The First Sunday of Advent
Year C, RCL
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36, Psalm 25:1-9
Advent is rather apocalyptic, it tells of the end times that are to come, often violently. Each time we recognize Christ’s appearance on the Earth, the Earth is dramatically changed. In the beginning, in the beginning of creation, the world was formless and void. During creation, the Earth we know today was formed out of violent storms, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. This was a brutal time in which the world came into being out of the void. And Christ was there hovering over the waters in the beginning.
One aspect of Advent is to recognize that Christ will come again, somewhere in the future. Advent is about waiting and anticipating. Some theologians portray the end times, the eschaton, as a violent time where our bodies are resurrected; we partake in the final battle against Satan and then are judged. Others see the eschaton as slowly evolving. From the time of Christ’s incarnation, Christians are actively working with God to bring His Kingdom into fruition. In this slow evolution, God’s Kingdom seems to almost envelop our sinful world until we reach the eschaton, a time of completion. At Christ’s return we will be resurrected, judged, and enter into God’s Kingdom with a new heaven and a new Earth; an earth without sin. In either of these schools of thought, we are awaiting Christ’s coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.
As Christians, we are currently preparing for his coming. This Advent anticipation is not only his future coming but his coming as a baby in the manger. His coming in human form also changed the world. Judaism was a rather small religion in the world and Islam didn’t yet exist. With Christ’s coming; his life, death, and resurrection, Christianity spread relatively quickly across the globe. This was no small feat. The growth of Christianity and its doctrines was so life-changing that many historians believe Christianity to be a contributing factor in the fall of Rome. Christianity shaped world politics from the 3rd century to the present day. All of this incredible history gets its significance from one seemingly small and insignificant point in time; the birth of a baby. We all know, what makes this moment in time significant is that this tiny baby was no ordinary child but the incarnation of God; a God who came for each one of you.
Our gospel today doesn’t focus on the creation of the world. Nor does is focus on the baby born in a manger. Today our Gospel focuses on a horrific view of destruction of the end times. Our story over the past weeks has moved from the destruction of the temple to now the destruction of the world. This destruction brings to mind movies such as Terminator or Mad Max. Movies that show people struggling for survival in a world that has been destroyed. These images bring up fears of nuclear annihilation, fear of our own demise.
We do not have to look toward the future to feel this fear. We fear foreign invaders coming across our borders. We fear our neighbors intruding into our homes. We fear strangers mugging us on the street. All we have to do is turn on the news and we witness the things that we are supposed to fear in this world. And it is this fear to which Christ is speaking.
Christ is tapping into the deepest fears that people have; war, captivity, death, and destruction. He is saying that whatever we fear in our time there are worse things to come in the future. Jesus is trying to make this fear come to a head so that we can reflect on what we are really afraid of. When we read between the lines there is a question being asked. Why do we fear all of these terrible things? Some are within our control but many are outside any human control.
This fear is being dredged up so that we may realize that through Christ we have nothing to fear. Christ was in the beginning of time. In all the birth pangs of the world, God created a beautiful world for us to live in. Christ was with us here on Earth, so that God could experience the human condition. Christ felt the pain of suffering and death so that we do not need to suffer death ourselves. The fear we experience in our lives does not need to have a hold on us anymore. For no matter what will come in the future we have life in Christ. All this talk about death and destruction should be meaningless to those who put their faith in Christ. Christ offers us new life right now by letting go of the things we fear. Fear that weighs us down. Fears that prevent us from loving our neighbors as we love our selves.
I’m not saying that we won’t experience loss, that we won’t experience tragedy, but that we do not need to fear what happens in life. Christ eliminates our fear frees us from this dead weight. Through Christ, our salvation is already at hand. The only safety we have in this life is in the Lord. No one can truly do any harm to you. Christ was raised from the dead and we have been given the same promise. As we await the coming of Christ in glory, we gloriously await our resurrection as well. This is the Christian paradox of new life from death; whether at the beginning of time, at Christ’s birth, or at the eschaton. Through God’s love for you, you have nothing to fear even fear itself; for we anticipate his coming again.
1. Post-tribulation rapture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-tribulation_rapture
2. Amillennialism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amillennialism
4. See #7, Christianity and the loss of traditional values https://www.history.com/news/8-reasons-why-rome-fell