I recently became aware (or perhaps became aware again) that the Celtic Christian tradition starts Advent 2 weeks earlier than Protestant Christianity. As an Anabaptist that follow a third way (not Protestant nor Catholic) I feel free to observe a more Celtic Advent calendar if I so chose. Added to that, there is Celtic in my ancestry.
My plan then is to consider the next two weeks of scripture is to see what themes arise that may be more Advent-like. The Revised Common Lectionary marks this week in culminating in the Sunday that commemorates the Reign of Christ. The following week, of course, counts down to Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Sunday. Thanksgiving that usually marks the end of Ordinary Time by more western reckoning. After that date, the RCL moves to Advent scripture. As always, I invite you, beloved reader, to journey with me and see what we can discover.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.” ( Ezekiel 34:11)
Here we are, right at the beginning, the Lord God states the Divine is going to seek out those who espouse faith. The Celtic Christians felt the season of Advent was like a lesser Lent; that is, a time of preparation for the coming of an important season. And they felt they needed to prepare for it. There is echo of this in the Reign of Christ which is a feast to commemorate the Divine’s reign over all things. Surely we must prepare for that Lordship; ready our hearts and our lives. If the Lord God is seeking us, then we must be ready, and ready to respond to the Lord God.
“As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.” (Verses 12 – 13)
My initial enthusiasm may have been premature. The Divine is seeking to act on behalf of the Israelites, and is not asking anything of them. Not quite the preparation and the waiting that is traditionally part of Advent.
Well, are the “sheep” of Israel waiting patiently? Are they prepared to be gathered back to the Lord God? Did they scatter themselves, or were they scattered? As I remember (and maybe you do too, beloved reader) the Israelites were scattered because they strayed from the Lord God. Or at least that was their rationale for why they were oppressed and captured. And this pledge of the Divine does sound like the type of “rescue” mission that the Messiah might embark on.
“I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.” (Verses 14 – 16)
And this Ezekiel passage does have echoes of the Isaiah passage where the prisoners will be released and the sick will be healed. And I am sure that the biblical commentators will gladly say this passage points as much to the Messiah as other Old Testament passages.
“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Verses 20 – 24)
A step too far, beloved reader; this passage takes a step too far. As an Advent passage, this should point to the Messiah. But here the servant David is noted as the shepherd, so I wondered momentarily if my attempt to appropriate this passage for an early Advent might be folly. No need to “fear” though! The biblical commentators came through again! Noting that David is just the stand in for the more perfect Messiah! It is a hollow victory however. Accomplished only by the assumption that everything points to the Messiah, and by extension Jesus Christ. It does, however fit in very well with the celebration of the Reign of Christ. So, let us move forward and see that tomorrow’s scripture may reveal and unfold.
May you, beloved reader, celebrate both the daily assurances & victories of day as well as the joyful outcomes of the Christian year! Shalom & Selah!