Advent 1B (11/30/2014)

Isaiah 64:1-9Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 1st Corinthians 1:3-9 St. Mark 13:24-37

Prayer of the Day: Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection waken us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 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.

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 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. 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; 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.”

St. Mark 13:24-37, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

And We Begin Again

There is a rhythm to the liturgical church calendar. It begins with the season of Advent; four weeks of preparing ourselves for the announcement of the Messiah’s birth. It continues with the seasons that follow: Christmas (the celebration of Christ’s nativity), Epiphany (a focus on how God is revealed to the world, especially through Christ), Lent (repentance, and forgiveness and Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem), Holy Week (the passion of Christ and the mystery of salvation), Easter (a week of Sundays, celebrating the good news of the resurrection), and then the long time in between, sometimes called “The Sundays after Pentecost” — thought of as a time when we explore what it means to be claimed by the Gospel and called to faithful living — but technically not a season in and of itself.

We have just reached the end of this particular in between time. With parables drawing our attention to the end of the ages (The Foolish Maidens, The Talents, The Great Judgment), Jesus reminds us that just as every church year comes to an end, so will the history of this world, and in that ending there will be hope for God’s people. With this message comes the realization that we live in another kind of “in between time.” In between the time when Israel looked for (and experienced) the arrival of the Messiah, and the time when we look for (and hope to experience) Christ as he returns to bring history to a close, is the “in between” time when we look for the ways Christ comes into our hearts today, deepening our trust in the promises of God, and strengthening our resolve to live in ways that bear witness to our faith.

With that in mind, it is no great surprise that as this year’s Advent season begins the church draws our attention, once again, to the future return of Christ. As the people of early Israel waited for the arrival of the Messiah, so do we. And with them, we wait in hope. Those who misunderstand this great promise of Christ tend to focus on verses 24 and 25.

…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.

A frightening image, indeed! Yet in placing too much focus on this passage, it is easy to miss the word of hope in verse 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.

“From the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Here we discover why the color of Advent is blue; the color of hope. We await the return of the One in whom we place our hope. All of our hope.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the in between times. As we journey through the in between times of our own lives, may we know his power and presence, and may it give us the strength and courage to continue in faith.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Does St. Mark 13 seem to create fear or hope in the reader’s heart?
  2. What does Jesus promise his followers with these words?
  3. How do images of fig trees and faithful servants inform us about Christian living?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How do I feel about Christ’s promise to return again?
  2. What “in between times” have I experienced?
  3. How has God touched me and strengthened me during these “in between” times?