Lectionary Scripture Text: Luke 21:25-36
25“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. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
We begin again. The Christian calendar cycles around and starts again today and Advent begins. And we wait. We wait for what will come. We wait for the promise to be fulfilled. We wait for the Light. And we look for the signs. You see, there are always signs. Even here in the darkness, before the birth, before the manger, before the coming of God into our world, there are signs. Even in this unsettling time when confusion prevails, when divisions escalate, when the world topples a little as it spins, there are signs. You know the ones. They are flashes of light in the darkness that come when we don’t expect them, that appear when we’re not ready to see them, perhaps when our eyes are not adjusted enough to encounter them. And so, they hurt. And we push them away. And we wait in darkness.
This is not new. The Hebrew Scriptures are often inherently dark in timbre. They carry stories of a people waiting for God to come, sometimes hurting, sometimes wanting, always hopeful. But in the midst of the darkness, over and over and over again, there are flashes of light, flashes of a great light to be seen by those who walk in darkness. But the light can only be seen by those who are looking for it, who are prepared, who do not push it way as a nuisance for which they’re not ready. That is the lesson of Advent—not just that we must wait, not only that we must not “jump the gun” before the season of Light comes, but that we must learn how to wait. Advent waiting is anything but passive. It is instead a season of preparation. It is a time of preparing oneself to see the Light. And the signs and flashes help us know where to walk—if we will only pay attention.
This Advent is different for me. My dad passed away in September. Those “high days” are always hard at first after losing someone. But, for me, THIS is the day I was dreading. For many of the last couple of years, I have tried to post daily to this blog during Advent and Lent. I thought about not doing it this year because I knew it would be a little painful. See, my dad was probably my most engaged reader. He would read it every morning and often he would text or email me or we would talk about it. He would engage with the writing and with me. Last winter and early spring, I had to spend some time “camping out” at their house after what I have chosen to call the “great flood of 2021” after the Great Texas Freeze froze my pumps in the house in which I was living. Each morning when I was there, while I was still in that groggy state of morning sleep, I would often hear the song that I had included with the blog as I often have done. It was coming from my dad’s iPad. At that moment each morning he became part of what I had written. And as I remembered that, I took it as a sign…
Advent is a lot like that. We enter it a little a groggy. After all, it’s hard to wait. It’s hard to know what life holds. It would be easier to push it away, to wait until we are ready. But there are flashes of light and carefully-placed soundbites that draw us in, that remind us that the waiting is not for naught. They are signs that invite us to engage. That’s what Advent calls us to do—to engage, to be alert. Those signs of light that we see along the way are not for us to smile and pass by. They are drawing us in, inviting us to become a part of them, to live with them not as sign of what’s to come but as chapters of the story itself. This is the way we walk toward the Light.
So, this Advent, remember to stay alert to those signs. They are for you. Engage with them in the way that you are called to do. Do not wait passively. Do not put off encountering them for later when you think the time is right. This season is not “pre-Christmas”. It is, rather, the season of holy waiting. I hope what I write will be helpful. I hope in some small way it will hold flashes of light for you.
God did not wait till the world was ready, till nations were at peace. God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release. God did not wait for the perfect time. God came when the need was deep and great. In the mystery of the Word made flesh the maker of the Stars was born. We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain. God came with Love. Rejoice! Rejoice! And go into the Light of God. (Madeleine L’Engle)
Grace and Peace,