But in those days, after that suffering. . . . ” The opening words of today’s reading speak to the whole point of Advent and Christmas. The community for which Mark writes faces persecution because of their Christian faith. In our own day, suffering, injustice, and persecution remain. At this time of year, it isn’t uncommon to hear the phrase, “Remember the reason for the season.” The reason is, of course, the birth of Jesus. That is why we celebrate.
But a reason for the reason we celebrate also exists: The world and its people were suffering, living in darkness—ruled by blindness, fear, violence, and confusion. And God so loved the world that, in that great sacrificial mystery of Incarnation, Jesus was born to be the Light of the world. The reason for the “reason for the season” is that God loves us so much that God gives us what we need: God, light, hope. In Jesus we learn that our hope is not in vain. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the ancients: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isa. 7:14, KJV).
We, like Mark’s faith community, anticipate Jesus’ return. The signs noted here signal great change: a darkened sun and moon, stars falling from heaven. We are to watch for the signs because only God knows the time of the Son of Man’s return. The world takes hope in the promise of our God who proclaims that just as Christ came into a world in need, Christ will come again and all things will be made righteous. God’s word will not pass away. The Light shines in the darkness—even in whatever darkness threatens or overshadows our lives. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not—will not—overcome it.
Loving God, thank you for fulfilling your promises and not abandoning me. Amen.
Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you found yourself in a disorienting setting? What was your cry to God? What response to your lament did you seek?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What in you needs the restoration that only God can give?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How might you become a means of reconciliation in your family, your work setting, your city?
• Read Mark 13:24-37. What especially do you long for this Advent-Christmas? How can you participate in the transforming love of Christ to manifest a reconciling spirit?
Respond by posting a prayer.