|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on December 3, 2012 at 2:30 PM|
Welcome to Advent. The world is falling apart and coming to an end. There are wars and famines. Stars are falling out of the sky and the seas are raging and foaming. And that’s how the church year begins every single year in Advent. It never seems to fit with the happiness of the Christmas season around us.
And it doesn’t seem to fit us as Lutherans. I mean, we know there’s end times stuff in the Bible, but we tend to pretty much ignore it and leave that for those conservative religious types. We’d rather focus on doing good Jesus-y stuff in the world.
But even though it seems weird and kind of a downer, all this end times talk is an essential part of our faith. We need to know the end to know where we are headed.
You see, Advent isn’t just a season of waiting for Christmas like a kid counting down to their birthday. It’s not just a time to remember the story of Jesus being born in a manger. It’s a time of waiting for Jesus to come into our world AGAIN. To clean up all that is a mess. To heal all that is broken. To make this world into what God intends it to be. That’s why it is a time of such deep hope and expectation. So, every church year we begin by looking to the end of history. To see what we are waiting for.
And that’s what Jesus is busy telling his disciples in the chapter of Luke we read. By the time we get to the words we hear in the gospel lesson, Jesus has already been talking to the disciples for a couple of paragraphs. He’s been telling them that the time is coming when there will be famines and earthquakes and that his followers would be persecuted and thrown in prison. And that the city of Jerusalem would be surrounded and conquered. Pretty much their world is going to look like it’s falling apart.
You’d think that much doom was enough for one day, but Jesus wants to get it all out there, so he just keeps going with the words that we hear this evening. So he tells them that after all this other crappy stuff, the sun and moon and seas will be in chaos. The sun, moon, and stars, which are just always supposed to be up in the sky doing their thing, will be changed and out of order. And the seas will be crazily stormy and the tides will be out of sync. All of nature will be in disarray.
And not surprisingly, people are going to be freaking out. Whole countries will be in chaos because they’re not going to know how to handle a world that’s gone crazy. No one else will know what to do, he says, but I have told you what will happen so that you’ll be able to be strong and courageous in the face of the mess that’s coming.
In fact, when all this stuff starts happening, that’s when you need to stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
You’ll see the signs and know that I am in them. You’ll know how raise up your head and look the chaos right in the face. So when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” The time when I will come again in glory is right around the corner. It may look like the world is falling apart, but it’s simply getting ready for me to come again and set it right.
So pay attention to what’s happening in the world. “Be on guard,” Jesus says. “Be alert at all times.” Read the papers. Watch the weather. Listen to what is happening among the nations. And when it’s frightening and makes no sense, remember my words. That’s when the kingdom of God is near.
Face the terror with courage. Pray that you will be ready for whatever happens. Pray that you will have the strength to be who God needs you to be in the midst of all that is going on around you. And don’t be overcome by it. Because I am in it. I will bring this world to perfection.
When the world is falling apart- when wars and violence seem endless, when hurricanes strike where they never did before, where drought and global warming and hunger and illness make our world seem like it can’t survive any longer, Jesus calls us to have hope against hope. And to work in the direction of that hope.
And as ones who are confident instead of terrified, we are called to be the ones that care for our brothers and sisters. We’re called to act in love and compassion when others are paralyzed by fear. To bind up the wounds of those around us when others don’t think it’s worth bothering. As ones who can trust that Jesus is coming to set this world right, and not destroy it, we can speak peace to those who are terrified and are tempted to react with violence and selfishness. We are ones that can testify to the hope that Jesus gives us, the hope that keeps us alert and joyful in the craziest of times.
In fact, we are to be people “infected by hope”- to be signposts of hope for those who are locked in fear or are doing their best to avoid looking reality straight in the eye. We are people who can see the world for what it is- a mess in need of God’s fixing. And we don’t have to be afraid of its messiness and its brokenness, because we know that at the end of time, God will fix all that we cannot. God will restore all that has been destroyed. God will bring peace to all the places where peace seems impossible right now- in Syria and Israel and in the streets of Baltimore.
To walk confidently toward the future that Jesus promises, even if the world seems to be falling apart around us. We don’t know when that redeemed future will come- just as Jesus did not- only that we are absolutely assured that it will come. Simply because God has promised it.
But until then, we wait. We wait for the brokenness to be healed in our world. And that is why we so deeply need the gift of Advent. Because waiting is hard and we don’t know how to do it all that well.
That’s what we talked about last Wednesday at UMBC. We talked about how we’re into the whole instant gratification thing. And we tend to get overwhelmed by what may happen and freak ourselves out. And, since half the folks in the room didn’t come from a Christian tradition and very few of the rest came from a church that celebrated Advent, I was trying to talk about this great season of waiting that we have. One that helps us learn to wait well in all our life. And they asked, “so, what do you DO in Advent? What makes it so helpful?”
And although I love Advent, I felt a little silly telling them that the big thing we do it light candles on a wreath, one each Sunday, watching the light get brighter. And we put a deep blue cloth on the altar, the color of the sky just before morning, as a way of having hope. And we read the stories about the end of the world and about the prophecies about Jesus and the stories of John the Baptist. And we pray. In the midst of a big, fancy Christmas season, our candles and readings and prayers seemed ridiculous. They didn’t seem like enough. Just like Jesus’ promise to come again to redeem the world doesn’t seem like enough if the world is falling apart. And yet it is. Advent is enough and Jesus’ promises are enough only because the one for whom we wait is faithful.
So welcome to a holy Advent- welcome to a time in the midst of the crunch of exams, when it might seem like the world is falling apart. Lift up your heads and know that Jesus is in the midst of this trying time and in all that is chaotic and a mess in your life and in your world.
And I invite you to live this Advent in this community and ones back home, even when you think you don’t have any time. Take 5 minutes each day to read the stories of hope. To visit an Advent calendar on-line. To light a Residence Life approved candle welcome the light of Christ into the world. And join with us on Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursdays as we light candles and sings songs of expectation and call each other to hope in Jesus. As we welcome God’s presence into our world and wait with joy and expectation for God to bring this world to perfection.
For, people of God, Jesus truly is coming again. So “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”