Gospel Luke 21. 25-36 Advent One
"Screw your courage to the sticking-place," says Lady Macbeth to her doomed husband in Shakespeare's tragedy, "and we'll not fail."
However, fail they do and no amount of courage in the world can save them or turn them into heroes.
Courage is a bit like happiness: the more you seek it, the more you demand it, the more you try to call it up, the less you know it, the less it feels you have of it.
Words can stir us to courage when they are grounded in confident expectation and unshakable values or realities. Who would not rally around the
"I have a dream…" speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., in which he paints the colours of freedom? Who would not feel stronger listening to the dogged determination of Winston Churchill in the dark days of 1940:
"Let us... brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British
Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour!' "
Courage, as faith's activator, is the call in the words of Jesus to us today. He sits with his shell-shocked disciples in the temple grounds, sensing the profound disturbance at his words that this marvelous place of holiness and beauty will soon lie in rubble,
while pointing them to a larger catastrophe that will shake the whole earth as eternity arrives into time.
The claim of Jesus’ future appearing is a central and mainstream Christian claim. In 23 of the New Testament 27 books it is mentioned. We confess Jesus coming again in our creeds. We have an entire season in the church year dedicated to it,
this season of Advent. Jesus himself promises to return.
And in each and every circumstance the instructions of Jesus are the same Hold firm. Be on guard. Be awake. Don’t lose your nerve. Don’t get caught up in the concerns of the time. Remember who the true Messiah is, and what he calls you to,
and you are saved.
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say:
- Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation [do not be weighed down by useless or profitless activity; using or expending or
consuming thoughtlessly or carelessly]
- be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with
drunkedness [don’t drown in your own self]
- be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries
of this life.
Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength. This is how we are to wait.
And how long must we wait as such? Jesus tells us “…, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.”
We know that the generation Jesus was sitting amongst has passed away however …. the word ‘generation’ can be used to refer to the category of people through all time who are resistant to the purposes of God. Hence in saying that ‘this generation will not pass away ‘ before the Son of Man comes, Jesus may be saying that as the moment of the first end and judgement was preceded by violence and opposition to God so also, the time leading up to the final end will be characterised by resistance to God, his Messiah, his people, and his gospel. And when has that not been so?
Much time may have passed since the first Christians looked to the heavens expecting to see Jesus returning, however the call of Paul is still addressed to us
It is now the moment to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers. Let me almost end with a story about the how to’s of waiting ….
Robby Robins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. These young military men flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then had a long drive to western Pennsylvania. They drove all night. When his buddies dropped Robbins off at his driveway just after sunrise, there was a big banner across the garage ”Welcome Home Dad!” No one had called, and the crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly. How could they know?
Robins relates that when he walked into the house, the kids, half dressed for school, screamed, “Daddy!”
His wife Susan came running down the hall. “How did you know?” he asked. “I didn’t,” she answered through tears of joy. “We knew you’d try
to surprise us, so we were ready every day.” That is to be our attitude toward Advent. This is a season for waiting on tiptoe.
The kingdom is drawing near. Christ’s words will never pass away. You can trust his
Like a child waiting for Santa Claus, be on watch.
Like a couple awaiting the birth of their first child, be on watch.
Like a family waiting for the return of their soldier, be on watch.
God does indeed come down, move amongst us and within. God did in times gone and does in times to come. As God did in the times of Moses
and the Pharaoh. However, this time God chose the suckling babe rather than the plague blasts as the
means of arrival and encounter.
We who rationalise our forces for good or for evil are suddenly caught up short –
the one who could "rend the heavens" and "set twigs ablaze" and "cause water to
boil" and "cause the nations to quake" and "make the mountains tremble" slipped in
as a helpless child, and the world knelt to kiss him on a starry night in Bethlehem.
And we continue to do so.