Following the death of King Solomon in 926BC, there was a split in the People of God, and they divided into two kingdoms. To the North, was the kingdom of Israel; to the South, the kingdom of Judah.
Into this mess, God sent Isaiah as prophet. Isaiah spoke out against idolatrous practices and warned what would happen if Israel didn’t turn back to God. Sure enough, Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722BC and many Jews were carried off. Isaiah tells us never to lose heart, however, as God will maintain a remnant of the faithful and will call them back home.
Much later in 586BC, the Kingdom of Judah is overrun, Jerusalem is utterly destroyed and the people carried away into exile in Babylon. Again, the prophet cries out among the people, but this time with a message of hope that God is going to gather his people once more and they will return across the Jordan to the land of their fathers.
With the fall of Babylon in 539BC, Jews did, indeed, begin to return to their homeland and it is from this period that today’s reading is taken. It seems that the Lord has been quiet for some time, leaving his people to wallow in the fruits of their sinfulness, abandoning them to their fate. The prophet beseeches the Lord to return to his people, to show, once again, the great power that he had shown long ago. To show to his people his great mercy and to return as the Father to his people, to work them as a potter works clay.
Taken today, this first Sunday of Advent, it is a clear call to us to admit our guilt and to turn back to God, mindful of his mercy and his promise to gather all peoples to himself so that, when we welcome Jesus at Christmas, he “would meet us doing right”.
The psalm implores God to come to his people, to be their shepherd. To send the Son of Man to care for the vineyard, to bring new life to us all.
St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians begins with a prayer of praise to God and a reminder to Christians to to wait for the coming revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel reading, this week, is from late on in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus reminds us all to remain vigilant, watchful. God is coming at a time of his own choosing and, particularly during Advent, we pay close attention to the state of our own souls in anticipation of his glorious, if understated, arrival at Christmas.