Shannon W. Dycus is the Co-Pastor at First Mennonite Church, Indianapolis.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Then he told them a parable: Look at the fig tree and all of the trees.” Luke 21:25-29 (NRSV)
In our times, the public announcement of expecting life happens very regularly through social media. When couples reach a fitting place in their pregnancy or receive the proper approvals from an adoption agency, we see pictures of an older sibling announcing big brother or sister upgrades or adorable booties with a ‘Coming June 2016’ sign. Our hearts quicken, joy floods and anticipation is born.
Advent itself is a public announcement of an arrival of life.
Life grants possibility, creativity, miracle-working and gives us something to hope and wait and prepare for. In this season, where Mary’s faith leads us into new life, our first Gospel scripture is ominously pointing us toward Christ’s second coming. In response, we don’t marvel in pastel clothing or envision tiny fingers; we cringe at roaring waves and dread people fainting in fear.
Advent is a pregnant pause.
This season that announces Jesus is strangely bold and painfully unpredictable. How are we to sit comfortably amidst the roaring and the fainting and the shaking? How do we keep finding words to pray for the Syrian refugee and the young Black activist in Chicago?
In this season, there are realities of beginnings and endings, both brokenness and grace. We are perfectly placed in this tension of the present and the not-yet of God’s kingdom. And Luke’s apocalypse instructs “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In all of its unnaturalness, we are called to rise and be attentive, just as Luke’s community wrestled with how to rise above the rubble from the Temple destruction.
We, too, are challenged to be courageous in our fear, to be present in our desire to flee and to trust our Redeemer when he is nowhere yet to be seen.
The good news is that God knows for us, as God did for Luke, the agony of waiting and the need for justice across the lands. The good news is that we can choose to trust each day to our hopes and not our fears. The good news is that Christ is not at some fixed destination but is “drawing nearer”—meeting us as we are seeking.
As the trees bear witness, we can be an expectant people. Amidst all that is broken in our lives and in our world, with His coming we can hope.
God has prepared a future that will break into our present.
Prayer: O God of Promise, remind us of your presence and your power around us. And when we can’t find it, teach us how to wait. As you do for the trees, strengthen and nurture and prune us while we trust in your coming. Amen
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