The Coming of the Son of Man
24 “But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert;[b] for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Full confession here, I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to Advent. You see, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church as many of you know. Advent was just something that we didn’t put a lot of emphasis on, at least in our particular church.
But, I do understand now through my experiences with the PCUSA, UCC, Episcopal and Catholic Church what Advent means, to wait.
Now as a kid, I knew what it meant to wait, and I wasn’t very good at it. Especially at Christmastime…I loved it when December hit, but I hated waiting. We had one of those Advent calendars every year where you’d punch out something for each day…it was torture.
I also understood hope, I would hope that my parents (or Santa Claus) would get it right and give me the gifts that I wanted.
And, Santa?! I so believed! Who doesn’t? A mythical figure that knows you, is jolly, mysterious, magical, and works with elves. I put my hope in him as a kid.
But, what about when the disappointment came, after the gifts were opened, and after the magic wore off? Where’s the hope, what were we waiting for?
Now, we know that Christmas and Advent, especially in our tradition, mean so much more. It is the coming of Christ, more than gifts, it’s about the hope of humanity.
So, what does our gospel text from the lectionary say to us about waiting and for hope?
A lot. Again, we have to remember that some of the imagery and references were written for a 1st century audience.
But, I think we can relate to these hard words about apocalyptic times as described by the writer of Mark…no sun, no moon to give light, a great darkness, stars falling, earth being shaken etc. Ugh, sounds horrible! Yet, these are words to describe suffering, hardship. Have you ever gone through a hardship in life where you thought that the world was ending around you? Isolated, alone, in a dark place…and, then, something breaks open and you walk out of it, or towards the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
These are images, metaphors, for the real and felt hardship of life. And, yes, here we are as a culture experiencing the political divisions, hardships, pandemics, and personal darkness. Mental and emotional health are in crisis modes across the world, just as our hospitals and healthcare systems are overrun.
What can we do in a time like this? Well, we wait. And, we hold on to hope. And, we recognize again and again, that Advent is about this kind of waiting. Advent is realizing that we are in what my spiritual director, Fr. Bollman, tells me about my own life this past decade, an “in-between” time. And, there is suffering, the world is changing for us, things are ending.
Yet, what is the hope of Advent? That Christ, God in the flesh, has come to us, is coming to us, and will come to us!
Just like the fig tree, there are signs all around of something new beginning to blossom. It stinks to not have Advent services in this beautiful space, I miss all of you, I miss gathering in coffeeshops and breweries with friends and sharing life together physically. But, this may also be our best season ever. Why? Because we are being awakened, we are hearing in this story to be alert and we are on the look out for the hope of Christ.
Waiting is not just sitting around…what if waiting means to simply embrace where we are in this moment and to know that we can be present with ourselves, with others, and with God’s flow? What if what we are waiting for, we already have inside of us and in each other? What if the true gift of Christ’s coming is realizing that what we’ve always hoped for, we’ve always had?
Friends, in Colossians, the writer says “Christ in you, the hope of glory”! What is God’s glory? For us to be fully alive no matter where we are! To be fully human! God’s glory is wrapped up with us in a beautiful dance!!! Our glory is God’s glory, God’s glory is our glory! We live in communion with one another and with God!
Our hope is planted deep within our DNA, our hope is in this universal Christ that is binding us together, even in the darkness and the division of this current age! Christ says to live in him, he’s already living in us! May it be so, may we be awakened and stay away to this Presence, this reality!