Council of Elders Advent Reflections
by Rev. Elder Mona West, Ph.D.
First Sunday of Advent
“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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
(Luke 21: 25-28)
Advent: The End or the Beginning?
My mother, who became a staunch Pentecostal in the last half of her life, was always known to comment on disturbing world events by saying “Jesus is nigh unto the door.” For her, these signs of the times were an indication that the world was about to end, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, complete with the destruction of evil, and the triumph of the righteous.
In the 21st chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus outlines three signs that signal the end: the appearance of false messiahs; wars and international conflicts; and natural disasters. Not much has changed since the first century. In every age since Jesus has been “nigh unto the door.” In the 21st century, with the election and appointment of immoral leaders, mass shootings and bombings, and the effects of climate change, we seem to be on the threshold of that door into the end.
Advent is a threshold. On this first Sunday of the Christian liturgical year, we hold the end and the beginning in creative tension. That is why this season has always had an apocalyptic element to it. Apocalypse is a Greek word, which means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.” Nadia Bolz-Weber defines it as “a big hope filled idea” exposing the fact that dominant powers are not ultimate powers.
Focus on the doom and gloom of apocalypse, as well as preoccupation with calculating the exact time when the world will end, overshadow its hopeful intent. Apocalyptic writing in the Bible was not meant to scare people into belief, but to encourage their belief in a God who is bigger than the world’s dominant powers.
Movements such as # BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, Time’s Up, and the Migrant Caravans are a “lifting of the veil,” an exposing, of the heresy of domination. The apocalyptic message of Advent is that Jesus as the only begotten has “unveiled God.” God’s advent into our world and into our lives provides a way of transformation—everything is shaken up, laid bare. Old ways of being and the status quo are brought to an end so that something radically new will take its place.
Apocalypse is always with us. Not only does it invite us to have belief in a God who is bigger than the world’s powers, it also invites us to daily transformation as we let go of old habits and attitudes and lift the veil on the racism, sexism, and xenophobia in our personal lives and the lives of the institutions to which we belong.
Thomas Merton has said Advent is “the beginning of the end of all, in us, that is not yet Christ.” Amen. May it be so.
God of Peace,
You who yearn for justice,
You who became known to us through the Prince of Peace,
You who work in us and others to become peace-makers.
We pray to you, O God, that together we might co-create peace, deep peace,
in our world,
in our relationships,
and in ourselves.
Where there is war and conflict, bring armistice,
where there is violence and interpersonal conflict, bring reconciliation,
where there is self-doubt, a lack of self love, and self-confidence,
bring the assurance that we are perfectly and wonderfully made in your image, in all our diversity.
We seek forgiveness for the times and ways we've sowed seeds of conflict and exclusion; for the times we've seen ourselves as better than others because of our nation, our culture, our religion, race, creed, or colour. Lead us to live in respect for the diversity in which you have created us.
Guide us, O God, to see our differences not as a source of conflict, but as an opportunity to celebrate the full cornucopia that is creation. Lead us into interfaith harmony that respects each other's traditions, into becoming an inter-cultural and inter-generational church and lead us and our congregations into the work of peace, justice, and human rights.
In Your many names we pray.
Prayer submitted by
REV. JEFF ROCK
Senior Pastor, MCC Toronto