Rev. Dr Michael Trainor AM is a lecturer at Catholic Theological College and is a member of the Department of Biblical Studies. He lectures on the Book of Revelation at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Here he provides an overview of the readings for the Sundays of Advent.
Advent and a new liturgical year
The new liturgical year begins on Advent 1 with the Gospel of Luke—the gospel for Year C. Luke writes for a missionary-challenged faith community in a multicultural and diverse Greco-Roman world. In this season of Advent, we look back over the year that has been and forward to the one that is about to unfold. We prepare for the eschatological coming of Jesus specifically in the final Sundays of Advent and celebrate his birth. As indicated below, the birth of this child on 24–25 December is explicitly theological and ecological. Luke’s story celebrates God’s beloved disposition upon all beings of our planet, revealed in Jesus’ birth. This is the essential truth and mystery in the angelic chorus sung to the shepherds and in the repeated sign, of Jesus ‘wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger’. Jesus’ presence in a manger (a product of planet earth), surrounded with earth’s cloth, highlights Jesus as earth’s child. Ecological implications to celebrate with our planet flow from this and provide a wonderful opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ birth in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’.
28 November—Advent 1
- Jeremiah 33:14–16: God’s prophet foresees a time of peace, harmony and communion when all will live safely.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2: Paul’s people are urged to live out their community life with love and holiness.
- Luke 21:25–28, 34–36: Our first reading of the Gospel of Luke for the new liturgical year invites us to be alert to Jesus’ coming.
Advent initially encourages us to be sensitive to the many ways God comes to us. This coming happens mostly unexpectedly, and especially in pain, suffering and death. This first celebration of our new liturgical year invites us to ponder God’s presence to us in all these different ways.
9 December—Advent 2
- Baruch 5:1–9: This is a celebration of God’s delight in creation and humanity.
- Philippians 1:4–6, 8–11: Paul delights in the Jesus followers at Philippi. They witness to the Gospel, and he encourages their ongoing discernment.
- Luke 3:1–6: Baruch’s vision finds its expression in the historical and social preparation for the birth of Jesus.
The advent of Jesus, soon to be born among us, reveals God’s delight for creation and humanity. Jesus’ birth involves the whole of creation, which God has blessed. This powerful theme has profound ecological implications for faith communities that seek to ponder the implications of Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’. Jesus’ birth commits us to this planet and invites us to celebrate our world with lives that are good, holy and blessed.
16 December—Advent 3
- Zephaniah 3:14–18: The prophet announces God’s gladness with humanity renewed through God’s love. This affirmation removes judgment and offers freedom.
- Philippians 4:4–7: Paul encourages joy—a deep gift from God that alleviates ‘all worry’.
- Luke 3:10–18: Jesus’ coming invites conversion back to God. This has economic and social implications for daily living.
Theme—joy and conversion
These two themes (joy in Zephaniah and Philippians; conversion in Luke) are powerful and appropriate on the eve of our Christmas celebrations. Joy is God’s gift in the midst of life’s struggles; not simply the ever-smiling Christian immune to what is happening. The kind of conversion suggested by John the Baptist is an openness to be touched and guided by God. It has practical, personal and social implications for how we live out these days in preparing for Jesus’ birth.
23 December—Advent 4
- Micah 5:1–4: The smallest and most insignificant tribe will be selected by God to rule Israel.
- Hebrews 10:5–10: Jesus comes to do God’s ‘will’. This ‘will’ is to reveal God’s love and kindness towards all.
- Luke 1:39–45: Mary and Elizabeth meet. And the child whom Mary carries is recognised as Lord; joy surrounds this declaration.
Micah and Luke reveal that God’s attention is focussed on the insignificant and unknown. Israel’s smallest tribe is praised; Mary a village woman is blessed. Who in our communities are God’s ‘little people’, revealing something of God’s presence to us?
25 December—Feast of the Nativity
- Isaiah 9:2–4, 6–7: God's light shines on a people that walk in darkness. Their hope is in the birth of one who will usher in God's authority and justice.
- Titus 2:11–14: God's love for us is tangible in the birth of Jesus. Because of this we live holy lives.
- Luke 2:1–20: Jesus is born to a peasant couple, victims of taxation, in a world controlled by foreign powers.
So many will crowd into our churches this night. All seek to hear a word of hope and encouragement. In the birth of a child, God is imaged as helpless, childlike and welcoming. Mistaken notions of God as vindictive or vengeful are completely overturned. This affects the way we see our world and God’s embrace of us.
- Isaiah 52:7–10: The prophet speaks to an exiled people. They hear a message of salvation, of a God who ultimately reigns over disaster.
- Titus 3:4–7: God's utter love and compassion enabled Jesus to reveal to us a God of goodness and kindness.
- Luke 2:1-20: Jesus is born to a peasant couple, victims of taxation, in a world controlled by foreign powers.
So many will crowd into our churches this day, as at midnight Mass. All seek to hear a word of hope and encouragement. The readings powerfully provide the opportunity to celebrate a God revealed in a child, seeking to console and tenderly walk with us throughout the rest of our year and lives.
Rev. Dr Michael Trainor AM is a lecturer at Catholic Theological College and is a member of the Department of Biblical Studies. He lectures on the Book of Revelation at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. He holds a Master of Arts in Biblical Literature and Languages from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, USA, a Masters of Education from Boston College in Boston, USA, and a doctorate in Theology from the Melbourne College of Divinity.