Jeremiah 33:14-16 / Psalm 25:1-10 / 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 / St. Luke 21:25-36
By Fr. Chris Linebarger
We are idolatrous creatures. It’s not who we set out to be, it’s because on the whole, we are creatures who operate out of fear. This works on many different levels. Nations have a culture, a way of life, a way of understanding their origin. As citizens of the United States, there is a narrative we tend to follow and trust. Then there’s the familial level. Your family has a way of understanding life: what it means to be part of your particular family, what’s expected, how things work. Then there’s the individual level. You live within the construct of your own heart, mind, and body. You believe certain things about the world, about yourself, about others, about God. All of these things work together to shape how you think, what you believe, how you operate, how you see the world. So, if I were to tell you that most or even half of what you believe and what you imagine to be reality is not true, most likely you would get offended. Why? Because we believe these things are tied to our identity. And to have them stripped from us, is to have the rug pulled out from underneath us. It is comfortable and safe to trust in what we know to be true.
In our Gospel reading for this First Sunday of Advent, the church gives us a passage that is anything but comfortable and safe. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about all that is about to take place in Jerusalem. This is the first way we must read this text... at face value. Jesus is describing literally destruction that coming upon the Jews. Because Israel rejects God, because they reject Jesus, Messiah, their world is about to completely come undone. Most of what they thought they knew about God, worship, Temple, and what it means to be the people of God... it’s all about to unravel. The Temple and Jerusalem itself will be raised in less than 40 years after Jesus speaks these words.
But if all Jesus is speaking of is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, what does this have to do with us? What message is there for everyone who lives after this event? Well, there is another sense in which Jesus speaks these words. He says, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” On the world stage we see this drama played out over and over again. In the last century alone, we’ve had two world wars combatting cruel ideologies that have enslaved and destroyed millions of lives. In our own time of terrorism and violence in our places of education and worship, we tremble. We faint in fear at all that is coming in this world.
Jesus tells a parable to his disciples: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” As we begin Advent, God calls us to lift our heads and look up.... to gaze upon our Savior. We are not to be shaken. Our trust is not in what we can control, neither in the world or in our own lives, but in God who is the True Human, who promises to make all things new. Those who wait for the Lord will not be disappointed.