“Be aware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:33
You know what bugs me about Advent scriptures? As a whole they are not that upbeat. When I read about “The Coming of the Son of Man” (Mark 13:24-27) or the “Lesson of the Fig Tree” (Mark 13:28-31) or “The Necessity for Watchfulness” (Mark 13:32-37), I just don’t get all perky and happy and ready for Christmas. Do you?
It reminds me of a Christmas cartoon I once saw where two women are chatting in the greeting card aisle and one says to the other, “My husband likes cards with the Nativity scene on it, but I want something more “Christmassy.” After all, isn’t Christmas a time to take a break from all the stress of life and the woes of the world? Sorry, no.
In the days in which Jesus was born, Rome was the one, great superpower nation. The Hebrew people were under an oppressive rule. Chapter 13 of Mark foretells the story of a plot to kill Jesus. And, in the midst of all this, Mark calls for watchfulness in the followers of Christ because he knows in the end, the tables will be turned. The powers of the world that seek to destroy cannot overcome the power of God that seeks to restore life. Mark’s anticipation for the future is not an escape from the current situation; it is the promise of a triumph over it.
Advent is a not time for us to escape the newspapers or the daily newsreels of human conflict and destruction. It is a time to tell a different story. It is a time to claim a better Way. It is a time to challenge the status quo, not bow to it! It is a time to choose to live with anticipation for what can be, not desperation in what seems to be. Desmond Tutu once put it this way, “Hope is being able to see there IS light despite all the darkness.”
For me, it is like the child who was vigorously drawing a picture in Sunday school when the teacher asked, “What are you drawing?” The child answered, “A picture of Jesus’ face!” To which the teacher replied, “Honey, you know no one really knows what Jesus looked like . . .” And the child answered, “They will NOW!”
No, the Hope of Advent is not that we get a break from the battles of life. It is a time to claim the promise that the wrongs we continue to see need not be, and what should be, by God’s grace, one day will be.
Prayer: God of light, in times of darkness may I live in anticipation of your eminent dawn. Amen.