Summary: Jesus’ words in Mark 13 sound strange this time of year, but they remind us that the season is about the redemption of the world not the resurrection of the "bottom line."
First Sunday in Advent -December 1, 2002
The Holy Gospel - Mark 13:24-37
13:24 "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
13:26 Then they will see ’the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.
13:27 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.
13:28 "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.
13:29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
13:32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
13:33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
13:34 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.
13:35 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,
13:36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
13:37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Two Ways to Reclaim the Holiness of the Season
In the name of God, Father, Son (+), and Holy Spirit. Amen.
These are strange words with which to begin the Christmas season. Of course it is no longer known as the Christmas Season. The New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper coined a new phrase on Friday, “The Shopping Season.” Page one headlines proclaim “Shopping Season Showing Promise.”
That may be good news for a sagging economy, but I am a little bit offended that Christmas is now known merely as “the shopping season.” And I am dismayed that the word “promise,” so connected with the Scriptures, is now connected with mall managers’ prognostications. But I suspect there won’t be many letters to the editor, like when someone sets up a nativity scene on the lawn of a public building – God forbid!
If you look deeper, you might even wonder if our whole culture is becoming hostile to the Christian faith, not by direct confrontation, but by co-opting everything Christian about the season, and turning it into something to boost sales.
All of which is why we need the words of Jesus today, as “Un-Christmas-Season” like (or should I say “Un-Shopping Season Like”?) as they are. They keep us mindful that there is more at stake in the celebration of the season of Advent and Christmas than the economy. They remind us that there is a bigger picture to be kept in mind and that bigger picture has to do with God, and the reason for the Advent of his Son at Bethlehem.
The Advent, the coming, of God’s Son to Bethlehem, was for the redemption of the world, not the resurrection of the bottom line. And that redemption was accomplished by his suffering death, and resurrection from the dead, not by a better sales campaign.
What is more, where we really are now is where the text says we are: waiting for the day when we “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven…but about that day and that hour no one knows…watch therefore!” We are post resurrection, and waiting for the Second Advent, his coming in glory.
Jesus’ words remind us that the Biblical vision of what God is doing is more global and universal than we are attuned to in this culture. For example if you take out your worship guide and skim the Bible readings for this weekend, and circle all the times the word “I” and “me” and “mine” occur, do you know how many circles do you end up with? The answer is not one. Why? It’s because the Biblical writers are always thinking and writing “globally” and communally. God’s vision is not about me it’s about us, the human family!
We live in a culture that maximizes the individual experience. Among the billions who want to know, “what’s in it for me,” you and I as the church are called to be the voice of God’s global vision, a universality that says there is a more important question.