Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:25-28)
This passage from the Gospel of St. Luke was assigned in the lectionary for last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent. This is pretty scary stuff: powerful and disturbing signs in the heavens and on earth, people facing tribulation, even death. The passage above falls into the category of apocalyptic scripture, often understood as referring to the end of the world. When I get to those readings in the Daily Office I find myself thinking, “This doesn’t really apply to me in the here and now.”
But theologian N.T. Wright notes that if apocalyptic verses only apply to the end of world, then they really are relevant only to those living in those times. The Great Tradition of the Church has held that the apocalyptic scriptures actually address all generations, even ours.
In a world gone wrong, our world, the coming of Christ in his truth, righteousness, justice, beauty, mercy and, above all, love, radically shakes things up. When we truly allow Christ to invade our lives, our families, our relationships, our missions, our work, our care for the poor and marginalized, our love for the created order, even the darkest recesses of our hearts and our journeys into sin and God-forsakenness, we are first shaken to the core, drawn to repentance, and then reconciled to God and restored to mission.
Dr. Wright wrote, “Deeds that truly embody justice, mercy, hope and freedom in the present are signposts pointing back to Jesus’ resurrection, the ground of hope, and on to God’s future, to the final presence of Jesus, the fulfillment of hope. The task, for those grasped by this vision, is so to act in the present that only apocalyptic language will do justice to the reality that is unfolding before us.”
During this Advent season, allow yourselves to be apocalyptically shaken by the coming of Christ. Invite him to make his home in you so that you can then stand erect, raise your heads, recognize your redemption in Christ, and then go out into the world to love and serve the Lord, for the life of the world!
May you and yours have a most blessed Advent!