Our reading that opens the Advent season is from the Old Testament book 2 Kings. 1 and 2 Kings describe, oddly enough, the time of the kings in Israel’s history. It is a time of ups and downs in Israel’s history and King Josiah is coming into the picture during something of a down time.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/329061-too-long-didn-t-read.mp3]
The people in Josiah’s kingdom are supposed to be people of God and as people of God they’re supposed to follow the commandments and the word of God they call the Law and we would call the first part of the Old Testament. They’re supposed to worship regularly at the temple in Jerusalem but they don’t.
Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh has let everything slide. Under his reign the people got away from God’s word and worshipping at the temple. For a couple of generations they’ve kind of gone their own way and have ignored the commandments, God’s word and worship. You know how it is, you get out of the habit of something and it is easy to let it slide. Not surprisingly this hasn’t worked out particularly well.
Enter King Josiah. King Josiah has the insight to say, “Now wait a minute, we are people of God. We should act like it.” So he takes the tax money that has been piling up in the temple and starts to clean up and remodel it, starts to remodel the house of worship in Jerusalem from way back in time.
As they’re clearing out the temple and getting it spiffied up lo and behold they run across this book of amazingness. They’ve run across the book of the Law, the first part of our Old Testament. The people that found it have no real idea what it is but they bring it to King Josiah. He realizes what they’ve found and decides to do something about it.
King Josiah recommits to do what kings are supposed to have done all along and that is to have the people be people of God. Or more precisely, as people who live under God’s covenant with them.
A covenant is a promise from and with God. You hear me echo that in the communion liturgy, “This cup is the new covenant, the new promise, given for you…” In a covenant God makes an agreement with all the people to do or not do something. When you think of covenants think about the Exodus. God covenants with the people, God promises the people to take them out of slavery in Egypt and to get them to the promised land.
Think about Noah, the ark and the flood. What is God’s covenant there and how do we remember it? Probably the most well known covenant is the rainbow! Genesis 9:12-15, 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”
So King Josiah renews the covenant, the promise, to be God’s people. To follow the Law, to read the Bible and to come to worship. It kind of makes me wonder what kind of learning that has for us in today’s society. We’re supposed to be people of God and in our baptism among other things we’ve promised to follow the Law, to read the Bible and to come to worship.
I think we’re pretty good about coming to worship. I mean, hello, we’re here, right? And I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re pretty good about following the commandments. We’re not perfect by any means but we’re working on it and when we sin we also ask for and receive forgiveness.
But the Bible reading thing? Hmmm….
There’s a whole lot of reasons we’re not always attentive to reading the Bible. I’ve used all of them too. It’s confusing. I don’t know where some stuff is located. It’s too long so I didn’t read. That’s what tl;dr means in social media shorthand when someone posts something too long. Too long; didn’t read.
The thing is, none of those reasons are helped by not reading the Bible.
It’s confusing? I agree, many parts are. Study will help with that. Don’t know where something is located? That’s just awkward, isn’t it? Leafing through the Bible looking for a book you’ve never heard of. And of course, while you’re looking everyone around you is noticing that you’re not able to find it immediately. Or would be if they weren’t looking for their own. Ask one of the confirmation folks how to find books. It sounds simple but it’s important. Spoiler alert: They use the table of contents.
Let’s try something new for Advent, this year. The people in King Josiah’s reign are good and generous people but they’ve kind of lost following the commandments and reading the Law. In today’s story they have re-discovered it and have recommitted to following and reading it. Maybe we can do the same for Advent?
For Sunday and Wednesday worship let’s bring your favorite Bible, your favorite Bible app or use the Bibles under the chairs and follow along with the reading and at different points in the sermon. The reading on the screen is every bit God’s word but I think there is something to picking up a Bible or firing up your Bible app and reading along.
And when you get right down to it, reading the Bible in Advent is pretty good preparation for the one who is coming.