Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | November 27, 2012

Raise up your heads

          “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



  1. This week’s blog entry reminds me of my experience attending Al-Anon meetings over the past four or so months. Such attendance has led to a growing sense of solidarity with those who regularly participate and a deep sense of compassion for those who come more idiosyncratically and often out of desperation seeking hope in their otherwise chaotic lives. It has also taught me more about what being human entails—including and especially how vulnerable even the most seemingly strong and model couples and families are to the scourge of alcohol and drugs and how it can set the loved ones of those who become addicted into an emotional tailspin.

    My own experience in coming to terms with the 12 Steps—the core of the Al-Anon program—was initially a tumultuous one. As I admitted months later, I found myself challenging many of the principles underpinning those steps, approaching them alternately with Missourian skepticism and almost intellectual disdain. If you know the gist of them, you are aware that at the core of the 12 Steps is a relationship with God that calls for family members and friends of those addicted to recognize that only a Higher Power can restore us to a sense of sanity and well-being in the midst of our loved one’s disease. As someone who has grounded his belief in God on God’s silence and hidden character—i.e., that God is on the other side and pretty much lets humans work things out for themselves—I found this core principle difficult to swallow. But what I gradually found was that for at least 75-80% of those who regularly attended and fully assimilated the message and program of Al-Anon, the role of God in their lives and their willingness to give over their troubles to God triggered by the relapse, the imprisonment, the backtracking of their loved one’s behavior was essential to their ability to re-center themselves and gain a measure of serenity in their lives.

    So what does this have to do with today’s blog? What struck me and provoked these comments is the statement: “the story is not over…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.” Each week when I lead or participate in the Versailles Al-Anon group, I have cause to remember anew that our lives are not over, that we have God’s work to do in our lives. And even if we do not feel God’s palpable and direct presence in our lives, we should strive to find peace and serenity in our everyday existence and serve as instruments of God’s goodness and use the freedom we have to make a difference in the pursuit of peace and justice in the world.

    For those around me who have been touched by the 12 Steps and the Al-Anon program, we truly embrace the deeper meaning of idea that our stories are not over because of drugs or alcohol addiction has entered into our family lives. We also realize that part of that continuing story involves working with others, sharing our experiences and lessons, and looking to God’s wisdom and Jesus’ example for inner peace and hope and the possibilities of healing of ourselves, others like us, and the addict.

    It amazes me that one hour a week in the company of those who experience the same fears, the same uncertainties, the same hopes, can have such an impact upon the other seven days . “Tomorrow is already on the way, with God’s hope. Raise up your heads.” Be thankful.

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