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God is Faithful – An Advent Reflection

November 28, 2020

The season of Advent is upon us! I have always found it to be a bit of a challenge to preach on these Sundays. Many of the Gospel readings in the lectionary cycle focus on the apocalyptic narrative which has led so many to spend more time reading the tea leaves and looking for signs of the end times than spending time in quiet reflection and anticipation.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. We are entering the season of anticipation and preparation in an unusual way. The word Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, meaning “second coming.” In the early history of the church, Advent was often called a “mini-Lent” and was a time of fasting and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. It was also a time of preparation for those wishing to join the church. The new members would join the church on the Feast of the Epiphany which commemorates the visit of the Wisemen, Jesus’ Baptism, and his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. 

Over time, this time has become marked by a consumer attitude of buy, buy, buy. Black Friday kicks off this secular festival immediately following Thanksgiving. I find it interesting that the day after we give thanks for what we have, that we rush like mad to buy more. Somewhere in the middle of all of this madness, the spirit of Advent has been lost. When we read Mark 13:24-37, Jesus’ parable offers a rather apocalyptic vision about the second coming, concluding with the charge to keep awake since we don’t know when the master will return.

Watching and waiting with anticipation are the hallmark of this season. We have spent a great deal of time in waiting, wondering, and anticipation in 2020. We have wondered how long the Pandemic is going to last. We have waited with anticipation for the 2020 election results. We now wonder when there will be an effective vaccine against COVID-19 and when it will be available. We wonder what Christmas will look like this year just as we wondered what Thanksgiving would look like in the midst of a global pandemic. 

As I read and re-read Mark 13:24-37 this week I was struck by the stunning and vivid language describing the coming of the Son of Man. The picture painted by Jesus is pretty incredible. Between the sun darkening, the moon not giving light, and stars falling from the sky we have a pretty overwhelming picture. Jesus told this parable as Mark relates it just before his arrest, torture, and execution at the hands of the Empire. These new leaders of the movement would have their hands full in the midst of so many unknowns. Up until that time, Jesus had taken most of the slings and arrows sent their way. Now, they would deal with it on their own. In the midst of the chaos that was to come, they would have to figure out how to be leaders instead of simply followers. In their own ways, each of the Disciples would find their own unique way to lead this new faith movement as it grew. I wonder if part of the admonition to “Keep awake” meant that they were to look for opportunities for ministry and being Christ to the world. For me, part of that admonition is to be aware of how I can be Christ to those whom I meet. 

In the midst of all that is 2020, have we forgotten to take those moments to simply “be still” in God’s presence? Paul tells us in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians, chapter one, that God is faithful, and that God will give us strength as we live each day. As we approach this Advent season, I think it is imperative for us to keep awake and be ready for what is to come. It is also critical for us to not only remember that God is faithful, but to also be an instrument of God’s faithfulness, God’s peace, God’s justice, God’s mercy, and God’s love in this pandemic weary world.

This year is different from many of the past years we have experienced. In the midst of it all, we need to hear the reminder that God is faithful!

  1. Amen, well said, Michael! This is such a needful and timely word. There’s a lot of waiting going on with regard to the desire for alteration and change, but not so much of it in a spirit of humble surrender and patient anticipation, perhaps. May we learn to wait with joy in our hearts and with our souls prayerfully and thankfully stilled before God. ❤️

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