category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 1

Sunday, November 29

Isaiah 64:1–9; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19 ; 1 Corinthians 1:3–9; Mark 13:24–37

Watching and waiting aren’t always easy for most of us. We are people of action. “Better to wear out than to rust out,” the old saying goes. Waiting and watching, however, is what we must do when it comes to Jesus’ return to this world.

Certainly, we’ve been doing much praying, hoping, and waiting and watching this year. We’ve impatiently waited for a cure or a vaccination. We’ve longed for our prayers to be answered for an antidote to racism. We’ve pleaded for an end to political polarization. We’ve implored our Christian sisters and brothers to walk in greater harmony and unity. We’ve wished for Jesus’ Spirit to win out over any personal or group agenda that creates division and dissension. Since these prayers have gone unanswered, we’ve wondered if that means that the Lord is on the way.

Jesus’ disciples had similar anxieties and concerns. As they sat opposite the Jerusalem temple one day they put their questions to Jesus. How long? Why not now? When? Why them? What about these? What about me? They wanted a cure for the Roman plague that was running (and ruining) their country. They wanted the religious pretenders exposed. They wanted worship of God returned to the people. They wanted peace in the land. They knew that those magnificent temple stones were so splendid for one reason—complicity with the enemy, caving in to the system.

To answer their queries, Jesus reached into his apocalyptic vocabulary. He reeled off words like tribulation, sun darkened, extinguished moon, falling stars, shaking heavens, coming of the Son of Man, clouds of glory, and angelic gathering. He knew that the great Day of God is coming one day with unmistakable results. He knew that when the Lord’s Day does arrive, there will be no second chances, no do–overs, and no opportunities to try again.

For the “timing” of the end of time, Jesus said that we must wait and watch.

Watching, however, does not mean complacency. Watching means being active doorkeepers on guard while the master of the house is away. Watching means paying attention to the fig tree (v. 28)—a dip back into a parable that Jesus spoke about the temple earlier in Mark 11. That fig tree, the temple, had the appearance of great success. It was full of leaves and blooms. Yet it bore no fruit despite its healthy appearance. For that reason, Jesus cursed it. He declared that appearance means nothing when it does not coincide with actions, vigilance. Any so–called house of God that fails to be a house of prayer for the nations (11:17b) and to provide forgiveness (11:25) is destined to be cast into the sea (11:23).

Let us launch this Advent season by actively watching for our Lord’s coming. May we do so with prayer for all, borne of forgiveness in our hearts, expressed through mercy on our lips, and extended to others with grace in our hands.

Robert W. Canoy
Dean of School of Divinity and Professor of Theology

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