Advent I, 2019
These words from Prophet Isaiah and Apostle Paul are eschatological. That’s a big fancy word that means simply: the end of the world! These texts are referring to the end of humankind, the Judgment Day, the destiny of humanity. That can seem an odd way to kick off Advent. We strive to focus on the Joy of Jesus birth, and we start with the end of the world.
Actually Jesus has a word for us about the eschaton, the end of the world” “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Well that doesn’t seem helpful, does it? What’s the point if he is only going to tell us that we don’t know anything about it?
By telling us that we don’t know about the eschaton, Jesus tells us a lot. It can be easy to fall into the trap of making our faith about the end goal—heaven! As a people who are marked by death and resurrection, we can become enamored with thinking about what God’s kingdom will be like—and, when that happens, we can lose sight of the gift we have been given in this world and in this life.
Paul says “The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” To focus only on what is to come, can blind us to what is, the beauty of what God is doing now. When we see only dark now, and focus on heaven as the only place of light and joy, we run the risk of not only ignoring God’s beauty in the world, but also our responsibility to it.
At the beginning of Creation, when God was busy forming things and Adam was naming things with feathers, or fur, or leaves- God called this good. This world: good. Us, made in God’s image, good. Our lives of faith are not meant to be focused on the world and creation to come to the detriment of this one—we have been given a mandate to love the place where we are.
For God’s creation needs us awake and alert! We are in the midst of a climate crisis, the world is on fire. And given that predicament, perhaps it makes sense to be eagerly looking for the eschaton, another world, coming to save us from the mess we’re in—the mess we’ve made!
Trying to find solutions for problems like climate change can be too big to imagine—too much to bear. The problems are immense, and in trying to address them, we confront our own finitude. Into this particular moment, the words of Jesus are particularly important to hear—“about that day and hour no one knows.” Living in the unknown—in what we cannot fathom or plan for—can make us crazy. We want certainty! We want to know how things are going to be!
Unfortunately, that is not what Paul, Isaiah, even Jesus, offer us. They are offering us an invitation to the world we already are in – an invitation to this planet, this world, this time and place.
How do we ready ourselves for the day of Christ’s coming? The paradox is that we ready ourselves to leave this world, by truly living in it. By soaking up every grace-filled, hopeful moment. Advent is a season that too often comes and goes without our noticing it. Often our Advent focus is shopping and prepping, the menus we’ll need, the travel we’ll do. The shock of a late Thanksgiving means we have one less week to prepare, not for the end, but for the Christmas party.
Jesus is coming at an unexpected hour—it might be in the moment you have on Christmas Eve. Maybe you will find Jesus in the flicker of candles at church. Jesus might come as your child bursts through the door, happy after a semester at school, or months of a job search. He might be in the walk you take with an old friend, in town to see their dying parent.
We don’t know when Jesus could surprise us—but we can be sure that it will be in this world, using what has been ordinary and transforming it into something joyful. After all, this is the God who comes to us in the most ordinary bread and wine we share, transforming these simple elements into food for our journeys.
“Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and abut!” So that you may prepare for the day to come, by joyfully living in the day that is.