“‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and the stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehension of what is coming on the world for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. He told them this parable, ‘Look at the fig tree and all the leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
‘I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’
‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’”
Luke 21: 25-36
There is a passage when Jesus’ disciples were admiring the beauty of the temple, its beautiful stones and the gifts which adorned it. The temple would have proven to be impressive to the disciples, with most of them coming from fishing villages on the outskirts. Jesus spares the pleasantries and buzz kills the happy moment: “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
Jesus doubles down and continues this speech talking about earthquakes, famines, persecution, betrayal and wars that will leave their people scattered and without a place to worship or call home. There is certainty in Jesus’ words that terrible, destructive, scary, unexplainable things will happen, and he tells them not to concern themselves with what will be, but to have hope in what will follow.
Jesus calls for those listening to not live in fear, but to live accepting that even the greatest of buildings will fall and that the hope is not to be found in kingdoms, their families, religion or even in their own knowledge of what may or may not happen. Everything that happens is ephemeral. Floods, fires, wars, hurricanes, foreclosures, arguments with our partners, presidencies, car crashes, death all have consequences, but we do not live with them having the final word. We always have the opportunity to live into the perpetual response of goodness.
Kingdoms, regimes, and countries will fall. There will be presidents, kings, queens, crowned princes and other political leaders who seem to do everything they can to go against the grain of what we know to be good, true and beautiful. Our hope is never in political systems or in rulers, but only in the proven words of those who came before who never wanted to be recognized as such. Jesus is one example of such a person, and during Advent we recall the hope we have in his words, teachings and goodness.
There are times when we feel hopelessness and we wail at the sight of suffering or when we see it coming. But if there is anything we can be reminded of this Advent season, it is that destruction and oppression is not to be a barrier to the hope and action we are to have. The Advent message is one of hope, and we must always take part in the making of all things new.
The beginning is near.