Beginning at the End
Mark 13:24-37 (NIV)
“But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Get ready. Watch. Be prepared.
I grew up on the Gulf Coast where we were required in eighth grade to sit through several sessions on hurricane preparedness. Honestly, it was boring; but the teachers put the fear of God in us to make sure we had extra batteries, non-perishable foods, and drinking water on hand. The message was clear: a hurricane will come some day and you need to be ready.
Most of us have done some form of preparation for a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, but how much time do we spend preparing for the return of Christ—something Christians believe will actually happen someday. Jesus’ words are too often glossed over—“keep watch…be alert!”—yet this is what Advent is all about. The Christian Calendar actually begins with Advent, and while we mark Christ’s first coming during this season, it is equally important to anticipate his second coming. Christians believe that we know the way the Story ends: one day Jesus the Christ will return in glory to do away with evil, once and for all, and make all things new. We must begin at the end.
There have been a lot of speculative books, movies, and, of course, billboards about this final chapter in the Story of God. I worry sometimes if they can actually do damage by portraying the return of Christ as one more action adventure story that provides us passive amusement. Yet the biblical witness is clear that this is the final act in the Story of stories. It’s the climatic destiny toward which time marches. And it’s the closing chapter that gives ultimate meaning to our past, present, and future.
As we begin this season of Advent, I invite you to join me in preparing for a God who is coming again, who will set all things right and will make all things new.
Amen! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
One of the traditional hymns for this first Sunday in Advent is Charles Wesley’s “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending.” You can listen to a modern arrangement here.
Matthew Sigler is the interim Campus Minister at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. Matt studied at both Asbury Seminary and Boston University. He is a liturgical scholar with special interests in how United Methodists mediate tradition and navigate culture in crafting their worship experiences.
This post is the first in a series of posts written by the chapel team at our partner institution, Southwestern College. Follow their weekly journey from Advent to Ephiphany, here.
Main post photo credit: Julian Osley