‘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 the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and stand before the Son of Man.’
– Luke 21:25-36
Advent’s first scripture readings may not meet our expectations.
We expect a countdown to Christmas. We look to hope, and maybe we expect something akin to relief from the busyness of the season. But God, during Advent, points us far beyond the season, and that is what can give us hope for the living of these days and can far exceed our seasonal expectations.
Our seasonal expectations center on what we get and give. Our energies are occupied by our to-do lists, our decorations, and making sure we get the right gifts purchased, wrapped, and distributed. We look forward to gift exchanges and meaningful experiences with friends and family, but if we are honest, we remember that gifts and seasonal activities may not address our most profound need. Life’s deep need and our ultimate longing is met by the power of God as evidenced through what hope provides.
That gift of hope is beginning to embrace and experience the promise that God was with us in days past, is here in our present, and will meet us when we find our ultimate end. This promise that God will be with us, in the end, is how our Advent hope starts and why Advent scriptures point us beyond our seasonal expectations. To look to the end and have the assurance that God will be there, no matter how arduous our journey, is the gift of hope.
Remembering that Jesus came to walk in our shoes should provide hope.
Sensing that through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord walks with us today is the assurance of hope.
And most of all, knowing that in the end, no matter where the call of God takes us when we get there, God will be there. And that can be a source of real hope.
Today we begin our Advent journey. Though it will likely take us to place we may not expect, I pray that we may find the hope of God’s love anew and afresh through God’s promise to meet us in the end. Such a promise and glimpse of the future should assure us that the God who is there at this end is also with us on the way.
– Chris Aho