“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. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven 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 does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be 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.”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
A friend of mine once told a story of attending a contemplative retreat. One activity involved several minutes of complete darkness. Windows covered with heavy plastic, lights off, etc. Complete and utter darkness without distractions.
As darkness settled, it became unsettling. After several minutes, however, tiny pinpoints of light became visible through the plastic covering the windows—light that would never have been seen if not for the attempt at absolute darkness.
Light is seen while you are in complete darkness. That’s a paradox: two things that seem to be opposite that are present at the same time. Instead of “either/or,” a paradox is “both/and.”
Our faith is actually grounded in paradox. Hope is experienced in the midst of despair. Light experienced in the midst of darkness. Life experienced in the midst of death. That’s the nature of a paradox. There’s a both/and thing.
As we begin Advent, this text from Luke does that same thing. It sounds all miserable and hopeless. Jesus is talking about the end of the world, the end of time.
And in the very midst of all this destruction, Jesus tells us to “stand up, raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.”
Redemption in the midst of destruction. We begin the season of Advent with this paradox. In the very midst of those things that cause us anguish and anxiety, hope is present.
The whole point of Advent is that “it’s all about hope.” Christ brings hope among us in wonderful and surprising ways. Always. Sometimes you can only see it in the darkness.
We’re spending these four weeks of Advent revealing the hope that Christ brings. Four different people will share their experiences of visible light of hope in the darkness. This week is “Hope in Our Lives,” and Susan J will share her experience of hope in a dark time.
Next week Daniel P will share his experience of “Hope in Our Church.”
Following that, Venessa V will talk about her experience of “Hope in Our Neighborhood.”
The last week of Advent, our RMS Bishop, Jim Gonia will be here and share his experiences of “Hope in Our World.”
It’s all about hope. Hope has come. Hope is present. Hope can be seen. When all the destruction and despair and the anxiety and the fear “begin to take place, stand up and raise your head, because redemption is drawing near.”