the Advent Season.  Merry Christmas, everything sucks!

Bible Study

  • Lamentation

    • Response to some unnamed tragedy.  Possibly the fall and exile of the Northern Kingdom (New Interpreter’s Bible)

    • Lectionary leaves out the metaphor of the vine being taken out of Egypt, and planted in the Promised Land.  Verses 8-16 retell the history of Israel in this simple metaphor:

      • God took the vine from Egypt

      • God cleared the land of the nations

      • The vine flourished in the protection of the mountains and the river

      • Then God allowed it to be attacked from “the boar of the forest.”

      • Finishes with pleading for God to “have regard for the vine.”

      • Given the strong vine imagery - often in other readings in Advent, it is surprising that this gets eliminated.

    • Current state:

      • God is angry with people’s prayers

      • Fed with bread of tears

      • Tears to drink

      • Scorn of our neighbors

      • Enemies laughing

  • Hope

    • In the midst of the lament, there is hope, and it hinges on the “holy ‘but’”

    • v 17 “But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.”

    • Current state is bleak, but there is hope in a God that acts.

    • Demands of God in verses:

      • 1 Show yourself

      • 2 Wake up your power

      • 2 Come to save us

      • 3 Restore us.

      • 3 Make your face shine so we can be saved.

      • 7 Restore us.

      • 7 Make your face shine so we can be saved.

      • 14 Come back

      • 14 Look down and perceive it

      • 17 Let your hand be with the one on your right side.

      • 18 Revive us

      • 19 Restore us

      • 19 Make your face shine so we can be saved

Preaching Thoughts

  • All of the action in the Psalm is God’s, which contributes to the anguish.  If God has built up and strengthened the vine, allowed it to flourish and grow so beautifully, why would God then walk away and let it be ravaged?  “Put another way, if God is the problem, God must also be the solution. Thus “The prayer concentrates … on the one thing and one thing alone -- the divine Thou.”The congregation must look beyond even its own repentance “to a kind of repentance of God -- his turning away from wrath to grace.” (Nancy Koester, Working Preacher).  Verse 14 calls God to repent “turn again.”  This is a remarkable relationship with God for us to call on God to repent.

  • Christmas season is so often a time of busyness that we seek restoration after its all over.  From what do we need to be restored?  How many pastors take time off on the Sunday after Christmas?  What if we seek restoration in the midst of Advent instead of waiting until the end? Is that even possible? Is it practical?  Is it faithful?  Is it faithful to seek restoration while so many are searching?

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Initial Thoughts

  • First of six weeks in 1 Corinthians. Reads most of first three chapters, but stops there.

  • There’s not a lot here, but it sets the tone for the rest of the letter.

  • Much of the letter is critical, but criticisms should be seen through the lens of the intro.

    • Two things are mentioned in intro that come up again later:

      • Knowledge

      • Spiritual gifts

    • Knowledge, wisdom, and division are important themes in readings for next few weeks.

  • This reading will also be an Advent reading in December.  RCL makes it Epiphany 2A and Advent 1B (which is same calendar year).

Bible Study

    • Corinth (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)

      • Before Christ:

        • Prosperous commercial cross roads city.

        • Hosted Isthmian Games, an athletics festival that rivaled the Olympics.

        • Destroyed by Rome, and rebuilt

      • A growing, upwardly mobile city re-colonized by Rome within a couple generations of Paul’s visit.

      • Laws of Corinth were particularly favorable to upward mobility (e.g. Freedmen could have important roles in government)

      • Housed a large Temple to Athena (goddess of wisdom)

    • Paul (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)

      • Left city in 51 CE.

      • Established church in Gentile community, included slaves, freedmen and some rich merchants.  

      • Letter probably written 53-55 CE.

      • Received a report from “Chloe’s people” about divisions (1:11).

      • Received a letter from the Corinthians seeking guidance (7:1f).

      • Paul “sees the members of the Corinthian church as standing… at a moment of crisis and testing. Will they heed Paul’s words and recover… Or will their community disintegrate” (p 6)

    • Intro to the letter tells community that they have enough.  There is enough grace, knowledge, and spiritual gifts.

      • “The entire letter is focused on building the community into the testimony it has already received, strengthening the Gospel witness in its midst.” Dirk Lange.

      • All the divisions and trouble that Paul will talk about for the next 16 chapters have their solution in the first paragraph.

      • “God’s grace was given to you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 4)

      • Because of God’s grace, “you aren’t missing any spiritual gifts while you wait” (v. 7)

      • “God is faithful, and you were called into partnership with his Son” (v. 8)

Preaching Thoughts and Questions:

  • Paul “sees the members of the Corinthian church as standing… at a moment of crisis and testing. Will they heed Paul’s words and recover… Or will their community disintegrate” (p 6)

    • How many of our churches are sitting at similar crisis moments?

    • Are we going to recover or disintegrate?

  • In what ways are we partnering with God through Jesus?  How are we doing the “Work of Christmas”

  • Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, or on divisions that tear us apart, can we focus on what holds us together - the grace of God, which empowers all gifts.  Put the grace first, then the gifts.


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).