“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” [from Luke 21]
These words of Jesus for the first Sunday of Advent are strange and scary. Cosmic signs in the heavens. Danger. Fear. Look out!
Not exactly the words we’d choose to hear on the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new church year, but there they are.
“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming…” It’s enough to make you want to crawl into a cave and hide.
There’s certainly enough to make one worry: “the roaring of the sea” fell recently upon our shores in the Northeast, and cleanup continues; Israel and Gaza have a tenuous cease fire, but only after over 100 people have been killed in bombings and rocket fire; individuals and families are struggling financially and every other way, trying to hold things together during the holiday season. And then there is our nation’s “fiscal cliff.”
Fear and foreboding.
Luke, having taken us down his metaphorical road of danger and fright, tells us that even as we are looking up into all that turmoil in the heavens, we see the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.” God is on the way, bringing justice and peace. Tomorrow.
It’s a common biblical theme from both testaments: no matter how bad things seem, no matter how bad things are, God is there. Hope isn’t lost.
We needn’t keep our heads down in worry and fear.
These ancient writers tell us that the story of the world is not yet finished. It is a work in progress. This place we inhabit often looks so bleak. Yet, behind the scenes, God is at work– in individuals and in systems, in families, in churches and communities, and even in governments – to do away with injustice and to bring about goodness.
We stand on tiptoe, we people entering Advent, and we peer through the lens of our scriptures into a world of hope and peace.
Then we turn around and look at what’s already here. At the strides we’ve made through the centuries in the areas of justice and peace. At the very long way we have to go.
God will make all things new someday. Someday the wrongs will be made right and justice and fairness will rule. Someday – the Day of the Lord – will dawn with no one hungry, or weary, or poor. And God will touch our cheeks where tears have streaked their way down, and will gently wipe those tears away. Someday.
In the meantime, we touch the cheeks of others. In the name of God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can help to make things new.
We turn the page to start the new calendar of our church year, whisper a prayer of thanks and hope, roll up our sleeves and get back to work. Tomorrow is already on the way, with God’s hope. Raise up your heads.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012