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Advent Meditations: Sunday, December 9

By Steven Bishop

Psalm 148–150, 114, 115  •  Isaiah 5:1–7  •  Luke 7:28–35

What creates your expectations? Two of today’s readings speak to me of expectation. In Isaiah, a vinedresser methodically prepares an environment for the perfect growing of grapes. Verse 2 carefully provides the step-by-step pains taken to ensure a rich harvest. But the expectation is frustrated and all the preparation pointless when, in the end, the grapes are no good. The vinedresser is further upended when the metaphor is brought to its intended target, the people of Judah, and we hear that the justice God expected of them has become injustice: rather than equity in the land, there is iniquity. In spite of everything being carefully prepared and all the conditions being fixed for a positive outcome, the unexpected happens.

The Gospel of Luke presents another failure of expectations. When hearing a joyful tune played in the streets, people usually dance. And when laments echo through the streets, tears usually flow. But not in this case. When John denies himself nourishment, he is said to have a demon. And when Jesus celebrates life, he is said to be a glutton and a drunk. But what did the people expect?

God is capable of frustrating expectations through the free exercise of grace, love, and compassion. God is capable of turning away from “what ought to be” and doing a new thing.

What unexpected turn do you face this season?

Holy God, awaken in us a love for your unexpected presence in our lives today. Amen.

Dr. Steven Bishop
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Seminary of the Southwest

Listen to Steven read his meditation and prayer:


Dr. Steven Bishop, associate professor of Old Testament, came to the Seminary of the Southwest in 2004 from the Boston area, where he earned three graduate degrees and taught at several universities. Formerly an ordained minister of the Church of Christ, he served churches in Texas and Massachusetts before beginning graduate studies in the early 1990s. Dr. Bishop’s academic interests include the poetry of the Hebrew Bible and literary translations of it into English, and the influence of Hellenistic thought on Hebrew wisdom literature. In addition to writing book reviews and presenting scholarly papers, Dr. Bishop assisted the well-known Old Testament scholar Bernhard Anderson in editing and revising two books: Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today and Contours of Old Testament Theology. Dr. Bishop worked again with Anderson as an editor and contributor for the fifth edition of Understanding the Old Testament, published in spring 2006. In 2015, Dr. Bishop was elected to the steering committee of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

The Advent Meditations and Prayers are a gift to our seminary community and are made possible through gifts to our Annual Fund. Seminary of the Southwest appreciates the support of its friends, alumni, and the communities around the world that its graduates serve for the glory of God. This support ensures that Southwest, as an institution made of individuals dedicated to service to God and their fellow members of the body of Christ, can continue doing its part to build the body of Christ.


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